Kingmakers are supposed to be the power behind the throne, not the personality on the stool. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who has been the godfather of Lagos politics for the last 23 years, has finally risen to become king: Nigeria’s president-elect.

At about 4am West African Time on 1 March 2023, in a hall packed with political party agents, diplomats, journalists, election observers and security agents, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmoud Yakubu, who was also the chief collation officer, announced Tinubu as the winner of the keenly contested election.

According to INEC, Tinubu polled 8.7 million votes to defeat 17 other candidates, including former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who garnered 6.9 million votes, and Peter Obi of the Labour Party, who got 6.1 million votes.

Pathway to victory

With 36.6% of the total votes cast, the results show that Tinubu had the lowest percentage of votes by a winning presidential candidate since the return to democracy in 1999.

This was not unexpected as it was a three-horse race. Tinubu’s path to victory was also slim at the outset because as a Muslim from the southwest, he picked a fellow Muslim from the north as his running mate thereby sacrificing the Christian vote.

Atiku, who is a Muslim northerner, sought to capitalise on this by winning both the Muslim north and Christian parts of the south, which had been the traditional voting base of his party.

However, the entry of southern Christian Peter Obi of the Labour Party complicated matters for the PDP candidate.

Tinubu won all the states in the southwest where he comes from, except Lagos, his kingdom. He also picked seven of the 19 northern states of Borno, Jigawa, Zamfara, Benue, Kogi, Kwara and Niger. He won one Christian majority state in the south – Rivers – with the help of renegade PDP Governor Nyesom Wike, in the most controversial manner.

Atiku won in Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Kaduna, Gombe, Yobe, Bauchi, Adamawa and Taraba states all in the north. He also picked three southern states – Osun, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa.

Obi won in almost every Christian majority state in the south and had a good showing in the Christian parts of the north. He picked Edo, Cross River, Delta, Lagos, Plateau, Imo, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Anambra, Abia, Enugu and Abuja, the nation’s capital while Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso won Kano State.

Although Tinubu won just 13 of the 36 states, voting patterns show that he came second in almost every state that he did not win.

Opposition rejects results

However, both the Labour Party and the PDP rejected the result of the poll.

They asked the electoral commission to halt further announcements. Their rejection was based on the delay by the INEC in uploading the results from the field onto the result viewing portal.

The chairman of INEC may claim ignorance, but he cannot fold his hands and do nothing when he knows that [the] election process has been corrupted…

The INEC had introduced a result viewing portal on which results would be seen just moments after voting.

However, 24 hours after elections had been held, the INEC had failed to upload results from most polling units thereby causing fears that the results had been tampered with. Election observers had also criticised the INEC over the failure, but the commission claimed it had technological challenges.

The Labour Party and the PDP, as well as four other parties, subsequently staged a walkout at the national collation centre amid rumours that they might be heading to court to halt further announcements of the results.

At a joint press conference, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and Dr Yusuf Datti Ahmed, the vice-presidential candidates of the PDP and the Labour Party, respectively, rejected the results, insisting that the INEC chairman had been compromised.

Earlier, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who endorsed Obi months back, also questioned the credibility of the poll, accusing electoral officials of corrupting the process by failing to adhere to voting guidelines including the usage of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).

“The chairman of [the] INEC may claim ignorance, but he cannot fold his hands and do nothing when he knows that [the] election process has been corrupted and most of the results that are brought outside BVAS and server are not a true reflection of the will of Nigerians who have made their individual choice.

“At this stage, we do not need wittingly or unwittingly to set this country on fire with the greed, irresponsibility and unpatriotic act of those who allegedly gave money to [the] INEC officials for perversion and those who collected the blood money,” he said in a statement.

General Abdulsalami Abubakar, former head of state, who is also the chairman of the National Peace Committee, faulted the manual transmission of election results by the INEC as against the electronic transmission which it ought to be.

As tension began to build over reports that the opposition may want to scuttle the announcements, Tinubu approached a federal court in Kano seeking an order to bar anyone from doing so.

Sensing the rising tension, the electoral commission insisted on completing the announcement of results and declared Tinubu winner at midnight.

Tinubu extends hand of fellowship

Tinubu’s victory has been rejected by a large section of Nigerian youths on social media who described the election as a sham.

In his victory speech, the president-elect extended his hand of fellowship to his opponents and their supporters.

[…] none of the issues registered represent a challenge to the freeness and fairness of the elections

He said: “Whether you are Batified, Atikulated, Obidient, Kwankwasiyya, or have any other political affiliation, you voted for a better, more hopeful nation and I thank you for your participation and dedication to our democracy.

“You decided to place your trust in the democratic vision of a Nigeria founded on shared prosperity and one nurtured by the ideals of unity, justice, peace and tolerance. Renewed hope has dawned in Nigeria.”

In his congratulatory message, President Muhammadu Buhari described Tinubu as the best candidate and termed the election as a plus for Africa, which has – in recent times – witnessed a string of coups.

Buhari also dismissed the complaints of the opposition saying: “There were technical problems with electronic transmission of the results. Of course, there will be areas that need work to bring further transparency and credibility to the voting procedure. However, none of the issues registered represent a challenge to the freeness and fairness of the elections.”


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