The recent Nigerian presidential elections in February/March of 2023 have brought about changes to previously established political myths. One of these myths was that wealthy and ambitious candidates could not become president. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is considered one of Africa’s wealthiest politicians, would be the first Nigerian leader to publicly state that he is wealthy, ambitious, prepared to rule, and also to be elected.
However, he required not only ambition but also money and courage to overcome the challenges of his own party leader President Muhammadu Buhari’s banknote redesign, which threw the country into financial chaos.
The 2023 elections also showed that every serious and determined candidate can make their own victory. The sitting president is no longer the alpha and omega in determining a successor, as was seen in the case of President Olusegun Obasanjo, who installed Shehu Shagari as civilian president in 1979 and Umaru Shehu Yar’Adua as his successor in his second coming as civilian president.
The third lesson is that the governor-king has been undone as well. For decades, Tinubu ruled the roost in Lagos, but he lost it to Labour Party’s Peter Obi, a rookie in the presidential race.
Finally, the fourth lesson is that Abraham Lincolns come once in a blue moon. Lincoln’s multiple losses taught him that the only way to win the 1860 presidential election was to keep the Republican Party united.
In contrast, Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who was on his sixth attempt in 30 years, had a strategy to win that involved keeping his party divided. Buhari, another serial loser, had learned that his fabled 12 million voter base in one section of the country could not win him the presidency.
It remains to be seen what the 2023 elections will mean for governance, whether it will bring more freedom and accountability or inhibitions and opaqueness.
However, the loss of kingmaker leverage is not the only lesson from the 2023 elections. It is clear that every serious and determined candidate can make their own victory, and the sitting president is no longer the alpha and omega in determining a successor.