Did you see the octogenarian woman voter in Katsina State as she cast her vote? Perhaps,you saw the eighty-something old Pa Isaac with partial stroke in Oworonshoki part of Lagos as he was interviewed by a Channels television reporter,Yomi Otaigbe? In spite of his ill-health,the old man said he felt fulfilled he is part of Nigeria’s democratic history.
When the history of the 2015 elections will be written,historians will not forget the resilience of these people,the weak,the infirm,the depraved who despite their
handicap,defiled the heat,the rain,to cast their votes.We cannot also not forget those who donated their generating sets to ensure that voting,which in many states went into the night was not hindered.It is not an exaggeration therefore to say that this is the first genuine electoral contest since 1999.In an electioneering campaign that was full of hate,hammer and tongs,the resilience and unflappable zeal and determination of the Nigerian voter seems to have softened matters up.Again,this is the victory of the human spirit.It must be stated that the patience of most voters through the election,the accreditation and actual voting,was unparalleled.Watching President Jonathan stay cool at his Otuoke home for long hours amid the embarrassment caused by the smart card reader,was simply Presidential.
Which is why the real winner of these elections is the Nigerian voter.It teaches a lot of lessons:First,for all the divisions in our politics-and many of them are real and powerful-the truth is,Nigerians are steadily becoming a more diverse and tolerant and patient people,determined and committed to take their destinies in their own hands.These are the opposite of the virtues,indeed,the vices that our politicians have become notorious.It therefore follows that henceforth, any attempt to suppress to thwart the wishes of the people will be resisted at all costs.
My take is that the presidential election of last Saturday was not a referendum.It was a choice,a choice between continuity and change.At the time this column went to press,the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) was about to declare the winner of the Presidential election.It is a 2-way contest between incumbent President,Dr.Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP)and Gen.Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress(APC). As any keen follower of politics knows, winning an election, especially the presidency, comes with a huge prize. It comes with its own peculiar pleasures and pressures.It also comes with extraordinary expectations. It’s an expectation from all constituent units, from those who voted for the incumbent President and those who did not.
Just as winning comes with its own demandingness, how you exit when you lose is also important.
As you read this,both the winner and the loser and their supporters should have at the back of their minds,the sacrifice made by the voters,in rain and in sunshine,by the weak,the strong,the infirm,the rich and the poor to cast their votes.
Our democracy can move forward and be strengthened if the loser is gracious in defeat and put a phone call straight to the winner to congratulate him,and the winner magnaminous in victory and say to the loser:’we have fought a good fight…we are all winners in this.
As at the time this column went to bed result from about 14 states of the federation have been released by INEC in Abuja, with no clear winner yet. Nonetheless, if the incumbent President loses as some exit polls indicate, undoubtedly, he has fought a good fight. Perhaps his efforts and that of his party were not good enough. Maybe, Nigerians want change, a new direction in leadership. But history will record Jonathan as a gentleman who sometimes suffer from what an American political historian calls “terminal politeness”.He meant well for the country,but perhaps his errors of judgment became his Achilles heels. For Buhari,this will be his biggest moment in life.For a man who has failed in his three previous attempts,nothing can be as defining as this.Will he be a polarising President as he has been portrayed? This is a man whose worldview is seen as staunchly conservative and predictably inflexible.Will he change or remain the same old ‘Muhammadu Buhari’?
I know some of the headlines this morning will be something like this: Hurricane Change sweeps out PDP, as Buhari may be the President-elect. Or uncertainty over the wins the presidential election. I must confess I did not expect the margin of Buhari’s win in some states. But that’s politics. That’s the beauty of democracy.
All the same, one must caution that any victory celebration by APC should be tempered to avoid provoking violence from the supporters of other parties, including the ruling PDP. Already, Rivers State is on the boil, And anxiety is heightening elsewhere in the country. The job ahead is enormous. The new President will be walking into the worst situation of any elected President in more than 25 years. In all fronts, economy, infrastructure,security,etc,Nigeria is like a country under receivership. It needs urgent bailout. Politics drives the economy,but the economy holds the key to politics.How Buhari will tackle all of these will test his leadership ability and management skills. True leadership is not a pursuit. It is measured on the deliverables that the people can see.
Altogether, one should advise the president-elect, that he can succeed or fail, as a result of what he wants to do with the office,the range of issues of issues he wants to recognise and make his agenda. Essentially, the challenge is to create ‘boundaries’ for the office. That means selecting a set of goals that will be his priority.