Femi Adesina believes that the
2023 presidential election was not so perfect but maintained that his
principal, President Muhammadu Buhari, remains the authentic Nigerian hero.
Adesina aired his opinion via his
article titled “FOR PMB, IT’S NIGERIA, AND NOTHING ELSE.”
The presidential media aide noted
that in preparation for the 2023 elections, the President’s first loyalty was
to the country despite that he is a party man.
Adesina noted that even some APC
men and women began to suspect the President because of his dogged commitment
to free, fair, credible polls.
The media aide also stated the
reason President Buhari unveiled his ballot papers after he voted in Daura.
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In some other lands and climes,
elections are held on weekdays, in which people cast their votes, and proceed
to the office, or other places of endeavor.
But here, we must first die many
times before our death, when elections approach. Many are the doomsday scenarios
painted, that we do not know whether to stay in the country or show a clean
pair of heels. To japa, as the new lingo has it.
The 2023 presidential and
National Assembly election was not different. Some young mothers were already
conceiving how they would strap their babies to their backs, and make a dash
for it, when trouble flares. To where, specifically, I asked one of them. To
nowhere, she responded. “I’ll just start running.” Lol.
Many were also the family heads
who had started planning where they would seek refuge with their ‘entourage’
when the bubble bursts. But elections are not war, and should not be.
But do you blame Nigerians? No,
you shouldn’t. History has shown us that one election is progressively worse
than the other in the country. Well, till President Muhammadu Buhari came in
I was already here, but too young
to remember the elections that led to ‘Operation Wet e’ (douse with petrol and
set ablaze) in the mid-60s, which caused severe unrest in the Western part of
the country, and eventually culminated in seizure of power by the military, and
dovetailed into the Civil War.
The next was the 1979 election. I
was a young adult, and recall the saber-rattling, the allegations of sharp
practices and stealing of votes, pockets of violence, and loss of lives in some
If that was bad, 1983 was worse.
Sorrow, tears and blood. Riots, killings, civil unrest. Again, it contributed a
long way to the takeover of power by the military in December of that year.
What of June 12, 1993? The mother
of it all. Peaceful build up, calm polls, but how did it end? In a fiasco. The
winner, Basorun MKO Abiola couldn’t assume office, as the ‘owners’ of the
country annulled the election, and foisted an Interim National Government (ING)
on us. It ended in another military adventurism.
How about 1999, 2003, 2007, and
2011? Rumors of war. Tears. Bloodshed. Panic, higgledy-piggledy. Why? Because
we were holding elections. Should it happen that way?
But Muhammadu Buhari won the very
pulsating race for power in 2015, and since then, our elections began to
improve. Off-season polls didn’t have to be won by the party in power, through
hook or crook. Let the people choose whoever they wanted, and we saw it in bold
relief in Ondo, Kogi, Bayelsa, Anambra, Osun, Ekiti, and many other places. The
mantra of President Buhari is; “let us respect our people, and let them choose
whoever they want, across the party lines. Yes, I want my party to win, but
then, our candidates must work for victory.”
It was against that backdrop that
the 2023 elections were held. Wherever and whenever he had the opportunity,
locally, internationally, even at United Nations General Assembly, the greatest
platform in the world, President Buhari said it. “I will leave the legacy of
free, fair credible elections for Nigeria.” In other words, it won’t be a
do-or-die affair, as we had once been told by a retreating President.
Even some of his party men and
women began to suspect the President. Are you for us or against us? What is
this dogged commitment to free, fair, credible polls, when we want to hold on
to power for as long as possible? But the man was not fazed. He held onto his
grounds, stuck to his guns. Even some economic policies, like the currency
swap, which seemed to be hurting the people and reducing the chances of the All
Progressives Congress (APC) for a possible return, President Buhari stuck to,
knowing it was good for the country and a veritable way to clean up our
The first phase of the 2023
elections has been held, to elect a new President, and National Assembly
members. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been declared the winner and issued a
Certificate of Return. Was it a perfect election? Not so. Electronic
transmission of results failed, due to technical glitches, and the Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC) had to resort to manual collation. Joseph
Stalin, the Soviet Union tyrant had been credited with saying: “Those who cast
the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.”
Hmmmm. The Devil comes in during
collation. Very serious. Did such happen in last Saturday’s election? We wait
to see, depending on evidences that will be brought forward by those
challenging the declared result.
But one thing is definite about
President Buhari. He would never be part of any mago-mago or wuruwuru. Just
give him unimpeachable evidence of underhand dealings, and he throws you away
like a bad habit.
The President’s first loyalty is
to the country. Unflinching. Unassailable. Despite being a loyal party man, and
committed to the candidate of his party, whom he went around the country
campaigning for, he told Nigerians several times: vote for the candidate of
your choice across the parties. That’s the heart of a father, a man beyond
partisan considerations, as a democratically elected President.
To prove cynics and septics
wrong, the man displayed his ballot paper last Saturday, after voting for APC
candidates. Some lawyers have criticized the action, saying it runs contrary to
electoral laws. But we know why the President did it. To shut the mouths of
conspiracy theorists, who had been trying to establish that he was against the
candidate of his party.
There are contentions about the
declared results. Yes, it is part of good electoral practices that those who
have issues should be listened to. Even the President himself challenged
election results up to Supreme Court three times. When he was ruled out the
third time, he said “God dey.” And God eventually showed up. The Almighty is
still at work in Nigeria.
President Buhari has provided a
level playing field for all contestants in the election. Any other contrary
thing was not at his instance or instigation. Couldn’t have been. He remains
the authentic Nigerian hero, a stickler for integrity, accountability and
*Adesina is Special Adviser to
President Buhari on Media and Publicity