President-Elect Tinubu Returns to Nigeria
Nigeria’s President-elect Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is back in the country. He was declared winner of the February 25 Presidential election with 8,794,726 of the total votes cast with over 25% in 30 states, more than the 24 states required by the constitution. He reportedly returned to the country at 4.30pm yesterday through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja after a four-week vacation in Europe and Saudi Arabia. He left the country on March 21, and according to his handlers, the president-elect needed time to rest, relax, re-tune, rejuvenate and prepare for the inauguration of a new government on May 29. We were told he would be in France, the UK and Saudi Arabia where he was expected to observe the lesser hajj, that is Umrah. The trip fueled speculations about the state of his health, with many Nigerians arguing that his trip abroad was a cover up for undisclosed medical treatment. There were even videos of his sightings in Guinea, and speculations about his citizenship. For record purposes, I had argued on another platform, The Morning Show of AriseNews, the television wing of this newspaper where, as lead anchor I ruminate on sundry issues every morning – that Asiwaju Tinubu has the right to the freedom of movement and that I did not see anything wrong if he wanted to take time off to rest after what we would all readily agree was a hectic, hypertensive, campaign season.
Nigerians were however inconsolable. They wanted the President-elect on the ground. They said they were not comfortable with the idea of a President-elect who would be missing in action or become the equivalent of an unidentifiable, untraceable flying object going from France to the UK to Saudi Arabia and wherever. Where is he?, they asked. And that included even persons that did not vote for him. To be fair, I could understand the concerns of those who raised these questions. When a man is proclaimed President-elect, he becomes automatically, a property of the state. He becomes a person and subject of state interest. He is effectively no longer an ordinary person. He is asked to move into secure state accommodation, in this case, the Aguda House in Abuja. He is given a full complement of state security. He receives daily briefings from all the security agencies. He acts in other words, as if he were already President. The only difference is that he cannot yet exercise executive powers until he is duly sworn in and he takes the oath of office. The underlying logic in this regard is that there cannot be two Presidents at a time. So, in effect, Tinubu is a President-in-waiting, and Nigerians who are concerned about his movement, health and safety have every reason to raise questions. There are also national security implications. The British, Chinese and the Americans would not allow their President-elect yo-yoing across the world weeks before inauguration. In traditional communities, such persons, waiting to ascend the throne, are kept in seclusion, to be prepared for the enormous assignment ahead and their transition from one plane of existence to the other.
However, Bola Tinubu is back. What a big relief! His return, yesterday, it can be said, has settled the questions about his condition and health. Those who have raised questions about his health and circumstances can now see him. It bears stating that no one would expect any further overseas travel by the President-elect before his inauguration, 35 days from now. The timing of his return is also auspicious. The Ramadan season is over, and whoever uses religion as the excuse for being abroad, is of course expected to return. While he was away, the supplementary elections in 24 states of the Federation took place on April 15. The President-elect issued a statement commending the process and asking all elected persons to work with him. While he was away also, there were controversies about his citizenship and whether or not he committed perjury in filling the Form EC9 that he submitted to INEC. Quite a number of persons insist that the President-elect must address these two issues.
I have argued and I stand to be corrected that the controversy about his Guinean connection and/or dual citizenship is of no moment. No right-thinking, reasonable person would imagine that Tinubu is not a Nigerian. He is in fact more Nigerian than most of us. That is why he is President today and you and I are busy still pursuing the dream. The laws of our land recognize dual citizenship, and in law that matter was settled in the Bukola Saraki case. The conditions for citizenship are properly spelled out in Sections 25 – 28 of the 1999 Constitution, and there is no point quibbling over Tinubu’s qualifications in that regard. The other issue that has been raised has to do with perjury. But that can only be proven and confirmed by a court of law. Section 117 of the Criminal Code frowns upon giving false evidence or testimony, either orally or in writing, and Section 118 further prescribes punishment accordingly. But perjury has to be proven. It should be recalled that last year, some lawyers went to the Federal High Court accusing Tinubu of perjury. It was an ex parte motion seeking an order of judicial review with regard to Tinubu’s educational qualification. What is the status of that case?
We have been through this route before, by the way. As Governor of Lagos State, Tinubu was similarly accused of perjury. The lawyer involved in that case was a jurist of timbre and calibre: the inimitable Gani Fawehimi. “Gani The Law” was a formidable officer in the temple of justice. But nothing came out of that case. The matter was dismissed. The order of mandamus sought by Gani Fawehinmi was ruled out of time. Tinubu was already Governor. The court held that the was covered by immunity under Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution. I imagine that similarly, history would repeat itself on this matter, in the same manner in which it is certain that the inauguration of Asiwaju Tinubu as President of Nigeria would take place on May 29, 2023. It is true that there are petitions at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, but anybody who knows Nigeria fairly well can confidently wager a bet that their Lordships will not give a decision to upturn the social and political order. Tinubu has already set up an inauguration committee, a 13-man committee. His associates have been sighted attending the Spring meetings of the Bretton Woods institutions in Washington DC, United States. He has been busy playing Rose Garden politics. Meanwhile, nothing has been heard from the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal. Petitions and cross petitions have been filed. Hundreds of lawyers have been lined up. We would probably be here in 50 days from now, with inauguration done attended by traditional rulers competing for attention, the international community in attendance too, a Federal cabinet in place, the woman in charge of catering for the Presidential inauguration Ball having been paid for her pepper soup, small chops, and jollof rice, and the aso ebi, skyscraper Yoruba headgear crowd compensated, a new National Assembly inaugurated, and then the election petition tribunals would suddenly start sitting… The same tribunals would be paid and offered logistics by the new government. Indeed, the Nigerian system is one of the most comedic in the world. Never mind. The lawyers will collect their pay, there will be one or two dramas in the courts, the judges will be happy to have made some fine points of law, and we will all move on.