Nigeria’s March 28, 2015 presidential election was, perhaps, one of the most bitterly fought in the annals of the country’s electoral history. The election occurred after a controversial six-week postponement following insistence by security agencies that it should be pushed forward for them to accelerate the battle against the insurgency in the North East.
It was possibly the most divisive election, drawing Nigerians into a devious web of mudslinging as well as ethnic and religious chauvinism. Eventually the election turned out to be largely a referendum on key national issues pertaining to the state of the country’s economy and security. This historic election was fought-and-won by Nigerians who appeared to have crucially determined to assert their position as the real employers of those in power, and on whose behalf and on whose benefits power should only be exercised.
The lesson of who truly wields power and whose interests should really matter in a democracy has definitely been affirmed. Nigeria’s president-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari has his job cut out for him. He will need to be quick in forming a government. His government would need to swiftly work very hard in addressing the deep divisions in the country while simultaneously addressing the economic crisis and security challenges facing the country.
PREMIUM TIMES holds the view that this is not the time for Buhari and his followers to revel in triumphalism or adopt a winner-takes-all approach to governance that has been the graveyard of relationships across Nigeria’s multifarious political, social and economic constituencies.
The election has been a revelation on how best to exercise the franchise of Nigerians. The utilisation of the biometric capabilities of permanent voter’s cards and card-readers makes the polls Nigeria’s first technologically compliant elections, with a greater degree of success, despite initial hitches and distraction.
The ferocity with which the enemies of free and fair elections fought the utilisation of the new technology was a real revelation about the determination of some politicians to continue to steal the people’s mandate. The subsequent perfection of the biometric voting system in Nigeria would clearly improve the integrity of elections in Nigeria.
The election was historic because for the first time in the country’s history, an incumbent president was defeated in the polls. It is a huge signal bursting the presumed invincibility of our leaders. Now that Nigerians have demonstrated that they can remove ruling presidents through the electoral process, the accountability of leaders to the people is placed on the agenda.
Poor governance can henceforth be sanctioned through the ballot. This simple civic message on the power of the electorate could be a decisive turning point in consolidating our democracy. The value of coming out en masse to vote, but also staying back in the polling centres to protect the votes and ensure that they count is becoming clearer. These are significant indices of the progression of our democracy.
It is also important to note that another historic element in these elections is the emergence of a united opposition platform. Previous attempts to form a united opposition party have always floundered. This time round, the emergence of a virile political opposition in the form of the All Progressives Congress (APC) made it possible to challenge and defeat the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) after sixteen years of virtual one-party rule at the federal level. The PDP got so arrogant as to announce that its rule would last at least sixty years. The lesson here for the APC is that its longevity would depend on its capacity to promote good and democratic governance for Nigeria.
PREMIUM TIMES believes that the main heroes of these elections are the Nigerian people who showed commitment and discipline by coming out to vote and staying on in their polling units sometimes into the second day as the process dragged. President Goodluck Jonathan also exhibited grace and statesmanship by calling his opponent and conceding, a gesture signaling restraint to his followers and indicating the majority wish of Nigerians as greater than individual desire or ambition. By so doing, President Jonathan leaves Aso Rock on a high note and would enter Nigerian history as the first president to accept defeat.
It is also important to note that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and its Chair, Professor Attahiru Jega, have been heroic in the conduct of the 2015 elections so far. They have been able to deploy technology to achieve credible, free and remarkably fair elections, while maintaining calm in the turbulence of a sensitive electoral process. Their foresight in introducing the technology that improved the electoral process earns them the respect and admiration of Nigerians.
PREMIUM TIMES urges President Jonathan and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party to continue in the path of honour and integrity as we approach the April 11 election. They now have the important responsibility of sustaining a strong opposition party.
The president-elect needs to hasten his preparations for the challenge of governance in the next few weeks before the official swearing in, so he can hit the ground running upon resumption. Nigeria’s problems are numerous and complex, but not intractable, whether these be corruption, an unraveling economy, insecurity, true federalism, unemployment, power, etc.
For Nigerians, the 2015 elections have restored our democratic bragging rights. We the people are employers of those holding power in trust for us and we can dispense with when they cease to act on our behalf and for our benefit and progress. This has been the most important lesson of these elections.