By Ibrahim Ado Kurawa
I had earlier written before the Presidential Election that whoever wins it is victory for democracy. And now that Bola Ahmed Tinubu has won the two major contenders should congratulate him as President Jonathan did to President Buhari in 2015. No elections anywhere in the world are perfect. President Obasanjo emphasized this, in 2010. The conduct and management of the 2023 is by far better than that of 2007, which President Obasanjo emphasized that it reflected the wishes of the Nigerian people.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s victory is not different for the victories of previous winners of Presidential Elections since 1979. He has won in three zones: North West where he got the highest number of votes, South West and North Central. No one since 1979 has ever been President without winning in the North Central. Peter Obi won in only two zones: South East and South South and Atiku Abubakar won in only one zone the North East. This demonstrates that Tinubu has wider national acceptance. And we borrow from President Obasanjo and emphasis that it is a reflection of the wishes of the Nigerian people. Therefore Atiku and Obi the two leading contenders should congratulate him and move on in the overall interest of peaceful coexistence and democracy.
As former President Obasanjo has emphasized there is no perfect election in any part of the world and he cited examples from the United States and United Kingdom. These are countries that have practiced electoral democracy for centuries. They are also not as deeply divided as Nigeria. The Nigerian elite factions must imbibe the culture of democracy and tolerate one another. They should be civil enough to accept defeat. They all played the game. All the three used the religious card for their advantage or against their opponents. So why not accept the outcome after full involvement in the game?
Framers of the Nigeria’s Presidential Constitution ensured that no ethnic champion or religious bigot becomes the President. He must have wider appeal, which Bola Tinubu proved that he has. Despite Mr. Peter Obi’s vibrancy, Babachir one of his main supporters nailed his chance when he stated that it was a battle against Islam. He was the first politician to publicly declare the contest as a religious battle. It was sad also some Muslim preachers even declared their brothers as unbelievers for not supporting their choice this was a bad trend that must be condemned. The only way to heal these bruises is for the major contenders to congratulate their fellow contestant. Nigeria can never progress if it is remains deeply divided based on identity. It is irrational because no group can live exclusively. Atiku and Obi signed the peace accord and as honorable citizens they should abide by it.
Nigerians must learn that change is possible in a democracy, if played well. They must build coalitions based on ideas not identities. Hopefully those who started this divisive politics and failed will realize the futility of their wrong choice of strategy. They should analyze the voting figures and study the history and geography of Nigeria. Central Nigeria or North Central is the bedrock of the unity of the country because of its ethno-religious plurality. They have always consistently voted for the Nigerian who is always the winner. Even in this election Tinubu won in that zone despite the destructive tendencies of Ortom who has now been disgraced. The people of that zone truly believe in one Nigeria the legacy of Joseph Tarka and Olusola Saraki. Despite the destructive propaganda of people like Jerry Gana the legacy of Joseph Tarka prevailed. This was because Tarka realized after his first republic experience that identity politics was destructive and the only way forward was national politics.
Obi should congratulate Tinubu and move ahead. He should be commended for joining the race against devastating propaganda of Biafran separatists. Democracy is about choice. Obi chose a strategy to mobilize Christian voters. And the outcome did not betray the reality of the society. As President Obasanjo emphasized in 2010 that the 2007 election was a reflection of the wishes of the Nigerian people. It is clear from this election that is also similar. The outcome does not betray history and sociology. Obi won in Plateau State. It is the most religiously tense state in Nigeria. This is because it is the base of aggressive Christian missionary activities. The politics in that state is exclusive and intolerant. Despite a Muslim population larger in proportion than Christians in Gombe State the Muslims in Plateau State do not enjoy the rights and privileges rendered to Christians in Gombe State.
Obi’s strategy of the “Church to take back your country” worked in Lagos State the home base of Tinubu. This was largely because of the intensive religious propaganda of the Churches, which played a big role in the decision of the voters. No one should blame them for that. It is the beauty of democracy. President Trump is not a religious person but he used it to win. Using religion is not new in the USA where Nigeria drew inspiration for Presidential Constitution. President Bush and his core think tank of neo-conservatives who considered religion as a pious fraud used it to win election and also to launch their global crusade. It is a strategy that worked in the USA but will not work in Nigeria because of different sociology. Obi should congratulate Tinubu and move on he should not be discouraged because of the failure of his strategy.
Atiku should be commended for being one of the pillars of Nigeria’s democracy. He should congratulate Tinubu not because they have been together since the SDP years and with the great mentor Shehu Musa Yar’ Adua but because he is democrat. Yar’ Adua’s sacrifice contributed immensely to the advancement of democracy in Nigeria. In the true spirit of democracy for which Atiku has labored he should congratulate Tinubu for winning because the election was a true reflection of the wishes of Nigerian people. There is no worthy sacrifice than to discard personal desire and accept Allah’s will and move ahead.
The struggle has been intense. Tinubu should not be fetish but humble and as a believer he should attribute his victory to God, Who used human agents to deliver. Luckily most of the extremists around him did not even win in their states therefore they cannot exclusively claim that the victory was because of their super intelligence. He should be President of Nigerians and work for them.
Editor, Nigeria Year Book and Who is Who