Aisha Buhari, Bola Tinubu and the May 29 inauguration
WITHIN the Muhammadu Buhari household, Aisha, the wife of the president and outgoing First Lady, must be the most avid supporter of President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. She has been a consistent supporter of the All Progressive Congress, APC, party chieftain right from the moment in about 2016 when Tinubu started having trouble with some members of Buhari’s close circle of relatives and political associates led by the reclusive Mamman Daura.
Members of the Buhari inner cabinet had with some measure of success pushed Tinubu out of their circle and denied him access to the president shortly after his inauguration in 2015. For the most part of Buhari’s first term in office, the situation would remain like this until Buhari again needed Tinubu in 2019 to lend support to his re-election bid and shamelessly went back to him.
As soon as the election was over and Buhari was re-elected, Tinubu was sent back to the outer darkness of Buhari’s political life with the active support of those members of the inner cabinet that were opposed to his presence around Buhari in 2016. He was that expendable as far as Buhari was concerned and might well not have had the opportunity to stand for the 2023 elections, to say nothing of him winning it, had he not taken the battle to his opponents in the APC. In Biblical fashion he took that political kingdom of the APC by both “violence” and “force”, beginning with the memorable outburst in Abeokuta shortly before the presidential primaries. This was his emilokan declaration, an audacious move, that heralded his victory at the Eagle’s Square shortly after!
It’s important to make clear here that it’s in order to refer to Bola Tinubu as the president-elect. Those opposed to his being called that are being disingenuous as they do so mainly on grounds that the 2023 presidential election that he won is yet in dispute before the courts. But such arguments are merely specious. They deliberately fail to put in perspective the full range of the country’s legal history as it pertains to electoral disputes.
For these opponents of Tinubu, the May 29 inauguration should not hold until all matters concerning the 2023 presidential election are resolved. They do not mind the inauguration of members of the National Assembly which include many of their supporters that were all products of the same election they are disputing that produced the president-elect. Their problem is with the presidential election which they lost.
Need these people be reminded that the 1979 election was probably the first and last on record in which disputes related to a presidential election were resolved before the winner of the election was sworn into office? The presidential election of that year held in August and by September all litigation connected to it had been resolved ahead of the inauguration of President Shehu Shagari on October 1, 1979. The litigants’ complaints that trailed that episode that the time allotted to resolve the legal disputes was too short were what led to the present state of things.
Electoral disputes today take several months, even years after winners of disputed elections had been sworn into office, to be resolved. Providing more time for litigation was the take-away from the 1979 presidential election.
The complaint now is that the time provided to resolve electoral disputes is too long. It leaves room, the argument goes, for clear cases of illegality where beneficiaries of disputed elections, veritable usurpers, who eventually lose would have been given unwarranted access to state resources until their suits are determined. This is sound argument but it would be tenable not after an election has been won and lost on the basis of extant laws as in the 2023 presidential election, but hereafter when the laws have been amended to take care of the observed flaws. The position of angry politicians who lost the election and their advisers masquerading as legal experts and human rights activists is at best vacuous or at worst an expression of bigotry occasioned by partisanship.
Between the 1999 and 2023 elections that cover the entire period of Nigeria’s return to civil governance, no presidential election has gone without dispute. All have had to be resolved by the Supreme Court after many months or, in the case of the 2003 elections that brought Olusegun Obasanjo into office, in July 2005, almost two and half years after Obasanjo had been in office. All of those kicking now were in the country then. How many times did Peter Obi make the rounds of the courts between 2003 and 2007 just to regain his mandate as governor of Anambra?
All through that time, including March 2006 when within hours of being declared winner of the 2003 elections, he was sworn into office, was Peter Obi’s inauguration or that of Chris Ngige, Virginia Etiaba or Andy Uba delayed until disputes around them were resolved? As with the inauguration of May 29, so with claims about the status of Abuja in a presidential election. How many times have presidents been sworn in without winning 25 per cent of the votes cast in the FCT? Why should this be an issue now? There’s need for consistency in truth-telling in all of this. Not this blind and irrational demand for a change of rule after an election is over.
All things being equal, the presidential inauguration of May 29 is well and on course. In showing Oluremi Tinubu, a serving senator and in-coming First Lady, round the presidential villa and informing her of the first family’s relocation to a temporary residence, a final point of departure, within the villa, Aisha Buhari is playing the part of a responsible predecessor.
It is part of the foundation of a stable democratic practice. Part of the protocol for a democratic transfer of power. She has accepted that their residence in Aso Rock Villa as the first family and the tenure of her husband as president is coming to an end. By prepping the first lady-in-waiting for the task ahead, she is oiling the process of governance for a smooth sail.
Aisha Buhari seems content to be leaving the seat of power and happy playing her part in ushering into office Ahmed Bola Tinubu, whose support was the most consequential of all that led to the emergence of her own husband as president. What Buhari made of that support is a different matter but Aisha was a bulwark, a one-woman army, in the insider column that battled the forces that held her husband hostage and dictated the trend of governance in those tense months and years when “the presidency” steered the ship of state in no particular direction.
While apparently protecting her interest, Aisha’s conduct is a rare statement in loyalty.
•Written By Rotimi Fasan