Nigeria’s president-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu has called on his rivals and the nation to unite to build the country after he was declared winner in Saturday’s February 25, 2023 elections. He commended the electoral commission for running a “credible election”, bringing to an end the long wait for the announcement which resulted in heightened tensions.
Opposition parties have called for a rerun of the elections, alleging that the results had been manipulated partly through the slow counting of votes, but Mr. Tinubu said the lapses were relatively few and would not have changed the outcome. He won the polls with nearly nine million votes (37 per cent) ahead of his main challenger, Atiku Abubakar who got 29 per cent of the votes, and Peter Obi with 25 per cent.
The 70-year-old trained accountant, former governor and “godfather” of Lagos state has waited for this moment all his life. His campaign slogan was “It’s my turn”. He was credited for shaping Nigeria’s commercial hub during his governorship, and his supporters believe his skills as a businessman and political operator are what Nigeria’s bedridden economy needs.
His detractors, however, believe he lacks transparency and isn’t in enough good health to handle the nation’s complex challenges. He takes office in the midst of insecurity and unemployment.
His call for unity appears far-reaching as opposition supporters strongly believe delays and alleged rigging marred the elections yet again. Many opposition party supporters, speaking to the BBC in Port Harcourt, registered their disappointment.
“This is depressing. People are crying… After all this manipulation, do you think we will come out again to vote”? Another said, “This (election manipulation) has been happening since I was a child. At least there should be a change for once in the way elections are conducted.”
There was also evidence of voter apathy as the numbers dropped at the polls from 44 per cent in 2015 to 34 per cent in 2019 to 27 per cent in the just concluded 2023 elections. Also, it is the first time a president is winning with less than 50 per cent of the votes. Goodluck Jonathan won with 58 per cent in 2011, and Muhammadu Buhari won with 53 per cent and 55 per cent in 2015 and 2019 respectively. Tinubu’s win of 37 per cent is about one-third of the electorate, which shows a staggering two-thirds preferred other candidates.
He also won in only 12 of the country’s 36 states as against his predecessor, Buhari who won in 21 states in 2015, and 19 in 2019. His support came from the small states which put concerns forward about the strength of his presidency, moving forward, “but we hope that can build up” said Nmadi Obasi, Crisis Group Senior Nigerian adviser.
What will happen next in these elections will have to be driven by political parties and their supporters as the concerns remain. The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) still denies all allegations but as Nmadi puts it, the commission over-promised but under-delivered.