Confusion As Nigeria Welcomes “Contested Presidency”


The programs lined up for the inauguration of Nigeria’s 16th President were released by the Presidential Transition Council on Thursday. Amid litigation against the President-Elect’s right to take office on 29th May, sources say “it would be difficult to remove Bola Ahmed Tinubu” once he is sworn in as President.

Since Bola Ahmed Tinubu was announced the winner of the 2023 Nigerian Presidential Election on March 1st, petitions have been raised by opposition parties contesting his victory. All insist that manipulation occurred at the polls and blame the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for being inadequate, corrupt, and unaccountable. Electronic provisions put in place by INEC failed, and parties claim their numbers were subtracted to rig in Bola Ahmed Tinubu as President-Elect. With the customary Presidential Inauguration Day fast approaching, many Nigerians have questioned whether it is even legal to proceed as usual.

Yesterday, Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha addressed a news conference in Abuja, stating clearly that the upcoming inauguration was constitutional and had precedent. Former Presidents of Nigeria had taken office in the past while litigation contesting their victories went on in court. Presidents Shehu Shagari and Olusegun Obasanjo had similar cases in court when they took office, and the Electoral Act of the country’s 1999 constitution permitted it.

Boss Mustapha added that the inauguration events will be broadcasted live on major news channels and will also be live-streamed on various social media platforms. Despite many Nigerians’ concern about swearing in Bola Ahmed Tinubu in 10 days’ time, he disclosed that a number of Heads of Government had indicated an interest in attending the inauguration already.

Speaking to The Guardian Newspaper, Former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), one of the two main opposition parties, Chief Olabode George opined that “The future of our great country depends on the outcome of the court. We are [in this condition] today because of the shenanigans of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The Commission gave us a sham of an election.” He added that “Every petition by those contesting the outcome of the election is already with the Justices. Elections are not over. How can you now declare a winner or do the inauguration when elections are not over? That will lead to more crises.”

This comes just days after the first official call between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Nigerian President-Elect Bola Tinubu on Tuesday, pledging bilateral cooperation with the incoming administration. Adding to the shock of Nigerians, Secretary Blinken also announced that the United States had taken steps to impose visa bans on persons who disrupted the recent general elections in Nigeria. 

“Today, I am announcing that we have taken steps to impose visa restrictions on specific individuals in Nigeria for undermining the democratic process during Nigeria’s 2023 elections cycle… These individuals have been involved in intimidation of voters through threats and physical violence, the manipulation of vote results, and other activity that undermines Nigeria’s democratic process.” With the United States of America clearly supporting the President-Elect’s right to take office, everyone else is left to wonder if those suing him in court and their active supporters aren’t under this category of “specific individuals.”

Unlike governors and legislators elected even at the national level in Nigeria over the years, no sitting president has ever been removed from office for losing a case like this, and no one is certain what tribal or political chaos would occur if that happened. An alternative interpretation, according to Section 135(1)(a) of the Constitution, suggests that the Incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari remains in office until his successor is sworn in. 

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However, if the Incumbent President still holds power after May 29th, it would violate the part of the constitution that allows a president to hold power no longer than two terms (8 years exactly) in office. The best opposition parties can hope for is for judgment to pass on this pending litigation before Inauguration Day in 10 days time.

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