Will Ahmed Tinubu be stopped from becoming the president?5 min read
By Emeka Ugwuonye
As I promised, I would say something about the outcome of the presidential elections. My friends have expected to read my thoughts on the subject. There were many reasons why I did not want to say much all this while. For the first time in my life, I was afraid how the readers would react to my views, given that we have had in this country lately a highly intolerant group of people. Yes, like most people, I was too afraid to offend the Obidients. December last year, I had dared to alert the Obidients to the existence of certain factors that would prevent Peter Obi from becoming the president regardless of how well he does in the polls. I was misunderstood and viciously attacked. Even the abuses I received from IPOB fanatics were not as intense as the abuses I received from the Obidients on that day. They called me every terrible name they could remember. Yet, I understood them. I understood the frustration that propelled their movement and the ironies of history evident in that movement. I wished them success, but I knew they would not be able to surmount all the obstacles that are just now becoming obvious to them.
The Nigerian Supreme Court will not declare Peter Obi the President as an outcome of these petitions. I think that even Obi and his lawyers know that. Therefore, the real benefit of the petition is to stop Tinubu from having a second term. If the trial could show more clearly that there was rigging in the elections that brought Tinubu to power in 2023, voters will double down in 2027 to stop him from having a second term. Second, Peter Obi needs to maintain his excellent momentum so that he would be able to overcome more obstacles in 2027. To maintain his momentum, he has to prolong the fight beyond the elections for as long as possible and he will have to continue to question the legitimacy of Tinubu’s government. So, the most logical benefits of the ongoing petitions are to be located further in the future.
The Nigerian Supreme Court has never ruled against the President in office. It has happened only to Governors – Anambra, Ekiti, Imo, (and soon to happen in Enugu State) as examples. An incumbent President is too powerful and the Supreme Court too weak and too dependent for that to happen. So, once Tinubu is sworn in on the 29th of May, that is it. I think that those who oppose his being sworn in on the 29th of May understand this very well. They realize that once sworn in, the courts would be unable to stop him.
Peter Obi is no doubt the most popular politician in Nigeria by a wide margin. He has done something no other politician has done. By accident of timing and a chain of fortuitous circumstances, he captured the mood and spirit of the era. Majority of Nigerians are unhappy and disappointed in the country and they want change. They have sought change in various ways. The EndSARS protest was a search for change. IPOB agitation is a search for change. Sunday Igboho and his movement were seeking for change. They could not get the change they sought because they were operating outside the formal political structures of the country. Obi offered all aggrieved people of Nigeria an opportunity to seek change through the political arrangements. They jumped in and rallied behind Obi, making him the flagbearer of all movements for change in Nigeria.
However, Obi and his movement lacked the requisite political party configuration to achieve their goal. When we speak of structures, you know most people misunderstood what it meant. But it is now evident how fragile Obi’s control of the Labor Party organization is. Hence the current crisis in the party. I am sure an Obidient will be quick to point out that the other political parties are also having internal crisis and that is true, especially the crisis that destroyed Atiku’s ambition. Yet, the crisis facing the Labor Party is far more fundamental in nature than what other parties experience.
Why should the hope of overturning the election results at the court be low? The answer lies in history. We have no precedent. Secondly, every experienced lawyer knows how hard it is to predict the Supreme Court. That is because the court is not absolutely bound by anything. The law is whatever it says it is. You can learn this from the judgment that made Hope Uzodimma the Governor of Imo State. Thirdly, the judicial decisions are not totally devoid of pragmatic considerations. From the 1971 Supreme Court decision in Lakanmi v. Attorney General of the Federation, it is part of our legal realism to expect that the court will not totally ignore the de facto situation. The pragmatic desires for some sense of order and calm with Tinubu continuing in office as against the potential chaos arising from a new election and the associated crisis and social turbulence will weigh heavily in the minds of the justices. The doctrine of necessity and principles of effectiveness, though not to be mentioned in those terms, will not be ignored by the justices. So, it is fair to predict that Tinubu’s tenure as President of Nigeria is now irreversible.
Will Peter Obi retain his momentum? Will he remain as popular as he has been so far? Will he be able to organize and unify Labor Party into a solid political organization with a clear sense of leadership? Will he be able to transform the Obidients from the motley crowd they are today into some cohesive party loyalists? Above all, will he be able to keep the Labour Party members in the Senate, House of Rep and the State Assemblies and the two likely Governors they will end up with (Abia and Enugu States) within the Labor Party? These are the ultimate decisive factors to shape the future of Peter Obi and the Labor Party. If, on the other hand, the infighting within the party forces Obi to change to another party close to 2027, then the momentum will be lost for good.
In making these calculations, one must not assume that Tinubu will be folding his arms and waiting for what his opponent would do. He is a smart player with incredible survival skills. It is safe to assume that even at this moment, he is aware of the odds he faces and he is working to improve his position. He is thinking of a government of national unity, whatever that means. By this, he may end up forming some alliance between APC and Kwankwaso’s party. If that happens, he will become so strong and impossible to dislodge.
In conclusion, the Obidients should know that the courts will most likely find ways to rationalize a Tinubu administration, rather than try anything that would remotely make Peter Obi the President as a result of the last elections. It is that sense of strained pragmatism that forces the United States Government to pledge to work with Tinubu even as they threaten to ban those whom they believe rigged elections for Tinubu.