It is morning on 26th February 2023 in Nigeria. The previous day, the nation stood still, as voters queued at their polling stations to exercise their civic duties to elect Nigerian’s next President. With the new BVAS, the voting, collating and transmission of votes were concluded speedily. The political parties were in their situation rooms, watching throughout the night with deep skepticism the INEC portal and news rooms. In Abuja as in all the thirty six states, Nigerians stayed awake, glued to their Televisions sets, and hand-held devices. Politicians hardly make good historians. They had learnt nothing and forgotten nothing!
The citizens await the results in fear. They are rightly afraid that electing a wrong party, and wrong candidate would push Nigeria over the cliff to total collapse as a failed state where there is no government, and war-lords divide the country, and inflict on the hapless citizens the reign of unmitigated terror.
But outside the homes, on the streets, in the inner cites, and the suburbs, the social media had finished tallying the votes and a winner had emerged. The _Obidients_ began to celebrate the victory of Mr. Peter Obi whom the social media gave the winning votes 55,850,000 or 60% of total votes cast, winning in 20 states while Atiku Abubakar came second 23,250,000 or 25% of votes cast and winning in 10 states. The social media relegated Bola Ahmed Tinubu to the third position, winning in six states with 13,950,000 and 15% of total votes cast. In their results, all 93 million registered voters had cast their votes! The _Obidients_ denounced any announcement by INEC which was contrary to their released results. They threatened mayhem and bedlam if another “rigged” result was announced. The celebration by the _Obidients_ was short-lived, for soon enough, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, addressed the Nation at 7am.
In his address, he discloses that only about 40% of registered voters had cast their votes the previous day. This is higher than in 2019 when only 31% of registered voters voted. The INEC Chairman has declared the Presidential Candidate of the PDP, Alh. Atiku Abubakar, as the winner of the Presidential Election 2023 with a total of 18,721,167 popular votes, which was 52.3% of total votes and won in 19 states and the FCT. Bola Ahmed Tinubu of APC, came second with 15,692,950 popular votes being 30% of total votes cast and won in ten states. Peter Obi of the Labour Party has scored 9,367,481 popular votes, and scored 18% of total votes cast and won in six states. This is the final verdict having the imprimatur of the INEC Chairman.
In Jagaban’s Campaign Headquarters, there is deep silence and mourning. The people are whispering and urging his doctor and his wife to wake him up to address his supporters on the next line of action. He had been sedated earlier, to calm him and curb his propensity to tantrums and bellicosity. After more than 15 minutes argument with his wife and doctor, the Jagaban agrees to address the press. Many of his supporters are gathered in his situation room at Maitama Abuja, where he has spent the last 24 hours, sleepless, monitoring the Presidential Election and its results. The supporters were caps bearing his insignia of snake devouring its tail, a cultic symbol of infinity. The defeat highlights the irony of the infinity, as cyclical failure. The Jagaban is assisted to the podium and as he faces the barrage of microphones and cameras from different news outlets; the nation holds its breath. He had declared at the beginning of his ambition that the nation owed him his life ambition to be President. He had announced that it was his turn now, “Emi lokan”, no matter whose ox was gored. Nigerians now wait in trepidation and hope that he would do the right thing telling his supporters that Nigerians have spoken.
But the Jagaban does no such thing. He looks left and right, then stares ominously into the cameras and microphones. He coughs in his clenches fist and says: “Tell Buhari he has done his worst. I don’t forgive traitors. Tell the hackers from Russia they are refuse dumps. It is my turn. ‘Emi lokan, Emi lokan’. It is my money”.
He glowers at his aides and yells, “Tell all my supporters this revolution has just started”. He defiantly walks past his wife, and his running-mate, and intentionally pushes away his Campaign Director General. He slowly, ambles away like an enormous crocodile that has been denied its meal. With his head held high and his eyes blazing like hot embers, the Jagaban mutters, in murderous rage, to himself: “It’s a Revolution”. It is at this point that his security guards escort him to his campaign war-room.
At Atiku Abubakar’s Campaign Headquarters, (AACO) scores of thousands of supporters have taken over the building and the adjoining streets in Wuse II, Abuja. Different bands are blaring Atikulated and Okowalated songs. Atiku Abubakar’s face is passive, enigmatic, and bland. His age-old emotional shock-absorbers have kicked in to prevent the exultant emotions from overflowing, even at triumphant moment of sweet victory. He becomes excited when Peter Obi calls to concede defeat and offer his congratulations. He welcomes him as a long-lost brother, saying: “My brother this victory is also your victory. It is Nigeria’s victory my brother, it is time to rebuild the nation”.
Senator Bukola Saraki, and Governor Aminu Tambuwal follow, as the PDP National Chairman, Sen. (Dr.) Iyorchia Ayu, leads the president-elect to the 5th floor, of the Command and Control Centre, which had been set up in anticipation of this victory acceptance speech.
The World Media awaits with intensity, to hear this acceptance speech of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar. It is the moment the world has waited for. The return of the PDP in a free election in Nigeria, is proof of the stability and elasticity of Nigeria’s democracy when the ruling party is defeated again. The world sees a rejuvenated Atiku, confident and smiling now. He says, in a presidential voice, he owes his victory to God Almighty, and thanks all the Nigerian voters who had turned up in an unprecedented manner to exercise their civic rights. He especially thanks those who voted for the other candidates. He promises them that he would also be their president. It is time now to heal the wounds of division and to build the bridges of Nigeria’s diversity. He thanks his fellow contestants and tells the world that the problems of the country are such that no individual, nor party has all the solutions. He is going to run a government of National Unity, where there will be political inclusiveness. “Winner takes all has been Un-African and undemocratic,” he assures. He acknowledges the telephone call from Peter Obi, Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso, and the other presidential candidates. He thanks his Campaign Council and promises the nation that his victory is the new beginning Nigerians have been waiting for and that he would not fail them. He also thanks President Buhari whom he called “the father of Electoral Integrity in Nigeria” and calls on history to be kind to him for his legacy in electoral reforms.
Outside on the streets in Lagos, Osun, and Imo states, INEC offices are up in flames as thousands of demonstrators set up barricades and armed bandits take over; looting, maiming and instilling fear in the citizenry, with sinister cries of “Revolution”. Nigerians are afraid. Politicians disguise themselves and frantically begin to explore exit routes to just anywhere else! Nigerians stay in their homes, throughout 26th February. There is fear everywhere.
It is now the turn of President Buhari to address the nation. He makes a passionate plea to the candidates to call their supporters to order. He says, “elections are not wars” and that “no person’s ambition is worth anybody’s life”. He consequently orders the military to clear the streets, and end the destruction of life and property. He calls on the governors to impose curfews in those states where violence has broken out. The President pleads with Nigerians, especially those that did not win, to accept the rules of the game, and the verdict of INEC. The military pulls out its tanks into the streets as evening wears out. Sirens and gunfire are heard as the “day after” comes to an end. END OF SCENARIO.
The above scenario, painted on the backdrop of qualitative futuristic canvas, is perhaps the best prediction of the coming Presidential Election. It is the most consequential election that Nigerians will hold, to pull their country from eight years of APC misrule when all NIgeria’s fault lines, became wide cracks, and threatened to suck us into our worst national fear. All Nigerians are afraid that their country might become a critically failed state, a giant Afghanistan in the centre of Africa. If the Jagaban wins instead of Atiku, Nigeria’s religious divide will become an open chasm. Just like the Kaduna Muslim-Muslim experiment has been an open wound of terrorism and religious extremism, a Jagaban President will, people fear, become the gloating of Islam over Christianity, and the Nigerian exceptionalism in managing the delicate balance between Christianity and Islam would be lost forever. A full scale religious war would be expected such as John Campbell had earlier predicted in 2011. If the Jagaban wins, the lopsided electoral votes of the South-West and North-West, would now become a permanent relay of power as one North-Western Zone President would deftly hand over to the South-Western Zone President. All other four zones would be excluded in the bare-faced disregard of the zones created specifically for power sharing. A Jagaban victory would be a dreadful and grotesque power grab of money politics that is blind to disability, incapacity and shameful character flaws. The Jagaban phenomenon represents the emergence of a demagogue, whose politics is a horrific politician’s politics, where power is privatized and appropriated to serve private interests. Electing the Jagaban, is to elect the Nigerian version of a doting Paul Biya, where arbitrary power is exercised by a corrupt coterie, and democracy is lost forever! Atiku Abubakar’s victory on the other hand should be regarded as victory for Nigeria and the reality of zoning. There is justice and equity in the North-East zone producing the next president. The South-East should be expectant next. It is unhelpful when sabre-rattling governors talk about the North-South dichotomy and cry about equity and justice. They are merely being self-serving within their convoluted colonial mentality. Equity is no longer a matter of North and South. It is zonal, where power is zoned rotated among the six geographical and political zones. With all the mud, dung, and grime that had been flung at Atiku Abubakar during the campaign period by opponents, it is my hope that Nigerians will now see the real Atiku, as an underprivileged peasant boy, whose grass to grace story, inspires the next great Nigerian generation. Atiku as Vice-President and consummate politician has capacity, ability and vision deserving of victory. With Atiku as President we can advance democratic multi-culturalism to confront sectarian fundamentalism, because he is cosmopolitan and not a hero of locality nor ethnic bigot. The PDP through Atiku has learnt its lesson. It is not seeking to conquer power as the APC, but rather to transform it to give the citizens rights that the APC government eroded and left Nigerians, poorer, uneducated, unprotected, afraid, and deeply insecure.Atiku is well aware that politics is for the strong, who must endure stupid criticism, and judgment from very annoying characters like the corruption embattered former Minister of Aviation, and some disgruntled governors within his party. He is under-girded with a solid stoic personality, whose mien is unperturbed by stupid things, silly things, aggressive things of people’s perceptions of him. This is the time! This is his time! Finally, Atiku must engage in serious nation building, manage change, and the constantly changing Nigerian environment. He must intentionally seek better ways of making Nigeria great by advancing growth, equity, inclusiveness, peace, compassion and integrity.
Prof Iyorwuese Hagher