“In a fragile society, criminal, family, and authoritarian networks often dominate at the elite level, so the initial focus should be on developing counternetworks” – The Chessboard and the Web: Strategies of Connection in a Networked World by Anne-Marie Slaughter.
We now have valuable data, such as it is, about voter demography and inclinations, from the flawed February 25th 2023 presidential election. Gaps and weaknesses in the electoral law have also been exposed by the recent elections. The electoral commission’s servers should certainly be independently audited hours to any poll. All election petitions should be concluded before inauguration day; like is the case in Kenya, for instance.
These are some of the issues that opposition parties can start advocacy campaigns on right away, as they await the adjudication of the courts on the various election petitions. And it will not be some abstract process this time around. Young Nigerians, who witnessed the lapses in the 2023 general elections, will be contributing to the advocacy from their actual experiences.
Politicians have become so confident about being able to bend judges to their will that they have become totally indiscreet about it
With an already established amorphous youth movement that has extended its patronage to Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), as it calls itself the “Obidient movement,” this next stage should happen quite naturally. An interdependence based on core governance values can underpin the movement across the country, with social and economic benefits for its supporters. This will keep its enthusiasts engaged and patient while the institutional processes take their course.
That said, I want to highlight the huge importance of Mr Obi’s task for his Igbo kinsmen and Nigeria as a whole. Expectedly, Mr Obi is being admonished by influential members of the Nigerian political elite to negotiate with Bola Tinubu, Nigeria’s president-elect, who takes office on May 29th, as opposed to pursuing to the very end, what is widely acknowledged as a strong case at the presidential election tribunal, which will start sitting shortly.
Should Mr Obi win at the election tribunal and the Supreme Court if Mr Tinubu appeals, it will be unprecedented. Many agree that perhaps this one time might be the first time a sitting president will be told to leave office. We will just have to wait and see. What is abundantly clear is that the evidence of huge electoral malfeasance is so overwhelming that to rule otherwise, the judges might be setting the stage for precisely what may have hitherto convinced them to maintain the status quo.
Let me be clear. Once a majority of the population believes state institutions are irredeemably lacking in credibility, those insitutions will lose their utility and relevance. They will lose their power. Anarchy will be the consequence.
If there is any doubt about this, judges only need to observe the despicable behaviour of some political actors since the conclusion of the 2023 general elections, who have been jeering with glee as they tell their opponents to “go to court,” a refrain widely known to mean “you will lose there too.” Politicians have become so confident about being able to bend judges to their will that they have become totally indiscreet about it. There is an opportunity now for the judges to put the rascals in their place.
Mr Obi’s task is probably now beyond just winning the presidency, however. While many will be quick to condemn the Igbo secessionist insurgency by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group, the leader of which is on trial for treason, there is probably a great many of Nigeria’s political stakeholders from other regions who are quite happy with the IPOB narrative, as it allows them to continue to relegate Igbo political interests in the Nigerian commonwealth to the background. Mr Obi’s political ascendancy has created some sort of a challenge for these hypocrites.
Mr Obi is accomplished, wealthy, experienced, patriotic and genuinely very popular. Mr Obi is the protagonist of a very nationally attractive Igbo political narrative that cannot be easily dismissed or tarnished. It is also the first time that it will be shown that an inevitable Igbo Nigerian president during the course of our ongoing contemporary democratic experiment since 1999, will not simply be the gift of some self-acclaimed power bloc.
Mr Obi is probably the first Igbo man since Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Igbo extraordinaire and Nigeria’s first civilian president, with unprecedented true national and youth support. For perhaps the first time in a very long while, an Igbo presidential hopeful cannot simply be dismissed without real consequences.