With all its perceived imperfections, winners and losers have emerged from the just-concluded general election. But contrary to pre-election apprehension of potential massive post-election protests, there has been an eerie peace in the country. It appears the spirit that propels citizens overboard in disruptive protests to ventilate anger and rejection of polls’ outcomes has either been tamed or exorcised by a greater force.
It is possible the restrained response to the outcome of the 2019 presidential poll reflects the non-violent and statesmanlike character of the candidate of the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, who had indicated before the poll that he would accept the result if it was adjudged to be free and fair. He had also assured his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian.
Atiku’s decision to head to the presidential election petition tribunal to challenge the poll’s outcome has been largely salutary to the achievement of the eerie peace that pervaded the polity immediately after the announcement of the winner of the election, President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Countrywide reconstruction is imperative for rekindling confidence in the Nigeria project. It may flow with some sections of the country if the exercise is described as restructuring, which was the major plank on which the PDP candidate struck a deal that earned him the massive support of southern Nigeria. If tweaking the concept of restructuring to align with the consensual disposition of Nigeria for reconstruction and rearrangement of the ways our commonwealth has been administered is what is needed at this point in time for peace, stability and progress, why not?
Steps should be taken for collective reassurance of Nigerians that better years that will usher in a more stable, united and stronger Nigeria are ahead. Getting there requires peace and stability of the polity.
Abubakar’s decision to petition the tribunal, challenging the poll’s outcome, had infused a faltering polity with some breather of sorts. There is a palliative air of equanimity that has helped to greatly discount anti-Buhari sentiments in the milieu of politics and in the consciousness of members of the political elite who exercise control over thousands of their partisans.
There is a significant sense that the electoral process has yet to be concluded until the courts dispense of the petition and deliver their verdict. In essence, this is better than creating an atmosphere of utter hopelessness that forces anxious partisan elements to opt for self-help whether at the clear prompting of their political leaders or at the reading or misreading of the body language of the leaders.
Whereas, what is paramount is taking steps that preserve the national interest; the critical elements that are requisite in driving the ship of state in accordance, to wit – political rapprochement, accommodation and/or inclusiveness – must be deliberately deployed by President Buhari in advancing national reconstruction.
Therefore, the three arms of government, acting responsively to the dispositions of Nigerians and other external stakeholders, must intensify effort towards ensuring that peace and stability of the polity are maintained. Nigeria cannot afford a fractured and polarised polity at this critical intersection where providence has placed on her the leadership role not only in the West African sub-region but also on the African continent.
To mismanage this sub-regional and continental leadership role in peace-building will not augur well for Nigeria’s profile in global affairs. Nigeria has the latent capacities that can be exploited to manage her internal local politics and dynamics. That is good for Nigeria’s growing democracy. In this context, the National Assembly must be commended for keeping up with its constitutional and oversight functions subsequent to the general election.
On the executive side, President Buhari must take pragmatic steps to reform the electoral process. Nigeria had passed through this way before. The nation had experienced an admixture of the good, the bad, and the ugly in previous presidential elections. Whereas, the 1999 presidential poll had gone down in history as the most credible in the Fourth Republic democratic governance trajectory, the 2007 election had stuck out as the most rigged to the extent that the beneficiary of the victory, Umaru Yar’Adua, had treated the process and outcome with contempt.
To demonstrate seriousness, he initiated a comprehensive electoral reform. Sadly, the report is characteristically gathering dust and cobwebs in the shelves of the federal government. President Buhari must walk his talk about electoral reform within the context of his promised investigation of the embarrassing postponement of the scheduled 2019 February 16 presidential election. No less is expected from him.
Indeed, with the attitude of the winner and loser of the presidential election that indicates commitment to issues of peaceful coexistence and political accommodation that bind our nation, there is ample opportunity to work towards inclusiveness of all shades of opinions in the formation of the new government.
The administration has what it takes to do so. It will take Buhari’s sincerity of purpose and political will to do it. This is the overall picture that a vast majority of Nigerians envisage. This is achievable as the entire nation moves sure-footedly towards 2023 to ascertain whether or not some lessons have truly been learnt from the 2019 elections.
Ojeifo writes from Abuja