Okechukwu Emeh, Jr
Contrary to all expectations in many quarters that our just concluded presidential election would plunge Nigeria into a paroxysm of political and communal upheavals – no thanks to the so-called Western analysts who had earlier predicted that the country would break up in 2015 – its outcome was surprisingly peaceful, transparent, free and fair.
Indeed, there is God’s hand in the affairs of our national society!
In conformity with democratic spirit and his words that “Nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian”, President Goodluck Jonathan, who vied for re-election under the banner of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), conceded defeat with selflessness and dignity before the final results of the March 28 presidential poll were announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). To this end, he made a phone call to General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, congratulating him on his victory, which is generally seen as divine will. And in a reciprocal gesture laced with magnanimity and humility, Buhari, who has recorded a feat of mythic proportions by being the first presidential candidate to unseat an incumbent in elections in Nigeria, lauded Dr. Jonathan for his rare display of sportsmanship. He also extended a hand of friendship and conciliation to his political opponents, while pledging to be fair to all in the country in his presidency.
However, as we savour the credible outcome of the March 28 presidential election, one thing is clear: it is the Nigerian people that won the election, not only Buhari whose focus, dogged determination and sense of resilience have seen him through his presidential bid after three unsuccessful attempts. Reflecting this truism in his acceptance speech on April 1, the people’s general described the outcome of the presidential poll as a sign of Nigeria’s political maturity, adding that “You, Nigerians, have won. The people have shown their love for this nation and their belief in democracy”. Suffice it to say that until all Nigerians close ranks and jettison ethnic, regional and religious sentiments in charting our national future, any effort to build a Nigeria that will work for her struggling people will be like a useless, endless work of Sisyphus.
Reassuringly enough, with the electoral victory of Buhari, the confidence of the international community in the new political change that has come to Nigeria could be glimpsed from the gradual recovery of our currency (the Naira) and stock market, which had taken a worrisome plunge before the election following international crude oil prices that slumped to record lows and withdrawal of capital by some investors based on the fears that the election might be riven by violence. Hopes are also mounting that international support would be galvanised in the intensifying military campaign by the Multi-National Task Force (MNTF) to crush the gruesome Boko Haram terror insurgency that has claimed about 15,000 lives and displaced more than 1.5 million people in the country since 2009.
Of course, there are high expectations from the incoming Buhari administration, which the citizenry would need to keep faith with, regardless of the longstanding difficult political, economic, social and development challenges in Nigeria. It is noteworthy that some of the expectations are what the administration has envisaged and also promised to address. In this connection, there are expectations about transparent, honest, accountable and inclusive government as a buffer against official corruption, mismanagement, favouritism, exclusion, injustice and other acts of impunity. There are expectations about popular participation in governance through respect of public opinion and national will, which is not beyond the bounds of possibility in our time. There are expectations about democratic consolidation and its dividends of pluralism, tolerance, political stability, the rule of law, due process, constitutionalism and respect of fundamental human rights.
There are expectations about emergence of an upright society through re-awakening of spirituality, morality, virtues and values. There are expectations about vibrant federation through justice, fairness, equity, peaceful co-existence, national unity, forbearance and national reconciliation that would stem the tide of ethnic separatism and religious extremism.
There are expectations about human welfare by way of provision of functional infrastructure and social services, poverty alleviation and job creation. There are expectations about reinforcement of law and order and the implicit national security through unrelent assault on crime and violence and their underlying factors like bad governance, privation, deprivation, lack of social opportunities, despair and sense of social alienation. There are expectations about a tiger economy marked by macro-economic stability, fast and inclusive growth, diversification, industrialisation, human capacity building, foreign direct investments, environmental conservation, sustainable development and inclination towards globalised economy.
There are expectations about Nigeria’s international respectability through impressive political, economic, social and development accomplishments, as well as a major role by the country in world politics in the unfolding new order of globalisation and globalised economy.
No doubt, such great expectations call for exercising of leadership by the incoming Buhari government through vision, mission and pragmatism, as well as personal sacrifices from the governed who need to embody the change they desire in the society through unfettered discharge of their civic duties and obligations. With this, Nigeria can realise her manifest destiny as the hope and pride of members of the African race anywhere in the world on account of her clout as the giant of Africa and the most populous black state on earth.
Thankfully, in the face of expectations from his incoming administration, Buhari, with a sense of unfinished business, has girded up his loins and sued for the full support and cooperation of all Nigerians in his determination to build a new, promising political society out of the chaos and fissures of our prevailing sad national condition. In this regard, he has proclaimed that, among others, selfless service, transparency, honesty, accountability, justice, equity and fair play will be his articles of faith as he takes charge of our national leadership for the second time onMay 29 – this time as a born-again democrat with burning desire to go the whole hog in wrestling threatening challenges like rampant corruption, sluggish economic growth, mass poverty, chronic unemployment and insecurity to the ground. Given his reputable track records of integrity, discipline, patriotism, statesmanship, altruism and common touch as a military head of state between 1983 and 1985, as well as Executive Chairman of the defunct Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF) between 1995 and 1999, there is no scintilla of doubt that the president-elect cannot afford to fail or waste time in meeting the expectations of the electorate.
In view of the foregoing, all Nigerians are enjoined to get along for the sake of the impending onerous task of rebuilding from our political, economic and social ruins. Therefore, we should strive to relegate our various personal and sectional interests to the background and look forward to brooder national goals and objectives that would be highly beneficial to all of us a people. In this regard, all the political aspirants and their supporters in the general elections of this year in Nigeria are called upon to leave behind the rancour that attended the elections so that, with one accord, we can forge ahead in the herculean task of building a united, peaceful, inclusive and prosperous nation-state with mutual concessions and sense of brotherhood, forbearance and reconciliation. For members of our political class in general, they should cohere and eschew personal aggrandisement, sectionalism, suspicion, distrust, bitter recriminations and hostility and re-commit themselves not just to the spirit of bi-partism or multilateralism, but to the greatness of the Nigerian state and its corollary of common good.
Passionate appeal is also being made to our ethnic, regional and religious groups, who, in spite of their affiliations, are implored to settle their differences based on our shared humanity and African consanguinity in order to use the mandate given to the incoming Buhari government to build on the lofty principles of tolerance, forbearance, peaceful co-existence and reconciliation in our multicultural society. After all, we have no other country than Nigeria and this present generation of Nigerians and indeed future generations have no other place to call their own except this most populous black state in the world, hence the growing need for us to come together to salvage it.
Finally, with a major political opposition group in Nigeria about to be a governing party at a national level in the country for the first time from May 29 – just as earlier happened in other African states like South Africa, Senegal, Benin Republic, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Mali, Zambia, Malawi and Madagascar – there is no doubt that this amazing development would represent a new dawn in our national history. This development, as facilitated by conduct of peaceful and credible elections by INEC based on the universally acclaimed principle of one-man one-vote, has marked out our great country as being on the irreversible road to democratic consolidation and the accompanying benefits like political stability, good governance, the rule of law, popular participation in decision-making, social cohesion, steady economic progress, peaceful coexistence, security and sustainable development.
For the first time in the annals of the Nigerian history, our votes were allowed to count, thanks to the laudable use of the permanent voter’s card (PVC) and card reader, as well as the resolve and determination of the electorate to choose leaders of their choice, notwithstanding threats or material inducements. With the breaking of the yoke of political incumbency at the presidential level in the country, our democratic process could be said to have recorded remarkable progress – meaning that henceforth our electorate can actually vote out serving elected public office holders from power for non-performance. What a good omen for prospects of representative democracy and leadership accountability in Nigeria. It is the fervent hope and prayer of this writer that the international community would lend its much-needed support not only to the country in her present great march of history towards democratic consolidation, but also to her incoming administration to enable it succeed in its avowed lofty vision of change for her disconsolate people.
Emeh, a social researcher, wrote from Wuse 2, Abuja