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2023 presidential election: Losers and gainers

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Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain – 1 Corinthians 9:24

The word of God stands true and cannot be broken. Anyone who pays heed to it, be they Christian, Muslim or unbelievers, will find God true to His word. It is, thus, for no fun that scripture says God honours His word more than He honours His name. Let’s try and apply the word of God above to the just-concluded 2023 presidential election. Eighteen candidates ran in the last presidential race but the above scripture says only one of them will be crowned the winner. Has that not come to pass?

Is it not true that only one of them will receive the prize, which is the presidential crown? This is the first truth anyone running in the race should have understood: Only one person will win; not two and not three. You must, therefore, zero in your mind from Day One that only one person will win the race. If you are lucky, you will be the one; if not, it will be someone else. Scripture does not expect you to see the race as do-or-die or battle unto death.

There is life after the race. But because of the importance of the race, God advises you to “so run”; in other words, run this race in such a way and manner that you will “obtain” (the prize). Put all you have into this race; pull no punches; be diligent; be focused; bend over backward and always be mindful that only one person will “obtain” the prize. Only one out of 18 candidates will win the presidential race and become the President of Nigeria and that candidate is the one who “so runs”; who runs better than all the others; who fulfils conditions that the others did not or could not fulfil; or who makes the least number of errors. He is the one that runs the best error-free or near error-free race. Unforced errors, as in the game of lawn tennis, can cause an athlete the prize. One costly mistake can cause a football team a match and the prize.

Some had thought that the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar would win the presidential race hands down. He has been in the race far longer than any other contestant; so he has experience, which many will admit is the best teacher. With that experience, he overcame the robust challenge of the Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike, in the party primary. Atiku was also a two-term Vice President under President Olusegun Obasanjo; so he can be said to be the one out of the 18 who had moved closest to the coveted seat of president. That, too, is cognate experience. One advertisement says: You lack cognate experience but insist you are the best for the job, “who be your teacher”?

Atiku was also said to be the candidate of the presidency cabal and a rump of the so-called “owners” of Nigeria, These were formidable credentials but how did Atiku run his race? Did he “so run” as to “obtain”? Sadly, he did not and that cost him the presidency. His choice of running mate (Delta State’s Governor Ifeanyi Okowa) was poorly made and disastrously executed. Sticking with Iyorchia Ayu as PDP national chairman worsened matters for him. He lost the support of five governors and the people he pitched his tent with – Ayu and Okowa – were paperweight replacements who added little or no electoral value to his campaign. They both lost their states to rival political parties.

Atiku has blamed Peter Obi’s defection from the PDP for the party’s loss. That argument is neither here nor there. It cannot be said that Obi’s campaign would have gathered the momentum it did were he still under the shadows of Atiku. Without Obi, Atiku stood the chance of winning the election if he had the PDP intact. If the G-5 were still in the fold, he most likely would have won Benue, Oyo and Rivers States, all of which Tinubu won, and that would have seriously depleted the eventual winner’s total haul of votes. This was an election Atiku should have won hands down but he turned out to be the architect of his own destruction.

Someone said overconfidence killed him. Another said Nemesis caught up with him. What he inflicted on then President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014/2015 when he led five rebellious PDP governors out of the party, returned to haunt him. Why was he also unable to get Rabiu Kwankwaso into his corner? Someone said arrogance and foolish pride were responsible. The last election was Atiku’s to kill, but he flunked it the way he ran for it. He did not “so run” to “obtain”; therefore, it slipped through his fingers.

Obi could also have won the election or, at the least, forced a rerun but he, too, didn’t “so run” to “obtain”. Despite the bravura and razzmatazz that attended Obi’s campaign, I do not think Obi believed in his heart of heart that he could win the election. At best, he only wanted to make a statement, be a spoil sport and kill joy or force a rerun and become the next beautiful bride of Nigerian politics after the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe (fondly called Zik). His first missed step was when his alliance talks with Kwankwaso failed. A combination of both men would have driven the last election to the wires. What went wrong?

Both men had limited goals. Kwankwaso will most likely return to relevance in Kano and one more state in the North if he is lucky. And I think that will be good enough for him to kick-start his comatose political career. Obi, on the other hand, has surpassed his wildest imagination. How he will retain relevance in the murky waters of Nigerian politics of winner-takes-all and where politicians loathe being in the opposition remains to be seen. Many of the factors that combined to propel Obi to stardom in the last election will fizzle out one after the other in the coming months. When that happens, he will be reduced, at best, to a local or former champion.

Of all the contestants, Tinubu ran a campaign closest to that recommended by the scripture. Despite that he is not a Christian, he “so ran” so he could obtain, irrespective of all the darts thrown at him and the obstacles erected in his way. He fought doggedly all the way, pressing toward the mark, like the Apostle Paul had said in Philippians 3:14. Tinubu fought to win the APC primary when many had written him off, making his emi l’okan and o lu’le earth-shaking statements at Abeokuta, Ogun State. He returned to the same Abeokuta weeks after to also lambast the orchestrated Naira and fuel scarcity meant to hurt his chances at winning the election.

He fought not just the opposition but also his own APC government. He fought presidential cabals. He tactically fought and embraced President Muhammadu Buhari at one and the same time. The hurdles he had to scale were more than those Tobi Amusan scaled to set a new world record in 110 metres hurdles! #ENDSARSNOW Youths! Muslim-Muslim ticket! OBJ! Danjuma! So-called “Owners” of Nigeria! Bode George! Lagos for Lagosians! Yoruba self-determination groups! Ayo Adebanjo! Ota ile! Ota ode! A-mo’ni-se’ni! A-fai-mo’ni-se’ni! Estranged godsons! Name it! But he stayed the course. God is not a liar! Whoever you are, if you follow His word, it will work for you. If you do not, no matter how close you deceive yourself that you are to Him, you will lu’le yakata!

So, all those who said there would be no elections, that God spoke to them, that they saw vision, they were in trance, they were on mountain, ori-oke ni, ori-isale ni, they had just fasted 100 days, they said there would be no elections, they said Tinubu would not win; that he would not even see the election – all of you folks, how now? Some even vowed: Except God did not call them! Some gave the impression that except they first hear from God, nothing happens! But come to think of it, which God were they talking about? The God who is sovereign, as He demonstrated to Eli, to Jonah, in the life of Hezekiah and Ahab to mention but a few? They profaned the name of the Lord. They read their bible upside down. They misled the elect of God.

Now, I am not against a Christian being President. But in 2019, I think, at an Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation workshop held, interestingly, at Atiku’s American University in Yola, I ruminated on 2023 as I left the venue to use the ATM nearby: In 2023, we will have to set our priorities right; whether a southern president or a Christian president. If a Southern president is our priority, we should not mind his religion. But if a Christian president, we should not mind his region. If we insist on both in one person, we may lose both. That informed my views on the issue ever since.

Again, those who pretend to fight for a Christian candidate left the battle a little too late. They should have started the fight when Atiku emerged to upturn PDP’s rotational arrangement. They should have frightened him off and helped Wike win the PDP presidential ticket. When Tinubu also emerged to contest the APC presidential ticket, they should have done similarly to him and helped either Rotimi Amaechi or Yemi Osinbajo win the APC presidential ticket. But to look the other way when the two leading political parties handed their presidential tickets to Muslims only to begin to fight for a running mate slot and upset the country because of crumbs baffles and irritates me. Now that a Muslim-Muslim ticket has won the election, what is their Plan B? Is it to make the country ungovernable as we are hearing? To send our youths to the slaughter while their own children are kept safe? Remember, it was an attempt to make the country ungovernable for Jonathan, if he failed to concede defeat in 2015 that brought the murderous herdsmen that have since turned this country into a killing field, drenched in blood from the North to the South. Who can tell what any attempt to make the country ungovernable for Tinubu will portend?

A word, they say, is enough for the wise!

Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of the Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Bolawole writes the On the Lord’s Day column in the Sunday Tribune and the Treasurers column in the New Telegraph newspapers. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television. He can be reached on turnpot@gmail.com +234 807 552 5533, +234 705 263 1058

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