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The Power Of Oral Tradition: Oba Kiladejo On The Role Of Women In Ondo History



The Power Of Oral Tradition:  Oba Kiladejo On The Role Of Women In Ondo History


A Conversation With His Imperial Majesty, Oba (Dr.) V.A. Kiladejo, Part 3 


Toyin Falola


As always, the Toyin Falola Interviews is a forum for intellectual debate and conversation on issues concerning African society and worldview. This intellectual debate was brought to the Ondo Kingdom in a three-hour-and-thirty-minutes interview that revealed a wealth of information on the history of the Ondo Kingdom, its culture, tradition, and the importance of women in its society. The interviewee and special guest, Oba Dr. Victor Kiladejo, and the interviewers, Professor Omotayo Oloruntoba-Oju, Professor Nuhu Yaqub, and Dr. Gboyega Ajayi, made the session a highly noteworthy one.

His Imperial Majesty, Oba Kiladejo, was appointed the 44th traditional ruler of the Ondo Kingdom in Nigeria on December 1, 2006, and was ceremonially crowned king on December 29, 2008. He is the eldest of twenty-two children born to Prince Gbadebo Adedoyin Kiladejo, the Edilokun of the Okuta Ruling House in Ondo City. Oba Kiladejo graduated from the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, with a B.Sc. in Health Sciences, a Bachelor of Medicine, and a Bachelor of Surgery. Subsequently, he went to the University of Liverpool to study Reproductive Health. After completing his National Youth Service Corps program, he started working for the Ondo State Health Management Board, eventually rising to the position of Medical Director. He left to start the Kiladejo Hospitals Group in Ikere Ekiti, then expanded into other businesses. For the past fifteen years, he has reigned as the king of the Ondo Kingdom and has immeasurably contributed to the state’s healthcare and economic growth.

  Matriarchy and the Origin of Ondo Tradition

Though there are numerous tales of how the Ondo Kingdom came to be, His Imperial Majesty, Dr. Kiladejo, answered Professor Oloruntoba-Oju’s question about the kingdom’s connection to Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba race. I will not interrupt the flow of the stories. According to the king:

There are diverse accounts of the origin of the Ondo Kingdom. One thing is, however, clear. All narratives link the origin of the Ondo Kingdom to the matriarchal monarch. Oba Pupupu, a female, was the first Osemawe and the only female paramount ruler. When it comes to the unique position of Ondo women in the society, this historical element of creation is instantly apparent. For the first time in the history of Yorubaland, the rulership of the Ondo kingdom was linked to a woman. This made the kingdom stand out in terms of dynasty formation. The Osemawe dynasty ruling in the Ondo Kingdom was not founded by a hunter or a warrior, not even a prince, as it happened in many settlements of Yorubaland. This circumstance and other developments created an impact on the place of women in the kingdom. In Ondo history and till the present day, women have held sensitive positions in the administration of the state, and they have significantly contributed to the development of the society.

READ ALSO: Oba Dr. Victor Adesimbo Kiladejo: Kings In History And Modern Democracy

The king continues: Many centuries ago, Oduduwa’s favorite wife, Olu, gave birth to a set of twins, a boy and a girl, and thus the Ondo kingdom was born. This was considered an abomination, which made the Oduduwa utter “esemare” (which means “these are abnormal children”). “Osemawe,” the royal title of the Ondo kingdom kinship, was born from this contraction. But because Olu was Oduduwa’s favorite wife, her life and those of her children were spared. Before they left, Oduduwa inscribed two ethnic marks on each twin’s cheeks to identify them. They were then given a beaded crown as a symbol of royalty and sent out of the palace with an entourage of chiefs, servants, warriors, and medical practitioners, all of whom were headed by a hunter named Ija. Akunara and Shora, two powerful chiefs, also accompanied Ija. They went around till they got to Igbo Ijama, where they could relax. The group remained at the location for some time before departing for Epe. At Epe, they were welcomed with open arms, and they lived there for many years.

However after some years, they consulted the Ifa oracle about the following steps to take in their settlement journey. The oracle instructed the group to set forth and bring a yam stick (edo). They were to poke this yam stick into the ground as they travelled and settle anywhere the stick could not enter the ground. Eventually, they arrived at a particular place where they inserted the yam stick into the earth, and it did not enter. They exclaimed, “Edo du do!” (“the yam did not enter the soil”), and thus, they named the place Ode Ondo. When the migrants arrived in this land, they encountered the Oka, Ifore, and Udoko, who were the original inhabitants. The Udoko people put up a fight, but they were eventually defeated. As a result of the migrants’ perceived bravery, the locals swiftly surrounded them. This means that the Osemawe’s reign of kingship began when the migrants arrived in Ondo, and the indigenous people began to adopt their culture. Thus, Pupupu, the female twin, became the first Osemawe of Ondo.

The female monarch had her council of chiefs and ruled until power was transferred to someone else. The innate feminine traits and attitude of Oba Pupupu, especially her love of domestic chores, was so evident that she could not keep it in check even when deliberating on important state issues. For instance, she prioritized her interest in poultry above the affairs of the state.  After a consensus was reached, the chiefs decided that Oba Pupupu be replaced by her son, Airo (meaning replacement) and that women could no longer become the paramount ruler of the kingdom. However, the king’s mother was asked to settle in another community, and she was given the title, “L’Obun.” Men become kings and women the L’Obun. This incident became a sole factor in the transition from a matriarchal monarch to a patriarchal one.

Nonetheless, this move to a patriarchal monarchy resulted in the female occupying a new position in society. A princess from Oba Pupupu’s lineage becomes the L’Obun of Ondo Kingdom, while a prince from Oba Pupupu’s bloodline becomes the Osemawe. With the introduction of the L’Obun’s title, women became the economic leaders in society. In other words, the L’Obun did not only act concerning economic and marketing issues; she was also like a female king with her chiefs and council, just like the Osemawe. The L’Obun was also tasked with the proclamation of the newly installed Osemawe. However, the L’Obun had a certain level of designation, and she was in charge of the settlement of issues amongst women.


Women’s New Roles in Ondo Town   

Women are both mothers and real-life kingdom builders. The presence of a powerful chief, even a king, must be accompanied by the presence of his wife (wives, if more than one). In society, women take on the role of home builders and are responsible for instilling ethical values and discipline in their children. Women also take on the role of the nascent kingdom’s metaphorical mother. They are vital to community development.

READ ALSO: Kabiyesi Alayeluwa, Dr. Victor Adesimbo Kiladejo: The Exceptional King Of Ondo Kingdom

The Osemawe explained the social and cultural significance of women in society. Women were given a special status, and in reality, they wielded tremendous power. The L’Obun, a female-only position founded following Pupupu’s rule, could mobilize women to make demands. As a result, women affected the kingdom’s decision-making and acted as a pressure group. The ability to influence decisions and determine the kingdom’s politics was bolstered by the role of women. Tagba, for example, used her position to sway the king’s and his council’s decisions. She was said to have exercised so much influence that she was able to free Ondo from the Benin Empire.

Also, women had significant responsibilities in installing a new chief and king in the Ondo Kingdom. The L’Obun performs the function of kingmaking by removing the beads from her neck and wearing it on the king’s neck. This becomes a symbolism of the mother-son transfer of power traceable to Oba Pupupu and her son, Airo. However, after the installation, the L’Obun is expected to leave the town and never to set eye on the king again. In the case of Oba Adesimbo Kiladejo, his L’Obun died days after his installation. During the installation rites, the chief or the king must have the ogbegba (the calabash carrier) present. The rites would not be complete without the presence of the ogbegba, who is usually the most senior (if there are more than one) wife of the person involved. This aspect of the installation focused on the role of women in society.

Ondo’s civilization was distinct in that it assigned specific roles to women, and as a result, women were powerful in all aspects of life in the kingdom.

 Women and the Economy 

Women were also granted influence over society’s economies. By establishing the office of the L’Obun and appointing a woman as the head, the economic power of Ondo was subsequently placed in the hands of women. The L’Obun was the women leader and also the market leader. Women became active participants in establishing the Ondo kingdom in the genuine sense, though they obeyed the king. In other words, the L’Obun gained definitive authority over the kingdom’s economic activity. She had to give her permission before a new market could be constructed in any section of the kingdom, and she had to perform cleansing ceremonies for all markets to prosper. Since most of the markets were in rural locations, the L’Obun appeared to have some control over agricultural practices. She could authorize some commodities for sale.

Unlike many other towns in Yorubaland, women’s participation in agriculture increased significantly. In 1875, an Ondo Catechist, Charles N. Young, reported that farming was more prevalent among Ondo women than many other parts of the Yorubaland. 

From the statement, it is clear that women did not only assist their husbands on the farms; they also owned farms. They had the right to plant vegetables in the ridges of yam heaps on farms, and they were entitled to a share of the profits. In turn, they contributed to the advancement of society. Women also became the followers of Aje (the wealth goddess) and the organizers of the markets in the kingdom. As a result, women in Ondo society were placed in a delicate position. In reality, these women’s economic activities influenced the lives of inhabitants and, in turn, the history of the Ondo Kingdom.

 Religious Importance

Despite the well-organized patriarchy in the society, the roles played by women in religious activities influenced social interactions and left indelible marks on the community. In the Ondo Kingdom, the L’Obun was the priestess of the kingdom, performing various religious rites. Her function also bolstered her status as the chief priestess of Aje, the goddess of reproduction, wealth, and fertility. The inhabitants of Ondo were acutely aware of Aje’s importance in the destiny of the kingdom through reproduction and fertility. As a result, it was critical to worship and appease the goddess every year, which was usually done in November during the Aje festival. Two primary groups were actively involved in the Aje festival—first, the Ondo women, and then the Idoko priest-chiefs, one of Ondo’s autonomous groupings. It is worth noting that a successful observance of this festival was believed to bring a good year for the monarchy. Therefore, it was critical for women to actively participate in the Aje goddess’s propitiation for the community to remain peaceful and prosperous.

In addition, the L’Obun played an essential role in the Odun Moko, a ceremony that prohibited women from public activities. During this time, the priests in the kingdom would display powerful charms and magic. The risk of a woman dying or becoming barren if these priests looked at her during the festival justified the reverence for the day. However, because of the role she played on this day, the L’Obun was the only female allowed to walk freely. She would pray for the town’s prosperity and fertility, as well as bless the women. This L’Obun’s duty emphasizes the importance of women in reproduction, wealth, and fertility.

           Finally, the role of women in Ondo history and society is unique in the development of the kingdom. Women occupied an important position in society and were in charge of the economic sphere. The significance of women in the creation and development of Ode-Ondo cannot be overstated. Till today, women continue to play significant roles in the Ondo Kingdom, taking on essential responsibilities that have contributed to the growth and development of society.





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Toyin Falola Interviews Holds Talks With Samia, Daughter Of Kwame Nkrumah



Samia Yaba Nkrumah

The Toyin Falola Interviews is set to hold a conversation with the renowned Pan-Africanist and former Convention People’s Party chairperson, Samia Yaba Nkrumah.

Sunday, June 25, 2023
4:00 PM Ghana
5:00 PM Nigeria
11:00 AM Austin CST

Register and Watch:

Samia Nkrumah was born on June 23, 1960, in Ghana to Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of the Republic of Ghana and Africa’s most decorated Pan-Africanist, and Fathia Nkrumah, an Egyptian. The aftermath of the 1966 military coup that overthrew Kwame Nkrumah saw her immediate family divided between Guinea and Egypt, where she had her elementary education. At the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, she obtained a Bachelor of Arabic Studies in 1991 and a master’s degree in Comparative Politics of Contemporary Middle East at SOAS in 1993. In 2008, Samia Nkrumah entered Ghanaian politics and served as the Member of Parliament for the Jomoro Constituency of the Western Region of Ghana between 2009 and 2012. In her quest to revive her father’s political party, Samia Nkrumah became the National Chairperson of the Convention People’s Party between 2011 and 2015. Currently, Samia Nkrumah is the founder and president of the Kwame Nkrumah Pan-African Centre, a non-profit organization committed to promoting the vision and ideas of Kwame Nkrumah.

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Professor Paul Lovejoy At 80  – Part 2: Peculiar Substances!



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola

 Paul Lovejoy has approached African history by studying commodities: kola nuts, salt, tobacco, and cowries, among others. My dialogue with him will reveal the crucial importance of these objects that interface with such issues as trade, trade routes, trading colonies, and short- and long-distance commerce. When you cumulate his studies on these objects—peculiar products—you can understand why no scholar compares with him in his enduring contributions to African Economic History. As objects connect with our desires and habits, Lovejoy becomes a pre-eminent social historian. He followed the trans-Saharan trade routes from one end to the other, diverted to the Sudan, to the Swahili city-states and crossed the Indian Ocean to Gujarat. Is a Zaki allowed to drink? If so, we must add the study of alcohol to the items of trade and habits.

Critical attention that Lovejoy accorded to the exploration, examination and interrogation of slavery would almost make one assume that outside of that intellectual discourse, he barely picks other interests. This is not so. His available contributions to other related but different tropes of knowledge signal that, like all other prolific scholars, he has made an incredible addition to numerous areas of knowledge. One may not have the idea that Lovejoy dedicated much of his intellectual energy to studying objects and commodities. 

In the spirit of fairness, the common attitude to recognizing objects is harsh, taken for granted, based on the misleading assumption that we need not study them. Why natron, why bitter kola? Meanwhile, that orientation towards all these objects and commodities is ill-motivated and misinformed, given the magnitude of ideas that the works of Lovejoy have opened our minds to. The meeting point between people and objects is understanding the cultural ideologies of groups of people. In essence, all human activities are somewhat connected.

Professor Paul Lovejoy

Paul Lovejoy, alongside some other scholars, undertakes the responsibility to understand some aspects of human cultures that are considered good and bad, respectively, concerning how they use them to drive or advance their civilization forward, beyond the imagination of anyone. They look into drugs in human society, their consumption and cultural attitude to their proliferation. Drugs have different levels that they operate within the human body. That they have superficial effects in some cultures or people and have deeper psychological outcomes on others reveals how some groups have decided to immerse themselves in the habit for certain reasons. In Consuming Habits: Drugs in History and Anthropology, the tripod of Lovejoy, Sherratt and Goodman perform anthropological operations on some cultures to bring to the fore the cultural reasons for the consumption of some hard drugs ranging from opium, cocaine, coffee, tobacco, kola, and betelnut among other substances. One thing they reveal is that these consuming habits help  to characterize people and define how they understand drugs from time to time. Drugs are objects, but they are consumable ones with definite results on the human psychological domain and, in some cases, their socioeconomic conditions eventually. 

The central message of their examination in Consuming Habits is that behind the success of countries in their endeavors is an untold story of their deepened involvement in the patronage of some substances as they employ them to perform engagements that dramatically affect the human world. Perhaps, the knowledge that the consumption of drugs has increased crimes and encouraged morally condemnable engagements, the world, through policies, has emphatically opposed the patronage of these substances. The irony of this moral quandary is that hard substances patronage is increasing daily in many countries. This raises important questions about the seriousness of combating consumers of hard substances and their very intentions about others they have successfully de-marketed. The endgame is that when they label some items “legal” or “illegal,” they have disallowed scholars from understanding the cultural context of their patronage and the reason for their continued appropriation. Lovejoy has helped us understand the overlapping beauty of culture and moral principles and how the desire to separate them has always generated unimaginable results with negative consequences. To that extent, they let us understand why humans keep using and abusing these substances. 

In Salt of the Desert Sun: A History of Salt Production and Trade in Central Sudan, Lovejoy uses his scholarly work to understudy production and exchange systems. Before then and after, it has often become the subject that pre-capitalist African cultures were unaware of market forces, a point that Tony Hopkins also demolished in An Economic History of West Africa. Both Lovejoy and Hopkins did not tie the idea of a subsistence economy to the template of racial ideology that drove it. In that ideological template, Africans were unfit to talk about advancement in ways we have observed in Asia, Europe and the Americas. The foundation of that assumption was faulty, given that it was recorded that salt, as an object, was sufficiently distributed across different areas in the Sudan in an advanced economy. Lovejoy saw increased salt production as a testament to the ability to produce mass commodities that they used for various purposes.   

Of course, the hallmark of the economic success of the period was the ability to sustain such a high level of performance to meet the demands of people in different places, especially in contiguous areas. Production quantity would be affected because the major means of conveyance and transportation were animals (camels and, in some cases, horses). However, the salt trade promoted interstate economic affairs of the time. 

Lovejoy opened our minds to equally significant information usually masked in popular narratives. More than the distribution of salt in Western, Central and Eastern Sudan, there was an extensive exchange of cultural ideologies. The more economic engagement they had, the deeper they penetrated the culture of one another through intermarriages, migrations and resettlements. Therefore, these aspects of history reveal the complex nature of local and international politics, as it hinges on impressive economic transactions. The interlink of economy and culture is constantly strengthened by the fact that one would have to absorb the ideas and values of others, using whatever means, before taking advantage of economic strength and activities. 

Commodities, as Lovejoy analyzed, aided the transfer of cultures. He mentioned, for instance, how the Wangara became initiators of economic ideas in the old Songhai empire during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Wangara became exceptional in their economic investments by adding commodities and new products such as kola nuts, and they became actively involved in the spread of the Songhai monetary system based on cowries and gold. Meanwhile, they also produced quality textiles spread across the vast areas of the Hausa territory and Borno. In other words, the vast involvement in the sale of these commodities became the reason for their continued economic growth and what brought them to the limelight in the period, thereby becoming strong reasons for the unity of cultures. Objects facilitated the empowerment of the Wangara, transforming cultural and political institutions. In essence, the onus of Lovejoy’s argument is that there were strong economic institutions in the period constructed on the forms of substances they produced and how they managed to sustain and establish an economic system. 

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Digging Deep: Ayisha Osori On Nigeria’s 2023 Elections



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola

Presently, there is heightened tension in some parts of Nigeria. In some other parts, there is assurance and calm anticipation. The former is the case with Nigerians who believe — no matter how little — that the Election Tribunal will shake up the announced results of the presidential election. In the latter camp are Nigerians who have peace of mind and confidence that the Tribunal will — whether due to the legitimacy of the Tinubu-Shettima ticket’s win or the expectation that it will be business as usual with the Nigerian Judiciary — uphold the results of the election as announced by INEC.

On either end of this divide are Nigerians whose expectations from the Tribunal reflect their choices during the election, giving credence yet again to how personal choices influence our expectations, perceptions, and interpretation of results. “Let the law run its course.” Yet, those in the Atiku-Okowa camp expect that the law will reverse the election results and declare their candidate as the rightful winner. In the same vein, the Obi-Datti camp believes that justice would only have prevailed when their candidate and his running mate are declared as the rightful winner of the elections. This proves that in a democratic system, there will always be aggrieved people.

Recent elections in the country — starting from the Osun gubernatorial election that preceded the overall national elections in 2023 — have witnessed several vote cancellations. Ayisha Osori drew participants’ attention to this particular concern at the last edition of the Toyin Falola Interviews. Results cancellation has successfully registered as an avenue for manipulating election results, buying time for anointed candidates, and making candidates not so sure of winning the election eventually emerge as winners. It played out in the Adamawa and Kebbi states — where 20 of the 21 local government areas in Kebbi State had cancelled votes, all totaling about 90,000 cancelled votes. There is, therefore, the need to understand what these cancelled votes are, what they mean exactly, and how they have continually served as machinery in the hands of election manipulators. We must also ask ourselves: Why does the election-organizing body cancel votes to the tune of hundreds and tens of thousands in each state? Why do we have so many cancelled votes? 

Vote cancellation often leads to supplementary elections in the affected local government areas. What these supplementary elections mean is that they help aspirants strategize how to gain vote share in the affected areas. It is an avenue to go out and have a do-or-die fight-to-the-finish run. Therefore, it is always in favour of the candidate who was not leading — most likely the one in the second position — during the live counting of election results, as supplementary elections are an avenue to close up the gap and eventually win. 

There is a need to explore the lacunae in the Electoral Act, which has supported widespread vote cancellation, especially the empowerment of electoral officers to cancel election results in a polling unit. Although this empowerment by the Electoral Act is to help mitigate rampant instances of over-voting, it is not worded in a way to help arrive at optimal outcomes, as it leaves vote cancellation at the discretion of each electoral officer — so much so that even an instance of over-voting caused by just one vote is an acceptable condition for vote cancellation.

The ability of just one vote to determine the outcomes of every other vote cast at a particular polling unit on a given election day makes the Electoral Act porous, as the subjectivity of the electoral officers can be leveraged by power-hungry political parties to spur vote cancellation in their opponents’ stronghold, thereby buying themselves more time to deploy more machinery for electoral malpractices — whether it be more thugs, complicit law-enforcement officers, more funding for vote-buying, or any other form of result-manipulating machinery.

Given the sheer amount of power the Electoral Act grants to the INEC body and its officers, it is pertinent that electoral officers, resident electoral commissioners, and returning officers are people of high moral standing that are largely insulated against corruption, bias, and bribery. However, this is rarely the case in Nigeria. The quality of the people who hold these positions — being the ones that control the fairness or otherwise of the electoral body — is what Ayisha Osori finds highly questionable and which we all, as concerned Nigerians, should also find questionable.

Electoral officers, resident commissioners, and returning officers must be independent and non-partisan. However, the reverse is the case in most instances in Nigeria. Over and over again, there have been filmed instances where electoral officers and returning officers showed bias and were partisan outright in discharging their duties. We have also witnessed cases where card-carrying members of political parties end up in these electoral positions. Ayisha Osori believes that Nigeria’s electoral problems will never be resolved if we do not arrive at that point where we thoroughly screen members of the electoral body to check their antecedents, affiliations, political leanings, friends, and associates and ensure that they are as non-partisan as expected. We should hold returning officers, electoral officers, and resident electoral commissioners to a similarly rigorous standard and routine by which we hold our judges.

However, the question remains: even if we were to successfully get enough Nigerians that fit the moral and non-partisan characteristics required for the positions of returning officers and resident electoral commissioners, can we get as many Nigerians to function as electoral officers and presiding officers across all polling units? Knowing the peculiarity of Nigeria as a corrupt country, it is difficult to ascertain the feasibility of a sustainable selection of high-quality and skilled people for the important roles of electoral officers, resident electoral commissioners, and returning officers.

This need stems from the fact that irregularities in the Nigerian electoral process have — from time immemorial — always been through the collaborative efforts of stakeholders in the elections (political parties, electoral officers, resident electoral commissioners, and law enforcement agencies, among others). Take the debacle and shenanigans of the Adamawa gubernatorial election, for instance. The announcements of fake election results were fully backed by the state’s police commissioner and the Department of State Security, and one of these announcements was made by the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Adamawa State. This said, the announcement was made without the breakdown of results or any proof — all the REC had to declare the APC candidate as the election winner. But for the intervention of the national body of INEC, the announcement would have held water, leaving the eventual true winner Ahmadu Finitri to challenge the election results through the rigorous and sometimes unrewarding path of election tribunals and courts of justice.

Therefore, it is insufficient to call for adjustments to the Electoral Act or increased funding for Nigerian elections. The more compelling questions need to be asked, there has to be a full mapping out of the root problems of the Nigerian electoral system and process, and there is also the need to combat these problems collaboratively, the same way stakeholders have been collaborating to cause irregularities or engage in electoral malpractices.

If anything, one of Nigeria’s biggest problems is that corruption and crime are enticing and promising in the country — enticing because Nigeria is a largely poor country where one’s engagement in crime or corruption could be their easy pass to a future of generational wealth, and promising because the consequences of corruption in Nigeria are ridiculously low, even if the perpetrators are accosted. 

Since crime pays off and being a criminal is not dangerous, there is less motivation to desist from criminal or illegal acts in the country. To fully combat electoral malpractices, engaging in electoral crime has to be made unenticing, and the easiest way to make it unenticing to other Nigerians is to ensure that perpetrators of any form of electoral crime are severely and appropriately punished. 

When some are made scapegoats, and there is an active and heightened search for electoral offenders, the people would understand that there is no more laxity or laissez-faire to electoral processes in the country. Anything short of this would mean that our elections would continue to be as they have always been — which would, in turn, give some people the audacity to claim that some others can never emerge as the winner because they do not have the structure to win, of which structure here is nothing but the structure of electoral manipulation.

Another point to ponder from Ayisha Osori’s commentaries on the 2023 elections is the possibility of us all burrowing down an endless rabbit hole if we solely banked on the results from the elections — especially the presidential election — as our point of reference for claiming that the 2023 elections were free, fair, and credible. According to her, the competitiveness in the presidential results does not automatically translate to a strengthened democracy. In her words, “…there is a thing like competitive authoritarianism. You can have competitive results without the country being more democratic.” Osori believes that solely focusing on the results as a way of proving the credibility of the 2023 elections is a distraction from the other pockets of issues aggregated by agitators in their claim that the elections were neither free, fair, nor credible.

If competitive authoritarianism or any of its variants was truly the case in the 2023 elections — that is, if the results are rather a subtle way of rigging to evade detection or make it difficult to prove irregularity — then the perpetrators would have successfully set Nigeria back by many years. This is because while we would have gone back to something akin to the crude years of massive and widespread electoral malpractice, the subtlety in the perpetrators’ actions would make it much more difficult to prove, and to be difficult to prove is equivalent to it being difficult to identify. Difficulty in identifying the problems and their characteristics means there will be a corresponding difficulty in battling the problem. And there, thus, the puzzle of the Nigerian 2023 elections lies.

In the coming years, Nigerians and their newly elected leaders will not only need to drag the country out of the mire of economic calamity and insecurity but will also need to answer fundamental questions that will shape the approach to elections and electoral processes and choices in the country — some of these questions are what Ayisha Osori asked and commented on during the discourse.

 This is the final part of my reflections on the Panel Discussion on Nigeria’s 2023 elections by Ayisha Osori, Jibrin Ibrahim, Cynthia Mbamalu, and Chido Onumah. The session, which has received millions of views across different platforms, discussed the various aspects of the elections. My views  are not necessarily those of the four panelists. For the transcripts, see:




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