Time to move on, By Bolaji Adebiyi  

There have been mixed feelings since Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, announced the outcome of the 2023 presidential election, which produced Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress as the winner.  

While Tinubu’s supporters expressed joy about his victory, the followers of Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party; Peter Obi of the Labour Party, and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian Peoples Party, who trailed the winner have vented their anger at the result of the poll, claiming that the election was rigged.  

It is tempting to dismiss the fury of the opposition candidates and their supporters as the usual sour grapes common with losers of electoral contests in Nigeria. But given the tense situation that elections and their outcomes engender in the country more efforts would have to be directed at assuaging the feeling of hurt rather than the tendency to gloat by the winning side. It is, therefore, significant that Tinubu has moved in this direction, calling on Atiku, Obi, and Kwankwaso to join forces with him to administer the country.  

In his speech after receiving the certificate of return, Tinubu was conciliatory, appealing to those who didn’t support him not to allow their disappointment to keep them away from realizing the historic national progress that could be made through the concert of efforts to redirect the nation. “I am asking you to work with me,” he said, adding, “My heart and my door are open to you. I ask you to come in so that we may begin the task of rebuilding our national home together, day by day, brick by brick.”  

Whether his opponents would take the olive branch he has offered them remains to be seen in the days ahead even as complaints remained rife that the poll was not held in strict compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022. Their main issue was the non-compliance with S60 (5) of the Act which stipulates the uploading of results to the INEC server from the polling unit level. That this was not done, they claimed, suggested some hanky-panky on the part of the election management agency in connivance with the winning party.  

However, a dispassionate analysis of the results would seem to lend some credence to the possibility that the outcome of the poll is a fair representation of the wishes of the people. That the result shows a redrawing of the political map of Nigeria, which has deprived many political heavyweights of bragging rights in their strongholds tends to support the view that it was indeed a keen and credible contest. The outcome shows very clearly that there are no more dominant political forces across the country and that political actors who hitherto thought they had a comfort zone would need to sit up.  

This is why the significance of the spread of the winning votes of the three leading contestants cannot be discounted. The trio of Tinubu, Atiku, and Obi won 12 States each across regional lines. Obi, for instance, won convincingly in 11 states and Abuja, trashing Tinubu in his Lagos State stronghold. The Labour party candidate also unseated the PDP in the entire South-east states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo, crossing over to the nearby South-south to route the hitherto main opposition in its base of Cross River, Edo, and Delta.  

He also moved up to the North-central states of Plateau and Nasarawa to give the ruling APC a bloody nose, with his comprehensive victory in the Federal Capital Territory as the icing on the cake. In all, Obi posted victories in nine southern and two northern states plus the nation’s capital, humbling in the process Tinubu, the eventual winner, and Ifeanyi Okowa, the PDP running mate and governor of Delta State in their bases.  

Atiku’s spread was across nine northern and three southern states with the PDP candidate routing the APC in its traditional bases of Gombe, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, and Yobe. He retained the PDP strongholds of Adamawa, Taraba, Sokoto, and Bauchi in the North, and Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, and Osun in the South. It is important to note that President Muhammadu Buhari and Nasir el-Rufai were the major casualties of his wins as both lost their home states of Katsina and Kaduna.  

Tinubu had a more even regional spread as he won in seven northern states of Benue, Borno, Jigawa, Kogi, Kwara, Niger, and Zamfara; and five southern states of Ekiti, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, and Rivers. But he lost the bragging right in Lagos and Osun that he lost to Obi and Atiku even as his low margin of loss in most of the northern states showed him as the second preferred candidate in the region that had two of its own in the contest.  

Besides the mixed regional spread, it is equally imperative to note that safe for the South-east, where Obi posted above 90 per cent of the votes, no other candidate had the luxury of a high percentage of margin of win or votes cast. The keenness of the contest, resulting generally in low margins of win, therefore, ought to douse the feeling that the poll was rigged.    

Meanwhile, the distribution of senatorial seats compared to the performance of the presidential candidates indicates another trend, which shows that the electorate might have been more discerning than the politicians and the media think. For instance, Obi’s LP showing in 11 states did not translate to any significant strength in the federal legislative election which was held on the same venue and day.  

A case in point is Lagos where he won the presidential election but lost all three senatorial seats and two of the 14 federal constituencies. In Rivers, Tinubu’s victory could not secure his party any senatorial or federal legislative seat. In fact, as of Thursday, LP had five senatorial seats; Social Democratic Party, two; Young Peoples Party, one; NNPP, one; PDP, 27; and APC, 51.  

What all these point to are that as genuine as the complaint over the failure to instantly upload polling units’ results is, it does not necessarily sustain the charge of manipulation of the results as the collation process was even nationwide. Otherwise, it would be necessary to ask why the results for Lagos State which returned LP would be acceptable while the result for Jigawa which returned Tinubu would be unacceptable when the same collation processes were deployed.  

Without a doubt, despite the close outcome of the presidential contest, some opposition elements still feel aggrieved. The fact of the matter though is that given the huge feeling of hurt, an objective assessment of the process by all sides of the divide is difficult. The drafters of the electoral process must have had this type of situation in view when they provided the avenues for the ventilation of grievances in the enabling laws.  

Although some of the candidates that lost the poll and their supporters have expressed concerns about the tedious nature of judicial adjudication, it is important that they find ways of reposing confidence in the conflict resolution mechanism that has been put in place. After all, some of the complainants have had courses to engage the judicial process in the past with favourable outcomes.  

But as all parties weigh their options it is vital that the peace of the polity is preserved so that the nation has a chance to move on with its life.  

Adebiyi, the managing editor of THISDAY Newspapers, writes from bolaji.adebiyi@thisdaylive.com

Source: First published in Thisday Newspapers

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