The long awaited 2023 presidential and national assembly elections may have come and gone but the controversies surrounding its conduct by the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] is far from over. The February 25 presidential election, which was highly anticipated to be the most consequential election in the 24 years of the 4th Republic, fell short of the expectations many Nigerians that had high hopes of marked improvement in the electoral process. Considering the humungous resources at the disposal of INEC in addition to an enabling electoral law that allows it the use of technology particular in the area of electronic transmission of results from polling unit to its central server as a means of curtailing result manipulation associated with manual collation, the electoral body disappointed Nigerians when it failed to deliver optimally in this regard.
The disappointment with INEC was premised upon the fact that Nigerians fought hard to get the National Assembly to pass required amendments to the electoral laws of Nigeria that are relevant to achieving a credible, transparent, free and fair electoral process in 2023 and even fought harder to get President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the amended electoral Act. And the most important of these amendments, which was the electronic transmission of result from polling units to INEC sever to be viewed in real time by Nigerians through the I-REV Portal didn’t happen during the presidential election. This and many more infractions have cast a dark cloud of illegitimacy on the mandate of declared winner of the presidential election, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress [APC].
Tinubu’s emergence as president elect has not been without challenge as his major challengers in the 2023 presidential election, former vice president Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] and Peter Obi of the Third Force Labour Party [LP] have both rejected the outcome of the presidential election while calling for its total cancellation. With INEC refusing to cancel the presidential election, the candidates of the PDP and LP have headed to the courts for the judicial review of the results declared by INEC. And now that the dispute over the outcome and the processes leading to it has shifted to the judicial arena it will be safe to do a political review of the matters arising from the conduct as well outcome of the 2023 presidential election in the court of public opinion.
Notwithstanding the underperformance of INEC and the misconduct of some undesirable elements in the security services, the resilience and determination of the Nigerian people to effect a positive change through the ballot managed to substantially annul the effects of some of the defects in the just concluded presidential and national assembly elections. Thanks to the Nigerian people, the country recorded some positives and wins for both its democracy and good governance aspirations. And the credit for some of these wins and positives goes to the Obidient Movement and the presidential candidate of the Labour Party of Nigeria, Peter Obi whose entrance into the presidential race caused unprecedented upsets and upstages that has effectively affirmed the people as the real structure a political party requires to win elections. Without a single councillor, governor or federal and state legislator, the Obidient Movement; a group of self-motivated and self-funded Nigerian patriots cutting across ethnic and religious divides propelled Peter Obi of the LP to emerge as the undisputed third force in the just concluded presidential election in manner that sent shock waves down the spine of establishment politicians in Nigeria.
The Obidient Movement went from being ‘’four people’’ twitting in a room to 6.1 million people with massive leads in 11 states of the federation and the FCT spread across four [SE, SS, NC and SW] out of the six geopolitical zones of the country.
The Obidient Movement did not only propel the LP candidate to national reckoning in the just concluded presidential election but effected earth shaking upsets when they defeated the candidate of the APC in his home state of Lagos, local government of voting area [Ikeja] and his local government of residence [Etiosa]. Not satisfied feat they recorded in the Lagos strong hold of the APC, the Obidients dislodged PDP from it’s in the FCT stronghold and went as far as to win the majority vote cast in the inner recess of the presidential villa in Abuja. The LP also defeated the chairman of the ruling APC, Abdullahi Adamu in his polling unit before going ahead over run his Nassarawa state in north central Nigeria. The same treatment was given to the Director General of the APC presidential campaign council and Governor of Plateau state, Simon Lalong when he lost his polling unit and state to the ravages of the Obidient tsunami. Not done, the Obidients similarly inflicted heavy losses on the former chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole in Edo state and the vice presidential candidate of the PDP, Ifeanyi Okowa in the neighbouring Delta state by winning the two states comprehensively.
Thanks to the spectacular outing of the LP candidate in the just concluded presidential election, the political scene in Nigeria appears to have been effectively reconfigured around the people away from the structure of establishment politics in Nigeria. Whereas, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was returned as winner of the 2023 presidential election and declared president elect, what is clear from the results declared by INEC is that his ruling APC lost Nigeria in this election. For the first time in the history of Nigeria’s democratic 4th republic a president has been elected with a minority of the total vote cast and a win in just a third of the 36 states of the Nigerian federation. Of the total of 24 million votes cast in the presidential election Tinubu managed to poll 8.7 million votes to defeat Atiku of PDP and Peter Obi of the LP that garnered 6.9 and 6.1 million votes respectively. Similarly, Tinubu was only able to win in only 12 states out of 36 states of the Nigerian federation just as Atiku and Obi took 12 states each.
Clearly, Nigerians did not intend to reward the APC for its poor record of performance in the last eight years of utter misrule but sadly they had to choose from two other options; a situation that resulted into the splitting of their votes into two against the APC. The 2023 presidential election was a sure vote of no confidence on the ruling APC and Tinubu with a minority but nevertheless legitimate mandate is like a reluctantly hired servant who must go extra mile to earn the confidence of his employers to remain on the job. This is a major win for the Nigerian people and for ensuring this symbolic victory for the Nigerian people, the Obidients are the Most Valuable Players in the 2023 election season while Peter Obi the candidate of the Labour Party is indeed the Hero of the 2023 presidential election. Never will the establishment take the Nigerian people for granted again as they have proved beyond reasonable doubt that they cannot only bark but can bite.
However, to sustain this phenomenal success, the Obidients will do well to go out in the gubernatorial and state assembly elections scheduled for the 18th of March 2023to elect governors in a number of states were they have the numbers along with state assembly members. To complete the task of upstaging the decadent and corrupt structure of establishment politics in Nigeria will be for the Obidients to win a number of states that can be used as Special Purpose Vehicles for the delivery of good governance along the ideals of fidelity to constitutionalism, leadership integrity and decency as well as prudent management of public resources for the benefit of all as espoused and embodied by Peter Obi.