November 1, 2023

What Tinubu, Atiku and Obi must do after the Supreme Court judgement, By Rotimi Fasan

Supreme Court

EARLIER this week, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2023 election and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, addressed the Nigerian press on important issues of governance and electoral reform. It doesn’t matter what other reasons could be behind Atiku’s press conference but it would be hard for anyone to deny that the primary motivation for it is the outcome of the Supreme Court judgement that affirmed President Bola Tinubu’s victory at the polls.

After the Supreme Court spoke, Atiku could not be seen in public for about four days except for his appearance at the wedding ceremony of a daughter of one of his associates in Abuja. His Monday press conference would be coming four days after the Supreme Court verdict. That’s enough time for Atiku, as well as Peter Obi who has equally been silent and absent from the public, to recover from their sense of disappointment.

Whatever are their views about the verdict, the fact remains that Nigerians are not unaware that the decision of the Supreme Court put paid to further litigations as far as the 2023 presidential election is concerned. Now governance should continue in earnest. It is, however, sorely disappointing to see Atiku doubled down on his attack on the president and other state institutions and stakeholders. He totally reneged on his earlier promise to halt further attacks on and investigations of the president once the judicial processes terminate at the Supreme Court.

That would have been the honourable thing for him and Peter Obi to do as there can only be one president in the country at a time. Being a candidate in an election, as both were, does not confer on or make them jointsharers of the mandate already given the president. Otherwise, both Atiku, Obi or any of their supporters, may be treading a dangerous territory that could get them into trouble with the law. Election is over, a president is now in office by the authority of the mandate he enjoys whether his opponents like it or not and any veiled or not so veiled incitement of the public against his government, as we have recently seen with some of his opponents calling for a revolution, could be treasonable.

If recent events in the polity are of any indication, Peter Obi could be expected to follow the trail Atiku blazed to address the nation. But this too will be a futile exercise. There is a path of honour open to both the winner and losers in the 2023 presidential election and that is the path that leads to the good of the majority of the Nigerian people. Not the narrow pursuit of somebody’s selfinterest disguised as national interest. This, in the quest for the reclamation of what some claim is a stolen mandate or deliberate deligitimisation of the possessor of that mandate. My point is simply that certain things can no longer happen now somebody has been proclaimed winner by the courts which have unfortunately replaced the people as the ultimate decider of electoral contests in Nigeria.

If they are the patriots they claim to be, now is the time for Atiku and Obi to return to their parties and begin the rebuilding process that will keep them relevant in the next three and half years (we’ve lost six months to post-election bickering) in order to position these parties as credible opposition and not mere platforms to pursue electoral fortunes. This is where the job is and, by God, this present government can do with a vibrant opposition for the sake of Nigerians!

We all can see the widespread immiseration of our people, the self-seeking of the legislators, the unbearable level of corruption in virtually all spheres of life. Only a credible opposition can highlight these issues to a government that may sit easy now their ‘’job is secured’’ to borrow the words of the president in the wake of the Supreme Court judgement. The momentum and doggedness with which both Atiku and Obi pursued their presidential ambition to the very last moment allowed by law is the same they should now expend in leading their supporters and the rest of Nigerians for whom good governance knows neither creed nor ethnicity.

Many have been urging both Atiku and Obi to join Tinubu in moving the country forward. Yes, they could join him in making their contribution to national growth but not in the manner some would have it, that they collapse their own parties and turn them into an extension of the ruling party. They have their roles cut out for them as opposition and that is what they should be expected to do and be willing to do. Anything else will be nothing more than a crude invitation to ‘come and eat’. This is the bane of Nigerian politics.

Everybody wants to be in government and nobody wants to make the sacrifice of working to power from the position of opposition or even remaining in opposition for as long as the situation demands. They should insist on devolution of power to the federating units, from the local government to the state and so on. And here are the things the opposition should demand from President Bola Tinubu should he fail to realise it’s his constitutional duty. They should insist on an inclusive government that takes every part of the country as its constituency.

The president should make deliberate effort to reach out to sections of the country that either did not vote for him or are opposed to his government. The South-East is a case in point. He needs not allow his engagement with that region to be dictated by the abrasive behaviour (should they continue with that) of those who contested against him in the election. Before Obi there was the SouthEast and after Peter Obi the South-East will still exist. Neither Peter Obi nor the Labour Party are spokespersons of the people of the South-East.

The region should be given its due in appointments, location of infrastructure and other ‘dividends of democracy’. But efforts like this cannot exclude minority ethnic groups. Qualified and talented people can be found in every part of Nigeria and as equal contributors, everyone deserves a place at the table or the problems we are currently facing with the South-East would move elsewhere in the country. Our politicians only know or remember what they should do with power only after their stay in power. Tinubu must not go silent on the issue of national conference to redraw the Nigerian map as a truly federal country. Our electoral laws have to be amended to take care of many of the lapses of previous elections up to the last one.