Without doubt, Nigerians did not bargain for the avoidable hitches that followed the 2019 presidential poll. They did not envisage that they will pass through such a harrowing experience in the course of casting their ballots. One, the election scheduled for February 16 was aborted about a few hours to the exercise due to logistic problem encountered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and shifted by one week.
Two, when the election finally held on February 23, it was trailed by many hiccups which underscored the ill-preparedness of the electoral agency contrary to its claims that it was damn ready for the poll. Three, the waiting game in the piecemeal announcement of results by the returning officers from various state capitals at Abuja collation centre unnerved many Nigerians. Four, Nigerians waited for days until the final result was announced on Wednesday.
No Nigerian will wish a repeat of this drama in tomorrow’s and future polls in the country. Therefore, it will be good that after the acrimonious February 23 presidential poll and its outcome, the next stage now should be how to heal the wounds exacerbated by the election and move the nation forward. This is perhaps the best way we can get rid of the bitterness associated with the election.
We have been finding it difficult to move the nation forward after almost every presidential election since 1999 till date. Hopefully, we shall get there. There are many national wounds in the country waiting for healing before the poll added more to them. Like in all our previous presidential elections, the election that returned President Muhammadu Buhari to a second term in office cannot be said to be flawless.
The All Progressive Congress (APC) leadership must come to terms with this truism and handle the situation with tact and maturity. The late President Umaru Yar’Adua admitted that much when he won the poll in 2007 and he promised electoral reforms. But death could not allow him to accomplish his dream.
Let the present government look in that direction so that in future we should be able to have a transparent and credible election without shouts of ‘magomago’ and ‘wuruwuru.’ We shall return to this theme of electoral reforms in the course of this article. There were reported cases of ballot snatching, intimidation of voters, technical disenfranchisement due to malfunctioning card readers, violence, killings and other infractions during the poll.
In fact, there is no flawless poll anywhere in the world. And there is no place with a perfect electoral system in the world. But it appears ours is getting worse by the day. Therefore, what we are saying is that we should find new ways to reform our electoral system to check these infractions in future elections. The February 23 presidential poll has produced a winner and many losers.
The winners of the poll have had enough time to celebrate their victory and the losers have also bemoaned their loss. In all, we are all winners. Notable foreign countries and friends of Nigeria including United Kingdom, United States, Russia China and others have congratulated President Buhari on his electoral victory. The African Union (AU) has also congratulated the winner of the poll.
But his major contender, Atiku Abubakar, is yet to congratulate the winner, and has vowed to challenge the outcome in the courts. No doubt, it is within his rights to do so. And he has already approached the courts. But to keep this democracy alive, all of us must pay some sacrifices to ensure that the nation exists first before we talk of politics and even political ambition of some of us.
Our politicians must eschew the ‘do or die’ approach to politics and learn to play the game according to the rules. While it is within the right of the loser of the election to challenge its outcome in courts, it is also good for him to listen to the advice of those counseling him not to do so. In the history of this nation, such a challenge can go on and on for a long time before the outcome is known.
It can cause more enemies than friends. It is capable of polarizing the nation the more. Therefore, President Muhammadu Buhari can still reach out to Atiku and plead with him to assist in moving the nation forward. All the grandstanding about ‘we shall meet them in court’ by some APC chieftains does not heal wounds.
This is why some critics think that ‘the winner takes all approach’ of the presidential system of government is not suitable for us. We urgently need a system that will ensure that winners and losers are accommodated in government so that we can be one in victory and defeat. In fact, there will be no victor, no vanquished.
Nigerians must find practical ways of entrenching the power rotation policy among the six-geopolitical zones in such a way that existing political parties must abide by it. Such arrangement should take into account those zones that had their turns since 1999 when the current political dispensation came into existence.
In fact, there must be a law to this effect so that it does not look like a gentleman’s agreement which is implemented at the whims and caprices of each political party. At 20 years of unbroken democracy, ours is still at infancy and should be pampered and nurtured to maturity. Our electoral system needs urgent holistic reforms. We must be ready to embrace radical reforms, including electronic voting.
We should borrow worthy examples from advanced democracies in Europe and America and ensure that this democracy is not derailed. Our politicians should play politics with principle. It should not be politics of anything goes. Our politics must have morality. There should be moral and ethical dimensions to our politics. Nigerians should not be killed because we are conducting election to choose our leaders.
The political ambition of any politician is not worth the blood of a Nigerian. Voters must be allowed to vote according to their conscience and the choice of the people must be respected. Nobody or group should be denigrated for their choice in any election. And nobody should be coerced to vote for a particular candidate in any election in any part of the country.
As Nigerians come out to cast their votes tomorrow, it is expected that INEC would improve and give Nigerians a transparent and credible exercise. Let the lapses of the February 23 poll be corrected and let there be peace before, during and after the poll. Above all, let the wishes of the people be respected and let the votes count.