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Can We Have ‘No Victor, No Vanquished’?



Can We Have 'No Victor, No Vanquished'?

The Insight by Lateef Adewole

Let me use this moment to express my personal gratitude to the Almighty God for keeping us and our country, Nigeria, till this moment and making us be in this peaceful state. Also, I will like to congratulate all Nigerians for this feat. This is the longest democratic experience we have had in our history and we have demonstrated that we want democracy. This is the seventh election cycle we would have conducted, with power moving from one person to another from the same party, and also power transiting from a ruling party to the opposition, as witnessed in 2015.

Again, let me congratulate the winner of the 2023 presidential election, President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on his hard-fought battle for the throne and very well-deserved victory. It has been a long tortuous journey. This is extended to his party APC, their leadership, starting from President Buhari, other party leaders, party members, loyalists and supporters across the country. You have all done well. To the other candidates who equally fought hard, especially the runner ups; Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Mr. Peter Obi and Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso, you all deserve commendations. You did very well, but their can only be one winner.

To all our newly elected lawmakers at national assembly; senate and the house of Representatives, congratulations to all of you. It is important for all the winners to be magnanimous in victory and those who lost to be gracious in defeat. He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day. Once again, congratulations to all Nigerians. We should be proud of ourselves.

Last week, as we were going into the presidential and national assembly polls, I was very worried. Such was expressed in my article of that Saturday. This was due to the intensity of the competition among the front runners. The campaigns that led us to that point were vicious and many times, acrimonious. Finally, the day came, with its peculiar challenges of skirmishes here and there, which often characterised any election in Nigeria. Voting took place across the country, in spite of some hitches in early arrival of INEC staff and distribution of sensitive and non-sensitive materials in some areas. This pushed the process till late.

I was a bit relieved when the day ended and the apprehension of the results declarations at states and finally, at the Abuja overtook me. Based on experience, I knew voting is just a phase, the outcome is the big deal. True to my concern, some seemingly pre-planned events began to unfold that made me feel like deja vu. As the results trickled in, we began to see upsets across the country. The biggest shock I am yet to recover from was the defeat of APC in their stronghold, Lagos. This is a state people accused them of having pocketed. More so, that is where the presidential candidate comes from. It was unbelievable.

When collation started in Abuja, history began to play soccer in my head. When Senator Dino Melaye started his drama, despite being cautioned many times, I recalled Orubebe scenario of 2015. Worse about this was that the declaration of the election results just started, unlike in 2015 when it was nearly completed. I wondered who would call Dino to order as we heard that President Jonathan did to Orubebe in 2015. Dino is from the main opposition party PDP, not like Orubebe who was in the same ruling party as President Jonathan. He and few other eventually walked out. My worry multiplied.

This first thought that came to my mind, which I told many, was that they will make attempt to secure a court injunction to stop the continuation of the announcement. That was precisely was happened about June 12, 1993 presidential election, with the infamous Association for Better Nigeria (ABN), led by the late Senator Arthur Nzeribe. That was how that free and fair election and transition programme were destroyed by truncating the process of announcing the final results and declaring the winner, which was already known to be the late Chief MKO Abiola. The monumental crisis that followed is what I never wished to happen to us again.

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As I suspected, we learnt that they tried to shop for exparte order to stop the announcement from continuing. In a pre-emptive move, the APC was said to have also moved to seek a court order to prevent the opposition parties, especially PDP and Labour Party, from stopping the process. All these summed up to my concern.

The worst feeling happened when I saw an address of “baba letter writer” who has just written another image-damaging and inciting letter, which he read publicly. I was shocked to my marrow at the content, given that it was coming from a supposed elder statesman. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, being partisan in this election and not neutral, must have been informed of the impending defeat of his preferred candidate, he called for the process to be halted and postponed. He asked that President Buhari should stop the INEC Chairman immediately, to avoid national crisis which may soon erupt. That was a threath to national peace.

In his wisdom as the self-appointed “Nigeria’s King Solomon”, he already fixed another date when rerun should take place in some areas and how. All that would have been laughable but for the danger that his speech and action potend for Nigeria. My fear was; will President Buhari falls for this treachery or will he remained resolute to see the process through? He chose the latter path of honour. Many patriotic leaders and Nigerians rose in unison to condemn that letter, which was capable of truncating our democratic journey again. This time, not under a military regime or by the military, but by “civilian coup plotters”.

That reminded me of the rumour of Interim Government. Chief Obasanjo’s action led many to dig up his past as civilian president. Videos, comments and actions of his, where he was direct opposite of what he now preaches and demands, flooded the internet and social media. The worst elections were conducted under his administration, which reached its zenith in 2007 presidential election. It was a disaster. A complete disgrace to democracy, as acknowledged by the main beneficiary of it, late President Umaru Yar’adua. All the off-season governorship elections we now have in Nigeria resulted from the reversal of the outcomes of messy elections conducted under his watch, by the court. How does one demand for what one is incapable of giving? Only an Obasanjo could do that with straight face.

After long hours of restless waiting for INEC to reconvene after their last recess, the process eventually started, continued and was concluded peacefully and successfully. This saw Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu declared the winner, having scored the highest popular votes that stood at 8,794,726 and met the constitutional requirements of 25% in two-third of 36 states and FCT. I was relieved.

Since then, the atmosphere has changed. Certificates of return were since issued to both the president-elect and his vice. Many official process of transition have begun. Nigerians have been happy. May be not all, as expected. Those who lost the elections were not expected to be jubilating. They were not expected to even simply concede. That’s not a Nigerian thing. Jonathan was just an exception. And that is precisely what we have witnessed since then. It was hard to accept defeat.

Personally, I told myself that I wouldn’t gloat if my preferred candidate wins. I felt that we are all seeking for better Nigeria, only through different routes. So, I have conceived this title for this article long ago. “No victor, no vanquished” could actually evoke emotions and bring back memories, especially for those who were witnesses to the Nigerian civil war. Some of us who were not born then but have read and listened to narrations about it, knew where that expression came from.

In accepting the surrender of the Biafran army, the then head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, declared that “No Victor, No Vanquished”. What does this mean? It means that despite that Nigerian side defeated the Biafran side, Nigeria was not ready to gloat and see the other side as “conquered” people. After all, they were all brothers and sisters in Nigeria before the unfortunate war temporarily set their relationship back.

This is the spirit with which I approached the win, even when I am not the candidate. Fortunately, as part of what endeared some of us to Tinubu, in his two inspiring speeches he gave since his declaration as winner, one after hearing the news and the other after receiving his certificate of return, he extended his olive branch to his fellow contestants. He acknowledged that they ran a good race and fought a good fight, but that is over now. It is time for all of them to unite to move Nigeria forward, which is believed to be the interest of all of them. We learnt that he is setting up a reconciliation committee to reach out to them, and others within his party who did not buy into his candidacy. This is the kind of leadership that Nigeria deserves at this trying time when we are divided along our fault lines of ethnicity and religion. A true unifier in talk and in deed.

Whether they will heed or not remained to be seen. While some other candidates have congratulated him, the two runner ups; Atiku and Obi, addressed the press on Thursday, separately, where they both rejected the outcomes of the election. Ironically, both also claimed to have won the election and promised to “retrieve their mandate”. I just wondered who would have become the new winner even if there is any infinitesimal chance of that happening? Or, will it be another round of legal battle between the two of them? Laughs.

They should actually be commended for taking that route of statemanship by seeking legal redress instead of calling innocent Nigerians to the streets, which will surely lead to civil unrest, destruction of properties and deaths. Just as some irresponsible people would have done. Nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. Many of these leaders are doing all these for their selfish interests, not because they love ordinary citizens per se. Otherwise, will they be ready to call their children out to lead such protests that could put their lives in danger? Definitely no. So, no Nigerian should allow themselves to be used by selfish politicians to forment trouble in the name of any protest.

As for me, you cannot slap someone and still say they should not cry (except our parents in Yorubaland sha. Smiles). It is the right of every candidate to seek redress in court where they felt they have been wronged. The onus is on them to prove their cases beyond reasonable doubt. It is understandable that there were some challenges with the elections here and there, that should be expected. No election is perfect anywhere in the world. We were all witnesses to what happened in America two years ago, caused by the desperation of a politician who lost similar presidential election. That was the election that brought in the present government of President Joe Biden. If it was in less developed countries, it could have led to conflagration of that country.

Such legal challenges of election outcomes, apart from providing “massive foods” for lawyers, they deepen our democracy, even if at the end, it could be an effort in futility, based on reality on ground. Definitely, analysts will have field day writing about this presidential election for a long time to come because of its uniqueness. Many strange unprecedented results would be subject of more critical analysis. I hope to do the same in a postmortem series about the elections, God’s willing.

We are here now, with a new President-elect. Nigerians have spoken. It is time to unite after very divisive campaigns. All hands need to be on deck to move our country forward. It is in the interest of all of us. “Orun n ya bo, ki soro enikan”. We have crossed this hurdle now. The next is the state governorship and state assembly elections that will come up next Saturday, 11th of March. We all need to troop out once more, much more than we did last week. That turnout was actually very poor. The total votes cast at the presidential election was about 25 million. This is where we have about 87.2 million Nigerians who registered and collected their voter cards. This is just 28.7%. It is very poor. When juxtaposed with over 200 million population, it means only 12% determined who will lead us. That’s absurd, but it only followed in the trend, though, worse than past elections for some reasons.

It is sad that citizens do not take voting at lower levels of state and local government as seriously as the presidential. Unknown to them that these are even the most important levels of government because of their closeness to the people. Federal government has no direct citizens like state governments. Also, like the saying goes: all politics is local. Charity begins at home. But we often neglect these all important elections or take them with levity. They are more critical to our wellbeing as a people. We should go out enmass to vote for candidates of our choice on that day. May the best candidates win!

May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.

God Bless Nigeria.

You can follow me on:
Twitter: @lateef_adewole
Facebook: Lateef Adewole
Email: [email protected]
Whatsapp: +2348179512401

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March 4, 2023.


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