I have been asked by some readers of this column about the chances of the president-elect, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, being sworn in as president on May 29, exactly three weeks from today. Those opposed to the former Lagos State governor are quick to refer to alleged malpractices witnessed in the February 25th poll.
It is now clear as daylight that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, the old political war horse and kingmaker, popularly famed for his ‘Emi Lokan’ declaration, is set to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari. Many reasons abound to rationalise the inauguration of Asiwaju as president. Chief among them is his present status as the official occupant of the Defence House, the official residence of the president-elect. Any prediction that casts disbelief on his inauguration resides in the realm of delusion.
Disputations have always trailed outcomes of elections before and after the granting of political independence by the British colonial powers in 1960. In our climes, it is normal for politicians to insist that they have been rigged out once they lost elections. To them, elections are only fair if they are declared as the winner. The waves of denunciations of electoral results are always the pastime of defeated politicians. Like in previous elections, the 2023 polls also attracted acerbic condemnations from local and international audiences.
It’s beyond reservation that the conduct of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), especially over its inability to upload results of the presidential poll on a real time basis on its portal, IReV, contributed to inspire allegations of electoral fraud. That there appears to be inconsistencies in the reason why the electoral commission could not upload results on its portal, according to traducers of the APC, was linked to a conspiracy theory that sought to swing victory for Tinubu who was eventually declared winner of the presidential poll by the Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, despite protestation of electoral malfeasances by political opponents.
Even after the emergence of the deft politician, popularly called ‘Jagaba’ as the president-elect, some people opposed to Asiwaju’s emergence as the next president, refused to cave in to the realities of having the former governor as the nation’s next president. They are confident that with a little push and holding out the flame of inconsistency in the electoral figures as witnessed during the presidential poll, there is still hope for a review of the results.
The hope of discarding the results that produced the APC candidate as the president-elect is not only wearily forlorn, the INEC has declared that the Electoral Act 2022 empowers the electoral body to recognise only results uploaded on its portal. Of course, the process that led to Asiwaju’s electoral triumph may have been flawed and questionable, but that does not bar him from being inaugurated. The court option, which allows for resolving alleged flaws in the electoral processes, must be allowed to pass through legal fireworks for a final judicial verdict.
There are issues that have become germane in seeking to rationalise or debunk the inauguration of Tinubu as Nigeria’s next president. Apart from the debate that holds the view that a president-elect must score no less than 25 percent of total votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the disparity in voter figures on signed sheets of papers and inflated figures in INEC’s IReV, including violence and suppression of voters, make the prospects for a long legal battle inevitable.
It is obvious that all the issues raised by those opposed to the outcome of the February 25th presidential poll cannot be resolved in three weeks’ time. It may take several months and, perhaps a year or two, to arrive at a final arbitration. If the Appeal Court judges uphold the positions of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP) on the conduct of the presidential poll, then, it will only increase tension and renewed anxiety. However, if the Appeal Court judges declare the petitions as not adequate enough to warrant an upturn, not much of a hope will be entertained even if the matter is taken to the Apex Court.
The truth is that the present legal pyrotechnics over the outcome of the presidential poll will definitely end up at the Supreme Court. If the past is anything to go by, the petitioners may have to wearily wait for a long time scaling through the turbulent walls of anxiety in the march to invalidate the result of the poll. Considering the snail speed with which legal matters are treated, especially electoral cases, the need to review timelines attached to electoral cases, should be considered a priority in future review of the Electoral Act 2022. If Kenya and other African countries can resolve all election cases before inauguration of new presidents, then, it is possible for Nigeria to do the same and embrace inauguration of a new president devoid of legal fireworks.
When in 2007, the former Katsina governor, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, was elected president, criticisms trailed his emergence. After he was sworn in, he bowed to the condemnation of the electoral process that made him, and accepted that his election was characterised with malpractices, but promised to spare no efforts in ensuring future elections would be credible. He wasted no time in empanelling a committee to improve the integrity of the nation’s electoral system.
Since 2007 to date, succeeding administrations have not spared efforts to promote fair polls through the promulgation of relevant laws for trustworthy polls. The advocates of improved transparency for polls have always insisted that technology could provide final answers in cleansing the mess that the Nigerian electoral system has become. The optimism for the deployment of new technology to combat widespread malpractices in 2019 polls was summarily shot down by Buhari. However, he promised voters that technology would be adequately deployed in 2023 to ensure the votes are made to count. The introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the promise by INEC to transmit electronically results in 2023 from all the polling centres motivated hitherto lackadaisical voters to participate in the elections.
Those who previously slept, while politicians had their field day in manipulating election results, suddenly woke up from slumber with a vow to adopt a change of attitude in 2023. Potential voters would later be encouraged in 2022, when Prof Yakubu’s INEC vowed that nothing less than credible polls would be conducted. The appropriation of over N300 billion by the Federal Government in 2022 for the acquisition of BVAS machines and registration of voter cards, among others, was seen as a reflection of a determined INEC of walking its talk of ensuring the integrity of the polls. Extensions of voter card registration exercises to enable new voters participate in the 2023 polls remains the highpoint of an unbendable willpower by the electoral body so that no willing voter of age was left behind.
All is now history. There have been volumes of analyses by commentators on a deliberate ploy to rig the 2023 presidential poll. Even while it remains a fact that President Buhari’s policies were noticeably convincing, especially the new naira design and persistent scarcity of fuel, seemed targeted at undoing his party’s presidential candidate, Tinubu’s victory in the presidential poll remains an unexpected paradox. More intriguing, the fact that the president-elect lost Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, among other states, but consistently came second in most of the states, with the exception of the South-east zone, weakens the opposition’s assertion that the electoral results were compromised.
Apart from allegations of electoral malpractices tabled before the electoral courts for arbitration, the absence of a united opposition, as was observed ahead of the 2015 elections, shot the APC to electoral triumph and gave victory to Tinubu. The multi-party system in Nigeria will always give unfettered opportunities to selfish politicians to negotiate power by deploying their platforms for aggrandisement.
For those who say Tinubu may not be inaugurated on 29th May, the chances of their predictions becoming true are very slim. For now, Tinubu is one step to the rostrum to be sworn in as the next president. All that is required now is for those opposed to his electoral victory to prepare for a titanic court battle that may be characterised with time-consuming technical curves.