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Nigeria: One more democratic step to the summit

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HISTORY beckoned on Nigeria, the most populous black nation once again- this time,  election of the president that will oversee the affairs of governance in the next four years in a democratic manner. Did they achieve the task? Yes, they did!

At least one can beat his chest and say the presidential election went without record of stalemate or much bloodbath as Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari winner and returned for a new four years term.

Like other elections both in Europe, America, Africa and others, the build up to the exercise is not without intrigues, expectations and surprises that add or deduce from historical compilations. On the Nigerian part, she came, she saw and she did it amidst issues resolved, half resolved and still unfolding even before the final whistle for the contest sounded.

World attention shifted to Nigeria during this election for many reasons but principally amongst them is the country’s occupation of central position in Africa’s possible rapid economic advancement outlook, which is tempting enough to hold down the interests of even her unwilling allies at the global front. A country with abundant resources for growth but lagging in clear policy trust to lift her from consumerism economy to a productive one would always be the attraction of export based economies who are ever exploring possible markets for their industrial products.

Then, again, a sovereign government that cannot address her internal issues but resorts to external aids at all times submits her sovereignty to her donor partner(s)’ whilms and caprices as diplomatic and bilateral engagements would always swing in the foriegn allies favour. So, friends of Nigeria are surely with her while the elections last.

The good news is that some African countries can now be counted among those that could conduct elections for themselves and effect transition without recourse to conflicts and bloodbath – Nigeria threading enviously on this course with successful civilian transitions in government since May 29, 1999 democratically.

The question that readily follows is, what can be said of the taste and hue of Nigeria’s democracy as produced by her electoral processes over these years.

First, the consistency of her civilian government in about two decades now stands her out as a country in Africa determined to rise beyond feudal and authoritarian control, to a more liberal, dynamic and potentially strong economic society.

Within this span of democracy in Nigeria, history has it that , Rwanda, Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Cote d’ Ivorie, Egypt, Tunisia, Lybia and some other African countries had been engulfed in conflicts traceable to poor governance and defective electoral practices at one  time or the other.

The preponderance of this obnoxious ill-governance in Africa seems to dim the continent’s image in the committee of her contemporaries. Good enough, Nigeria has demonstrated within the time, with her successive elections and smooth transitions that she is a beacon of hope for true African renaissance.

For Nigeria to hold this ace long, more work still needs to be done in improving her electoral and governance systems. The last presidential and National Assembly elections have come and gone but the dust raised may not settle in a hurry. The winner of the election, incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling party, All Progressive Congress (APC), say, the elections were free, fair and credible. In his words, “from the comments of observers, both local and foreign, it is obvious that the elections were both free and fair”.??

This was corroborated by the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomole who  not only believes in the fairness of the election, but also on the sterling governance of APC under Buhari which swayed the electorate to their favour in the casting of their ballots. “ I think for these analysts who have been active since 1999, this is easily the most keenly contested election. people who have predicted that Nigerians are to fight, they are going to Second world war; I am sure again, they have been put to shame”.

Though main opposition to president Buhari, the Peoples Democratic Party flag bearer, Alhaji Atiku Abubarka has reasons to disagree, citing overwhelming irregularities in the conduct that gave APC latitude to win the contest, feelers think, INEC deserves some commendations irrespective of the noticeable flaws in the process.

The hallmark of every credible election is transparency. Nigeria’s innovations toward free, fair and acceptable elections in the country cannot be undermined. The entrance of the card reader machine into the system alludes to genuine desire to rid the country of electoral impunities that bake conflicts.

If the entire gamut of the process can be done based on reliable network of data collation and processing, which the card reader machine sets to provide, problems of fake result allegations will be drastically reduced. According to a voter, Mr, Anthony Nwonuh, “INEC should do much to let the elections be driven by the card reader system. It is not impossible to achieve, if it is given priority. If the ATM machines recognize people’s identification with ease, I see no reason the card readers cannot be programmed to perform optimally.

Again, it is possible to vote from the comforts of our home with more electronic driven system. It’s a matter of willpower to champion the course and forget the temptations of allowing owl to cry at the night and having a baby die in the morning in our electoral process.’’

Nigeria must consolidate on her feats to make the expected progress in plugging defects in the system. Independence of INEC is paramount in this regard to instill continued faith in the process. That 29,364209 voters accredited for voting (presidential and national assembly elections), representing 35 per cent of 84,004,084 being the total number of registered voters, the permeation of the voter awareness campaigns dished out to the electorates calls for review.

Nigerians must be groomed to appreciate the sanctity of expressing their franchise when such opportunity calls. This can be achieved by improving on all apparatuses’ that could aid in halting all encumberasses to smooth and credible polls. Result manipulations ought not to be a working factor in the sequence of Nigerian polls at this level. Patriotic spirit could be highly enhanced when the electorates are convinced the system is not compromised to favour any class, group or interest.

The 2019 presidential election is over and the president elect- Mr Buhari is expected to hit the ground running with his governance policies. He should not wait to be told that he is the president of all Nigerians and not a selective group for any intent and purpose. Fairness must drive his actions, as much as respect to rule of law will improve Nigeria’s political atmosphere for general development. The concern of the government now should be to better the lot of the masses and make standard of living worthwhile.

Nigeria cannot be said to be cruising in democracy for decades now yet national institutions of development are suffocating.. Platform for national cohesion should as a matter of necessity be built to make Nigeria a true force comparable to her population.

If after two decades, Nigerians still reminiscence on the 1993 election despite its annulment, then her current democracy calls for immediate improvement. In the ill-fated 1993 election, the Social Democratic Party, candidate, MKO Abiola won comprehensively with eight million votes to defeat his challenger, the National Republican Convention flagbearer, Bashiru Tofa, Nigerians saw their votes count and felt very proud of the exercise. Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba saw themselves as all Nigerians and voted in line with their conscience. The outcome was very transparent and acceptable to all, except the military junta whose different view led to its annulment.

Today, technology has added spices to the Nigerian electoral system but the allegedly continued failure of the Card reader machines during elections leaves much to be desired to concerned minds; INEC should therefore rise to the challenge in subsequent elections and give Nigerians better hope. When there is reason for anyone to believe that their vote will not count, the consequence will be apathy to such civic duty at future calls. A credible election will more likely produce better leaders than what Africa has been able to churn, Nigeria inclusive.

If the ruling government has need for lesson(s) from the just concluded presidential and National Assembly elections, it is for them to patch the visible cracks in her approach to issue of national unity. Equity, fairness and justice must drive their actions and policies and the people should be allowed to make their views count.

 

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