The International Crisis Group (ICG) has urged Nigerians both at home and in the diaspora to sheath their swords and work together as the country prepares to usher in the administration of Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
Despite the incoming president having less public support, the organisation still advised that Nigerians should at least take the well-being of the country, its citizens, and its public image into consideration. The business of Politics is, at best, over; now the time for nation-building is upon us.
In their recent report titled “Calming Tensions Amid Nigeria’s Post-Election Controversy,” published on Friday, May 26, the group, an independent organisation working to prevent wars and shape policies that will build a more peaceful world, advised the “country’s political and civic leaders to work together to heal rather than widen the fissures that were exacerbated by the elections.”
The group agreed that many Nigerians still question the legitimacy of the incoming president, especially after he garnered less than 38 percent of the total votes cast in an election that many local and international election observers adjudged to be the most controversial election since the return to democratic rule in 1999.
Regardless of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party challenging the outcome of the election in court, the group advised the president-elect to take the much-needed steps to heal, unify, and reposition the country for not only political maturity but economic greatness.
Overwhelmed by the ethnoreligious conflicts before, during, and after the election that more than ever dented the thin line that unifies us as a country, the group believed that implementing the right national policies and making the right moves and statements could start the healing process for a great country.
It said, “A key step the new president could take in this regard is to ensure fair representation in the cabinet, as well as policymaking posts in the security agencies and public finance management. His early appointments should afford citizens in all parts of the country a sense of inclusion and belonging.
“As stipulated by Nigeria’s constitution, he should take care that his appointees reflect the country’s federal character, meaning that they should come from all the major geographical areas.
“Beyond complying with federal character provisions, appointments should also ensure inclusiveness along gender, religious, and generational lines. To ensure gender inclusion and equity permanently, once the National Assembly settles down to legislative business, the new president should retable bills that were rejected by the National Assembly in 2022 and which seek to establish quotas for women’s representation in the federal and state legislatures, political party administration, and ministerial appointments.”
However, as earlier pointed out, “politicians should tone down rhetoric and curb hate speech; election tribunals should resolve petitions speedily and transparently, prosecutors should pursue alleged election offences with vigour, and the new president should ensure that his key appointments appropriately reflect Nigeria’s diversity.”
There is a possibility that if the Tinubu administration fails to promote and establish a government of national unity, the already tensed socio-political and ethno-religious atmosphere may snowball to further disintegrate the nation.
According to the group, the failure of the incoming All Progressives Congress (APC) federal government to mend faces and drive a government of national unity that is representative of all ethnic groups, especially people from the Igbo-speaking part of the country, could embolden secessionist groups such as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) to demand a separate country. A country where they feel respected, loved, and allowed to prosper within the confines of their geographical boundaries.
Another banana peel and point of concern for the incoming government is how to handle the religious complexities of the country. According to reports, religious crises in the past have claimed thousands of lives in the country, especially in the north. From the Kaduna sharia religious crisis of 1999, which claimed over a thousand lives, to the Jos religious crisis of 2002, which claimed more than 500 lives, religious matters have always been a very sensitive matter that often times requires dexterity and caution to handle.
A deep examination of Nigeria’s political makeup shows that the position of president is to be rotated between the two major religions—after a Muslim President Buhari finishes his term in office, it was expected for power to be handed to a Christian perhaps from the south to rule. The reverse was the case as power was handed over to a Muslim from the south who took up the unpopular decision to choose a fellow Muslim as his running mate, thereby making it the first time in over two decades that the Christian religious group was cut out of the presidential scheme of things.
“If many Christians remain thus alienated, it will be increasingly difficult to advance the inter-faith dialogue so direly needed to curb deadly violence in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region, where the country’s major Christian-Muslim fault line lies, as well as in deeply troubled Kaduna state. The risk of incurring deep resentment among Christians in the Middle Belt and southern states will be especially great if the incoming government fails to balance religious identities in its cabinet,” the group warned, advising the Tinubu administration to forge a bond of unity and religious cohesion that explores religious diversity.
The advice isn’t for the incoming government alone but is extended to the political elite. It said, “All politicians have a duty to ease the elevated inter-ethnic, inter-religious, and inter-party tensions. Party figures should tone down their heated rhetoric and especially avoid ethnic slurs and other hate speech. The parties that won should moderate the gloating over victory and settle down to the business of governance, which now demands such urgent attention. Opposition parties and candidates need to play their part in reconciliation as well. They should respect court decisions, including unfavourable ones, and call on their supporters to do the same.”
Aside from the ethnic and religious connotations highlighted for particular concern, the ICG observed and warned the incoming government to address issues of youth restiveness, especially taking into consideration the disenchantment of the over 100 million Nigerian youths who are unhappy with the outgoing government of President Buhari. Some insist that the failure of the Buhari administration to deliver on many of his promises as they pertain to youth employment, the social welfare package for the youths, and many more were reasons many who are very active on social media spaces refused to vote for the APC presidential candidate and president-elect in the February 25 presidential election.
Another demographic is the women’s population, especially young women, who feel underrepresented in the political arrangement; according to statistics, women’s representatives are less than 5 percent of the incoming 10th National Assembly.
The ICG advised that badly needed policies such as the removal of fuel subsidy, though unpopular, should be handled with utmost care as its removal could lead to youth restiveness.
“In the near term, youth anger could morph into unrest if the new administration puts in place policies, such as withdrawing fuel subsidies, which are bound to have inflationary effects. Such policies are overdue but would be highly unpopular and should be calibrated accordingly. In the longer term, deepening disillusionment among youth could feed urban crime and rural banditry, as well as Islamist, secessionist, and resource-linked Niger Delta militancy,” it said.
On March 16, Tinubu urged his supporters to extend a hand of friendship, reconciliation, and togetherness” to those who did not vote for him—a right move to heal the country.
The ICG had also looked into a recent statement made by the incoming president, in which he promised to work hard to ensure that no part of the country is left out of development projects. But however, need credible actions to feel real.
Again, Tinubu and Vice President Kasshim Shettima can’t do this alone, as it requires the active participation of civil society organisations, including religious groups, traditional institutions, and international non-governmental organisations, to contribute to these healing efforts.
Other salient advice, including but not limited to ” “ensuring justice is delivered in the case of election-related misdeeds,” could serve the twin goals of discouraging a culture of impunity and soothing discontent with the outcome. Responsibility for the first of these goals lies with the Nigeria Police Force.”
Added to the above, the ICG advised that the judiciary should ensure swift, transparent adjudication of petitions challenging the elections’ conduct and the results’ credibility.
In summation, the group noted that “the challenges facing the government taking office on May 29 are enormous, but they are not insurmountable. Cooling rhetoric, making inclusive appointments, and taking affirmative steps to reach out to opponents and other aggrieved groups can all help the country edge back from what could be a downward spiral.”