A MOMENTUM OF HISTORY – NIGERIA’S ELECTORAL SUCCESS
Nigeria’s political history recorded a major positive boost when the much awaited Presidential and National Assembly elections came to an end with the declaration of results acceptable to all candidates.
The election was historic as the whole world eagerly watched and waited to see if Nigerians could exercise their civic duty in an orderly manner. The anxiety was predicated on a jaundiced assumption that Nigeria would break up in the year 2015, due to inevitable post-election violence.
That prediction was premised on the historical antecedent of the aftermath the country’s previous elections. In addition, it was argued that the spate of politically motivated violence and the seeming inability of security agencies to checkmate and apprehend perpetrators, helped to fuel speculations. History has however, proved the doubting Thomas’s wrong as the anxieties were needless to say the least.
Remarkably, Nigeria’s presidential and National Assembly polls were the first of five elections that will be held this year in West Africa and unarguably, the most hotly contested polls in Africa’s history.
The reason for this is not far-fetched: Nigerians were determined to go the whole hog to ensure the conduct of peaceful and completely successful elections, in order to end the unmitigated socio-economic injustice, which has seen a few living in opulence while the majority remained poor.
There is no doubt that Nigerians demonstrated an unwavering tenacity during the polls as they waited patiently for hours in the sun, rain and then in the dark, to exercise their franchise. All Nigerians, against all odds demonstrated the ‘Never say Die’ attitude of the Nigerian spirit by disregarding all threats, to vote for the candidate of their choice, without fear or intimidation.
Instructively, Nigerians substantially relegated sectional issues to the background and focused on the real issues that affect the Nigerian state and its vast population, during the electioneering. Issues such as insecurity, corruption, electricity, education, health and transport, were heatedly debated on several platforms, with the electorate freely pitching their tents with the candidates that argued to their individual satisfaction. This was a first for many Nigerians and helped to sway the electorate to vote the candidates they believed in the most.
Across Africa, it is a rarity to unseat incumbents, as was witnessed in Kenya, Ivory Coast and Senegal, to mention a few. Their return on each occasion was heralded by violent conflicts and sometimes wars. Nigeria has also had its fair share of returning incumbents, including Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister in 1960 and 1964; Shehu Shagari in 1979 and 1983; and Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 and 2003.
It is for this reason that the sportsmanship demonstrated by President Goodluck Jonathan in accepting defeat and congratulating the winner ahead of the final results is being seen as not only unusual but essentially, helping to douse the already tense atmosphere and ensure that peace reigns.
In his broadcast to the nation before and after the polls, President Jonathan emphasized that the will of the people freely expressed through the ballot, was the bedrock of all democracies and urged all true democrats to graciously accept the outcome of the elections as the rightful choice of Nigerians, whose lives were more sacred than the political ambition of any individual.
On the other hand, the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, thanked the people of Nigeria for the privilege to lead the country and for voting peacefully. He also restated his determination to ensure that his administration bequeaths a better Nigeria in the years to come. According to General Buhari, by the action of Nigerians on March 28, Nigeria has now joined the comity of nations in the use of the ballot box to peacefully change an incumbent President, in a free and fair contest.
As world leaders and international organisations applaud Nigeria and Nigerians, the real challenge is in sustaining the momentum of this historic feat, which by all standards remains a cornerstone worthy of emulation throughout the continent.
Nigerians and indeed, Africans must therefore, rededicate themselves to the onerous tasks of nation building through enviable comportment of self and conduct of credible polls, in order to deepen their democracies and sustain national, regional and continental economic growth.