The election victory of Bola Tinubu, candidate of the ruling All Progressive Congress, is being challenged by the defeated opposition. But despite the claims and counter claims, the staging of the complex election represents a win for the democratic process in Africa, argues New African editor Anver Versi.
Once again claims of rigging and intimidation have cast something of a cloud over the election results in Africa’s most populous country (see the essay by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in the New York Yimes and the appeal for caution and rectification that former President Olesegun Obasanjo addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari) .
A massive 90m people were eligible to vote in what many had hoped would be a ‘fresh start’ election that would usher in a leadership equipped to deal with a host of the country’s problems. The youth, who turned out in force for ‘outsider’ Peter Obi had hoped that this election would also begin to dismantle the established elite system and the North / South ‘power-sharing agreement’.
It was not to be. The Labour Party’s Obi came in third with an impressive tally of 6.1m votes, behind the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Atiku Abubakar with 6.9m votes and the winner, the All Progressive Congress (APC)’s Bola Tinubu who polled 8.8m votes.
Tinubu’s victory bore out his campaign slogan, Emi lokan (Yoruba for ‘it’s my turn’) symbolising not only a shift of governance from the mainly Muslim North represented by outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari but also for his role in forming the APC in 2013 when he merged his Action Congress Of Nigeria with Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change and Edwin Ume-Ezeoke’s All Nigeria Peoples Party. The APC defeated Goodluck Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party in the 2015 election, ushering in two terms under Buhari.
The Emi lokan slogan therefore refers to Tinubu’s decision to take a back seat to Buhari and to make his national leadership claim come good this time around.
The 70-year-old Tinubu is popular known as the ‘Godfather of Lagos’ for his achievements in turning the chaotic, dysfunctional and grid-locked commercial capital of Nigeria into West Africa’s most modern and largely efficient city. He did so through a combination of personal charisma and a network of powerful business, political and cultural interests. His supports believe that he can ‘weave his magic’ over the nation and do for Nigeria what he did for Lagos.
In the meanwhile, he has until May 29 when the official handover from the Buhari administration to his team takes place to convince the country that the Independent National Electoral Commission’s verdict, despite the technical glitches during polling, truly reflects the will of the majority.
Three of the defeated opposition parties – the People’s Democratic Party, the Labour Party and African Democratic Congress have called for the election to be cancelled, claiming it was a sham and the result was “vote allocation, not collation”.
Tinubu however has offered an olive branch to his opponents saying: “I appeal to my fellow contestants to let us team together. It is the only nation we have. It is one country that we must build together.”
Despite the claims and counter claims, Nigeria has again staged a largely successful election with a minimum of violence. Given the sheer logistics of the exercise, this must be seen as a major advance in the democratisation of Africa.