In the dynamic political landscape of Nigeria, power struggles, fallouts, and reconciliations are not uncommon. One such intriguing tale is the journey of four prominent figures: Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola, Akinwunmi Ambode, and Babajide Sanwo-Olu. This quartet’s intricate relationship, marked by conflicts and subsequent unity, offers valuable lessons for Nigeria as it strives for political stability, progress, and national unity.
Elections are a prominent feature of democracy, serving as an essential tool to ascertain the will of the people regarding their preferred leadership for the nation. The individual who emerges as the winner represents the majority and this process holds great significance due to its impact on the lives of all citizens and the nation’s reputation. However, this system is not flawless as it solely caters to the decision of the majority, leaving no alternative or role in governance for the minority candidate who contested and lost. Each candidate aspires to win and become the people’s choice, but it is legally established that only one candidate can emerge as the winner of the election.
The expectation is that each candidate presents themselves as the most suitable candidate for a leadership position through the election process. They demonstrate their intentions and proposed plans in their manifesto. However, only one candidate is granted the privilege to implement their manifesto upon winning, while the other candidates are left to contemplate their losses. The focus is primarily on the winning candidate, while the differing opinions and choices among the populace make accepting the election results challenging in practice.
One concrete example of this ongoing conflict in the opinions of the masses can be observed in the recently concluded presidential election and the subsequent swearing-in of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The current conflicts in opinion about the leadership of Nigeria need to be jettisoned and the focus of the citizenry should be on the performance of the current government. The conflicts among groups about the election process should be left to the appropriate authority who is obligated by law to interpret the provisions of the law in relation to the election process. Despite the election process still facing challenges, President Tinubu has wasted no time in actively engaging in governance and implementing his policies. Notably, a reception was organised in honour of the president at the Government House in Marina on the 29th of June. The governor of Lagos State hosted this event, and it was attended by the former governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, despite their estrangement.
Akinwunmi Ambode, the former governor of Lagos State, was unsuccessful in securing a second term in office in 2019. As a result, he distanced himself from politics. The circumstances surrounding his bid for re-election led to a fallout with his leader and benefactor, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as well as with his party colleague, the current Governor of Lagos State, Jide Sanwo-Olu. However, Ambode’s presence at the reception and his tribute to the president indicate the possibility of unity despite differing opinions. It demonstrates that true democratic intent can be achieved harmoniously, without enmity, as the opinions of the minority are protected by law. Governor Sanwo-Olu extended an olive branch to Ambode on the latter’s birthday, which ultimately led to Ambode’s spirited attendance at the reception. Ambode expressed gratitude to the current governor of Lagos State, and in turn, the president also expressed his appreciation to Ambode. This reception served as a remarkable demonstration of a peace mission and the reconciliation between the president and his three protégés. The actions of the benefactor and his protégé are commendable and serve as an example for the broader political landscape of Nigeria.
The national anthem of Nigeria emphasises the unity of the nation, highlighting that Nigeria is one entity bound together in harmony. The anthem serves as a reflection of the state of the nation, encompassing not only the family unit but also society as a whole. The absence of unity poses a grave risk to the nation, hindering progress and rendering any prospects of development illusory. It is crucial for individuals to recognize that, despite varying opinions and ideals, there should be a collective pursuit of the nation’s goals, which should supersede all other objectives. Failure to prioritise the nation’s goals perpetuates disunity among the citizenry. Placing the nation’s goals at the forefront allows other issues to pale in comparison, thereby promoting unity within the nation.
Political orientation, ethnicity, and religion ought to showcase the beauty of diverse ideologies, as long as they remain within the boundaries of the law, rather than fanning the flames of extremism, which unfortunately persists in the nation. The nation’s constitution recognises the diverse religious and cultural backgrounds of its people, while simultaneously emphasising the oneness of the nation and prohibiting discrimination.
Regrettably, individuals have failed to embrace the principles outlined in the constitution, instead dedicating their time to elevate their ethnicity and religion above national unity. The heterogeneous nature of the nation presents an opportunity to promote Nigeria on the international stage. However, this potential has been largely squandered, leading to further divisions within the nation. Notions of superiority held by certain tribes, the political class, or religious groups have only served to marginalise others, fueling animosity and diverting the nation’s focus from addressing critical national issues, thus increasing the risk of implosion. History bears witness to the inevitable consequences of a divided nation lacking unity, and it is imperative that we learn from those lessons.
In the face of Nigeria’s challenges, unity emerges as the beacon of hope illuminating the path towards a brighter future. As a nation that has solemnly pledged to uphold its unity, it is incumbent upon each and every citizen to transcend personal opinions and embrace the ideals enshrined in Nigeria’s anthem and pledge. The reception held in Lagos, where the president was honored, serves as a powerful reminder of the transformative power of unity.
By emulating the actions witnessed during that momentous occasion, we can forge a collective resolve to promote unity and reject any divisive forces that threaten our progress. Let us rise above religious, geographical, and ethnic divisions, recognising that compromise and understanding are the building blocks of a united Nigeria.
The actions of the president, and even his estranged protege offer us glimpses of a united Nigeria that is not merely an elusive dream but an achievable reality. Their examples remind us that unity is not an impossible task, but rather a journey that requires dedication, reconciliation, empathy, and an unwavering commitment to the common good.
It is by uniting one group at a time, bridging the gaps that divide us, that we can transcend the challenges that hinder our nation’s development. Together, we can create a Nigeria where diversity is celebrated, where every citizen’s voice is heard, and where the collective strength of our differences propels us forward.
As we embark on this path towards unity, let us remember that the rewards of our efforts extend far beyond personal gains. They are woven into the fabric of progress, prosperity, and a future we can be proud to leave for generations to come.
So, let us pledge ourselves anew to the pursuit of unity, guided by the knowledge that a united Nigeria is not just a lofty ideal, but a practical necessity. As we reject divisive forces and embrace the beauty of our diversity, we will witness the transformative power of unity, propelling our great nation to unprecedented heights.
Together, let us uphold the unity of our nation, honouring our anthem and pledge as sacrosanct, for in unity lies our strength, our hope, and our limitless potential.
Wahab Shittu is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
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