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Nigeria: Mending a fractured nation

On May 28, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, GCFR, will be sworn in as the President of Nigeria and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Rightly so, having won the 25 March 2023 elections and duly returned elected by the Independent National Electoral Commission. Depending on which side one belongs to, the election has been declared the “freest and fairest” in the country or the “worst ever” in the history of the Nigerian nation. Not satisfied with the results as announced by INEC, three parties have gone to court to challenge INEC’s declaration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as the winner. This is in order and line with our laws. It will take a while but eventually, the Supreme Court will make a final declaration that will be binding on all concerned.

But from then until 29 May 2027, unless the Supreme Court decides otherwise, Tinubu will be our President. He comes in after a very rancorous and bitterly fought election. If you look at the electoral map of Nigeria today, following the elections, clearly, it shows a fractured nation. This is not about getting 25% in the number of states as mandated by the constitution. This is not about getting the highest number of votes cast. This is not about local or international observers pronounced the elections “free and fair” or “flawed”. And this is not even about the condemnable isolated violence and intimidation of voters in some few areas.

It is all so easy to say Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi are bad losers and wave them aside. It is even easier to claim that every part of Nigeria overwhelmingly voted for Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Yes, going by the provisions in the Nigerian constitution, INEC has declared him the winner. However, the current electoral map and the votes at the elections, clearly show that Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a minority President. More people, and more states, voted against him than voted for him. This is besides the fact that only about 25% of the total registered voters voted in the elections. Bola Tinubu’s base is arguably the Southwest, though with a very strong presence in the north. On the other hand, the support base of his main rivals, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi are in the North and South East respectively.

The full damage the elections have done to the fragile nation called Nigeria may yet take some time before people start fully realizing it. Make no mistake about it; Bola Tinubu will be presiding over a fractured and highly divided nation.

I listened to the pre-inauguration lectures held on 27 May 2023 and it came across that all the speakers agree that one of the most urgent tasks facing the Bola Tinubu government is the need to quickly heal and unite the nation. The Vice President-elect who represented Bola Tinubu also acknowledged this imperative. President Uhuru Kenyatta came across very strongly on how was able to bring his country together after a very bitter political contest. President Bola Tinubu can learn a few things from his experience. Rwanda has also shown that it is possible to emerge from a bitter past and have a united country.

The elections are over. The time for governance starts now. Beyond the rhetoric of “we are better together “, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu must realise that the time for politics is over. He must realise that the people who genuinely voted for him all over the country were mainly voting for him as a person and not necessarily for his party the APC, a party that has governed the Nigerian nation for the past years with mixed results. President Bola Tinubu must realise that the people who voted against him may not have done so because of personal hatred but were desirous of changing from the leadership of the APC which they saw as uninspiring.

It will not be unusual to expect those who have “helped” President Bola Tinubu to win the elections by whatever means; campaigns, donations, etc. to want to get their payback. They will seek to make him a prisoner in Aso Rock Villa. They will seek to impose on him, ministers, and special advisers. For most of them, it will be business as usual, now that the battle has been “won”. Herein is the challenge for President Bola Tinubu. History beacons on him to rise and be a truly great President, a true President for Nigeria. Not a South West or Southern President. Not an APC President and certainly not the President for the money bags or the professional jobbers who have been referred to as belonging to “Any Government in Power” (AGIP).

Already the queues are getting longer for those who want to pay solidarity visits to the President to congratulate him and pledge loyalty. Yes, the Emirs and other traditional rulers in the north are coming. Yes, the obas, chiefs, sizes, and other traditional rulers in the south by whatever names they bear, are coming. The “professional” groups will be coming. All sorts of solidarity movements will be coming. This is not to forget the spiritual leaders who will also be on the line to “pray” for the President’s success.

President Bola Tinubu should not be deceived. If Atiku Abubakar or Peter Obi had been declared winners, the same groups would also have been struggling to be on the front pages of the newspapers and in front of television cameras to congratulate them and show solidarity.

As a starting point, President Bola Tinubu should politely tell all these different people and groups today to stay at home and pray for him quietly so he can face the urgent task of rebuilding Nigeria without distractions. He should tell them that he needs every minute to concentrate on designing the solutions to the numerous problems that confront us as a nation. He should tell them that the four years he has determined for himself is not four decades or 4 terms and therefore he needs to hit the ground running now.

The President must escape the entrapment of leadership which gives the false impression of calm to leaders, even when the ship of state is sailing dangerously. He must not be deceived that all is calm out there. No Nigeria is currently going through a tempest, and it is his lot to calm things down.

So, we wait to see how President Bola Tinubu goes about the most needed healing and how he delivers on security, jobs, electricity, health care, good roads, etc. That will be the ultimate reality check, not whether he comes from our clan.

We wish him well.

Anthony Agenmonmen, former President of the National Institute of Marketing in Nigeria writes from Lagos.

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