By Bolanle Bolawole
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Last Thursday, 16th March, 2023, the news media was awash with a statement from the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, titled “Nigeria: At the cusp of renewed hope”; I agree but also disagree with some aspects of the statement. I start by saying that the statement was timely; as our people will say, when you see an elder running, if he is not pursuing something, then, something is pursuing him. Again, as they say, there is no smoke without fire. The Tinubu statement appeals to Nigerians directly, I believe, over and above the head of some critical groups in society, the first of which is the government in power which, ironically, is APC, a party Tinubu helped to birth and on whose platform he contested and won the presidential election of Saturday, February 25th, 2023. We all witnessed how Tinubu fought tooth-and-nail to win his party’s nomination; how he fought a battle after another against principalities and powers within his own party and the cabals within the presidency throughout the campaign period; and how he literally had to corral the self-acclaimed leader of his party, President Muhammadu Buhari, dragging him along to a few of the campaign grounds to announce his support. If Tinubu hadn’t that way stooped to conquer, the outcome of the presidential election might have been different. If you put your ears to the ground you will hear rumblings despite the fact that the INEC has announced a winner who has promptly been given his certificate of return. Those who claim to know insist that Tinubu is not out of the woods yet. Whatever that means! And as Grandma taught me, it is too early to start dusting your clothes when you are yet to exit the woods or else, you may celebrate too early! Tinubu is still president-elect, not president and commander-in-chief yet. He still has a long way to go and each day that passes, I am sure, will look like a thousand years to him and his supporters. Although we pray, hope and wish that nothing sinister happens; technically, anything can still happen. A saying of our people is that whoever has seen thunder strike, will never stand in the gathering of those insulting Sango, the god of thunder. Beware, the ides of June 12, 1993! But may affliction never rise a second time!
Tinubu also has to speak directly to Nigerians over and above the head of those disparaging INEC and discrediting the presidential election locally and internationally, calling for its annulment and inciting Nigerians, especially our youths, to violence so as to instigate one negative action or the other against the outcome of the election and against Tinubu as a person. Among these are a former military and civilian head of state calling for an insurrection of youths that would occupy the streets in the manner of #ENDSARSNOW. Another is an elder statesman who has repeatedly threatened that the country would disintegrate if Tinubu wins the election and now that he has, if the outcome of the election is allowed to stand. Tinubu is right to appeal to our youths especially, in the same manner that I have appealed to my own children and the flock of God in my care, not to listen to those who quarter their own children and grandchildren in cosy comfort abroad but are urging the children of the less-privileged, products of years of hard labour, costly investment and great sacrifice that did not come cheap, to go and perish in the streets for nothing. If the Tinubu statement assuages the misgivings that sections of our youths harbour against him, then, it has achieved something important and is, therefore, worth making.
The Tinubu statement also appealed to those who contested the election against him, and their supporters who voted against him, to sheathe the sword; that he would be president and father to all; that all would have a part to play in his government and that the time to begin to think about the larger interest of the country is now. In that he extended the olive branch to his opponents and a hand of fellowship to all, Tinubu did well. He did not ask them to go jump into the Lagoon or hug a transformer! He recognised and accepted, all the same, their right to seek redress and recourse to litigation, if they so desire – but not a call for insurrection and a breakdown of law and order, an ill-wind that will not blow anyone of us any good in the real sense of the word and in the final analysis. In Yoruba, there is a bird called “eluulu”, which calls for rains to fall. Unfortunately, when the rains hearken and fall in torrents, “eluulu” gets soaked to its pants! It vexed me in my spirit that the last presidential election, which, in my view, was the most credible since June 12, 1993, was maliciously and mindlessly presented by the bad losers in the opposite direction. So sad! An election that should have showcased the giant steps and progress made over the years and the great work that INEC and the others involved have done, was turned on its head. Where the international community would have applauded us and the country’s image would have received a boost, these unthinking and selfish elements have left no stones unturned to try and return the country to the status of a pariah that was its lot under Sani Abacha.
Is it not said that it is how you esteem your attire that others will similarly join you in esteeming it? So, the Tinubu statement addressed the misguided and selfish elements; the pot calling the kettle black; the proverbial “a-ri-t’eni -moo-wi” but who covers up his own shortcomings with a drum. But thank goodness, the evidence of how elections were rigged in the South-east, for instance, are already surfacing on social media, where a candidate got 90-something percent of the votes cast in his catchment area; yet, it is this same person that is crying wolf all over the place. Lately, he appeared to have started recanting, making a nebulous distinction between “process” and “outcome” of the election! But he must not be let off the hook lightly; let the lawyers show to the whole world before the tribunal that he was a worse culprit than those he has railed against locally and internationally. The Tinubu statement also addressed the malevolent ones, if we may call them that; those that can become the agents and foot-soldiers for those intent on derailing our longest-running democratic experiment. Don’t set the country back! We travelled the same road again and again in the past and the outcome on each occasion was never palatable! Learn from history and refrain from repeating its mistakes. I give the Tinubu statement kudos in the above areas but, like I said, I have my reservations in certain areas.
Tinubu said “a fair and credible election has been held…” I agree! “I realize many good and well-meaning Nigerians voted for other candidates. They are naturally disappointed that their favoured candidate did not win. Other candidates have voiced their dissatisfaction, stating they will go to court to contest the election. This is inherent to the democratic process. We defend their right to seek legal recourse…” I agree! “”This is not the time for continued acrimony and partisan recrimination. These negative things can incite strong passions; but they are not the pathway to a better nation…” I agree! “Critics of Nigeria have been too quick to conclude that our political system is fragmented because of the impressive showing of new parties and their candidates. These critics are wrong” Yes, they are wrong but do you blame them? They keyed into the notes supplied by the bad losers at home. The Western world always gloats over bad news about Africa. Where there is none, they invent. And where they find Africans setting fire on their own roof, the better! “What must concern us is not the growth of parties but the regrowth of old prejudices and bigotries such as ethnicity, creed and place of origin”. I disagree here! What we call ethnicities here is called nationalities elsewhere. Where they are given their appropriate place in a true federalism (e.g. the United Kingdom), there is peace, progress and development but where they are muffled, repressed, oppressed and demonised as in Nigeria, there can be no peace and meaningful development. Restructuring or devolution of powers from the Centre to the regions is the panacea required, not demonization.
“There has been talk of a government of national unity. My aim is higher than that. I seek a government of national competence. In selecting my government, I shall not be weighed down by considerations extraneous to ability and performance. The day for political gamesmanship is long gone. I shall assemble competent men and women and young people from across Nigeria to build a safer, more prosperous and just Nigeria. There shall be young people. Women shall be prominent. Whether your faith leads you to pray in a church or mosque will not determine your place in government. Character and competence will. To secure our nation and to make it prosperous must be our top priorities. We cannot sacrifice these goals to political expediency. The whims of politics must take a backseat to the imperatives of governance. We have bridges and roads to build not just for commerce and travel but to connect people of different faiths, parties and different outlooks in harmonious dialogue and common purpose. We have families to feed not just to eliminate hunger but to nurture enlightenment, civic responsibility and compassion. We have jobs to create not merely to put people to work but to afford a better standard of living by which families and communities are improved and democracy deepened. We have water to replenish not just to quench physical thirst but to ignite a thirst for creative and better solutions to society’s challenges. We have a nation to protect such that we eliminate danger and even the fear of danger”
I agree but if Tinubu does all of these and 10 times more without restructuring this country, it will all amount to nothing.
“An important step toward restoring economic normalcy has been taken by the Supreme Court’s decision on the parity of old and new notes. This restores both the rule of law and economic decency. But this is not the end of the story. It is merely the beginning of a more comprehensive solution to our economic challenges” I agree but we must add that many have criticised Tinubu for keeping quiet over the Naira scarcity wahala since he won his election, whereas he cried out about it as a ploy to make him lose the election while he was campaigning. Good to mention it but I do not think this statement adequately empathises with our people. Yes, Tinubu is not yet in government but is this statement all he can offer to alleviate the suffering of the people? Somewhere in his statement, Tinubu said: “As your president-elect, I shall do my utmost in this regard for this is my sworn duty…” He must mean to say “as your president, I will…” because as president-elect, his hour has not yet come, to quote Jesus Christ when his mother pestered him to do a miracle at the marriage in Cana of Galilee. Or should we, right away, begin to expect miracles from the president-elect?
Concluding, the statement said: “Now is the time to stand fast and have faith in what this nation can be”. Well, as space constraints beckons, let me ask the president-elect to “stand firm” and not “stand fast” as he must be seen to correct many of the injustices of the past, especially of the Buhari era. When, for instance, was a Southerner the INEC or EFCC boss? When was the last time a South-westerner was the Chief of Army Staff or Comptroller-General of Customs or Minister of the FCT? I can go on and on! For the gaping wounds of this country to heal, more than physical infrastructure and a booming economy is needed. The injustice, especially of the Buhari era, must be addressed and redressed. That is the real task before Tinubu.
*Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.
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