Bola Tinubu, a political colossus, emerged as Nigeria’s president-elect against all odds, including seemingly less support from President Muhammadu Buhari, whose emergence as the 15th democratically-elected leader stemmed from the backing of the ‘Jagaban’ — as supporters fondly call Mr Tinubu.
Mr Tinubu emerged as the winner of the historic presidential race with Peter Obi of South-Eastern Nigeria and the candidate of the Labour Party, and Atiku Abubakar, a northerner and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party.
The keenly contested election saw Mr Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, garnering 8,794,726 votes and winning in 12 states. Mr Abubakar scored 6,984,520 votes, winning 12 states while Mr Obi polled 6,101,533 votes with victory in 11 states and FCT, to become third.
For the first time in history, the former two-term governor who, all through his campaign, bragged about his achievements in Lagos and pledged to replicate the same at the national level, lost the state to Mr Obi in the tightly contested race.
While Mr Tinubu polled 572,606, Mr Obi, who the youths saw as a “saviour” from APC’s eight-year rule, characterised by a worsening economy, insecurity, massive corruption and various ranges of injustices, garnered 582,664 votes.
‘It is my turn’: Tinubu’s journey to the presidency
During consultations in Abeokuta with the party delegates ahead of the APCs’ primary elections, in which Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was a significant contender, Mr Tinubu revealed he had a long-time goal of becoming Africa’s most populous country’s president since the days of the Action Congress.
In preparation for the primaries, Mr Tinubu, a political godfather since Nigeria’s democracy in 1999, confidently said “emi lo kan,” a Yoruba phrase meaning “it is my turn” while recalling his role in ensuring Mr Buhari’s victory in 2015 after unsuccessful attempts.
It was widely asserted that the accountant never had the backing of Mr Buhari, a claim the presidency denied despite glaring scenarios of Mr Tinubu’s criticisms of the president’s regime during campaigns. Before the primaries, the president proposed choosing his successor, but it was disapproved by governors who sought a democratic way of selecting a flag bearer.
For some rallies held after the launch of the presidential campaign in Jos last year, Mr Buhari was absent, but his media aide Garba Shehu blamed it on the president’s busy schedule. However, the president formally endorsed Mr Tinubu on February 4, three weeks before the election.
In October, Mr Buhari introduced redesigned N200, N500, and N1000 notes, a development many Nigerians concluded was to stop Mr Tinubu from becoming the number one citizen, owing to his affluence.
In a recent campaign, the president-elect indirectly attacked Mr Buhari, accusing him of deliberately targeting him with the naira policy and fuel scarcity to plunge Nigerians into hardship to jeopardise his chances of winning the February 25 election.
“Let fuel be expensive; only they know where they keep it,” the former Lagos governor said in Abeokuta. “Keep the petrol, keep the naira; we will vote and be elected. What you expect will not happen. We will win.”
The claim was soon confirmed by Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna, who also accused the president’s cabals of seeking Mr Tinubu’s failure at all costs.
“Their candidate did not win the primary election,” the governor said in a recent interview. “They are still trying to get us (to) lose the elections. They are hiding behind the president’s desire to do what is right.”
The three-horse race
Having emerged APC’s presidential candidate in a landslide, defeating Mr Osinbajo, Senate President Ahmad Lawan and a host of others, Mr Tinubu had to contend with Mr Abubakar, a former vice president and Mr Obi, a former two-term governor of Anambra, who after defecting from the PDP, soon became the anointed candidates of youths’ who sought a change in Nigeria’s political helm of affairs.
Although Mr Tinubu promised renewed hope for Nigerians, his candidacy was faulted with allegations of massive corruption, drug dealings, ill health, Muslim-Muslim ticket, and the killing of peaceful #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Tollgate in 2020.
The 70-year-old kingmaker, who based his confidence on his years of experience in the political realm, had his competence compared with that of 61-year-old Mr Obi, who many, especially the youths, consider more energetic.
Despite his vast knowledge of Nigerian politics, Mr Tinubu’s competence was also questioned over his incoherent speeches at campaign rallies. But was Mr Abubakar, who made a sixth-time attempt, a better candidate for youths who launched the Obidient Movement and did not want recycled old politicians?
With some Nigerians’ thirst for a new Nigeria, Mr Obi became a challenger of Mr Tinubu’s candidacy, pulling huge crowds at campaign rallies and making history by winning Mr Tinubu’s Lagos and some northern states.
Calls for cancellation of poll results
Displeased with the outcome of the elections, the most prominent opposition parties- PDP, Labour party and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP)- sought to cancel the polls, citing irregularities in the results presented by the electoral umpire.
At a press conference on Tuesday, the Labour Party and PDP resolved that the INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, step down for not yielding to their demands of uploading results on the commission’s portal, as required by the electoral law.
“The election was a sham and never free and fair,” said Ifeanyi Okowa, the vice-presidential candidate of the PDP.
Datti Baba-Ahmed, the vice presidential candidate of the Labour Party, also alleged that INEC failed to upload the results because Mr Obi won the polls.
Similarly, NNPP’s national chairman, Rufai Alkali, alleged that INEC took Nigeria back to the pre-2015 era, where voters were disenfranchised and ballot-snatching was a norm.
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