“So many people are hanging on by the thinnest of threads. Treat people with kindness, you could be that thread.” – John Pavlovitz
The above proverbial expression, which alludes to an occasion between Damocles and King Dionysius, may define the situation between Nigerians and their president. Without a doubt, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu took the oath of office amidst significant concerns expressed by many Nigerians. Apart from that, the courts are still hearing challenges to his emergence as president. He is also, so far, the only president with a minority of votes in an election in Nigeria. Every president since 1999 has got total votes that surpassed those of all opposition parties put together that contested against them.
Nonetheless, whether one likes it or not, the man has been declared the winner and sworn in, and so he is officially Nigeria’s sixteenth president at the moment and the fifth in the current political dispensation. What he needs now is cooperation and prayers from every one of us. His success will make us smile just as his failure would make us frown. We are surviving witnesses to this truism.
One cardinal thing President Tinubu must do is to unite the nation and make Nigerians feel a sense of belonging, as well as foster trust in the system. He must also reform our judicial system so that our courts would truly be sanctuaries of hope for both the high and the low.
Due to the contentious nature of the electoral process through which he emerged, he should borrow a leaf from President Umaru Yar’Adua who acknowledged that the election that brought him into office was fraught with irregularities and began electoral reforms which his deputy, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, continued after his demise. Tinubu must make sure elections are transparent and that the laws are further amended so that all electoral disputes are settled before swearing-in.
It makes no sense for a person whose election is before the judges to be sworn into office. Apart from the distraction such will offer, how many Nigerian judges can rule against the chief executive who can appoint or dismiss them? It is often said that the Nigerian president is the most powerful in the world, so it stands to reason that he can lean on the judges handling his case.
Asiwaju is not a man with an ordinary brain. He is both tactical and street-wise. Where do you place a man who successfully propped up two strong candidates in two different start-up parties to reduce his major opponent’s votes? And none among the three – the two political mannequins and the confident main opposition – was the wiser for it!
The two candidates, one up North and the other down South are believed to have been bankrolled by him using fronts. While the one up North knew he could not win but was content with securing his base, the one down South sincerely believed he would win.
Knowing that their joining forces could pose a problem to him, Tinubu, as their puppeteer, fanned their ego and each looked down on the other.
He also brought in a former president – a big fish the dominant opposition party was venerating and doing everything to court – to work for him, although he claimed he was working for one of Tinubu’s props.
The controversies surrounding Tinubu aside (and there are many), Nigerians are witnesses to his achievements as the governor of Lagos. And if his succession plan in Lagos is anything to go by, Nigeria is in for a long reign by Tinubu and his protégés. Asiwaju’s politics could be a course for future students of politics, not only in Nigeria.
However, one can adapt a catchphrase from the last governorship poll in Edo State – ‘Edo no be Lagos’ (Edo is not Lagos – where Asiwaju is the overlord and grandmaster) to this scene, ‘Nigeria no be Lagos.’ In the Edo election, he threw his weight behind a candidate who was beaten by the incumbent who himself had defected to the opposition after Tinubu’s party denied him a return ticket. One can also point to the last governorship poll in Osun State, where his nephew, who was the incumbent, was beaten by the dancing senator, Governor Adeleke.
But I am confident the man would achieve what he set out to achieve. However, first, as we said, he must unite Nigerians and every one of us must be given a sense of belonging. Nigerians must also feel that their government cares. We must feel secure and those of us in bandits’ enclaves must be rescued. Social amenities should also be provided so we can see that our taxes count.
He must look at the cost of governance. It is not wise to sustain two legislative chambers doing the same things, especially since ours are costly. Duplicating the American model is therefore not advisable.
A situation where our government spends billions buying vehicles from foreign lands – thereby encouraging capital flight and keeping foreign companies afloat and their nationals in employment, or where the government feeds the president and state governors with billions of naira, ought to be done away with. What are their salaries and allowances for?
The president is now the father of all: for those who voted for and against him, for those from his part of the country or not; for those who profess the same faith as him or not. He must be fair and just to everyone, and he must ensure that everyone gets his due. He must understand that this nation has been bruised. We have seen hundreds killed “because one of them touched the chest of a General”, according to the former president, while some others who killed and cannibalised another General are still roaming about as free as the breeze.
Sheikh Othman Danfodio, in his book Bayan Wujub al-Hijrah alal ibad, said, “A kingdom (nation) can endure with unbelief, but it cannot endure with injustice.” President Tinubu should mark these words.
When the leader of the Muslims, Imam Ali Ibn Talib, appointed Malik Al Ashtar governor of Egypt in 656 AD, he charged him thus: “Be it known to you, O, Malik, that I am sending you as governor to a country which in the past had experienced both just and unjust rule (as Nigeria). Men will scrutinise your actions with a searching eye, even as you used to scrutinise the actions of those before you, and speak of you even as you spoke of them.”
He also exhorted him to “do good and keep your desires under control… and develop in your heart the feeling of love for your people.” Then he told him to forgive those who commit mistakes “even as you would like God to forgive you.”
In the areas of appointments, sentiment should be kept aside as Imam Ali told Al Ashtar to “choose the best among your people…” and “seek the company of the learned and the wise in search of solving the problems of your region (nation).”
Asiwaju is unarguably the most consummate politician to have straddled our political landscape, who thirsted for power and emerged as president of Nigeria. He has no excuse not to perform.
Hassan Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Neptune Prime.