By Kayode Oyero
Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been declared winner of arguably Nigeria’s most hotly contested and high-stakes presidential elections.
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, announced the former Lagos Governor’s victory, minutes past 4am on Wednesday at the National Collation Centre in Abuja, a hall packed full of journalists, party agents and observers.
“That Tinubu Bola Ahmed of the APC, having satisfied the requirement of the law, is hereby declared the winner and is returned elected,” Professor Yakubu declared in an announcement watched by an eager nation and many across the world.
Tinubu, 70, came out tops in 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states, and secured significant numbers in several other states to claim the highest number of votes — 8,794,726, almost two million votes more than his closest rival — former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Abubakar, 76, who has now run for president six times, got 6,984,520 votes, while the candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, who, in less than a year, galvanised young voters in a manner some have described as unprecedented finished the race with 6,101,533.
Obi, a former governor of Anambra State, won the polls in 11 states, including the home state of the APC candidate — Lagos. He also came out tops in the nation’s capital Abuja. Abubakar, like Tinubu, was victorious in 12 states.
Former Kano State Governor and candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Rabiu Kwankwaso, finished fourth, claiming victory in his state — Kano. He secured 1,496,687 votes.
Professor Yakubu’s announcement, four days after the vote, brings to a climax a presidential election marred by controversy, violence and ballot box snatching in some states of the country on February 25 during the election.
Criticism, Calls For Poll Cancellation
The announcement of the results would not have happened if other candidates had their way.
Right from the election on Saturday, opposition parties had complained bitterly that INEC officials at the polling units were unable to upload election results electronically to the commission’s Results Viewing Portal (IReV), as stipulated by Section 60 of the Electoral Act 2022.
The IReV and the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) are new technologies introduced by the electoral body for the accreditation and electronic transmission of votes for this year’s polls.
The leadership of the APC, LP, and NNPP at several press briefings from Saturday to Tuesday had called on INEC and protested the manual transmission of results.
The parties said the results by INEC showed “monumental disparities” between what the party agents signed and what INEC officials announced in Abuja and asked Mahmood to respect the upload of results electronically as stipulated by recommended by the law.
They said the manual transmission of results compromised the integrity of the election process and demanded a cancellation of the election and asked the electoral chief to step down. They said the results announced by INEC were “irretrievably compromised”.
Opposition party agents had staged a walkout from the national collation centre in Abuja on Monday after the INEC chief insisted that the process must continue despite that all results were not electronically transmitted.
Labour Party’s National Chairman, Julius Abure, said, “This election is not free and far from being fair”, adding that there are “ongoing cancellation of results from areas of strength of the opposition parties”.
Similarly, former President Olusegun Obasanjo as well as leaders in the West African sub-region led by former Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan; ex-Ghanaian President John Mahama had also called on INEC)to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 on the collation of results for the presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 25, 2023.
Prior to the election, Tinubu, who led Lagos from 1999 to 2007 and help to form his party, the APC in 2013, had to navigate controversial issues enrolee to becoming President-Elect.
Being a Muslim, his choice of another Muslim and former governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, sparked outrage and drew strong criticism.
Questions about his health were constant throughout the campaign and there were allegations of crime and corruption, claims which he and his team repeatedly denied.
There was no respite for him and his campaign. Prolonged fuel scarcity and the Naira redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria which led to scarcity of the currency and hardship for Nigerians in the final months of the campaign left him and his team with more questions to answer. After all, his party was the ruling party.
The Naira redesign policy in particular pitted him and close allies within the party against the Muhammadu Buhari administration, creating division in the party weeks before the election.
“They want to provoke you to violence, so that election will be disrupted and postponed, and they can cunningly introduce an interim government, that’s their plot. But this will backfire because we are wiser,” the former Lagos governor said early February in what was seen as a direct attack on the Buhari administration and the President who endorsed and defended the Naira redesign.
Road To Victory
Tinubu’s road to victory was far from being smooth. To earn his party’s ticket for the race, he had to contend with heavyweights and partymen such as Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Ahmad Lawan and former Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, among others to win his party’s ticket.
Frustrated with the seeming lack of support from the President and reported opposition by key members of the Presidency, he would go on to make his now famous “Emilokan (It is my turn)“ speech on June 2, 2022.
“It is the turn of Yoruba, it is my turn,” he said while addressing party delegates at the Presidential Lodge in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
In the speech, he narrated how Buhari lost presidential elections repeatedly until he (Tinubu) helped him to win in 2015. He would later issue a statement declaring his respect for the President.
When the APC primaries came around, it took a strategic alliance with northern governors of states historically known for high voter numerical strengths including Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, Plateau, among others for him to defeat Amaechi and Osinbajo.
It was an alliance that was in place through the election.
When the Naira redesign policy led to scarcity of the currency and outrage and protests by citizens, it was three APC governors, including Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna and Yahaya Bello of Kogi that sued the Federal Government, seeking to prevent the full implementation of the policy.
Tinubu based his campaign on an 80-page manifesto which highlights an eight-point agenda.
He has promised to build a Nigeria, especially for our youth, where sufficient jobs with decent wages create a better life.
On December 5, 2022, Tinubu made an appearance at the Chatham House, a world-leading policy institute and think-tank forum in London where he shared some of his plans for major sectors like defence, economy, education, and technology if elected to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari whose term ends on May 29, 2023.
At the event, he promised to provide student loans and reform the Almajiri educational system ubiquitous in northern Nigeria, recruit and train more teachers to boost the education system, and introduce technology hubs for youths to acquire digital skills.
He also insisted that his birth, academic, and professional records are consistent, adding that his critics are only wasting their time and money.
It is no secret that the President-elect has always wanted to be President.
In the buildup to the 2015 general elections, he is reported to have pushed to be Buhari’s running mate but was prevailed upon to shelve the idea by party members who did not believe Nigerians will accept a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Eight years later, he has succeeded in getting such a ticket across the line, albeit with legal battles set to trail his victory, considering the vehement opposition to it by his opponents and the reports of violence and disruption at many polling units during the poll.