By Dele Sobowale
0806-666-7339: “Uncle Dele, the 2023 elections have come and gone. The country is at crossroad; our politicians have employed crude strategies to divide NIGERIANS to serve their selfish interests. HOW DO WE PROCEED FROM HERE?”
I have been asked that question over one hundred times since the “final” results of the presidential election were released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, three weeks ago. INEC has since issued a Certificate of Return to Asiwaju Tinubu, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as president-elect. Other contestants have gone to court to challenge INEC’s decision. Even APC is now contesting some of INEC’s results in other elections.
Obviously, no political party is entirely satisfied with INEC’s conduct of the elections. They are now asking the law courts to intervene. Meanwhile, other stakeholders have gone to the Court of Public Opinion, CPO, to register their disputes with INEC and politicians. To be quite candid, we have two main choices – peaceful court resolution or violent reaction. The latter will lead to chaos – which is another form of servitude – because it invariably results in dictatorships. We have had a long history of armed men ruling us; and they have proved to be as selfish as the politicians carpeted by the sender of that text message. I doubt if anybody wants another Abacha in Aso Rock. Those of us who bore the brunt of military rule would not want to repeat the experience. Neither would we want others to go through it. We must be patient to allow peaceful court processes to be exhausted and then examine the options available to us.
WHAT WE EXPECT FROM THE COURTS
“Let justice be done, though the heaves fall” – Lord Mansfield, 1705-1793, VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ.
Nigeria’s Justices have my sympathies as a group. Nigerians approach courts the same way they do elections. They assume victory even before the event. Thereafter, any verdict against them must be attributed to injustice; the Justices must have been influenced or bribed. Nobody loses a case on its merits or the evidence or provisions of the law. One columnist, a lecturer in a law institution, has already concluded that the Justices will rule in favour of Tinubu. So, it is a waste of time and funds to go to court. That is a dangerous statement to make by a learned man. He is virtually asking people to help themselves.
If enough people believe him in every corner of the country, the security forces, already stretched thin by bandits, kidnappers, Boko Haram, herdsmen and run-of-the-mill criminals, will be overwhelmed. Already, they are out-gunned and out-numbered. The last time I checked, there are about eight million illegal firearms in the ECOWAS region – sixty per cent or 4.8 million are in Nigeria alone. Those contemplating violent response are advised to think six times before embarking on that route to seek what they regard as justice. Nobody has a monopoly of violence in Nigeria; once it is the option adopted. The courts too should be aware of the dangers; though they should not allow themselves to be intimidated into delivering judgments to please the mob. They should interpret the laws as best as they can – without fear or favour.
Meanwhile, those who willingly went to court must be prepared to accept the judgments. Nobody should subject himself to a court of law if he is not prepared to accept its verdict – one way or another. You can’t go to court and write your own decision. Irrespective of individual opinions regarding the judiciary, we are bound to abide by the judgment. One columnist wrote that nowhere in Africa has a court ruled against a president-elect. That may be true; but it is only a subtle way of saying “don’t go there; scatter everything.” To that I have only one quick answer: There is always a first time for everything. Buhari defeated an incumbent President in 2015 – a first for Africa. Why can’t Nigerian Justices deliver a novel judgment forcing a re-run of the elections or ordering a run-off between the first and second? I am an optimist on this matter; and I think the courts will deliver good judgments regardless of whose ox is gored.
ASKING COURTS TO BAIL THEM OUT OF BLUNDERS MADE
“Heavens help those who help themselves” – Anon
To that I might add the old saying: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
If ever there was a ruling party that deserved to be kicked out, APC was it. That Tinubu received only 37 per cent of the votes is the clearest proof that most Nigerians were sick and tired of the APC and Buhari. So, 63 per cent of Nigerians wanted the APC out. But, there is a political process to follow. The opposition must present a candidate, backed by a united party, capable of gathering the huge dissident votes. With the possible exception of the NNPP, the other major parties were fractured. In reality, the Labour Party, LP, benefited more from the voters’ rejection of APC than the PDP. Virtually all the votes collected by the LP and NNPP would have gone to PDP and vice versa.
In war, military Commanders are sometimes called upon to take risks. Political leaders during elections are also occasionally called upon to gamble. US General George S. Patton, 1885-1945, widely regarded as the greatest tank Commander so far, had this advice for leaders making tough decisions on June 6, 1944: “Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.” To take effective and well-considered risks, however, one must be prepared to dispassionately evaluate the circumstances in which the political party finds itself. Nigerian presidential or governorship contest, unlike the parliamentary system, does not require that the winner should receive majority of the votes cast – when there are more than two contestants. Our Constitution lays out the conditions which must be fulfilled to be declared a winner. The first condition a candidate and his/her party must try to fulfill is to score the highest number of votes declared by INEC.
Given that there is a core of APC supporters, whose political careers would be damaged, if the party loses, all that was needed was for the opposition to stay united; instead of splitting into three, carving up the 63 per cent and none receiving the highest votes. The entire blunder reminds me of my trip to Kansas State, USA, with one of my classmates, in 1966, whose father owned a cattle ranch. There is nothing more hilarious to bystanders, and more infuriating to cowboys, than watching people chasing hundreds of cows after someone left the gate open for them to escape. The PDP owned the “ranch” from which the two major opponents took flight. For some reason, still baffling me, the leaders made insufficient effort to go after the dissidents; undoubtedly, in the strong, but mistaken belief, that they will all voluntarily return to the fold. They never did. If anything, they actually encouraged others to jump the fence and abscond.
Sorry, I am using a lot of metaphors to describe how PDP leaders took risks, not well-calculated, which led to present predicament. We would not be here now if the issues raised by the five governors – G-5 – had been handled differently.
Nigerian governors, by and large, are almost absolutely powerful in their states. They can do only some good; but, a lot of damage – as the decision-makers at the top levels of the PDP have discovered to their sorrow. Faced with a choice of keeping Mr Iyorchia Ayu as Chairman and losing the G5, they opted for Ayu. Ayu will, forever, enjoy my utmost respect as one of the G34 – the eminently courageous 34 men who confronted Abacha, risked their lives and later formed the nucleus of the PDP under the leadership of the late Dr Alex Ekweme, GCON. Having openly announced that he would resign if a northerner emerged as the presidential candidate, and Atiku won, Ayu should have kept his promise and left. In fact, the truth is that Ayu created the G5, and partly left the “ranch” gate open. The National Executive Committee of the PDP compounded Ayu’s mistake by not asking him to go. Here’s why – in case there is any chance for another election.
Any political party, in order to have a chance at succeeding in Nigeria needs several assets. But, the most important are lots of money, strong men who can command thousands to obey their instructions, physical presence of party agents at every polling station, party stalwarts and access to campaign venues. To a great extent, only a state governor can provide all these for a party in his state. The Chairman of the party can only help with money. Only governors can provide the rest. Thus, it was baffling to me that the PDP would sacrifice five governors for a Chairman who does not even control a Local Government. It was poor political arithmetic and the results showed everywhere. APC did not win the election. If it is lost, then PDP lost it. There is still a slim chance that we might have a run-off. But, what if there is none? What is the way forward if Tinubu is declared winner by the court? Then this is my own stand on where to go from here.
LET TINUBU AND APC RUN THEIR GOVERNMENT
“God grant me the courage to change the things I can change; the serenity to accept the things I can’t change; and the wisdom to know the difference” – Old Irish prayer.
Each and every time someone seeks my advice on situation that cannot be changed in their favour, my advice has always been the same: Accept gracefully what you cannot otherwise refuse. If Tinubu is declared President, I will accept it – just as I accepted, with grace, Shagari over Awolowo in 1979 and 1983, Obasanjo over Falae in 1999, Jonathan over Buhari in 2015 and Buhari over Atiku in 2019. Democracy does not mean that my candidate must win. I always take solace in the fact that Nigerians frequently have proved me right later by their reactions to the person they elected. They always regret the outcome.
So, first thing I will do is to congratulate Tinubu on his victory while reminding him that majority of Nigerians did not vote for him….
To be continued
STOP PRESS: Ayu was removed just as this article was going to the Editor. Medicine after death cannot be better defined.
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.