Akani Alaka writes on the twists and turns of participation of Bola Tinubu of All Progressives Congress in the presidential race in which he has now emerged as Nigeria’s president-elect
As it is, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC will have to survive a tsunami of legal battles which were already shaping before most Nigerians, even if grudgingly, will accept the declaration that he won the February 25 presidential election. The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC had early last Wednesday morning declared Tinubu the winner of the presidential poll with 8,794,726 votes.
While announcing the results, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said Tinubu defeated Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Peter Obi of the Labour Party, and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of New Nigeria People’s Party who polled 6,984,520; 6,101,553 and 1,496,589 votes respectively.
With his three closest challengers (Atiku and Obi, Kwankwaso) garnering a combined total of about 14 million votes, the number of Nigerians who voted against the APC presidential candidate was higher than those who voted for him in the election.
Yet, the number of votes with which Tinubu was declared the winner of the presidential race itself was indicative of the numerous odds he overcame to fulfil what he has confirmed to be his ‘lifelong ambition’ of occupying the Aso rock presidential villa.
Tinubu And Surfeit Of Intrigues In APC
For one, the former Lagos governor had survived over three years of dagger and cloak intra-party intrigues aimed at stopping his attempt to emerge as the successor to President Muhammadu Buhari within the ruling APC.
The sack of Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee, NWC of APC made up of a significant number of Tinubu’s loyalists in June 2020 was part of the obvious plots to stop the Lagos governor. The Oshiomhole NWC was succeeded by the Mai Mala Buni Caretaker Committee which was supposed to manage the party for six months but ended up spending 21 months in office as part of the intrigues aimed at keeping Tinubu at bay from the party machinery ahead of the battle for the APC presidential ticket.
The Buni Committee eventually handed over to Senator Abdullahi Adamu. Adamu, a former governor of Nasarawa State had in several interviews before he was made the APC Chairman opposed the zoning of the party’s presidential ticket, one of the planks on which Tinubu was anchoring his ambition to take over from President Buhari.
So, it was clear that the former Lagos governor who had informed the president of his intention to contest for the presidential ticket of APC in January 2022 had another stumbling block placed before him.
Tinubu had told journalists after he met with the president at the Aso Rock presidential villa in January that he informed Buhari of his “lifelong ambition,” to lead Nigeria. “It is a lifelong ambition. You are running a democratic dispensation and you must adopt the principles and values and virtues of democracy,” Tinubu who added that the President did not ask him not to pursue his dream said. However, the declaration was followed by the emergence of a wave of contenders for the ticket including ministers, governors and his political associate and former commissioner, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
There was an obvious gang up against Tinubu who many of the aspirants believed was the front-runner for the presidential ticket, given the support he was enjoying from some governors of the party. Some of the aspirants who believed that they had the support of the president put pressure on him to anoint them as his preferred successor.
They argued that just like Buhari allowed the governors to pick their successors, he should also be allowed to pick his successor who would fly the flag of the APC for election into the office of the President in 2023.
However, while other presidential aspirants from other geopolitical zones were popping up, in the Southwest, where Tinubu holds court as the political godfather, debates and discussions raged. Supporters of Tinubu had argued that he should be allowed to have the presidential ticket because of the role he played in the merger between the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN and the Buhari-led Congress of Progress Change and other parties that gave birth to the APC and consequently, the victory of the party in the 2015 general election.
They also argued that since the presidential ticket of the party was zoned to the North in 2015, it should be zoned to the South in 2023. While South-west was favoured because of its contributions to the victory of APC in 2015 and 2019, Tinubu was not the only candidate.
Aside from Tinubu, the other contenders from the zone include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (Ogun), former House of Representatives Speaker, Dimeji Bankole (Ogun), Senator Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), and the then chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Dr Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti).
There were fears that the high number of aspirants will jeopardise the chances of somebody from the zone winning the presidential ticket. But Osinbajo soon emerged as a major threat to Tinubu among the contenders in the zone with some stakeholders asking the president to anoint the vice president as his successor. A cabal in the Presidency was also said to be backing Osinbajo against Tinubu.
At a gathering of APC members in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Tinubu narrated how he helped Buhari to realise his ambition to become Nigeria’s president in 2015 through the APC coalition and had also yielded the position of the running mate to Osinbajo.
He, therefore, challenged the attempt by Osinbajo to edge him out of the race, with the now famous “emilokan” (It’s my turn) quote. “It is my time. I’m educated. I’m experienced. I have been serving people for a long time. Bring me the presidency, it is my turn,’’ he insisted stridently.
However, this did not stop Osinbajo from contesting the ticket.
Knocking Off Adamu For Massive Win In APC Primary
The last hurdle against Tinubu was from the chairman of APC who less than a week before the presidential primary announced that Senate President Ahmad Lawan had been endorsed as the consensus candidate of the party by President Buhari.
The former Nasarawa State governor had reportedly chosen Lawan because of his belief that it would only take a Northerner to defeat Atiku who had then been chosen as the flag bearer of PDP.
But the attempt failed, as was later revealed by manoeuvrings by Tinubu which led to 12 governors of the party from the Northern part of the country endorsing the zoning of the presidential ticket to the South.
Tinubu’s loyalists in the APC NWC had also opposed the move by Adamu to impose the Yobe-born Senate president as the presidential candidate of the party.
“After careful deliberation, we wish to state our firm conviction that after eight years in the 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,” the 12 Northern APC Governors had said in a communiqué they released after they met with the president.
The president in a statement released afterwards confirmed that he had not anointed any of the presidential aspirants. The statement signed by presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, Buhari indicated that the president told the 12 Northern APC governors at the State House, Abuja, that he had “no preferred candidate,” and had “anointed no one.”
This laid the ground for Tinubu’s grand victory at the June 2022 presidential primary of APC. The former Lagos governor had scored 1,271 votes to defeat 13 other presidential hopefuls in the election with Rotimi Amaechi, former minister of transportation and Osinbajo who came second and third respectively polling 316 and 235 votes.
Tortuous Presidential Campaign
However, Tinubu’s emergence as the APC presidential candidate had opened him to another flurry attack in which his family, academic background as well as health came under serious scrutiny. His choice of former Borno governor, Kashim Shettima, a fellow Muslim had also raised dust with some Christian groups and clerics accusing him of a plot to Islamise Nigeria.
Tinubu’s flaunting of his wife, Remi, a pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God failed to assuage the anger over the Muslim-Muslim ticket. Ahead of the February 25 election, prominent Christian clerics had directly or indirectly warned their congregation against voting for Tinubu.
However, things got worse for Tinubu who during his campaigns was flaunting his record as Lagos governor while trying to run away from the failure of Buhari to deliver on his promises when a few weeks before the election the Federal Government introduced the cashless and currency redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The poor implementation of the policy resulted in Nigerians queuing for hours in banks for days without being able to withdraw money.
There were also speculations that the policy was introduced by the CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele who had wanted to contest for the APC presidential ticket.
The problem was compounded by the scarcity of petrol in most parts of the country. As the anger of Nigerians against the ruling party grew, Tinubu and some governors of APC had come out to distance themselves from the policy. Some of the governors dragged the Federal Government to the Supreme Court over the policy in a move believed to be aimed at persuading the electorate not to take their anger out on the APC at the polls.
The former governor overcame these hurdles to emerge the winner of the election as declared by INEC.
How Tinubu Won – The Many Upsets
In his congratulatory message to Tinubu, the leader of Pan Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Worldwide, Chief Reuben Fasoranti acknowledged that the APC’s candidate victory in the election was hard-won. Fasoranti praised Tinubu for the doggedness, self-determination, self-assuredness, strong belief in self, and ability he displayed in the battle for the presidential race.
“I was also amazed at God’s grace on you, that gave you the strength of character and such abundance of energy, that enabled you to navigate through all the ever emerging intricate problems, and made it possible for you to, against the wishes of some people, traverse successfully all the states of the federation, during the energy-sapping marathon presidential campaigns,” said Fasoranti.
More so, Tinubu’s victory was also against the indication of most of the polls which had predicted that his Labour Party counterpart would win the election.
In the election in which 24.9 million out of the 93.47 million registered voters voted, the APC presidential candidate not only polled a majority of the votes, he also garnered over 25 per cent of the votes cast in 29 states, more than the 24 states constitutionally required to be declared president.
He, therefore, also makes nonsense of the prediction of the pollsters that the presidential election would go into a runoff as none of the leading three candidates was likely to score the constitutionally required 25 per cent across two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states and the FCT.
To achieve his victory in the presidential election, Tinubu won in Benue, Borno, Ekiti, Jigawa, Kwara, Kogi, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Rivers, and Zamfara states.
However, the APC presidential candidate’s victory in Benue, Rivers is considered an upset since analysts had predicted that both states would go to Peter Obi in the election in which religion and ethnic affiliations greatly influenced voters’ behaviour. Overall, the APC presidential candidate had scored the second highest number of votes in the South-south won by Obi, against expectations that the mostly PDP governors in those states would deliver the states for their candidates.
For one, while Obi won in Delta, the state governed by Ifeanyi Okowa, the running mate to the PDP presidential candidate, APC scored the second-highest number of votes, pushing Atiku to third place.
Also, Governor Godwin Obaseki lost Edo to Obi and his party, the PDP was also pushed to third place in the number of votes scored. In Cross River, the APC came second to Obi in the number of votes earned in the election. Tinubu also came second in Akwa Ibom, the only state won by Atiku in the South-south.
Thus, contrary to the predictions by the pollsters, the APC presidential candidate was able to get well above 25 per cent of the votes in all the states of the South-south. The LP beat its APC counterpart in Lagos with 582,442 votes with the APC trailing with 576,606 votes. However, the big upset in Lagos where Tinubu had reigned like Lord of the Manor since 1999 was more than compensated for by the massive win he recorded in the five other states of the South-west.
Tinubu also won the election in Benue, pushing LP and PDP to the second and third positions respectively. The victory of Obi in other APC states of Nasarawa, Plateau and by Atiku in major strongholds of the ruling party, including President Buhari’s own Katsina, was not enough to stop the former Lagos governor.
However, some analysts had noted that Tinubu’s over eight million votes was one of the lowest secured by a candidate to be elected into office since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999. The votes garnered by the former governor to become president were just 37 per cent of the total votes cast in the election, well below over 50 per cent of the votes cast scored by others before him.
Also, the 12 states won by the APC candidate were well below 19 and 21 states won by President Buhari in 2015 and 2019 respectively to become Nigeria’s president-elect.
However, supporters of Tinubu believed that his victory is well encompassing enough when the aggregate number of votes he scored across Nigeria’s six geo-political zones is considered. Fasoranti reflected this in his congratulatory message to the President-Elect: “I am glad to know that your hard-earned victory had a very good national spread. Amongst about 18 presidential candidates, you came 2nd in South-South; 2nd in South East; 1st in South West; 1st in North Central; 2nd in North East; and 1st in North West. What a brilliant performance.”
Analysts said the opposition as represented by the PDP lost the election because of the division within its ranks unlike in 2019. Obi and Kwankwaso dumped the PDP ahead of the 2023 election and splintered the votes that could have earned them victory in the February 25 presidential election. Also, the inability of Atiku to tackle the rebellion of Nyesom Wike-led G-5 Governors was considered another major contribution to the poor outing of the PDP in the presidential election. Dumebi Kachikwu, the presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) said Tinubu took advantage of disunited opposition to achieve victory in the election.
“Tinubu, a dogged fighter with a mastery of the Nigerian political system took advantage of the disunity among the opposition who were running purely on the divisive platforms of ethnicity and religion. The distortions occasioned by the rigging done by the four so-called leading parties were not significant enough to have altered the outcome of this election,” he said.
“The PDP and Labour Party candidates failed to show leadership when they refused to put aside petty differences to build a formidable opposition to take on a non-performing sitting government,” said the ADC flag bearer.
Legal Battle Looms
However, not everyone believed that Tinubu won the election in a free, fair and credible manner. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had stirred the hornet’s nest and came under heavy criticism and bashing in the media when he asked President Buhari to stop the declaration of the results of the election by INEC.
Also, Dino Melaye, one of the spokespersons of Atiku had led some opposition parties out of the collation centre in protest after he failed to get assurance from INEC Chairman that the results being announced were already uploaded on the IREV Portal as promised by the Commission.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal in Abuja granted the request of Atiku and Obi to inspect documents used by INEC for the conduct of the presidential election in an obvious prelude to the legal challenge to Tinubu’s victory.
The permission was a sequel to two separate exparte applications filed by Atiku and Obi, alleging substantial non-compliance with the electoral laws in the conduct of the election. They also alleged that violence and rigging marred the conduct and outcome of the election.
Obi and Atiku had at separate media briefings rejected the victory of Tinubu in the presidential election. Atiku said the election was the worst conducted since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999.
He said INEC neglected complaints about irregularities that marred the election to hurriedly declare his APC opponent the winner.
“I can still not understand why the electoral umpire was in such a hurry to conclude collation and announcement of the result, given the number of complaints of irregularities of bypassing of the BVAS, failure of uploading to the IREV, and unprecedented cancellations and disenfranchisement of millions of voters in breach of the Electoral Act and the commission’s guidelines. It was indeed a rape of democracy.
“I hope that the judiciary will redeem itself this time around and rise to the society’s expectation as the last HOPE. In the end who wins is not as important as the credibility of our elections and electoral processes,” the former vice president who nevertheless agreed that division in the PDP contributed to the downfall of the opposition party in the election said. He noted that the votes of the PDP taken by Obi in the South-east and South-south cannot make him president.
Also, Obi claimed that he won the election at a separate press conference. “We won the election. We will explore all legal action to reclaim our mandate,” Obi said, adding that he had been asked to go to court and would prove how he won the election. He described the election as the most controversial election ever conducted in Nigeria.
“We insisted that we will be governed by the rule of law. We will explore all legal action to reclaim our mandate. We won the election. We will build a country,” said Obi who added that he was not in alliance with any political party.
We’ll Meet You In Court
One of the issues that will be up for determination at the tribunal will be the failure of INEC to fulfil its promise of uploading scanned copies of result sheets from the polling units into its portal for viewing by members of the public.
There is also the controversy on whether a candidate must score 25 per cent of the votes in FCT to be declared the winner of the election even if he won in the other 36 states of Nigeria. Already, APC has dismissed the claims of Atiku and Obi that they won the election.
While affirming that it was ready for the looming legal battle, the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) at a press conference addressed by its Special Adviser on Media and Communication Dele Alake, said contrary to claims of Atiku and Obi, the Electoral Act 2022 did not mandate INEC to compulsorily transmit election results from the polling units: “In any case, the process of transmitting results from polling units,
whether real-time, two days later or at any time, cannot in any way change the results that have been announced right after the counting in the presence of the parties’ agents and to the hearing of the voters. It is, therefore, nonsensical to insinuate that time variation in uploading results would cause a change in the figures.”
He added that “unprecedented outcomes and defied conventions” in the election were evidence that BVAS lived up to expectations: The loss of Katsina and Lagos to PDP and LP respectively were contrary to expectations. BVAS brought the intended credibility to voters’ accreditation such that many governors and well-established politicians lost elections in what should be safe bet areas,” said Alake who pointed out several reasons why Obi or Atiku could not have won the election.
But ultimately, the judiciary will have the last say.