The President-elect , Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on Thursday, dampened the hope of advocates of a government of national unity, favouring competence over such a political arrangement.
He stated that his aim was higher than a government of national unity and would rather seek a government of national competence in selecting his cabinet members and not choosing appointees based on religion.
Tinubu spoke in a signed statement on Thursday titled, “Nigeria: At the Cusp of Renewed Hope, ’’ marking his first official statement after his declaration as president-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission on March 1.
The presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress polled 8, 794, 726 votes to beat the Peoples democratic party candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Labour Party’s Peter Obi and the New Nigeria Peoples Party’s Rabiu Kwankwaso.
Both Abubakar and Obi who came second and third respectively in the election are challenging the poll results in court, rejecting Tinubu’s holding out an olive branch to them. Some Nigerians however mulled a government of national unity to douse the agitations over the poll outcome.
Addressing Nigerians on the issue, the president-elect in the statement said, “As your incoming president, I accept the task before me. There have been talks of a government of national unity. My aim is higher than that. I seek a government of national competence. In selecting my government, I shall not be weighed down by considerations extraneous to ability and performance. The day for political gamesmanship is long gone. I shall assemble competent men and women and young people from across Nigeria to build a safer, more prosperous and just Nigeria. There shall be young people. Women shall be prominent. Whether your faith leads you to pray in a church or mosque will not determine your place in government. Character and competence will.’’
Commenting on the presidential election whose conduct was also faulted by some individuals and asserting the rights of aggrieved contestants to go to court, the ex-Lagos State governor noted that a fair and credible poll was held and won.
He said, “A fair, credible election has been held and has been won. The honour of that victory and the steep responsibility it entails has fallen on me. I say this not to gloat or boast because there is no room for such behaviour. I merely state the facts as they are. I realise many good and well-meaning Nigerians voted for other candidates. They are naturally disappointed that their favoured candidate did not win. Other candidates have voiced their dissatisfaction, stating they will go to court to contest the election. This is inherent to the democratic process. We defend their right to seek legal recourse. While they exercise the legal rights afforded them in our democracy, I have set my course and mind on the leadership of this nation. We have important work to do and I am committed to getting that work done for the benefit of all the people, whether or not they voted for me or even voted at all.’’
Saying that it was not the time for continued acrimony and partisan recrimination, Tinubu added that negative things could incite strong passions; but they were not the pathway to a better nation.
The president-elect noted, “Only unity and national commitment can serve that purpose. Critics of Nigeria have been too quick to conclude that our political system is fragmented because of the impressive showing of new parties and their candidates. “These critics are wrong. The emergence of the new parties and their candidates underscores the dynamic strength of our democracy. People want democracy to work and they want to have their voices heard and interests met within it. This is a good thing to be promoted, not something to be feared,’’
According to him, what must concern Nigerians is not the growth of parties but the regrowth of old prejudices and bigotries such as ethnicity, creed and place of origin.
He observed that as a nation and individuals imbued with the love of God and of fellow man, Nigerians were better than this, adding that at some point the citizens must decide whether they shall be enticed by the ills of the past or more bravely and nobly be encouraged by the eminent prospect of a brighter future.
The president-elect said, “There have been times in our past when our governing institutions created more questions than they answered. But the arc of our political history gives me confidence that we can overcome that past. We have walked through the thick of the night to emerge into the light of brighter days to come. There is no good reason to retreat into the darkness of years past.’’
Urging nation rebuilding and repair, he said, “We must begin to repair and rebuild this national home of ours. There is time to complete the task, but time is also of the essence. We must not tarry or fret over the enormity of what we face. We are able of mind and body. Now, we must show the spirit and willpower to accomplish the historic things that lie within our grasp.’’
Stating that securing Nigeria and making it prosperous must be top priorities, he said that Nigerians cannot sacrifice these goals to political expediencies and the whims of politics must take a backseat to the imperatives of governance.
Tinubu explained, “We have bridges and roads to build not just for commerce and travel but to connect people of different faiths, parties and different outlooks in harmonious dialogue and common purpose. We have families to feed not just to eliminate hunger but to nurture enlightenment, civic responsibility and compassion. We have jobs to create not merely to put people to work but to afford a better standard of living by which families and communities are improved and democracy deepened. We have water to replenish not just to quench physical thirst but to ignite a thirst for creative and better solutions to society’s challenges. We have a nation to protect such that we eliminate danger and even the fear of danger. May all of our people be able to live their lives in the light of peace and the glow of broadening prosperity.’’
The president-elect also backed the Supreme Court order that the old N200, N500 and N1000 notes remain legal tender alongside the redesigned notes till December 31, thus solving the lingering naira crisis disaster.
The Godwin Emefiele-led Central Bank of Nigeria embarked on a redesign of the naira notes and ignored the Supreme Court order to the validity of the old notes amid biting naira scarcity leading to bank customers’ frustration and hardship.
Tinubu stated that an important step toward restoring economic normalcy was taken by the Supreme Court’s decision on the parity of old and new notes, adding that “This restores both the rule of law and economic decency. But this is not the end of the story. It is merely the beginning of a more comprehensive solution to our economic challenges.’’
He further said that his party’s “Renewed Hope Action Plan’’ outlined goals for greater economic growth in the country’s cities and rural communities and committed to an economy of double-digit Gross Domestic Product growth.
We are committed to an economy of double-digit GDP growth, greater food security and one with a strengthened manufacturing base as well as an active digital economy where young people will have ample space to fulfil their dreams and aspirations. I realise that I am the servant of a larger purpose. As such, I have gone straight to work. My team and I have been daily engaged in discussions and meetings refining our ideas and policy solutions so that we can begin actively working toward the common good the very first day we assume office. This great project called Nigeria beckons to us all,’’ he stated.
Urging Nigerians to work together for Nigeria, Tinubu urged those who voted for him to continue to believe in his party’s policies and plans for the country and for them to reach out to their brothers and sisters who did not vote as they did.
He said, “Extend to them the hand of friendship, reconciliation and togetherness. To those of you who did not vote for me, I ask you to believe in Nigeria and in the capacity of your fellow citizens, even those who voted differently than you. The better Nigeria I seek is not just for me and my supporters. It is equally yours. I do not ask you to abandon your political preferences. That would be undemocratic. I do beseech you to answer the call of patriotic duty as the loyal opposition.
“Remain loyal to the cause of a greater, more tolerant and just Nigeria. I too shall keep faith in this objective. If we all play our proper roles, we shall begin the task of rebuilding our national home together, day by day, brick by brick notwithstanding our political differences. As such, the victory of national progress will belong to all of us. The triumph of our nation’s democracy shall cite all of you as its very authors. This is how things should be. Dear Nigerians, this is our country. This is our moment. We dare not waste it. Nor do we back away to accept a lesser version of ourselves and of our collective fate.’’
He noted that the country could no longer be satisfied with calling itself the giant of Africa, saying Nigeria must devote itself to doing those great and historic things only a giant could do.
Tinubu pledged that as the people’s president-elect, he would do his utmost in this regard as his sworn duty.
He added, “I call upon you to come bravely forth as well, not for me but out of abiding love of country and for the people who inhabit it with you. We are so much better than we have been. Now is the time to stand fast and have faith in what this nation can be. I, for one, am standing. But this time, I shall not be the last or only one standing. Imagine how great we can be if over 200 million other souls stand with me. Let the world see a Nigeria that nothing can stop.’’
LP, NNPP react
However, reacting to Tinubu’s statement, the Chief Spokesman for Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko, said the party was not even interested in a government of national unity.
Tanko said that the party was at the moment challenging the poll process in court.
He said, “How can Tinubu be talking about a sham election that everyone is condemning all over the world? To us, it is about challenging and correcting the process. As we speak, what we are saying is that the process is being challenged by us in the LP. By infraction, we are challenging the presidency of Bola Tinubu that it is being built with a faulty procedure nobody should gratify. Even Tinubu himself should not have accepted it because he knew that there were alleged manipulations in the process.’’
He further said that the late President Umaru Yar’Adua said that the election that brought him in was flawed and he would correct it.
Tanko added, “And so the Electoral Act has been amended and billions of naira paid to ensure we have a technologically advanced process that has been proven in some state elections only for it to be undermined at the presidential election. We shouldn’t allow that. As far as we are concerned, we are challenging the process until we get our mandate.”
Also, the spokesman for the New Nigerian Peoples Party Presidential Campaign Council, Ladipo Johnson, said that Tinubu might have been announced as the president-elect, but the party believed that the process was being looked at in court.
Johnson Notwithstanding, it is his prerogative, that of his party and supporters to do as they choose and as they wish, no matter the nomenclature they use. That is if the court leaves him to continue, maybe.
He explained, “Nigeria, at this point in time, is in a complex state. We were divided before the elections and I dare say that the presidential election has left us more polarised than ever. There is this quiet tension that pervades the land and I hope God will grant all our leaders the wisdom to navigate this country. We just hope this Saturday’s governorship will turn out to be a peaceful one.”
But the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Debo Ologunagba, while speaking to our correspondent, stated that the PDP would respond to Tinubu’s statement.
He stated, “You know our party don’t just wake up because somebody said something we begin to react, we will look at that statement.
“We will take our time to respond we will take our time. As a party we will respond holistically,” he said.