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Tinubu, The audacity of a lie ~ by Okey Ndibe

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I might as well confess it from the outset: what passed for an election in Nigeria two weeks ago was an outrage, and it brought me as close to depression as I could ever be. No, it wasn’t that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) delivered designed incompetence where I expected excellence.

To the contrary, I had stated in a webinar that I was far from impressed by INEC’s protestations of readiness and impartiality. What transpired on February 25 did not surprise me. But it certainly dismayed me.

The eyes of the world were on Nigeria. And Nigeria failed to give a creditable account of it.

At the end of a disheartening gambit, INEC declared Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All-Progressives Congress as the winner of the presidential election.

It was, above all, the audacity of a lie.

You didn’t need the witness of scores of polling monitors to figure out that Tinubu’s was a profoundly questionable mandate. There’s a simple “eye” test for judging the credibility of an election. Look around. Is there cheer all around? Or is the space strangely quiet, the faces of people set to a stunned, funereal look?

If close to nine million Nigerians had chosen Tinubu as the man to run their lives for the next four years, then those voters have a bizarre case of buyers’ quietude. Pray, where are the masses giddy with excitement over their new leader? Where’s the sense of exhilaration, the signs of awakened hope?

Yes, I have seen scattered moments of celebration among professional politicians and their megaphones in the social media community. But that’s no barometer of the wider, national mood.

From all appearances, the prospect of Tinubu as “president-elect” has unleashed nationwide dejection. Nigeria feels like the funeral of a young, vibrant person.

Some apologists for the farce that passed for an election are quick to assert that there’s no perfect election. That, I’m afraid, is a peculiarly Nigerian mode of foolishness. Or—to make the same point in kinder language—it is a way of self-deception.

The main criticism of Nigeria’s recent election is not that it wasn’t perfect. It’s that, despite every fulsome promise made by INEC officials, the process became (in too many places) an egregious exhibition of how not to run an election. It was, in that sense, an embrace of fraud and thuggery—in other words, imperfection—as the governing principle.

One hopes that the judiciary finds the moral spine to reject the electoral heist of February 25. Most dispassionate analysts realize how abundant the evidence of electoral fraud is. If Tinubu’s presidency-by-theft is permitted to stand, it will add another coat of dishonor on the tarnished image of the Nigerian judiciary.

I’m particularly troubled by what that outcome might mean for Nigeria’s youth. In 2020, they orchestrated the #EndSARS movement, determined to use peaceful means to change their country. The Muhammadu Buhari government killed their dream with murderous violence.

Two and a half years later, these same youths essayed to achieve their goals through the ballot. Again, they were thwarted by the same unconscionable forces that have turned Nigeria into a dark, hope-deprived space.

If the impunity stands, no one can predict what form of mobilization or resistance Nigeria’s much-betrayed youngsters will adopt next. But—in the words of James Baldwin—it may well be the fire next time!

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