By Father Livinus Onogwu, PhD –
In February 2023, Nigerians trooped out in their millions to decide on who stirs the mantle of leadership as president of Nigeria for the next four years as the tenure of Muhammad Buhari drew to its constitutional end.
The period leading to the election was electrified with growing political awakening among millions of Nigerians who naturally have had enough of the endless worsening woes of Nigeria and sought to change the trajectory of the nation for the better. The resolve to push for change happened naturally and nationally given the failure of successive administrations to turn things around for the better.
Nigeria is enviously blessed with countless natural, material, capital and Human resources. In spite of these endowments, Nigeria continues to be bedeviled by a constant and growing litany of national diseases such as poverty, underdevelopment, insecurity, unemployment, poor infrastructure, high inflation, corruption, emigration and lack of national cohesion among a mirage of others – all boiling down to poor and bad governance.
From one election cycle to another, Nigerians continue to lament the outcome of their elections largely believed to be grossly manipulated against the general wishes of the electorates. Nigeria’s ailing problems are deliberately human and home – made and only Nigerians hold the solutions. Why is it that despite the yearning to fix Nigeria, Nigerians are not able to get out of her entrenching poor leadership crises and electoral challenges?
On May 29, 2023, Bola Tinubu was inaugurated as President of Nigeria following his controversial declaration as the winner of the February 2023 Presidential election by the electoral commission (INEC).
With legal challenges still ongoing at the supreme court of Nigeria, many Nigerians see the inauguration of Tinubu as a constitutional necessity that may or may not stand, depending on the outcome of the floods of legal cases against the conduct of the 2023 presidential election.
As the generality of Nigerians await the determination of the cases by the Supreme Court and as Bola Tinubu checks into the Presidential villa, there are a number of issues to highlight.
1. Bola Tinubu largely lacks legitimacy and his administration will struggle to gain the acceptance of the majority of Nigerians. Lack of legitimacy can manifest in various ways, especially when people fail to see government efforts towards addressing their plights. Time will undoubtedly unveil the legitimacy question.
2. No matter how the case in court ultimately goes, the fact remains that the number of Nigerians who voted for the other presidential candidates against Tinubu is twice higher than the number of Nigerians who voted for Tinubu – and this is going by the contested official figures of the electoral commission. Bola Tinubu must be acutely aware of this silent majority against his candidacy.
3. Nothing particularly personal about any of the presidential candidates but given that poor leadership has remained the undoing of Nigeria since independence in 1960, Nigerians are increasingly conscious of the stupidity of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. Hence, the question of WHO is the president of Nigeria in 2023 is a question of common and national interest.
4. Even as Bola Tinubu temporarily fills the constitutional gap pending the determination of cases in court, he must be attuned to the litany of expectations of Nigerians from their political leaders and must take conscious steps towards rebuilding the shattered country. Nigeria is broken on several grounds and Nigerians are hurting on several spheres of life.
5. Swearing in a president whose election is being questioned in court leaves much to be desired. It is like enthroning a ‘prince’ king, in traditional African culture, while DNA tests are being carried out to ascertain his biological paternity. It is doubtful that he is the biological son of the late king but his enthronement goes on notwithstanding. This is like putting the cart before the horse and real madness.
6. The cautious congratulatory messages from some countries who graced and did not grace the occasion at Eagle Square Abuja speak volumes about the hesitation of world leaders against prematurely acclaiming a king whose legitimacy is questionably in doubt.
7. That madness alluded to in 5 above must not be allowed to continue into the next election. The parliament must now act to review the current legal, electoral and constitutional provisions that fuel the madness. As is the case in Kenya, presidential election cases go direct to the Supreme Court, with a strict timeline for determination before the president-elect is inaugurated. Nigeria should borrow this practice from Kenya.
8. The Supreme Court of Nigeria must also determine the case before it without fear or favour, looking strictly at the legalities of the entire electoral process and their departure from or conformity to the constitution, electoral laws and INECs’ own guidelines. Any evidenced significant breach must lead to a complete nullification as was the case in Kenya under former Chief Justice David Maraga of the Supreme Court of Kenya. That is the only way our political players and constitutional institutions would learn to act right. “There is no perfect election anywhere in the world ” someone said. As long as we continue to make excuses to justify our deliberate manipulations of the electoral process, the more we will continue to mess ourselves and our nation, and consequently make a mockery of democracy.
Even though Kenya has its own unique judicial, political and electoral struggles, Kenya stands tall to teach Nigeria the two lessons: a fearless judiciary under David Maraga and a timely determination of presidential electoral cases before inauguration.
9. There is a clarion call on all elected leaders across all cadres of public administration in Nigeria that the electrifying 2023 election marks the birth of a new renaissance in the country. This movement will continue way into the future and will greatly influence how we do what we do as a nation. The impact of the movement will be more prominently felt in the next election, fired by the lingering orchestrated disappointments of the 2023 elections.
10. The Nigerian project keeps marking time from one political dispensation to another. Nigerians pray for divine intervention in the endless litany of issues bedeviling the country. God is not happy that Nigeria is not able to get its governance right since independence in 1960 and since their divine deliverance from military dictatorship decades ago. God says the answers to our prayers are in our hands. We have to face our national challenges head on and continue to forge forces of positive change together to defeat negative forces that tend to keep Nigeria in the same spot decades after decades. We can all hear the sound of freedom coming!
Father Livinus is a Nigerian Missionary Priest serving in Kenya.