If Tinubu had lost the February 25 presidential election, the equanimous disposition of his main rivals who have chosen to give peace a chance would have been replaced with acerbic platitudes, inciting jibes and free style scare-mongering. Nigeria would have been on edge.
I posit here that we would have got the very opposite of what we have in Nigeria today if Bola Ahmed Tinubu had lost the February 25 presidential election. The equanimous disposition of his main rivals, Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar, who have chosen to give peace a chance would have been replaced with acerbic platitudes, inciting jibes and free style scare-mongering that could have sparked off civil unrest. Nigeria would have been on edge. The atmosphere would have been one of fits and starts.
To appreciate this scenario, we must understand that the conspiracy to declare Tinubu as the elected president of Nigeria was not hatched in a hurry. It was a well-worn political gamesmanship hammered into place with unceasing ploys and tactics. Those behind it ensured that they plugged all possible loopholes. They envisaged a possible outbreak of civil uprising from the procured victory. They imagined a situation where the supporters of Mr Peter Obi who had practically seized the civic space would rise against the state capture midwifed by the Buhari presidency. To stave off this possibility, the promoters of the Tinubu presidency set out, early enough, to checkmate Peter Obi, the arrowhead of the new Nigeria that the youths were envisioning. The strategy was to put him in the defensive. To give effect to this ploy, the Buhari presidency accused Obi of treason, a very serious crime that borders on attempting to kill or overthrow the sovereign or the government. The government of the day tenaciously wove a narrative along this line, not minding the fact that the allegation was baseless. They just wanted something that could divert Obi’s attention from the real issue at stake.
The first to fire that salvo was Mr Festus Keyamo, a minister in the Buhari government who doubled as a spokesperson of the Tinubu presidential campaign. Following the wrongful declaration of Tinubu as president-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission, Obi had gone to town to set the records straight. He told Nigerians, indeed the world, that he, not Tinubu, won the presidential election of February 25. He said he had facts and figures to prove that. And so, while the Tinubu camp was trying everything it could to make the questionable victory look acceptable to Nigerians, Obi was busy dismantling the falsehood. He disclaimed the bogus claims of Tinubu’s apologists. Obi ensured that Nigerians knew the truth. This was a major source of concern to the Tinubu campaign.
To neutralize the onslaught from Peter Obi, Keyamo petitioned the Department of State Services, urging the secret police to bring Obi to account. He said Obi was making incendiary comments that could spark off protests across the country. He therefore called for Obi’s arrest and prosecution for incitement and treasonable felony.
Also, in order to demonstrate to Obi that the Buhari presidency was ill at ease with his outspokenness, the government despatched its notorious propaganda minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to Washington DC to cast aspersion on Obi and his claim to the presidency. He said his mission in the United States was to address international media organizations on the outcome of the 2023 presidential election. In carrying out this assignment, Alhaji Mohammed ensured that he pepped up his message with accustomed lies. Like Keyamo before him, he accused Obi of treason. He told his audience that Obi was promoting insurrection by inciting people to violence over the outcome of the elections.
The onslaught from the Buhari presidency against Peter Obi was to cow him. They wanted to blackmail him into submission. The plot was to arrest him and, by so doing, weaken him and his army of supporters, if he proved too stubborn to handle. All of this was done to ensure that Obi’s supporters did not take over the streets in protest. In this regard, the conspirators got what they wanted not because Obi was intimidated but because he never planned any form of insurrection against the government that rigged the election under reference. Today, Nigeria is experiencing peace of the graveyard. There are no protests. There is no civil disobedience anywhere in the country.
But there is a corollary to this setup. Let us ponder this scenario. What possibly could have been the case if Tinubu and his cohorts had not had their way? As we are all aware, we have an uneasy calm in Nigeria owing to the electoral malfeasance that produced Tinubu as president. But I reckon that the situation would have been catastrophic if Tinubu’s long-standing ambition of becoming president had been botched. The election year, 2023, was his best and last possible chance to aim at the presidency. A slip of any sort would have sounded the death knell for his presidential dream.
To ensure that this did not happen, Tinubu recruited hawks in the mould of Buhari and Nasir el-Rufai to drive home the project. These two men have a notoriety behind and before them. After losing to Goodluck Jonathan in the 2011 presidential election, Buhari is on record to have threatened that the dog and the baboon would be soaked in blood if what happened in that election repeated itself in 2015. His pronouncement was very inciting. But nobody queried him, let alone accuse him of treason.
Nasir el- Rufai, a prominent member of the Buhari conspiratorial team, followed suit. He threatened foreign election observers to stay clear of the 2015 presidential election, else they would go back to their countries in body bags. Again, that was an act of incitement to murder. But nobody took El-Rufai up over this incendiary comment. The two hawks had a field day threatening fire and brimstone. The Jonathan presidency merely cringed. No action was taken. It was therefore no surprise that Jonathan gave up the Presidency cheaply. He must have been cowed by Buhari and his militant team.
Given the background of some of those behind Tinubu’s quest for the presidency, it is almost axiomatic to believe that violence would have erupted had Tinubu not been declared winner. The Buhari presidency would have created the atmosphere for that. El-Rufai’s body bag theory would have come alive. Lagos, Tinubu’s homestead, would have been taken over by sponsored street protests. Human rights lawyers and activists would have been induced to occupy Ojota fountain, the traditional spot for Lagos protesters. Spin doctors would have sold the idea that Nigeria was on its way to Golgotha. The story of the day would have been an unusual one. But all this is not happening because the conspirators carried the day.