AS I write this, the much-anticipated presidential election is four days away, on Saturday, February 25. The air is thick with anxiety about the outcome. Would Nigerians make the right choice? Well, allow me to give my final thoughts on the three leading candidates: Peter Obi (Labour Party), Atiku Abubakar (PDP) and Bola Tinubu (APC). Victory for any of them would mark a seismic shift in Nigeria’s political history. So, which candidate poses the least or the greatest danger?
To answer that question, let’s use the popular metaphor: the good, the bad and the ugly. In this context, Obi is “the good”, Atiku is “the bad”, Tinubu is “the ugly”! Of course, that’s not to say Obi is a saint or Tinubu is the devil incarnate. But for Nigeria’s presidency, Obi would be the best choice; Tinubu would, unquestionably, be the worst!
Let’s start with “the ugly”, shall we? Well, a Tinubu presidency would set extremely damaging precedents. If elected, Tinubu would be the first multibillionaire president whose source of wealth lacks known legitimacy; the first president officially linked with drug-trafficking, with a record of criminal forfeiture; the first president whose entire pedigree is shrouded in utter mystery.
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people,” the Bible says in Proverbs 14.34. And says in Isaiah 5:20: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil.” The Quran has similar injunctions. So, those, like President Buhari, who want Tinubu to be Nigeria’s next president, knowing his acute integrity and character defects, are enemies of Nigeria. No nation succeeds without core moral/ethical standards. Yet, a Tinubu presidency would turn Nigeria into an abyss of moral depravity, where a fish rots from the head.
There’s also, of course, the devilry of the Muslim-Muslim ticket. If Tinubu won, Nigeria would, for the first time in a democracy, have both Muslim president and vice-president. Those citing MKO Abiola/Babagana Kingibe’s Muslim-Muslim ticket of 1993 should remember that the Babangida regime aborted the putative presidency. Was the same-faith ticket a factor? We may never know!
But, be in no doubt, if Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket prevailed, it would be a tinderbox for aggravated religious tension and crisis in Nigeria. Furthermore, a President Tinubu, if he did eight years and was succeeded by a Northern Muslim for eight years, would entrench a Muslim presidency in Nigeria for 24 consecutive years, from 2015 to 2039. That would escalate fears of Islamisation. A Tinubu presidency could also deny Igbos a credible route to the presidency for 16 years, totalling 40 since 1999, deepening disunity and instability in Nigeria. Thus, a Tinubu presidency would pose an existential danger to Nigeria. Yet, the imminent danger is that Nigeria is not safe in the hands of Tinubu and his acolytes, given their desperation for power and impetuous handling of crisis. When things don’t go Tinubu’s way, he blurts out unpresidential outbursts. And he’s surrounded by people who dissemble and make incendiary comments.
Take Nasir el-Rufai, the Kaduna State governor and Tinubu’s Man Friday. In 2019, he issued a shocking threat to foreign election observers, telling them if they interfered in the presidential election “you’ll go back in body bags”. Now, in 2023, with another presidential poll, he’s reverting to type.
In a recent state broadcast, which countered President Buhari’s national broadcast, el-Rufai said the presidency introduced the currency redesign policy to provoke a crisis so that the presidential election didn’t hold, “leading to an Interim National Government to be led by a retired Army General”. Another objective, he said, was to trigger a breakdown of law and order that “would provide a fertile foundation for a military take-over”. Essentially, el-Rufai, who echoed Tinubu, was saying that President Buhari planned to truncate his own government, with less than three months left in office, by asking a retired General to lead an Interim National Government or by actually provoking a coup. Utterly irresponsible!
But here’s the problem. Given that a Tinubu presidency would be deeply unpopular and crisis-ridden, and given that Tinubu and his “unbreakable team” lack the ability to handle crisis without fuelling it, one must worry that the military intervention that el-Rufai talked recklessly about might become a self-fulfilling prophesy under a Tinubu presidency.
It’s really hard to imagine a Federal Government led by Tinubu, so deeply flawed morally and ethically, with a cabal consisting of el-Rufai, Festus Keyamo, Femi Fani-Kayode, Bayo Onanuga and Dele Alake serving Nigeria’s best interests. No, it won’t. That’s why Tinubu is “the ugly”, and why he mustn’t be Nigeria’s next president! He’s Nigeria’s worst nightmare.
But what about Atiku? Well, Atiku is far better and more presidential than Tinubu. Yet, he’s “the bad”. Why? First, he has failed to shake off the perception of corruption. Unlike Tinubu, the “owner” of Lagos, accused of state capture, Atiku has never directly controlled the public purse. Yet, his lax attitude to conflict of interest and cronyism falls below international standards for public office. For instance, asked in 2019 whether he would sell state assets to his friends, he said: “Why not, I will enrich my friends.” He’s a brash capitalist and laissez-faire free marketeer, but that fuels concerns about his wide-ranging privatisation agenda.
Secondly, if Atiku became president, he would be the first Northerner, under a democracy, to succeed another Northerner. Atiku would have his work cut out in promoting national unity because another Northerner succeeding President Buhari would provoke deep ethnic tension just as a Muslim-Muslim presidency would ignite festering religious conflict.
Finally, then, Obi “the good”. If elected, he would tick many right boxes: the first elected president of Igbo extraction; a Southern-Christian president succeeding a Northern-Muslim president, with a balanced ticket. What’s more, an Obi presidency would be a breath of fresh air; relatively young president and vice-president, both largely untainted. Above all, Obi has the best manifesto, focusing on far-reaching economic, political and institutional reforms to dismantle the elite capture and extractive state that inhibit Nigeria’s progress.
Truth is, whoever wins the presidential poll, Nigeria will never be the same again, for good or for bad. Hence Nigerians must make the right choice this week!