His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Presidential Candidate of our party, All Progressives Congress (APC) has been declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the President-elect of the Federal Government of Nigeria in the early hours of Wednesday, March 1, 2023. Polling Eight Million, Seven Hundred and Ninety-Four Thousand, Seven Hundred and Twenty-Six (8,794,726) votes, he defeated his closest rivals, candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Labour Party (LP), Mr Peter Obi who respectively won Six Million, Nine Hundred and Eighty-Four Thousand, Five Hundred and Twenty (6,984,520) and Six Million, One Hundred and One Thousand, Five Hundred and Thirty-Three Thousand (6,101,533) votes.
By every standard, the result of the 2023 Nigerian elections is very close. And however considered, it has produced surprises, which are good indicators that the Nigerian electoral process produces the choices of Nigerians. For instance, the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has been defeated by Mr Peter Obi, LP Presidential Candidate for the first time. Also, President Muhammadu Buhari was defeated by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the PDP candidate. If anything, at least the 2023 Presidential elections should give more confidence to Nigerians that the Nigerian electoral process has matured. INEC should be commended for the management of the 2023 elections. Credit should also be given to President Muhammadu Buhari for providing the enabling political environment for INEC to do its work professionally without political interference by the executives.
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Unfortunately, the same could not be said about Nigerian democracy. This is because a matured democracy should command the respect of actors in the electoral process. Rather than commanding respect, what characterises the 2023 Presidential elections is utter contempt from fellow contestants and so long as the results don’t support the aspirations of some of the fellow leading candidates, it is disputed. As a result, from the beginning of the collation of results for the 2023 Presidential elections, there were calls for cancellation of the results by both the leading candidates who have lost the elections and some of their supporters, including a former President of the Federal Republic whose records of interference and manipulation of the Nigerian electoral process is anything but civil or democratic.
Perhaps, it should be recognised that foul cries by candidates who lost the elections is also a reflection of the internal dynamics of party politics in the country. The truth must be told that while, as Nigerians, across all interests, we have invested a lot of resources in engaging INEC to reform the electoral process, the same could not be said about political parties and the management of internal party contests. Part of that reality is reflected in the poor management of the process of candidates’ emergence for the 2023 elections. In many respects, LP’s rise to electoral prominence in the 2023 elections is largely through harvesting the grievances of politicians from both the PDP and APC. For instance, Mr Peter Obi was, up to early 2022 a member of the PDP and many LP Governorship candidates were defectors from both the PDP and APC after losing their bids in either the PDP or APC to emerge as gubernatorial candidates.
The unhealthy state of internal party contests, therefore, leading to the imposition of candidates could be attributed as the source for legitimacy for the disrespectful conduct of candidates and politicians who lost the elections. It is also perhaps the source of challenges leading to some of the avoidable outcomes of the 2023 elections in many states. What distinguishes the APC and its Presidential candidate who is today declared President-Elect is the fact that he represents hope by resisting attempts to impose a so-called consensus Presidential candidate within the APC. His emergence as the candidate of our party in June 2022 embodies that narrative. And again, his election as the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a true reflection of that reality too. Without reopening all the dynamics that played out, it is public knowledge that some people at the highest level in APC were opposed to the emergence of Asiwaju Tunibu both as the candidate of the APC and the President-Elect.
Part of also what must be acknowledged is that APC had to manage its Presidential campaign almost as if its Presidential candidate is an opposition candidate. For instance, our leaders had to dissociate themselves from a crudely managed cashless policy of the APC Federal Government, which had the attributes of facilitating the defeat of APC in the Presidential elections. That Nigerians, across every part of the country elected Asiwaju Tinubu as the next President of the Federal Republic reflects the trust being invested both in APC as a party and Asiwaju as the President-elect. Without doubt, this is well earned trust.
Asiwaju, as a politician has over the years demonstrated strong commitment to building Nigerian democracy. He was, together with many patriotic Nigerians, in the trenches in the 1990s struggling against military rule. From the beginning of the Fourth Republic, first as elected Governor of Lagos State, he was part of the struggle against the culture of executive lawlessness that characterises the tenure of PDP between 1999 and 2015. He was instrumental in the evolution of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) as an opposition party winning six states between 2007 and 2013. Being a visionary leader of the ACN, he was together with other leaders, notably Chief Bisi Akande able to negotiate a pan Nigerian political alliance, leading to the successful merger negotiations of opposition parties in the country in 2013 producing the APC as a registered political party.
Against all predictions, not only that the merger of opposition parties in the country was successful, but also for the first time an opposition party successfully defeated a ruling party in 2015. That was made possible by the twin leadership and partnership between Asiwaju Tinubu and President Muhammadu Buhari. Having therefore emerged successfully as the President-Elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023 Presidential election, Asiwaju Tinubu certainly earned this victory. Both as members of APC and as Nigerians, we should be both proud and inspired by this victory to further commit ourselves to the struggle for the development of Nigerian democracy. We should be grateful to Nigerians for investing their trust in both Asiwaju Tinubu as the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and in the APC as the ruling party for another four years.
At this point, we must, as leaders and associates of the President-elect accept this trust with high measure of humility. We must acknowledge and thank President Muhammadu Buhari for his leadership. In doing so, we should appeal to Asiwaju Tinubu being the new leader of our party to consider this golden opportunity as a call to action to continue the struggle for the development of Nigerian democracy. This will require considerable attention and focus on the development of our party, which will require some internal reform measures to guarantee internal competition within the party. Some of the things that should be immediately done is to ensure that the National Working Committee (NWC) is accountable and respect the constitution of the party.
A situation whereby the NWC will operate for almost a year without rendering a financial report to any organ of the party is unacceptable. Similarly unacceptable is a situation whereby the NWC will continue to refuse to convene meetings of the National Executive Committee (NEC) as provided in the constitution of the party. Being the leader of the party, Asiwaju Tinubu should avoid replicating the mistake whereby as President of the Federal Republic produced by the APC he will limit his relationship with other leaders of the party to only the National Chairman and some few leaders of the party. He must broaden his relationship with all leaders of the party and mainstream it to nurture the institutional development of party organs. Over the years, we have witnessed how limiting the relationship between the President, on the one hand, and National Chairman and a few leaders, on the other, was abused and should be corrected immediately.
In all these, we need to also acknowledge that the development of political parties in Nigeria today is being encumbered by funding challenges. As things are, all our political parties lack independent sources of funding. As a result, party leaders have been reduced to being surrogates of elected representatives in government, yet we expect parties to regulate the conduct of these elected representatives. In this circumstance, it amounts to sheer mockery to talk of party supremacy. There is no way any surrogate can regulate the conduct of his or her master. Part of the confirmation that party leaders are surrogates will be reflected in the ways and manners personal lobbies for appointments into government will be activated by the same people who would be expected to facilitate internal party negotiations for appointment in the next government to be led by Asiwaju Tinubu.
Poor management of negotiations in the Federal Government in 2015 produced the reality of weak influence by the party and its leadership on governments it produced, especially the Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari. Consequently, loyal party members who worked hard to produce the victory of the party in 2015 and 2019 had to live with the trauma of producing a government that doesn’t reward the efforts of party members. Strangers and in some instances antagonists to APC became the main players. This must change if our party is to develop democratically.
Another point that must be highlighted at this point of victory is the need to be faithful to our electoral promises. One of the shortcomings of parties managing governments since 1999 is that everything is left to the discretion of elected representatives. Requirements to give life to provisions of the party’s manifesto is absent. In fact, many elected representatives are ignorant of the provisions of the party manifesto. This needs to change. All party leaders aspiring to be appointed into government must familiarise themselves with the provisions of the party manifesto as well as envision how to produce desired outcomes.
Related to that is that leaders of the party must have the humility to subordinate themselves to party decisions. A situation where the party will invest time and resources to produce recommendations such as the one produced by Malam Nasir El-Rufai Committee on True Federalism and ignored by the government is not only unacceptable but should be regarded as anti-party activity. The commitment of leaders to democracy must be reflected in their willingness to implement the decisions of party organs.
The next era of the APC government under His Excellency Asiwaju Tinubu must produce the rebirth of the struggle for democracy in Nigeria. It must signal the era of renewed hope for the development of democracy in Nigeria. It should above all be the era for the institutional development of APC as a political party. Coming from the trenches, Asiwaju Tinubu has no excuse but to catalyse the development of Nigerian democracy to meet the expectations of Nigerians. Both as Nigerians and as APC members, we will hold Asiwaju Tinubu accountable on these scores. Congratulations Asiwaju Tinubu, Congratulations APC leaders and members, and congratulations Nigerians!
Salihu Moh. Lukman
All Progressives Congress, North-West Zonal Office, Kaduna