An anatomy of the 2015 Presidential Election

NIgerian Elections

Saturday, the 28th day of March, 2015 represents an important milestone in the annals of the political history of the federal Republic of Nigeria. This day was a strategic turning point in the history of the country not because an election was held, but because the Nigerian electorate were able to successfully alter the hitherto negatively skewed political equation for the first time since the geographical entity called Nigeria was midwifed into existence. At no time but now had the poor Nigerian Masses been so successful at challenging the status quo by looking at the nation’s oligarchy eyeball to eyeball. Therefore, to say that General Muhammadu Buhari’s victory at the polls was victory for the suffering masses of Nigeria is to state the obvious.

However, a cursory look at the roles played by the various stakeholders, before, during and after the election will reveal that the victory we are celebrating today was one attained through the incorruptibility of the chief umpire, powered by Divine grace.

A hindsight reflection into the various events in the last three months before the election confirms the veracity in the lyrics of an erudite Yoruba poet, Chief Moshood Olanrewaju Adepoju. Describing the sit-tight syndrome of most African leaders, Adepoju had said:

“A mad man cannot be easily dislodged of a cutlass in his firm grip; whosoever wishes to dislodge the mad man of the firmly held cutlass must be equipped with both wisdom and ability to fight”.

Ipso facto, it will not be an exaggeration to infer that General Muhammadu Buhari and, indeed, the teeming Nigerian electorate actually snatched victory from the mouth of a lion in the presidential election of March 28, 2015.

In this analysis, while I consider the Nigerian masses as the winners of Buhari’s mandate, I see Professor Attahiru Jega as the Hero of Nigeria’s new-found democracy. In the entire history of Nigeria’s political experiments, Professor Jega has singled himself out as a specially wired individual who can neither be corrupted nor intimidated. We were all witnesses to the various attempts at assassinating his character after he has refused to be bought over; yet this man maintained his level-headedness. He was blackmailed with a view to making him lose focus and composure, but he developed a thick skin towards all these antics. All attempts to draw him in the mud of dirty politics by drowning desperate politicians were resisted. His personality was frontally attacked; his integrity was wickedly rubbished; while his patience was deliberately over-tested. In the face of all manners of provocation and disdainful treatment, this gentleman refused to be derailed from his noble cause of emancipating the powerless and voiceless Nigerians from the yoke of their local imperialists. Not many people have the nerve to weather such a terrible storm. Not even in Nigeria where it is believed that there is virtually nothing which money and power cannot do.

Members of the opposition party, APC, also deserve to be specially commended. Apart from engaging the ruling PDP antics for antics and propaganda for propaganda, all attempts at luring key members into being part of an illegal interim national government were rebuffed. If key members of opposition had bought into the ING idea being mooted by the ruling cabal, the entire process of purging the country of ineptitude, impunity and lawlessness would have been frustrated. If this had happened, not only would General Muhammadu Buhari have been stabbed in the back in the same manner M.K.O Abiola was by his so-called loyalists in 1993, another hope of the Nigerian masses would also have been dashed in just the same manner “Hope ’93” had been dashed. The Nigerian Judiciary also deserve to be specially commended as it bluntly refused to be desecrated by desperate sit-tight politicians. Members of the Fourth Estate of the realm also gave an impressive account of themselves.

The international community, specifically the United States of America, the United Kingdom, South Africa, France, the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and ECOWAS – have played a role never-to-be-forgotten in rescuing our already militarized nation from becoming a war zone. The various emissaries sent to the Nigerian President by these various countries and international organisations before, during and after the election have actually helped in clipping the wings of those who had thought nothing would happen if another June 12 was staged. I was particularly impressed by the presentation of all the international observers after the elections, who were all unanimous that the electioneering process put in place by INEC was too transparent to be discredited. As a matter of fact, an American observer had to score Nigeria higher than America in the adoption of a permanent voter card (PVC). John Kufo, former Ghanaian President, had told Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in plain language on Monday, 30th March, that “so far, the entire electoral process has been seen to be free, fair and transparent; but until the final result is announced, we are still waiting on Nigeria”. The conducts of all security personnel and those of the voters were also very peaceful and civil which left no room for anyone to find excuses for the execution of any hidden agenda.

The above information and analysis become needful in the wake of the current eulogy and encomiums being showered on Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as being gallant in defeat as well as being a prince of peace. While this is the opinion of those who praise the Nigerian President for congratulating the winner of the election even when the result of Borno State was still being awaited, I beg to differ quite significantly from such an opinion. Of course, this is also my own opinion to which I think I am perfectly entitled. My position is that having failed in all attempts at having the pendulum to swing to his side, and, in the face of both local and international forces that were too many for him to contain, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was left with no choice other than to congratulate the winner in order to score cheap political point and win for himself cheap popularity.

A president that was prepared to accept defeat would not so desperately push for a postponement of the election the way Dr. Jonathan had done, even when there was no basis for such. A president that was prepared for defeat would not move so desperately against the umpire in the same manner Dr. Jonathan had moved against Professor Jega when he saw defeat coming. A president that was ready to respect the verdict of the electorate would not encourage such a frontal attack on the permanent voter card and the card readerto the extent of going to court to have both gadgets stopped. A president with such a large heart for defeat would not heat up the polity so much that thousands of Nigerians had to flee the country few days to the election. The militarization of Ekiti and Osun gubernatorial elections cannot be forgotten by Nigerians in a hurry.

The anxiety Nigerians had been made to pass through courtesy of the inflammatory statements of Dr. Jonathan’s loyalists prior to the day of the election and before the result was finally declared does not make him worthy of the kind of accolade he now receives from some quarters. As a matter of fact, the last-minute show of shame championed by Mr. Godsday Orubebe in the full glare of the whole world only indicated the level of desperation of Mr. President and his party, PDP. It will be very unfair to Mr. Orubebe for anyone to think that he and those in solidarity with him in his attempt to abort the result presentation process on Tuesday 31st March, 2015 were running their own errand. If the INEC chairman and the security personnel had not reacted to their violent outbursts with superior intellectual prowess and unrivalled emotional stability, their apparent game-plan was to elicit a counter reaction that would eventually have put paid to the result presentation, which would have presented the Presidency with a golden opportunity to declare the election inconclusive.

Even with all these, the Nigerian masses owe President Jonathan and the PDP a debt of gratitude for obvious reasons. Mr. President and his party actually won the election for Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in a number of ways. One, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s non-performance on all fronts provided an inroad for a Buhari whose record of public service is both enviable and impeccable. Secondly, the various frontal attacks on Buhari’s personality as well as the numerous fallacious allegations made against him helped to win many more voters to his side than could have been imagined. In this regard, many thanks should be given to people like Femi Fani-Kayode, Doyin Okupe, Ayodele Fayose, Olusegun Mimiko, Olisah Metuh and, most importantly, Dame Patience Jonathan, who all threw decorum and civility into the winds and resorted to the use of gutter-language in a desperate attempt to pull down their number one political road-block.

Having critically analysed the roles of various stakeholders before, during and after the election, the big question now is “what are the lessons we have all learnt from the fall-outs of the election?” One of the most important lessons is that politicians have now learnt how not to take the electorate for granted. The saying that “the ballot is more powerful than the bullet” was practically demonstrated on March 28, 2015 in a manner it has never been demonstrated in the history of Nigeria. It is now crystal clear that the only power of incumbency is performance and the running of a people-oriented government. Reliance on the use of force, intimidation, fear-off and inducement of the electorate through various fire brigade gratifications is now out-fashioned and literally barbaric.

Another significant lesson is that Professor Attahiru Jega has successfully proved wrong the saying “he who pays the piper, dictates the tune”. Going down memory lane, Nigeria had electoral umpires in the past and we can recollect how they all faired. We cannot forget in a hurry the antecedents of people like Chief Michael Ani, Justice Ovie Whisky, Professor Humphery Nwosu, Dr. Abel Gobadia and Professor Morris Iwu. Apart from Professor Humphery Nwosu, whose good intention and excellent efforts were thwarted by the military junta of Ibrahim Babangida, all others simply had their conscience mortgaged on the altar of pecuniary interests. That professor Jega was able to hold his head and close his mind against all forms of inducement, he is worth being celebrated. That this man was able to successfully weather the storm of intimidation, subtle threat, cheap blackmail and character assassination, he is worth being celebrated. Professor Jega has handed down a standard which will not only shape the political destiny of Nigeria in so many years to come, but will also provide many progressive countries within the African region and beyond with a prototype towards a culture of transparency and integrity.

March 28, 2015 also teaches every sensible human being that there is a tomorrow and that whatever we do today will become history tomorrow. Under this lesson, we come to realise the fact that power, authority, wealth and all other worldly possessions are very transient.

Finally, Buhari’s eventual victory is also full of lessons concerning worldly pursuits and ambitions. Believing in a cause once our mind has been set on it; positive thinking about the possibility of attainment, dogged fighting spirit, patience; tolerance; and perseverance are all attributes of great achievers and world champions. When we face challenges in our bid to attain a success in life, we should neither relent nor despair; for at the end of every tunnel, there is light.

As General Muhammadu Buhari is apparently on a rescue mission on the stage of Nigerian leadership, it is my prayer that God of mercy will provide him with divine support and make the task very easy for him.

God bless Nigeria.

Taofeeq Ajibola Lawal, Aberdeen Business School Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, United Kingdom.

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