The Demystification of Incumbency

Buhari Jonathan_0

By Yusuf Abdullahi

The road to victory is not always smooth. It is always littered with so many rough edges. It was this rough edged road that Nigeria travelled and eventually emerged victorious. For me, everybody is a winner in this process, as the sacrifice borne by Nigerians in seeing to the actualization of the dream cannot be underscored. I salute our courage and resoluteness during the elections. The manner with which Nigerians conducted themselves after the elections is even much more to be appreciated. Never have Nigerians united against crisis than they did during and after the elections. I think the significance of the victory of an opposition candidate against an incumbent lies in the fact that Nigerians now know that they are truly the hirer of their leaders and as such reserve the right to fire the leader when the leader fails to live up to expectation.

The much anticipated presidential election has come and gone. Play writers would have no qualms in drawing inspiration from the intrigues that characterized the process of the just concluded presidential election. Of particular interest were the predictions from some quarters about how the process will pan out and what will become of Nigeria afterwards. Perhaps the most worrisome prediction was the prediction that there may not be Nigeria after the elections depending on the outcome of the election. This prediction carried with it a huge doze of force as the already polarized Nigeria became so tensed that her beautiful people were overwhelmed by the prediction. The mass exodus of people travelling from both divides of the country is a testimony of the apprehension that gripped the people. In the end, Nigerians were shocked in a positive way to see the elections conducted under a very peaceful atmosphere while Nigeria remains whole. No doubt, the true winner is Nigeria.

Nigeria is today in the glare of the world for many apparent reasons. We just conducted an election adjudged by both local and international observers as free, fair and credible. Plus, the credible election returned an opposition candidate as the president-elect thereby sacking the incumbent which is the first of its kind in the history of Nigeria.

The electoral umpire headed by Professor Attahiru Jega deserves our collective commendation. For conducting an election praised by the whole world as fair and credible is no small feat to attain in our beloved country, particularly, at a time when the space was awash with uncertainties. The enormity of the task for the commission didn’t overwhelm it and this can be attributable to the quality of leadership that Professor Attahiru Jega provided. For Jega, it shall be said that he conducted a fair and credible election that truly reflected the wishes of the people. Indeed, the epoch-making event wherein an opposition candidate defeated an incumbent at the polls will go hand in hand with Jega’s name. Jega believed in credible election and he showed great strength and comportment in steering the affairs of INEC. He kept faith and did all that he needed to do with the support of his staff in actualizing the dream. They have demonstrated a rare faith which ultimately has seen them triumph in the end. INEC however would need to improve on logistics and the challenges faced with the Smart Card Reader.

The president exhibited a rare and admirable quality by conceding defeat when it was apparently clear that he has lost. That singular act of Mr. President has won him the admiration of many. He has shown to the world that he is a lover of peace and a firm believer in Nigeria. History no doubt will be kind to him for his efforts at ensuring a smooth election and keeping Nigeria whole contrary to the expectation of many that Nigeria will be thrown into a conflagration because of the election. For President Goodluck Jonathan, he may have lost at the polls, but he is a winner in his own right who has set an enviable precedent for other African leaders to follow. He deserves our respect and commendation for conceding defeat and even conceding before the official announcement of the winner. Had the President not conceded defeat at the time that he did, the consequences of Elder Godsday Orubebe’s senseless disruption of the collation of results is better imagined.

One cannot be unmindful of the onerous task that contesting against an incumbent is. Incidentally, of all the four times that General Muhammadu Buhari contested for the presidency, he did so against an incumbent three times. Even when he was not up against an incumbent, his main opponent belonged to the ruling party and was supported by the incumbent. His first foray into politics was in the year 2003 when he contested for president under the All Peoples Party (APP). He contested against Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who was an incumbent. He lost the election to the incumbent and then ended up at the tribunals challenging the outcome of the election, but the tribunal reasoned that the irregularities he complained of were not substantial enough to nullify the election. The General ultimately believed that he will live to fight another day and he was presented another opportunity to try again in the year 2007. This time, under the platform of All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) and against a kinsman, Late Umoru Musa Yar’adua of the ruling PDP. Again, he lost the election and his bid to becoming the president of Nigeria only ended up at the Supreme Court where again the outcome of the election was upheld by the apex court. This was even when the Late Umaru Musa Yar’adua against whom General Muhammadu Buhari contested admitted in his inaugural speech that the process that led to him becoming the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was flawed.

The People’s General as he is widely called by his supporters was certainly not a man to give up on his quest of becoming the president of Nigeria. So in 2011, he contested for the third time under the platform of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) against President Goodluck Jonathan, an incumbent. In what looked like giving up on his quest, General Muhammadu Buhari cried while addressing the media that he would be contesting for the third and the last time. He contested the election and lost to President Goodluck Jonathan who promised Nigerians a breath of fresh air. Apparently losing faith in the system, he decided not to challenge the poll’s result at the tribunal but his political party did but was unsuccessful.

Since the return to civil rule in 1999, Nigeria has been governed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) at the centre. It would seem that this fact made the party too comfortable. The opposition parties on the other hand realized quite timely that they needed an alignment of forces if they are to wrestle power from the ruling PDP. It was therefore not surprising when the opposition parties sought alliance with themselves in a bid to dislodge the PDP from the centre. This political romance of four main opposition parties gave birth to the All Progressive Congress (APC) on July 31, 2013.

The People’s General who visibly had thrown in the towel signaled his interest to contest for the office of the president yet again under the new synergized political party, APC. Amidst fierce criticism from the handlers of his major opponent of being a serial loser, a former dictator and someone who had never gone through the democratic process of winning a primary election, the People’s General kept his calm, picked the nomination form of his party and eventually got nominated as the standard bearer of the party by the majority of the delegates during the party’s convention. In truth, this was the first time he will be subjected to such a process as he has always emerged as a consensus candidate in his previous outings. As soon as he clinched the ticket of his party, he submitted himself to his political party to be refined and promoted with a robust campaign strategy and innovations in a manner that left many Nigerians in awe and wondering if it was the same People’s General they had known all along. His political party knew too well that Buhari needed more than his amiable qualities of being an incorruptible and an honest man to succeed at the polls. There was definitely the need to disabuse the minds of many Nigerians that indeed General Muhammadu Buhari is not a sectional leader but a true Nigerian and a true converted democrat. It was therefore little wonder that his campaign started from the southern part of the country.

As the campaign went on, Buhari garnered momentum and coupled with the general disposition of the populace about the government that be, Buhari was sure coasting to victory come March 28, 2015. With a promise of credible elections by the INEC; the incumbent became jittery and tried to avoid the polls. Knowing how dire the consequences would be to not hold elections at all, the incumbent sought rather to delay the polls by rescheduling the election. This sent the opposition into a mild and controlled frenzy as though they expressed their disappointment with the rescheduling; they called on their supporters for calm. Nigerians were next to witness the longest six weeks of their lives with conspiracy theories renting the air. Finally, March 28, 2015 came and the presidential election held with fourteen political parties participating. The two major contenders however were; General Muhammadu Buhari of the APC and President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP. Buhari who was contesting for the fourth time and for the second time against President Goodluck Jonathan was declared winner of the election adjudged free, fair and credible by local and international observers. What a way of clinching victory.

For Buhari, History shall remember him for being the Abraham Lincoln of Africa for never giving up despite failing many times. Need you be reminded that Lincoln won based on large support base from the North and West of America? Another similarity shared with Lincoln is the fact that Buhari will be the first president of the opposition party in the same way Lincoln was the first president of the Republican Party. History shall also remember Buhari as the Bill Clinton of our time for defeating an incumbent in the same way Bill Clinton defeated George H. W. Bush of the Republican Party in 1992. Indeed, his victory at the polls is the reward for patience, perseverance and faith which the People’s General demonstrated from the beginning of his quest to the actualization of the quest. It is an uncommon show of tenacity by him and it remains a lesson to be learnt by politicians who may be rejected and derided only to be loved and accepted by the same people afterwards. That is the real victory.

Our democracy is the biggest beneficiary of the election and the resultant outcome. All thanks to Nigerians, INEC, President Goodluck Jonathan, General Muhammadu Buhari and APC for seeing to that. It is also to their credit that incumbency has been demystified in the most populous black nation on earth. The APC in particular has redefined opposition in Nigeria and that has earned them the victory they truly deserve. It is hoped that the PDP will constitute a worthy opposition party in the years to come.

 

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