From Tinubu to Obasanjo and Buhari
Office of the Executive Governor of Lagos State
AN OPEN LETTER ON THE STATE OF THE NATION
Your Excellency General Olusegun Obasanjo
Your Excellency General Muhammadu Buhari:
Our dear leaders,
I find it necessary to write you this open letter at this very critical period
in the history of our country.
This year's election to effect a civilian to civilian political transition no
doubt marks a watershed in the chequered history of democracy in Nigeria. Not
many people were convinced that we could successfully carry out the exercise.
Many openly expressed the fear that we were doomed to repeat the failures of
1963, 1983 and 1993. By now, the cynics would have expected the country to be up
in flames with widespread violence and the military getting set to stage a
comeback. But we thank God that the various elections have been conducted
peacefully nationwide. That, in itself, is a great achievement for which we must
be grateful to the Almighty.
Yet, we cannot pretend that all is well and we do not have a burgeoning crisis
on our hands. There have been widespread allegations of malpractice,
irregularities and outright rigging in the aftermath of the elections. This is
of course natural in any democracy. The important thing is for such grievances
to be resolved peacefully so that they don't lead to the disruption of the
The two of you, our respected statesmen, have taken divergent positions on the
election. One of you, General Buhari, along with a number of other candidates,
has outrightly rejected the results and called for the cancellation of the
elections in specified places. You have called on the international community
not to recognize the government of President Obasanjo and even threatened to
make the country ungovernable after May 29. On your part, Mr. President, you
have naturally maintained that the election was free and fair and have gone
ahead to celebrate your 'overwhelming' mandate.
I think there is need for both of you leaders and statesmen to review your
positions and make necessary compromises in the interest of the nation.
Afterall, democracy is not about uniformity of thought or unanimity of opinion.
At the core of democracy is the right to disagree, and very strongly too; to
engage in heated debate and healthy dispute; to hold opposing views without
allowing dissent to degenerate into enmity, hatred and violence.
Luckily, both of you are soldiers - Retired Gentlemen/Officers. As members of
the military profession, you swore to protect the territorial integrity of
Nigeria with your lives if need be. Indeed, both of you fought prominently in
the Nigerian Civil War to keep Nigeria one. You were ready to sacrifice even
your very existence for the country's cohesion.
If you offered to make the ultimate sacrifice for Nigeria's sake between 1967
and 1970, what sacrifice can you not make now so that the blood of the millions
who died during the war to keep Nigeria together will not be in vain? Moreover,
you are not just ordinary Nigerians. You have both had the opportunity of
presiding over the affairs of Nigeria in the past as heads of State. You
therefore have greater stakes in the survival and success of Nigeria as a viable
and prosperous nation. You have both contributed too much to the building of
Nigeria to watch her disintegrate under your very eyes through a needless and
I have no doubt whatsoever, General Buhari, that you have a point in vehemently
criticising the perceived irregularities and malpractices in the election.
Afterall, you came second in the Presidential Election garnering a substantial
12 million votes. The truth, however, is that it is impossible to have
completely hitch-free elections anywhere in the world. Even in the United States
of America, the most sophisticated democracy on earth, we all witnessed the
controversy that characterised last presidential election.
In the Lagos State governorship election, for instance, I am convinced that
there is no way the PDP could have had the 700,000 votes it was said to have
scored. Here is a party, which was barely able to make it in only two Local
Government Councils on Saturday, April 12 - suddenly "winning" five local
governments within a week! I could easily challenge the results especially as
the PDP in Lagos State has been making wild and misleading claims on the basis
of the exaggerated votes it was said to have scored. But I have chosen to let
sleeping dogs lie in the larger interest of peace and the stability of our
This, General Buhari, is the path I urge you to take. The path of sacrifice in
the national interest. Even those who criticised you in the past as a ruthless
dictator must agree that you have made a strong point for democracy by coming
out to contest the election. You have helped to send the strong signal that the
path to power is through the freely expressed will of the people and not the
barrel of the gun. Your entry into the race rejuvenated the ANPP and invigorated
the process. You gave the incumbent a run for his money and contributed
symbolically and concretely to strengthening the country's democratic culture.
I urge you, General, to build on this achievement rather than embark on any
course of action that may hurt the country and erode the goodwill you have
garnered for yourself. Yes, there were irregularities in the election. Yes,
President Obasanjo may not have been re-elected with the number of votes
claimed, but the truth is that even if fresh elections are held today, he will
still most likely win no matter how slim the margin. The election, no matter how
imperfect, therefore, largely reflected the will of Nigerians.
My suggestion, General, is that you accept the results as the verdict of the
people and the Will of God. Remain vehement in your condemnation of the
malpractices but accept the outcome all the same in the larger interest of
Nigeria. That way, you will have written your name indelibly in the country's
annals as a statesman. You should then channel your energies to helping to
identify and effect necessary reforms in the electoral process to guarantee
truly free and fair elections in future. If you ask me, I will not say that you
should even challenge the results at the tribunal. That process can be as
bitterly fought as the election itself and at the end of the day leave the
polity as fractious and heated as ever.
On your part, Mr. President, yours is the challenge of statesmanship. This
moment, as you said yourself, calls for magnanimity and humility in victory. I
urge you to reach out to General Buhari and other aggrieved candidates. Go to
them if need be. Do not believe those who may be asking you to disregard those
who are aggrieved. Do not dismiss the allegations that there were malpractices
outrightly even though it is notin doubt that you would still have won even if
there were no malpractices.
I suggest that you consider setting up a high-powered commission made up of
credible Nigerians to investigate the just-concluded elections with a view to
identifying and blocking loopholes in the electoral process. For instance, how
accurate and credible is the voters' register? What do we need to do to
eliminate distortions in the register? Are there any loopholes or distortions in
INEC's data base? How do we correct these? What do we need to do to enable
critical institutions in charge of the electoral process function more
efficiently and impartially in future?
I am convinced, Mr. President, that once you are seen to be sincere in your
commitment to eliminating identified lapses in order to ensure better elections
in future, even the most ardent critics of the election will be more re-assured.
These, Mr. President and General Buhari, are my humble suggestions that I
believe will reduce the political tension, elimination, acrimony and promote the
peace which we all need for the socio-economic progress of our fatherland.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Executive Governor, Lagos State