Wednesday September 6 2023, was a day that meant different things to equally different people. That was the day on which the Presidential Elections Petitions Tribunal (PEPT), delivered its landmark judgment in which it dismissed the petitions against the election of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as President of Nigeria, during the February 25th 2023 presidential polls in Nigeria. As is public knowledge, the petitions were filed by the presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP), comprising Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi respectively. Tinubu was declared by Nigeria’s Independent National Elections Commision (INEC) as the winner of the polls and hence became the 16th indigenous head of the Nigerian state and sixth elected one in the series. Meanwhile, from the look of things the last may not have been heard of the petitions as the aggrieved parties are headed to the Supreme Court of Nigeria to press their cases.
Seen in perspective the entire enterprise of the petitions and the associated drama had imposed some telling effect on the length and breadth of the country. For instance, while the PEPT was in session, not a few Nigerians lapsed into some phase of arrested traction as concern mounted over the prospects of the administration remaining in office. Generally, the country was cast into several shades of public opinion, with the most significant four being as follows.
In one vein were those who favoured the case of Atliku Abubakar who had served as former Vice President to President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2003. While he stood a good chance of clinching the coveted office of Nigeria’s presidency, his nemesis in the 2023 polls was the nationwide groundswell of political clamour that the office should revert back to the South this time around. As the Presidential candidate of his political party – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the ‘Go South’ agenda served to vitiate their chances in the polls exercise, even as the party ended up in the second place at the polls. With him leading the party to further challenge Tinubu’s victory at the Supreme Court, Nigerians are waiting and watching to see how he can claim the presidential mandate.
In another vein are those who are rooting for the candidature of Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), which came third in the Presidential polls. With the party returning in the third position many had been wondering what business it had in going to the PEPT in the first place, losing its case there and is now headed to the Supreme Court.
However, the recourse to the PEPT by the aggrieved parties enjoys endorsement by the third school of thought which argues that such a process remains recommended in the country’s political life as it provides a testing ground for our laws, especially the Electoral Act 2022. By the contention of this school of thought, even as the litigants may have lost at the PEPT, the country gained so much illumination of the electoral terrain, which should console the losers as their welcome contribution to national development. Afterall, public service offers varied opportunities and roles for engagement to equally different persons, which if pursued with dexterity by all actors, boosts the country’s development in different directions.
Yet there is still the fourth group who remain non-plussed, and unsure of where to place their loyalty, in the process. Most of them simply resign their fate to the Nigerian contraption of ‘Any Government in Power’ (AGIP), and wallow in despondency, waiting for divine providence to remedy their situation. But for all practical intents and purposes this state of mind is as good as waiting for the proverbial Godot to come, even with question marks on the dividends of their patient wait.
Meanwhile, against the backdrop of the foregoing is perhaps the most favored lobby being the supporters and political camp of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who even before his ascendancy as President, had remained a main issue in contemporary Nigerian politics. His eventual emergence as the President has made him the real, main issue without question. In the circumstances therefore lies the question of where his presidency will take Nigeria to.
To many observers, while some of the early steps taken by the Tinubu administration may have been unsettling for the wider cross-section of the country who are trapped in extreme poverty, and have little room to maneuver, there are undeniable silver linings on the political and economic horizons of the country. If nothing else, a leadership community has been established for the three arms of government namely the executive with its council of ministers, the legislature with its full complement of operatives, and the judicially that is easily the stabilising force in government through its statutory insulation from the twists and tumbles of political shenanigans.
Yet, even Tinubu needs to appreciate that the Nigerian governance terrain features significant levels of betrayals and numerous banana peels. Yes, he had been governor of Lagos State and was credited with working wonders there during his term. In fact, one of the enduring pluses going for Tinubu’s presidency which partly sustains his cult figure, is the expectation that he will repeat his exploits in Lagos, now he is the president of Nigeria.
However, guided by the wisdom in the cliché that discretion is the better part of valour, the President needs to weigh the input of every official of his administration, before swallowing such hook, line and sinker. A case in point is the drama playing out in the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refinery complex on which the hopes of the country have been hung for the quickest relief for local refining of petroleum products and reduction of the fuel subsidy ‘wahala’.
Of note is the recent promise made by the President to the country that by December 2023, the facility will go on stream. It is easy to recall that following that promise, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, had debunked it as unrealistic and was excoriated in the media by some attack dogs of the administration. A question in the circumstances is ‘What if by December 2023 which is just a few weeks away the Port Harcourt Refinery fails to run as projected’?
It the light of certain developments in the facility, that December deadline may fail, or a shoddily rehabilitated facility may be delivered to the country, by the management of the facility, if only to be seen as falling into the positive side of the political agenda of Mr President, and join the sing song of the leading lights of the administration.
With the legion of administrative and engineering slips in the facility which manifest as grudges among contractors and unpaid workers, as well as soured relations with the host Alesa Eleme community, the situation there qualifies for hard questions that demand realistic answers.