By Gbenga Akinmoyo
This 29th day of May 2023, history will record that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu lost his title as “President-Elect” and was sworn-in as the 16th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces in a colourful ceremony that took place at Eagle Square, Abuja, F.C.T. The oath was publicly administered by the Chief Justice of the Federation Justice Olukayode Ariwoola at approximately 10.35 a.m. and the new President proceeded to sign the Register in the open glare of the world in a televised LIVE broadcast. The inaugural speech of President Bola Tinubu was one of the highlights of the occasion, but unlike some of his predecessors the long expected punch-line that the world was anticipating was conspicuously absent or perhaps not apparently obvious. At a push, one of the great lines from President Tinubu’s speech was when he stated, “As your President, I shall serve with prejudice toward none but compassion and amity towards all” …Hope is back to Nigeria”.
Nonetheless, President Tinubu delivered a speech in which he stated, “Our administration shall govern on your behalf but never rule over you. “ He added “We shall consult and dialogue but never dictate. We shall reach out to all but never put down a single person for holding views contrary to our own”. The speech will probably be remembered more for the policy bullets that were fired particularly in relation to Fuel Subsidy is GONE; a Unified Exchange Rate is essential; and that Women & Youth will feature prominently in his government.
For those aspiring to climb the dais one day and make such a speech, you must recognize and understand that no two persons have taken exactly the same route to become President of Nigeria and there can never be an identical path to greatness. However, each and every one of them followed a track, just like any athlete in a race dotted with hurdles that have to be surmounted in order to reach the finishing line. Those familiar with the game of Golf will understand this better. There are 18 holes that must be negotiated several times in the competition and each golfer will approach the course differently; he who dares wins. I submit that there are at least twelve hurdles which you must overcome in order to mount that podium to make the speech. This prescriptive list is not sacrosanct but advisory and includes the following:
HURDLE 1: You must attain the required academic qualifications which are clearly stated in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). As it presently stands you must have been educated up to a minimum of at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.
HURDLE 2: It is essential you live a credible life without getting into trouble with the law, because if you get a criminal record resulting from a conviction after trial in a court of justice, then you are barred from contesting. By your conduct you will have disqualified yourself.
HURDLE 3: The office of the President carries with it a minimum age requirement which stands at 35 years, (reduced from 40 years since 2018).
HURDLE 4: The existing political arrangement in Nigeria does not permit an individual to contest for an elective office, unless you are a registered member of a political party and you are properly sponsored by the party to run for office, including that of the President. Therefore, your membership in the political association must have been significantly impactful, to the extent that it has inspired members to develop confidence in your ability to run for the office.
HURDLE 5: It is imperative that you employ a combination of tactics and techniques, permissible within the rules of your chosen political party, to persuade the members of your party that you are the best aspirant to be given the ticket for the office. Needless to say, you must satisfy all the qualifying conditions within the guidelines of your party for contesting Party Primaries and they tend to differ from one political party to another.
HURDLE 6: Once you have won the party ticket, your first major assignment is to choose a suitable running mate who is capable of replacing you as President in the event that you for any reason become temporarily or permanently incapable of performing duties of the office. It goes without saying that such a choice must be a person who also satisfies the requirements of Hurdles 1 – 4 above. The Constitution recognizes that the presidency is a joint ticket and the presidential candidate cannot be separated from the vice-presidential candidate for election purpose, which is important to note because the failure of one can result in the disqualification of the whole ticket; it has happened before, so be very careful.
HURDLE 7: You must ensure that your nomination and sponsorship by your political party are properly submitted to the election umpire (INEC) within the stipulated time frame laid by law and make sure that your political party is on the ballot paper for the General Election. As an extension of this, you must also ensure that your name and that of your vice are properly recorded in the Final List of Candidates, published by INEC, usually 30 days before the day of the presidential elections.
HURDLE 8: As a valid candidate, the joint-ticket must carry the manifesto and programmes to the nooks and crannies of the country to seek the support of the masses and in particular the voting population, to convince them that you are the most suitable choice. There will be obstacles of varying degrees that cannot be predicted, but you must rise above the challenges. There are several rules that govern campaigns and you must ensure that you do not over-spend the financial limits, which could also lead to disqualification.
HURDLE 9: The Election Day is the harvest time in this whole process and that is when you seek to reap the rewards for your efforts on the campaign field. The Law as it currently stands requires that you satisfy two separate conditions before you can be considered as the winner of the presidential election. Firstly, you must have scored the highest number of valid votes cast. Secondly, your total votes must cover at least 2/3 or 66.6% of the whole country because your support must reflect a national spread rather than a regional or ethnic bias. At the present time the legal Litmus Test set by the Constitution requires that you score at least 25% of votes in at least 25 out of the 37 components that make up the Federation of Nigeria (the States and FCT).
HURDLE 10: Once you are declared the winner of the presidential election by INEC you receive a Certificate of Return and your status changes immediately in the sense that you become property of the Federal Government of Nigeria figuratively, to be specially observed and nurtured until the day of your inauguration. As President-Elect and Vice-President-Elect you are on an informal probation period with all eyes focused on your activities and movements just as much as the out-going office holders. You attract special attention because you represent the future. Your work has started and you must now address your mind to the issues of smooth transition in cooperation with the out-going administrators.
HURDLE 11: On the Presidential Inauguration day, you must publicly “Declare an Oath of Office” and an “Oath of Allegiance” to service and sign the appropriate Register(s), whilst the whole world is watching you do so. You’re almost there, just one more hurdle ahead of you.
HURDLE 12: At the inauguration of the President, there is a lowering and hoisting of two sets of flags. Nigeria has the National Flag which is green-white-green most people are familiar with. But there is also a Defence Forces Flag which is red, marine blue and cyan and represents the country’s Armed Forces. The symbolic ceremony involves the lowering of the existing two flags which are then folded and placed in a box; which is then passed to the out-going President, who in turn presents a box containing a fresh set of the two flags; which are handed to the in-coming President who passes them to the Chief of Defence Staff; which is the passed own the ranks and both flags hoisted. This ceremony is a symbolic representation that the administration of one Commander has ended and the administration of the new President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces has started his four-year tenure.
In order to climb the rostrum and make that epoch-making Inaugural President’s Speech, these are the hurdles a person must overcome. Since this fourth republic began in 1999, five Presidents have done it successfully. It is not a journey for the faint-hearted and it is one that requires meticulous planning. I am happy to have helped you in your plans along that journey. Wishing you the very best in your pursuit.
This article was written by Gbenga Akinmoyo who is a legal practitioner, public affairs analyst and the C.E.O of LeadiFollow Limited (+234 803 660 9090).