The atmosphere in this season of general elections has, expectedly, been thick with anxiety. The pace has also been frenetic. The good thing is that the Armageddon most of us feared so much would happen, has been aborted and that could be because our political players decided to do wear their thinking cap as they went through the Presidential and National Assembly elections, which ended by 3.00am Wednesday morning with the hallmark being the victory of the incumbent president, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
With the announcement of the results, the political temperature has gone a little down, even though some concerns as would be expected exist about the conduct of some aspects of those elections. There had been talks and arguments about whether key players should congratulate the president or not. For the benefit of precedence and in the interest of establishing a solid convention it is important to say that our political culture should include congratulations to the winners by the losers, and this should be irrespective of the circumstances surrounding the conduct of the polls. Congratulations do not necessarily mean acceptance, it only conveys goodwill, and our country needs plenty of goodwill from our leaders given the way we relate, what we say and the tension it has created in the country.
This column, on behalf of its many readers, congratulates our president for winning a second term in office. That the president contested in a very able manner is a confirmation that many Nigerians must have been positively touched in one way or the other. The president must not be carried away by the avalanche of congratulatory messages, because they signify a two-edged sword: just as it is about goodwill, it also represents the downside of the system. Taken from the latter position, the message is well done for the job done and welcome to the many yet undone. In this particular instance, with special reference to the conduct of the just ended elections, congratulations in this case means a serious wake-up call on the president-elect to reflect, look carefully around the system and identify the pitfalls. Guided by experience, he should begin to proffer well-reasoned solutions. He may need to improve his speed this time.
The atmosphere of joy and merriment, especially after a strategic victory, has a way of beclouding the mind, thereby preventing the subjects from seeing very deeply. This phenomenon is worse with political leaders who for most times have to grapple with sycophants in the courts. That is why Buhari, drawing from experience, must sit back and ask himself critical questions. He must also be very truthful about the answers. Some aspects of the presidential and legislative elections were not thorough. The organization was not the best this country at this stage could offer, given our experience and facilities available. The president must be told the organisation fell short of what was expected and it was very embarrassing when juxtaposed with the fact that the electoral body had all of four years to prepare.
It is true that President Buhari has expressed indignation over the postponement of the February 16 election at the unholy hour of 2:30am, just five hours to kick-off. The expression of revulsion does not excuse him from complicity. Knowing how we play our games here, the initiative could well have come from the commanding heights of power and authority in the country. After all, deceit is part of governance strategy especially in societies that have chosen to perpetually play in the lower league of moral standards. It is doubtful if we have left that realm. Even if his government did not instigate it, the point is that it ought not to happen at all, because no matter how neutral the Federal Government pretends to be it has an oversight role over the electoral body, bothering on security of the nation.
In some countries such postponement was enough to ignite civil crisis of huge magnitude. This is why the president ought to know the critical things they are doing concerning organization and if he did not know as he has claimed, that amounts to gross dereliction of duty. The president must be told in unmistakable terms that the postponement was a light version of civilian coup and by it we marketed our shame in the international market. That it has happened before is not an excuse, neither does it confer legality to subsequent occurrence. It is bad and a stop should be put to it permanently. The other bad side of the concluded polls include late or non-arrival of electoral materials, tampering with result sheets, massive malfunction of card readers and operation by poorly trained INEC ad-hoc staff, poor security (two unarmed policemen per unit), misuse of military and other security agencies, low integrity of the NYSC ad-hoc staff. The right of citizens is another very vital matter. The maltreatment of Igbo in some parts of Northern Nigeria and Lagos is ominous.
Now that the president is on his last tenure, the issue of electoral reform should be of utmost interest to him. Contradictions in the society are sweet and bitter. Sweet to those who reap the undue advantage and bitter to those who become the victims. For some while, it would seem as if no damage is being done, but the lessons of history teach us that a mountain of resentment keeps building up to the point those contradictions explode to either destroy the society or substantially reconfigure it. This could be at a huge cost to lives and property. This is not what we want, rather we desire a new Nigeria that will come from our deliberate resolutions and deliberate actions. After four years in office the president should know this and per chance he doesn’t, it is a message clearly conveyed by the pattern of voting in the presidential election.
In the interest of the country, the president must resolve to succeed exceedingly in the second tenure and truth be told, all of us owe him a responsibility to help him give our country the best. If Buhari is to etche his name in the positive side of history a few things would have to change. His circle of friends and advisers is too narrow, he will need to expand that and he can do so except if his agenda is a narrow one. His actions in the first tenure suggested so and the outcome of the elections shows it didn’t go down well; he would need to change. He must define his government especially in terms of philosophy – is it capitalist or welfarist? Is it liberal democracy or benevolent dictatorship? The government talks about privatisation and at the same time talking about spending huge public funds to prop private businesses. It raised the petroleum pump price in a manner the capitalist Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would never have contemplated doing. This imposed the highest level of suffering ever experienced since independence. The administration did that and yet spent billions on oil subsidy.
Nobody is sure of the state of the refineries. The president will need to be harsher to the murderous herdsmen than he was to ballot box snatchers. He should also thread cautiously on the contentious issues of cattle colony. If the courts don’t remove him for possible infringements, President Buhari has a big chance to write himself into superlative reckoning in the history books.