[NewsClick Nigeria 5th Anniversary Magazine edition] Challenges before President-elect Tinubu as he takes over mantle of leadership from Buhari today

…how he outclassed Atiku, Obi, Kwankwaso to win poll

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The 2023 presidential election described by many political pundits as a three-horse race will go down in history as one of the most keenly contested in Nigeria.

NewsClick Nigeria reports that Nigerians on Saturday, February 25, 2023 trooped out in their numbers to elect a new president and members of the National Assembly. Out of the 18 presidential candidates that threw their hats in the ring for the number one public office job in Nigeria, only one can be elected. During the buildup to the polls, three out of the 18 candidates constantly grabbed national and international headlines. These three include; Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (the eventual winner of the contest), Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party.

After the civil exercise which slipped to the second day (Sunday) in some polling units across the 36 states and FCT owing to several challenges, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakub on Tuesday, March 1, declared Tinubu winner of the poll.

Tinubu scored a total of 8,794,726 votes, the highest of all the candidates, thus meeting the first constitutional requirement to be declared the winner. He also scored over 25 per cent of the votes cast in 30 states, more than the 24 states constitutionally required.

He was trailed behind by Atiku and Obi who polled 6,984,520 and 6,101,533 votes respectively.

Tinubu and his running mate, Kashim Shettima have since been presented with their Certificates of Office as President and Vice President-elects. Both will be sworn in today, Monday, May 29, 2023 as President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure officially comes to an end.

 

Tinubu’s tortuous journey to presidency

The way to success as they say is always long and difficult. This saying captures Tinubu’s ascendancy to the presidency which he himself had noted as his “lifelong ambition.”

The former Lagos State governor had to weather all storms to first clinch the ticket of his party in June, 2022 having met stiff opposition from about 23 aspirants jostling for the ticket.

That included even his political allies from the south-west zone including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State; Deputy Senate Leader, Ajayi Borofice; Former Ogun Governor Sen. Ibikunle Amosun and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Demiji Bankole.

In the middle of the race came permutations amongst those in the corridors of power in the villa that President Buhari had an anointed candidate for the 2023 presidency and certainly not Tinubu.

This was largely due to the earlier emergence of Atiku as the presidential flagbearer of the main opposition PDP and the need for APC to also field a northern candidate.

It was part of the political calculation that led to the sudden pronouncement by Abdullahi Adamu, APC national chairman that Ahmad Lawan, President of the Senate was the consensus candidate but that was roundly rejected even by his colleagues in the National Working Committee of the party.

A measure reprieve came the way of Tinubu when APC governors and leaders from the north conceded the contest to the south and one of the aspirants, Governor Abubakar-Badaru of Jigawa withdrew from race with only Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi state, Senate President Lawan and Sani Yerima, a former Zamfara governor from the north in the race.

The northern APC governors and leaders in their resolution said : “After careful deliberation, we wish to state our firm conviction that after eight years in office of President Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the APC for the 2023 elections should be one of our teeming members from the southern states of Nigeria.

“It is a question of honour for the APC, an obligation that is not in any way affected by the decisions taken by another political party. We affirm that upholding this principle is in the interest of building a stronger, more united and more progressive country.

“We therefore wish to strongly recommend to President Muhammadu Buhari that the search for a successor as the APC’s presidential candidate be limited to our compatriots from the southern states. We appeal to all aspirants from the northern states to withdraw in the national interest and allow only the aspirants from the south to proceed to the primaries.”

After the resolution, Buhari had ordered that a consensus should be reached among the southern aspirants, but all their meetings so far have been deadlocked.

The development forced the president to summon a national caucus meeting of APC but no resolution was reached.

Not deterred, Tinubu continued with the horse trading seeking the intervention of stakeholders, including traditional rulers, especially from the south-west.

The intervention by southern political leaders and traditional rulers from the south-west worked as aspirants from the zone except Osinbajo stepped down for Tinubu at convention in addition to those from other parts of the country.

 

Night of ‘step downs’ for Tinubu

On the night of the presidential primary, former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio; Amosun, Fayemi and Bankole stepped down for the former Lagos governor.

Others were Governor Badaru, Ajayi Borofice, and Uju Kennedy, the only female aspirant in the race.

 

Emi lo kan (It is my turn)

With this development, it became an easy sail for the APC national leader who won the ticket. He was trailed distantly by former Minister Rotimi Amaechi and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

This was after his famous Abeokuta declaration that it was now his turn to be Nigeria’s president, especially after helping Buhari to assume the seat.

“If not for me that stood behind Buhari he wouldn’t have become the president. He tried the first time, he failed, the second time, he failed, the third time, he failed, he even wept on a national television and vowed never to contest again but I went to meet him in Kaduna and told him he will run again, I will stand by you and you will win, but you must not joke with Yorubas and he agreed.

“Since he became the president, I have never got ministerial slots, I didn’t collect any contract, I have never begged for anything from him, it is turn of Yoruba, it is my turn.”

For those who contested with him to the ballot like Lawan he said: “the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, I would have been a little upset because you competed with me but that is over now since you can easily leak your wounds. It doesn’t take away from thanking you from the past cooperation and cool-headedness to build our country.”

 

Certificate saga

After scaling the hurdles of getting the APC ticket, Tinubu came under the gaze of the public about his certificates submitted at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

For instance, a civil society group known as Center for Reform and Public Advocacy had issued a 48-hour ultimatum to President Buhari and the Inspector General of Police to arrest and prosecute him (Tinubu) for allegedly supplying false information to (INEC).

According to the group, the former Lagos Governor lied in his EC9 form published by INEC when he claimed that he did not attend both primary and secondary schools.

The Center said the submission of Tinubu contradicted earlier claims, particularly the information he gave to the electoral umpire in 1999 in his form CF 001.

Legal Adviser of the group, Kalu Agu had said: “We wrote a petition to the IG on June 16, demanding the prosecution of Tinubu for providing false information on oath in his INEC form CF 001 which he submitted in 1999.

“Since the IG is yet to act on the petition, we are using this press conference to call on the IG to do the needful, he is not above the law, nobody is above the law, Sections 191 and 192 make it a criminal offence to provide false information on oath. We are also calling on President Buhari to direct the IG to arrest and prosecute Tinubu for perjury, it is a very serious issue”, Kalu said.

Like others that earlier came his way, Tinubu weathered the certificate storm.

 

Search for running mate and placeholder

Then came the issue of a running mate or vice presidential candidate for which he first submitted the name of Kabir Masari, a former national welfare secretary of the APC as a placeholder for his running mate to meet up with INEC deadline.

Thereafter, Tinubu exploited the leeway in Section 31 of the Electoral Act, 2022.

It provides that: “A candidate may withdraw his or her candidature by notice in writing signed by him and delivered personally by the candidate to the political party that nominated him for the election and the political party shall convey such withdrawal to the Commission not later than 90 days to the election.”

 

Muslim-Muslim ticket

He then named Kashim Shettima, the former governor of Borno state and Masari, the placeholder who gave way for the place owner.

That too came with a price for Tinubu due to apprehension, especially by Christian community despite insistence that the choice was based on competence on who he can work with.

For instance the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said the situation in the country presently was not suitable for a Muslim-Muslim ticket for presidency.

Bayo Oladeji, Special Assistant on Media and Communication to then CAN President had in his reaction to the choice of Shettima as the running of Tinubu, said: “CAN has stated it clearly that the situation in the country now is not suitable for a Muslim-Muslim ticket. It is up to Nigerians to accept or reject.”

Tinubu also parted ways with his political associates and strategists, including Babachir Lawal, former Secretary to government of the federation; Yakubu Dogara; former House of Representatives Speaker, Elisha Abbo, a senator from Adamawa amongst others who worked against him at the general election.

 

Composition of presidential campaign council

Though APC did not experience major implosion in the build up to general elections, the composition of the presidential campaign council almost pitched the party’s NWC against the candidate.

The Adamu-led NWC of the APC had in a leaked letter disapproved of what it called ‘solo’ presidential campaign council constituted by Tinubu,

The APC chairman in the letter said, the NWC received with astonishment and regret, the press release by the council last Friday in which a purported list of appointees was announced, which effectively served as the approved roster of participants in the party’s presidential campaign council.

“Perhaps it has become necessary owing to the passage of time, that I should draw Your Excellency’s attention to the agreements that we reached in principle around the final adoption of the PCC list, based on the understanding that it was a work in progress, until such a time that the Joint NWC/PCC Committee that was established to formalise the structure and populate the list, submits its report.

“The NWC believes that any sign of disarray in the party’s ranks will undermine the spirit and ethos of the campaign and give undue alarm to faithful members and followers of the Party across the country.

“At the same, such a development would undoubtedly come as “Manna from Heaven” for the opposition parties, whose only desire when all else fails, is to see the introduction of rancour, division and disinclination in the leadership of our great party,” he said.

 

Tortuous campaign season and Buhari’s legacy

After that was resolved, the APC presidential candidate had to face Nigerians to campaign in the face of despair the people attributed to the poor governance of the country under the leadership of his party.

It became seemingly difficult to convince Nigerians that he be voted on the platform of the party under whose watch there is general insecurity and harsh economic realities.

At a point when confronted with the stalk reality at the Chatham House, he tactically distanced himself from the failed economic promises of the APC-led administration under Buhari.

He said: “I guess my name is Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the current President is Muhamudu Buhari and there is nowhere in the Constitution that says that a current administration cannot be continuity in some ways. It doesn’t remove me from my adaptation to my economic philosophy and developmental programme. I did it in Lagos.”

 

Naira and fuel scarcities

Close to election, Tinubu faced another hurdle with the introduction of cashless policy and currency swap which many, including his opponents, approved of it as likely means of weakening his financial war chest.

The former Lagos governor’s political close ally of late and a member of his think, Nasir El-Rufai later alleged that the policy were weapons in the arsenal of a cabal in the presidential villa against the APC candidate.

Tinubu himself cried out, again in Abeokuta during campaign when he said: “Let them increase the price of fuel, let them continue to hoard fuel, only them know where they have hoarded fuel, they hoarded money, they hoarded naira; we will go and vote and we will win. Even if they changed the ink on naira notes. Whatever their plans, it will come to naught. We are going to win. Those in the PDP will lose.”

Then the election proper came and against all odds Tinubu won though not without some upbeats like losing Lagos where he is considered the landlord to a relatively new party, Labour.

 

Calls for cancellation of results

In what would have been the last straw that broke the camel’s back, a trio of opposition parties, PDP, LP the African Democratic Party (ADC), seeing that results of the election favoured Tinubu, called for the cancellation of the presidential polls.

Chairmen of the parties, Iyorchia Ayu, Julius Abure and Ralph Nwosu, of the PDP, LP and ADC, respectively, spoke at a press conference in Abuja, described the collation of results by INEC as a travesty and rape of democracy.

They noted that the results announced by INEC so far show monumental disparities between the actual results reported by their party agents, members, and millions of Nigerians, on election day from the polling units.

“President Muhammadu Buhari, this is a time of great test of your integrity to use your office to save Nigeria from this electoral heist and save your legacy from the forces that seek to mar your democratic credentials.

“We do not want our people to take the laws into their hands and want the entire election cancelled, because the damage that has been done is not what you can correct, the numerous challenges are because the process has been marred by irregularities right from the beginning of the process, ” the coalition said.

This was just after the agents of the parties, led by their PDP counterpart staged a walk out of the national collation centre. They explained that staying back to see the process till the end would be tantamount to endorsing illegality.

 

Challenges before incoming President

Beyond the razzmatazz of winning the election, the president-elect will from today, (Monday) May 29 be faced with the realities of being the chief driver of Nigeria’s national vehicle. Although his major opponents; Atiku and Obi have refused to congratulate him and are challenging the outcome of the February 25 poll, however, until the court decides otherwise, Nigeria will have a new Commander-in-Chief take over from President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29.

While his ability as an experienced politician and master strategist is not in doubt, Tinubu must brace up to hit the ground running from day one in office.

Below are some of the heavy challenges awaiting the President-elect’s attention from May 29.

 

Unity of Nigeria

Undoubtedly, the President-elect will be inheriting a largely divided country. The major task before him would be to initiate a viable healing process to pacify many angry Nigerians against his declaration as the winner of the presidential poll. At least, there must be a country first before governance.

Tinubu seems to be aware of the discountenance his emergence as President-elect might have caused in some quarters particularly his opponents’ camps when in his acceptance speech after receiving his certificate of return, admitted that; “I know many did not vote for me. And you are disappointed that your candidate is not where I now stand. I understand you are hurt. To you, I extend the embrace and comfort of one family member to another.

“This great project called Nigeria beckons to us all. It is bigger and more important than any partisan divide. To my supporters, I ask you to continue to have faith in the mission that we have articulated. To those who didn’t support me, I ask that you should not allow the disappointment of this moment to keep you from realising the historic national progress we can make by joining hands and hearts in a common endeavour to pull this nation through.

“In a phrase, I am asking you to work with me. I may be the president-elect, but I need you. More importantly, Nigeria needs you. My heart and my door are open to you. I ask you to come in so that we may begin the task of rebuilding our national home together, day by day, brick by brick. Where there is poverty, let us create prosperity and jobs.

“Where there is hunger, let us feed the people, chasing hunger from their midst. Where there is now scarcity, let us rediscover abundance. Where there is brutality, may we replace it with brotherhood? Where violence stalks the land, may we establish peace. Where others have erected temples of hatred and bias, may we construct permanent monuments to compassion and abiding affection,” he appealed.

 

Fuel subsidy

The contentious issue of fuel subsidy is the elephant in the room. It is in public domain that the federal government spent a whopping N2.91 trillion ($7 billion) on fuel subsidy between January and September 2022. During the campaigns, the President-elect vowed to remove fuel subsidy not minding the protests that may greet the decision as in times past. Tinubu, then in opposition under the Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2012 mobilised Nigerians against plans to remove fuel subsidy. Owing to the mass protests across major cities in Nigeria, the then president reversed to status quo. And the subsidy remained from then till now.

 

Insecurity

Another major issue is the ravaging insecurity in the country. The new leader will not need to be told to gird his loins and make Nigerians feel more secure. The country has been grappling with a myriad of security challenges, ranging from terrorism, banditry, kidnappings, and communal clashes. A report by an international human rights organisation under the aegis of Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) claimed that at least 60,000 persons were killed in 18 Northern states of Nigeria in the last 10 years due to insecurity.

As the President, Tinubu is expected to provide strong and decisive leadership that would restore law and order in the country. He would need to work with the security agencies to equip them adequately and motivate them to perform their duties effectively. That will likely entail addressing the root causes of insecurity, which are poverty, unemployment, and social inequality.

 

Corruption

Without need to be reminded, former British Prime Minister, David Cameron in 2016 described Nigeria as “fantastically corrupt” in a conversation with the late Queen Elizabeth. In Cameron’s view, Nigeria was only peer with Afghanistan in the corruption index.

The former PM was talking about the week’s anti-corruption summit in London when he made the statement.

“We’ve got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain… Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world,” he was overheard saying. That was how bad Nigeria had it corruption wise at the international scene.

Before Tinubu, every Nigerian president had vowed to fight corruption but it has always been the case of all motion and no movement.

Beyond his campaign manifestoes of techniques to adopt in tackling this menace, as President, Tinubu should be motivated enough to demonstrate a commitment to fighting corruption by strengthening the anti-corruption agencies and ensuring that they operate independently. He would also need to lead by example and ensure that his government is transparent and accountable. The President would need to work with other stakeholders to implement policies that would promote transparency and accountability in public office.

 

Education

Education is another key challenge for the incoming President. He also needs to find a solution to the perennial strikes by tertiary institution lecturers. The quality of education in Nigeria is woefully inadequate and he will need to implement initiatives to improve the educational system to at least compete favourably globally.

 

Infrastructure

A Tinubu-led federal government would need to address the issue of infrastructure development which is presently in a deplorable state, with the roads, airports, seaports, schools and hospitals in dire need of repair and maintenance.

The President would need to invest heavily in infrastructure development to improve the country’s transportation, communication, and energy sectors. This would require significant investments as well as partnerships with local and international investors.

 

Appointments

Hopefully, the incoming President would have started picking excellent individuals to constitute his cabinet and will not toll President Buhari’s lane of waiting till six months. Tinubu is dubbed to have a knack for identifying talents as he did as Governor of Lagos (1999 to 2007). He should have learnt one or two lessons from previous administrations whose goodwill were washed away by non-performing or overzealous appointees. He should keep to his promise of forming a government of national competence that will birth a prosperous nation that all have been yearning for.