We made history as a people by our conduct before, during and after the presidential elections of March 28 and 29, 2015. First was the message of ‘Change’ that resonated all over the country and offshore, and its forceful and unstoppable wind that had as first and major casualty the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Despite all the odds, the hate campaigns of the PDP, the propaganda of the certificate-lessness of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, hype of a perjury, judicial attempts to stop the General, the death wishes, falsetto of a bond to have the APC national leader take over someday from the Professor VP, six weeks to buy time and commission national projects that would increase the popularity of the President, the whipping of the butts of Boko Haram intended to heighten the credibility ratings of the administration, and despite even Baba’s absence from live presidential debates, and many more other petty or deft strategies to obscure his aspirations; General Muhammadu Buhari recorded a sweeping and commanding victory.
Just before the elections, there was calm and mature silence from the two major political parties. It was clear that Nigeria was on a peaceful march towards a monumental and unprecedented electoral experience. International organizations and groups, including the United Nations, African Union, ECOWAS, European Union, former African leaders, television channels and numerous election observers had assembled in the country to watch and monitor proceedings. Aside the reported isolated cases of writing of results and violence that followed, particularly in the Southeast and South-South, the conduct generally showed a democratically maturing society. The police and soldiers did not record any major incidence and where they did, like in Imo State where ballot papers were seized by soldiers, it could not be ascertained if it was for security or rigging purposes.
The incumbent lost by over two million votes. The significance of this victory is that it was the first time in Africa that an incumbent president would be beaten in an attempt to seek re-election. It was the first time such a defeat would be coming from a newly formed opposition party. For Buhari, it was the fourth shot at the presidency, making him the first since the times of Abraham Lincoln that would attempt to be elected president of a country almost half a dozen times before getting the aspiration realized. His life thus becomes another social laboratory for learning the moral lessons of resilience, perseverance, determination and focus. For the APC, it was the first time, probably in the world that a party would be decidedly and decisively formed through the merger of five other parties, including a faction of the ruling party, with the sole purpose of ending the seemingly interminable reign of the ruling party. APC ended PDP’s sixteen-year rule!
The election of General Buhari is a revolution of sorts. For those of us who had believed in and been voting for him since 2003, it was not just a dream come true, but also the quenching of an age-long appetite and thirst for political, social and moral change. Growing up in the North in the 1970’s and 1980’s, we had seen the picture of promise-land in the Murtala Obasanjo and Buhari/Idiagbon leadership templates, which were designed to make Nigeria a truly great nation. But we had had hopes dashed by the truncation of both regimes with a short lifespan that denied us of a model country. It had been frustration after frustration as one military rule after another took us further away from that dreamland. Abiola’s election rekindled our hope, but the charade that followed it brought us to a wit’s end. Obasanjo tried his best, but it did not look like the Obasanjo of the late 1970’s. He had his own issues and never did it look like exactly like what he would have wanted for his beloved nation. The PDP influence was considered as a very bad one indeed and this was what led to the general gravitation towards the movement for Change.
The inept manner of handling the Boko Haram issue and the worsening corruption profile under the Jonathan administration led to a movement that started silently, but which soon gained momentum with the re-emergence of General Buhari in the mega party as presidential flag-bearer. To the undiscerning, Buhari was just out to further or complete the chapter of self-humiliation. PDP had underrated him, until crowds of support locally and internationally and social media buzz of the Change mantra, in the face of the despicable and unquantifiable losses recorded in the war against Islamist terror as well as soaring cases of corruption, gave the Buhari persona as a man of strong will and character, the impetus in the popularity contentions.
The trend was revolutionary and compelling and when victory in 21 states and by 15,426,921 came, it was not a surprise. The revolutionary quest was further confirmed by the superior number of senatorial seats Buhari’s party won- 64 to PDP’s 45. The INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega’s composed demeanour as well as brilliant response during the third round of election results collation when a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe of the PDP attempted- putting up what looked like a motor park tout show- to disrupt the proceedings, was another way by which we, as a people, have made history and earned our reputation as a great country. President Jonathan’s acceptance of defeat and call to congratulate Buhari even before final results were announced was another first in our national life. It had never happened in Nigeria and Africa, and world leaders have called or written to praise Jonathan, Nigeria and its people, charging other nations to borrow that shining example from us.
Jonathan’s conduct had indeed doused tension and flattened any individual, supporter or PDP member who might want to put up a violent or legal fight. It also blunted the swords of the Niger Delta militants who had vowed to instigate an orgy of violence if their kinsman loses the re-election bid. Jonathan’s body language, congratulatory call and speech have made Nigeria calm since last week. His was a message that “you cannot be more concerned or hurt than me. So don’t fight for me”. That is statesmanship. Buhari’s call to his supporters to join him in appreciating Jonathan for this maturity and that everyone should celebrate quietly and in sober reflection is another act of statesmanship. Both Buhari and Jonathan have shown that Nigeria is a natural leader and both names will be written in gold in the history books.
The political space is today sedate and everyone is looking forward to May 29, 2015, the great day that history will be made with the swearing in of Nigeria’s oldest president ever and yet a shinning example of focus and determination towards what one believes in. Buhari has shown that he believes in Nigeria and that is why age or the many distractions and failures of the past seemed not to have blurred the vision. He is there now, with so much expected of him. Next week, we shall be outlining those expectations and how they can be met.
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