There can only be ONE winner… In a country with over 200 million people, numerous tribes/cultures, multiple religions and hundreds of languages, the democratic outcome of a highly contested three-horse race cannot leave a majority of people happy. Perhaps that is why the acceptance of the incoming president seems to be hanging in a suspended state – after all, the presidency has never been won with so few votes. Nevertheless, the contest is over, the winner announced, and it is unlikely that it will be changed, even if it is – we are probably a long way away from that happening.
This election reminded me of league football; often you will hear supporters of champions use the phrase “a win is a win”, or “champions know how to win ugly”, and things of that nature – sports is a domain where people seem to understand and accept this process of winning and losing far more than in Nigerian politics. But it is no less true there than in football, or boxing or tennis – there can only be ONE winner.
I didn’t support any particular candidate; indeed, I have friends and contemporaries in all camps, but if I were to analyse them, I might sum it up with the following: Atiku – consistent strength at party level, Obi – the dawn of grassroots movements in presidential politics, and Tinubu – a leader of leaders. Don’t get me wrong, all were loved by grassroots, party and leaders; I refer here to what I perceive as making each candidate really stand out. Permit me to generalise:
Atiku is the only man to have won the presidential candidate ticket of a major party as many times as he did in the history of Nigeria without actually becoming president; make no mistake, he is a master of party politics. Neither zoning nor the internal revolt of five sitting governors got in the way of him earning the faith of his party yet again; this is indeed a big deal.
Obi’s campaign was a people-driven movement. Even if you disagree with all the polls that gave him the popular lead, it is the first time a candidate from a party with NO sitting governors, NO sitting senators (elected on that platform) and a paltry eight house of representative members has come third in a presidential race while garnering a record 6.1 million votes in the process. Considering that he joined the party less than 12 months before the election, and campaigned all over the country with few, if any recognised political leaders by his side, Obi’s ability to mobilise that many people to the polls speaks of a seminal grassroots movement in Nigerian presidential politics.
Tinubu was in a party seemingly at war with itself during his campaign; examples include his high-profile supporters openly accusing elements within the APC presidency of scheming against him, and bitterness between him and his ‘protégée’ (the outgoing Vice-President) for running against him in the presidential primaries. Still, this is a man who seems to have won the loyalty of more ‘leaders’ than any of the others – his campaign boasted backing from leaders one would never have expected him to sway, with the governor of Rivers State being a major coup – a state exclusively won by PDP since 1999. He also took back Ondo and Benue from the opposition, unifying the political leadership of his ethno-religious base and in the end it was enough to win.
Tinubu is a winner – hate him or love him; he hasn’t lost any major political office he has run for – senator in 1992, governor in 1999 and 2003 as well as president in 2023. Considering that almost every candidate he has backed in Lagos (and even at presidential level) has also won, if winning is a habit, Tinubu has it bad.
They say the winner rejoices at the expense of the rest, and this is mostly true – at least until their term begins. Unfortunately, the tenure of the winner is very rarely the happy ride they think it will be; indeed, the world is full of political winners that disappointed their most fervent supporters. Ask some of the people who fought for Mandela, Obama and others what they thought of the governance they delivered. Even our outgoing President – the darling of the Northern Alliance – his perceived scorecard is probably not what many of his hardcore supporters had hoped.
So how can Tinubu win over the doubters? Convince the majority who voted against him that he is a worthy choice? What are the easy wins? The low-hanging fruit? A key focus could be the oil and gas sector. With the launch of the Dangote refinery coinciding with his inauguration, he has the opportunity to set the oil subsidy situation straight once and for all. Some estimates say the refinery may save about $10 billion in foreign exchange; this then gives him some ammunition to set the parallel foreign exchange market straight, killing two birds with one stone. That one act of eliminating the forex ‘black market’ is projected by experts to do great things for Nigeria’s investment profile, which is critical when considering the country’s next phase of growth.
With APC maintaining the majority in the Senate and House of Representatives, Tinubu may also consider pushing through security reforms like state policing (supposedly a favourite of his), privatisation of public assets (another way to generate revenue) and of course, address the power malaise that has long plagued our country. To be successful, he needs to be adept at creating consensus across increasingly diverse groups – a job perhaps better suited to the politician he is, rather than a technocrat.
In conclusion, I would say my heart goes out to the Nigerians who feel ‘disappointed’ because their chosen candidate did not win, and equally rejoices with the ones who feel vindicated for backing the winner, yet I identify most with the neutral who knows that whomever won, the ultimate impact and true outcome of this contest remains uncertain.
Let’s hope that Tinubu lives up to the desires and dreams of the 200 million souls he now represents – in his own fateful words “Emi lokan” – it is YOUR turn now sir…
Ejobe is the founder/managing partner of VIISAUS, Nigeria’s leading research, gov-tech and consultancy business