[OPINION] Tinubu’s election as Nigeria’s President: A Watershed in democratic consolidation

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*Samson R. Osagie,Ph.D

When in May 1999, the Nigerian Military gave way to a democratically elected government after sixteen years of democratic hiatus, not many thought that the political class could sustain democratic governance for long, let alone for as long as 24 years, still counting! Interestingly, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, now President-Elect, was in the vanguard of those pro-democracy heroes who fought for the enthronement of democracy in 1999. Even his political foes cannot but acknowledge him as the alter ego or living symbol of that struggle for democracy spear-headed by the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). Tinubu became Governor of Lagos State in the same year, 1999; he brought to bear his democratic credentials by being a nationalist builder of men and institutions. His legacies in the nation’s commercial hub of Lagos remain indelible.

It was, therefore, little wonder that he offered to run as President of Nigeria sixteen years after completing his tenure as Governor of the most populous state in Nigeria. Within this period, he exerted considerable time and energy in building bridges of friendship and democratic coalitions across Nigeria. His astute political fecundity led to the unprecedented defeat of an incumbent President and a ruling political party in 2015 in a generally acknowledged election as free, fair and credible.

Samson Osagie and Bola Tinubu
Samson Osagie and Bola Tinubu

Against all odds and amidst groundbreaking political revolution, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has emerged as the winner of the 2023 Presidential Election and is ready to assume office as the 16th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria come May 29, 2023. With his election as the country’s duly elected President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Nigeria has now successfully transited from one democratic election and civil rule to another for the sixth unbroken time. This is what I mean when I posit that Tinubu’s election is a watershed in democratic consolidation. Regardless of the perceived shortcomings in the election process, which some of his defeated opponents have complained about, the fact remains that Nigeria has succeeded in taking an additional positive step towards advancing its democratic journey. This is worth commending.

President-elect, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu is coming into office at a time our social, political and economic life as a nation is seriously broken almost beyond recognition. Over 130 million Nigerians are mired in multi-dimensional poverty, according to the National Bureau of Statistics official figures. Indeed, there is no gainsaying the fact that our nation and its citizens are in dire need of liberation from the current and prevailing state of extreme difficulties in all spheres. Hence, Tinubu’s election as President at this time required him to combine the attributes which great world leaders that have had similar opportunities were known to exhibit at different times in the life of their countries. The expectations among the people of Nigeria are extremely high and audacious.

He is expected to demonstrate his much-touted capacity for brilliance in statecraft to inspire Nigerians to new ideas and innovations. Like great leaders who gained power at difficult times of insecurity in their nation’s history, President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu will need to tackle the unending insecurity not only through military/kinetic and economic policies but also by inculcating the combined messages of love, tolerance, non-violence, obedience to the rule of law, patriotism and nationalism.

Like Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu will have to be an exceptionally transformative leader in his defence and protection of the rights of all Nigerians, irrespective of social and economic status or political affiliation.

Like Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister and post-World War II leader of the United Kingdom, President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu will have to be highly steadfast and motivate the Nigerian people to be resilient while at the same time meeting the most felt needs that have eluded them for decades since independence.

It is needless to emphasize that President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu will need to amplify his participatory leadership ability, like Walt Disney, to assemble a committed, dedicated, patriotic and knowledge-driven coalition of individuals and organizations to tackle the seemingly insurmountable challenges facing Nigeria. In Walt Disney’s words, this will mean a “Leadership that connotes a group, large or small, willing to entrust authority to a person who has shown judgment, wisdom, personal appeal and proven competence”. Indeed, President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu must, like Collin Powell, become a Situational Leader in the circumstances of this country. This will enable him, as he has always done, to devolve his reputation and actions across all party lines and ideological divides, thus making him adjust to every moment’s needs of his countrymen and women.

Very importantly, the President-elect must, like American Abraham Lincoln, symbolize the advent in Nigeria of a new era of unity, liberty, justice and equality for all Nigerians in a manner never witnessed in the last twenty-four years of unbroken democratic rule. Under him, like Lincoln said during his Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863, “This nation (Nigeria) under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people and for the people, shall not perish from the earth” (emphasis supplied).#

In light of the foregoing, Nigerians need to look forward to how to hold the government accountable for its actions and promises continuously. The resurgence of very active citizenship, as demonstrated in this election, must be seen as an impetus that will drive good governance, and it is expected that the President-elect will not underestimate the power of the people as opposed to the people in power.

Finally, I wish to join millions of Nigerians and those who believe in the country’s democratic sustenance in congratulating President-elect His Excellency Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu while earnestly hoping and praying that in his tenure Nigeria and its wearied citizens will witness unprecedented transformation into a new regime of unprecedented good enough governance.

*Dr Samson Osagie is a private Legal Practitioner and Lecturer at the National Institute of Legislative & Democratic Studies (NILDS), Abuja. He is a former Minority Whip of the House of Representatives, National Assembly, Nigeria.
Abuja FCT
March 03rd, 2023

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