By Reno Omokri
One of the hardest things to do is to have a reasonable and mature conversation with some Nigerians on politics. The maxim of seek first to understand, then to be understood is lost on many of our compatriots.
They want you to listen, and understand them, and accept everything they say, and even the slightest deviation to this is met with hostility and a string of insults.
Unfortunately, this behaviour is more common in certain parts of the country that I cannot mention, because I do not have the strength to manage the fallout that would result from identifying the geopolitical zones where this behaviour is prevalent.
You see, politics is about persuasion, war is about coercion. If you apply coercion to politics, it will be hard for you to expand your base. And if you do not open yourself to views outside your views, you may be caught up in tunnel vision and react to your own echo chamber.
Yes, the Saturday, February 25, 2023 Presidential election was not perfect. Which election is? But it would have been a very uphill task for the Labour Party to win it, because the party had clusters of support, but did not hand a national spread.
It could have been possible for the Peoples Democratic Party to win if they had gotten the Northern bloc vote. But that did not materialise. And with the reality of the PDP haemorrhaging votes to Labour in the South and the Kwarara Axis of the Middle Belt, their path to victory narrowed.
And so, ever the consummate opportunistic politician, Bola Tinubu capitalised on the refusal of the Peoples Democratic Party and the Labour Party to work together, and divided to rule.
I believe Bola Tinubu is not a fit and proper person to occupy the office of the President of Nigeria. However, it is also my assessment that he did win the election.
And why did he win? In my view, he won because of Obi.
A lot of people misunderstood my actions in the months preceding the elections. And especially emotional people. Politics is a vocation that thrives on logic and strategy. Those of us who wanted Peter Obi to remain in our party and run with Waziri Atiku foresaw that though Obi is popular in some parts of the South, on his own, he could not win the election. But together with Waziri Atiku, they could not lose.
I made mention of this to Peter Obi sometime in June of 2022. If he had listened to me, the #NigerianElections2023 would have ended differently! Even rigging could not have stopped such a ticket.
Cooperation is always better than confrontation. Historically, Nigeria was two countries amalgamated by the British. To win an election, you need a strong Northern candidate and a strong Southern candidate to run together.
Again this was not something I hid from Mr. Obi. I personally told him this. Ask him!
Some will complain of rigging. Others will blame voter suppression. But the ONLY reason INEC declared Asiwaju Tinubu President-elect is because Waziri Atiku and Obi did not work together. Together they had over 13 million votes. Meanwhile, Tinubu has less than 9 million. Together, they would have won! This is what I told Peter Obi last June when we spoke.
Peter Obi did not fatally injure Tinubu. Rather, he played into Tinubu’s hands. The man who convinced him to leave the PDP works for Tinubu. Tinubu used Obi the way Clinton used Ross Perot to defeat President George H. W. Bush in 1992. Unfortunately, people who warned him were seen as the enemy. In future, they may be seen as prophets!
And when I saw the Labour Party agent joining Dino Melaye in his brave walkout at the National Collation Centre of the Independent National Electoral Commission, it looked to me like a case of too little too late.
Instead of jointly walking out of the INEC collation centre, the Labour Party and the Peoples Democratic Party should have jointly fought this election seven months ago. Their current unity is belated.
At the risk of repeating myself, I begged Peter Obi to stay in our party and run with Waziri. Had he listened, this election would have been a piece of cake for that ticket. Look at when we are now united. When the rigged results were being announced.
If we could unite then, why did we not unite seven months ago? Only a fool does eventually what a wise man would have done immediately.
And Peter Obi did not just tank this election for both himself and the Peoples Democratic Party. He also exposed a weakness in Nigerian Christendom.
The Islamic vote was divided three ways amongst Waziri Atiku Abubakar, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Rabiu Kwankwaso. Meanwhile, the Christian vote was largely, but not wholly, united behind Peter Obi. Yet, look at the result!
No matter the provocation, Christians must NEVER allow future elections to be about religion. It will not serve us well!
We are in the heat of the moment and people are not yet thinking calmly. When you say these obvious truths, some of the very people who would benefit are the first to insult you with the vilest abuse. But no matter how we sugarcoat it, this election says a lot about the power of the Christian bloc vote.
By the behaviour they still project on social media, what some Nigerians do not yet seem to realise is that both Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila have been reelected and are likely to retain their National Assembly positions as Senate President and Speaker of the House, or be replaced by members of their clique if retention proves irksome. Meaning that, if all things remain equal, on May 29, 2023, the President, vice President, Senate President, Speaker and Chief Justice may likely to all be Muslims males.
In case you still do not understand the implication of this, let me break it down further for you. According to Constitutional protocol, these men will be the first, second, third, fourth and fifth most important men in Nigeria.
Alas, those who know how to consult have prevailed over those who know how to insult.
Christians, you better stop insulting each other and start negotiating to insert at least two Christians into this equation before it is set in stone.
And again, at the risk of repeating myself, which I only do for emphasis, ethnicities in Nigeria that have a culture of competition will forever be under the political servitude of those ethnicities that have a culture of cooperation. It is not rocket science. Me against my brother will always lose to me and my brother as one!
This goes beyond Waziri Atiku Abubakar and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. In terms of their political history, Waziri Atiku and Bola Tinubu are two sides of the same coin. They will find common ground.
Having given an outline above, let me go granular here. The major implication of this election is that a Muslim-Muslim ticket has come to stay in Nigeria at the Federal and many state levels. Because, whether you like it or not, the experiment has worked. Muslims have demonstrated their political sagacity, love for each other, and most importantly, the fact that even when split three ways, their vote is still the deciding factor in presidential politics.
This means that they cannot be forced to balance things religiously. They can do so if they choose to. Only as an act of good faith. And to show their gentlemanliness. Or demonstrate their fairness and magnanimity. But they do not have to do so compulsorily at the federal level or at many state levels. They can win elections just by the Islamic votes. They now have both the numbers and the spread.
Are you still insulting me? Please go ahead. I deserve it for failing to persuade Peter not to leave our party.
Whatever victories the Labour Party had won would prove to be hollow if they show that they were concentrated in the Southeast and in Christian enclaves outside the Southeast. It would even be more destructive if the Southeast is allowed to be a region closer to other parties besides Labour. I hope that would not be the case.
One other thing that this election shows is that Nigeria’s population is a sham. A shame and a sham. Why?
Each election cycle from 2011, the total number of votes cast in Nigerian Presidential elections keeps reducing. From 38 million in 2011, to 29 million in 2015, to 27 million in 2019. And now we have approximately 25 million votes in 2023. Again, less than 2019.
When you take into account that 93 million people registered to vote for the 2023 elections, and that Mr. Tinubu won by less than 9 million votes, the implication is that less than 10% of the electorate determined who the winner would be.
So, did we have a ridiculously low (27%) voter turnout, or is our population reducing, or are we not really 220 million people strong as we claim?
To put things in perspective, Ethiopia has half of our supposed population (120 million people). Yet, in their 2021 election, 38,234,910 Ethiopians voted. And that was during the height of the #COVID19 pandemic. It was also during the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region. Meaning that less people voted than would otherwise have voted.
Something is wrong somewhere with either our population, or our election figures.
In any case, let me end with this. Nigerians have moved on from the #NigerianElections2023. If we were going to do anything, we would have done it by now. Instead, from Friday to today, the number one to number 10 Twitter trends have been European football, or other light-hearted topics. And you think our people have not moved on?
That Russian woman is right. We are “just a cruise country!” And if you think she was complimenting us, I feel sorry for you.
If you doubt me, you can go and check Nigerian Twitter trends by yourself. Even those notorious groups that used to terrorise us on Twitter from home and abroad because of one candidate have moved on to romance scams and other kinds of 419!
Under the Labour Party, an Okada rider, Donatus Mathew, won election to the House of Representatives in Kaduna. This is democracy in its purest form. And for this, I thank Peter Obi and the Labour Party. Both of them have done much to deepen our democracy. I never envisaged that this could happen in Nigeria in the year 2923. In the future, perhaps I imagined it happening. But not now. If Labour continues this way, they will make Nigeria a more egalitarian society. This news will make Labour more acceptable in Kano, the centre of Northern egalitarianism, which is the utopian ideal that the late Aminu Kanu tried to build with the Talakawa through the Northern Elements Progressive Union, and later his Peoples Redemption Party.