A Nation Divided Editor’s Foreword: The Republic V7, N2

In a few days, Nigeria will begin a new presidential administration. Will a Tinubu presidency unite or further divide us? Our latest issue, A Nation Divided, looks at the forthcoming inauguration, the meaning of a Tinubu presidency and the roads that lie ahead. Purchase the issue here. We ship worldwide.

Available information and our national body language suggest on May 29, Nigeria will inaugurate Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the next president. Tinubu will effectively become our fifth president since Nigeria regained democracy in 1999 and the All Progressives Congress (APC) will be set to extend its eight-year leadership of Nigeria by, at least, another four years. Many Nigerians are unhappy with this outcome, and rightly so: in 2015, APC rode to power on the mantra of ‘change’ but over two terms, Buhari’s core agenda to tackle corruption, insecurity and slow economic growth proved abysmal, earning him the title, ‘the president who belonged to himself’. At the onset of the elections earlier this year, the Buhari administration could boast of kindling and enraging a new generation of disillusioned Nigerians. Human rights had been routinely trampled; media freedoms repressed. Nationwide, Nigerians found themselves poorer, hungrier and less safe; Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade turned out listless.

APC’s critics have refused to accept the results. Tinubu’s main rivals, Abubakar Atiku of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and the Labour Party (LP)’s Peter Obi, have presented petitions to the Presidential Election Petition Court. History, however, allows for quick guesses: all elections since 1999 have been petitioned; no petition has ever been successful. Not surprisingly, the most tangible outcomes we’ve seen so far have been a series of adjournments—the latest as of writing being that Atiku’s petition has been adjourned till May 22, only a week to the inauguration. But here lies the real impasse: if streets aren’t, memories nationwide are still littered with the daylight bigotry that characterized the state and federal elections: from videos of APC stalwarts threatening Igbo citizens to full-blown online and offline adverts that took such narratives mainstream.  

APC supporters insist that Nigerians should accept the results and move on. Unsurprisingly, they argue that the failings of the Buhari administration are exaggerated. They point especially to progress made with infrastructure including, only this year, the commissioning of Nigeria’s first deep seaport and the much anticipated Dangote Refinery, which at 32.5 million annual tonne capacity is supposedly thelargest-single train crude oil refinery in the world. Both private sector-led projects (and there have been others through the years), APC supporters argue that Tinubu who is believed to be of a more neoliberal disposition than Buhari will usher in more private sector investment and kickstart economic growth. With, for instance, foreign direct investment currently at under $500 million (compared to $3 billion in 2015) Buhari has certainly left Tinubu some very worn out shoes to fill. In the meantime, APC supporters insist (though unconvincingly) that elections are over and that anything other than acceptance of Tinubu’s presidency is a distraction to Nigeria’s much needed progress. They warn that to demand electoral integrity even through such means as [legal] petitions is to destabilize Nigeria’s democracy and to delay our economic recovery. Foreseeing some grievance on inauguration day, as of writing, spokespersons such as Bashir Ahmad (a special assistant on digital communications to President Buhari) have warned that, ‘If you don’t have any business at or around Eagle Square on Monday, May 29th, STAY AWAY, a strong warning from the security.’  

This is the country Tinubu is set to inherit and in our latest issue our authors consider the forthcoming inauguration, the meaning of a Tinubu presidency and the roads that lie ahead. Will a Tinubu presidency unite or further divide us? 

Charles Ekpo launches the issue by asking one of the most pertinent questions as the Tinubu era approaches: What can Tinubu do differently? Specifically, Ekpo’s concern is towards Tinubu’s potential ability to unite Nigerians despite the failings of APC, the historical marginalization of the South East and the virulently anti-Igbo campaigns pro-APC agents led during the recent elections. While getting Nigerians to support the Tinubu administration won’t be easy, in the South East especially, where insecurity is on the rise, demand for security and stability, Ekpo argues, could provide avenues for broader, necessary reconciliation efforts. According to Ekpo, ‘The instability in the South East region was escalated by the Buhari government’s negligence and highhandedness in managing its concomitant agitations. Tinubu can remedy the situation with a reversed policy that represents fairness, equity, justice, and fraternity towards the Igbos in the South East and elsewhere in Nigeria.’

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Abel B. S. Gaiya looks beyond Nigeria’s borders at what will form the foreign policy priorities for the Tinubu administration. Gaiya puts Nigeria’s frequent border closures and apathetic intra-African foreign economic policies into regional context, which too few analysts do. More importantly, it highlights Nigeria’s regional significance to the pace of economic integration across West Africa. ‘Nigeria, the largest economy of the region and the West African country with the largest share of intra-regional imports, is the country that is primarily responsible for a proliferation of non-tariff barriers (such as difficult customs procedures) in West Africa,’ Gaiya writes. ‘The Nigerian president-elect will be entering into this pre-existing structural context. The question is: are these problems intractable? If they are not, what could be done for the next four to possibly eight years of his leadership in order to create a more progressive Nigerian foreign economic policy that has real impact?  

Muzz Muhammad, who wrote the headline essay of our Godfathers issue, returns in this issue, exploring the long-term implications of LP’s election experience. According to Muhammad, the 2023 elections followed the 2015 example in showing that energetic, well-organized, and well-trusted opposition can achieve surprising successes against incumbent parties, even in the face of voter suppression, electoral violence and political apathy. Muhammad also believes the 2023 elections went beyond 2015 in showing that such successes may occur despite a lack of support from godfathers and other members of the political elite. For Muhammad, much of LP’s performance in Nigeria’s 2023 elections is reminiscent of the Democratic Labor Party (DLP)’s early experience in South Korea. Both parties,’ he explains, emerged out of labour agitation, found support among marginalized and otherwise disadvantaged voters, and benefited from the appeal of charismatic leadership that gave life to their parties’ platforms and other voter aspirations beyond these. While DLP and its successors have never managed to win South Korean elections at the national level, the appeal of the party’s platform brought much of its ideas into other larger parties, and to South Korean government policy and even international relations.  

Our second issue of 2023, this issue also includes additional feature essays and interviews pertinent to the inauguration such as an essay by political analyst, Folahanmi Aina, on what nation building could look like under Tinubu, and an interview with political-economist Zainab Usman on her latest book, Economic Diversification in Nigeria: The Politics of Building a Post-Oil Economy 

Nearly a year after a shooting took place at St Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, we visited the church, where despite the trauma of surviving a massacre, church members have returned, and service has resumed. This issue includes reporting and photography from our visit. Since our previous issue, The Republic has received funding and capacity-building support from Africa No Filter (ANF) as well as an award from the Google News Initiative’s Innovation Challenge. ANF’s support contributed towards the production of this issue. Additionally, Google’s award will go towards helping us to build ATLAS, a photo discovery and licensing platform.  

As usual, we encourage our readers to engage with our essays and articles and to provide insightful comments. Readers may send their views directly to the Editor by addressing emails (of no more than 700 words) to [email protected], with the subject, ‘Comment on Xyz Essay’, or ‘Letter to the Editor’ as applies. Comments and letters will be archived and, depending on the quality of the arguments presented, we may reach out to assist in developing your letters and comments further for publishing in the magazine.  

At The Republic, we will always prioritize the meaningful exchange of ideas. We commit to pressing forward: on the most critical of social, political and economic issues; by innovating through knowledge gaps; and by providing guidance through thickets of opinion, ignorance and misinformation—three key features of our time—in search of glades of insight 

The views, thoughts, and opinions published in The Republic belong solely to the author and are not necessarily the views of The Republic or its editors. We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editors by writing to [email protected].