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Post 2015 Nigeria General Elections Management

By Prof R. A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria

On Saturday March 29, 2015 many Nigerians trooped out to cast their votes for the president and members of the national assembly; we can give a pass mark for the general conduct of the elections, handling of the results by INEC and the two major presidential candidates acceptance of final outcome. Of course the best is yet to come but Nigeria may be transmitting from “Good Luck” to “Better Luck” rather than to “Bad Luck” as predicted by some campaign managers. Nigeria is still very far from the best state of things but where begin to notice that the snail is already making a good progress in its attempt to climb the tall Iroko tree in the garden.

I was at St Peter’s Primary School Polling Unit in Felele Lokoja near my Lokoja home base and I observed the events. The fact remains that INEC and Nigerian politicians are paying more attention to forestall election rigging by “political opponents” and preventing election violence than the attention being paid to ensuring a 100% Voter’s turn out. My centre served people who lived at least 2 miles radius. If 30% of eligible voters in that Felele area had turned up for the exercise the chaos would have been impossible to handle. Yet the few that turned up had to exercise extreme patience on the line and in the sun. Many of the people who didn’t vote that I personally interviewed later gave various excuses such as (a) did not register, (b) lost my card, (c) registered at a centre very far away, (d) don’t have candidates to vote for. In future capturing eligible voters should be a continuous nationwide process and needing qualified staff on full employment to collect the vital statistics and deliver the cards to them at home.

The first set of elections is over but it has exposed further that Nigeria’s situation is similar to the prevailing general African situation. In Africa election results and outcomes could be different from people’s opinion on the actually announced results leading to sporadic violence if unchecked. To complicate matters between INEC and the politicians the social media has become a powerful co-player both in the elections and announcements by publishing result tables ahead of INEC; whereas INEC is the only authorized body. Where the figures displayed by the free social media and the official figures by INEC are at variance this may create some chaos. Many people in Nigeria have very little faith in either their government or INEC’s ability to announce the results as they truly are and such people may lean to the unauthorized social media tables of results. INEC of Prof Attahiru Jega is trying the best they could within the prevailing circumstance. The politicians also never want to believe that they could lose an election. For example in the ongoing 2015 general elections in Nigeria there were about a dozen presidential candidates contesting for only one vacant position. It should be obvious therefore that only one of the candidates may win. In fact the Nigeria constitution makes it very clear that a winner may not even emerge from the group until a re-run and so on. The fact is that the political atmosphere here is overheated and many politicians preferring to hide their weaknesses of poor campaign strategies and performances whilst in office but running to the courts or INEC coalition office to prolong the system. Other politicians simply employ thugs to disturb the quietness of the process hoping to gain places in newspaper headlines instead of making it to the state house or national assembly.

In this presidential election Nigeria’s former military ruler, Gen Muhammadu Buhari has become the first Nigerian to defeat a sitting president through the ballot box, putting him in charge of Africa’s most populous nation and its biggest economy as announced by INEC Chairman Prof Attahiru Jega. He had been declared the winner after he gained close to 3 million more votes than his rival, incumbent President Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Part of the post election management has been kick started by the incumbent President Jonathan when he publicly conceded defeat and conveyed his “best wishes” to the president-elect. This act is symbolic and departs significantly from the drama of Elder Orubebe’s free performer in the public eye and covered by most media stations. Elder Orubebe and his co-travelers made a drama at the floor of INEC election results presentation making many people in the media classifying their action a disgrace to Nigerians, a disgrace to some one who had served the nation as a minister, a disgrace to national security, a disgrace to the PDP he claimed to be representing and a disgrace to all of us in the club of church Elders. The outgoing president urged his supporters to follow due process in channeling their frustrations at losing the election amid fear of violence; re-emphasizing his belief that nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. President Jonathan also stressed that the unity, stability and progress of our dear country ought to be more important than anything else. It therefore appears to us that PDP officials individually are acting independently. In any case any if we are sent on errand as a slave we must endeavour live up to the status of a son at delivery. Elder Orubebe should tender unreserved apology to the nation in form of a public letter addressed to Prof Attahiru Jega, Chariman of INEC. We also want to know that he has dropped his Elder title from the Church. On the other hand we learnt of a call from Dr Jonathan to concede defeat even before announcement; this will promote present the outgoing president as a hero for this move. This act is also part of the after election tension management.

Victory for Buhari marks the first time in Nigeria’s history that an opposition party has democratically taken control of the country from the ruling party. Buhari’s new position is not as enviable as his supporters would like it to be because the country is currently bedeviled everywhere you turn. Nigeria can be classified as a failed nation in its present form. For example the economy, especially the oil production and sale, is not properly coordinated and a major proportion lost daily, the military that trained Buhari is only a shadow of its past as they cannot even fight internal insurgencies adequately, the universities are ill equipped, poorly funded and inadequately staffed with dilapidating infrastructures, many roads are bad, the so called railroads cannot be compared with the working railway systems in India, Malaysia, and so on. The electioneering is by far the best index of failure where only less than 40% eligible voters’ participation were noticed and still going through great hardship, ordinary card reader to identify authenticity and the holder is allowed to be part of politics and yet that factor is an improvement, result tabulation spreading over several days and nights just because of politics and not lack of the science. We must move to give room for efficiency and correctness and push out the rigging factor system without any apology using science and open technology.

It will be difficult for Gen Buhari and his team to handle the great expectation of his supporters nationwide. Hundreds of APC’s supporters gathered to celebrate outside Buhari’s home in Abuja on Tuesday March 31 2015, with some brandishing brooms to symbolize his promise to clean up corruption. These supporters confessed that their vote was for “free, fair and without irregularities”, “we don’t have roads, electricity, water and the youth are looking for jobs”, “the people wanted change and change has now come”; as part of their expectations for the new Nigeria. We know that Gen Buhari may be interested in solving every election promise he made and also the new demands from the poor people he generally represents but there are limits and major obstacles on his way. He is not a military leader anymore and has to show that he can lobby the national assembly and the judiciary to get his way. Even at that we learned that all our treasuries are empty and the sale price of a barrel of oil is below its production price. In the USA it may cost up to $60 to produce a barrel of oil and here in Nigeria above $45. When we add stealing to this calculations the system will be in the red. How is Buhari going to fund his programmes and not step on toes, even toes of the king makers in his APC?

Yet we have to change, or rather things have changed and levels have changed. It will be recalled that even here in Africa things are changing and we have to change with the time. This change is not the Obama slogan calling for a change, nor the APC party of Nigeria’s call; Africa needs to change from good to better and expecting the best. In the context of the ongoing elections the few Nigerians (less than 40% of total eligible voters) committing themselves and casting their votes are the changing agents. The local trending is a change from PDP that has been winning since 1999 to possibly the APC that is unfolding. Could this be a change from a good luck to a better luck or a change from good to bad luck? The social media is still filled with several hate campaigns and slogans but as soon as the dust settles we expect elected officers to make statements that should douse the high political atmospheric tensions. Inability to manage this political tension by every level of the stakeholders may cause the society mayhems and overall be counter productive. Nigerians went into the elections with violence contained mainly to the north eastern part of the nation, where Boko Haram is still operating and holding sway, but may come out of the elections with the violence relocating to the south eastern part of the nation to face a resistance to change. Such a possibility must be avoided as a new change from violence to embracing peace.

Some Nigerians never want any change from the status quo. What is the status quo? You go to visit some perceived individuals in the comfort of their homes with lorry loads of naira for them to compromise with electoral systems in your favour. After election you start stealing and doing nothing in office. A few Nigerians never got used to this “Israelites in Egypt” life style. They never felt they belonged there. They never said, “This local political godfathers are the masters and we are their slaves and that’s the way it is.” Hence when we told some people the need to change many of them believe us even though some of them still refuse to come out and cast their votes. Every country, just like Nigeria, has their corrupt and wicked past, their limitations and weaknesses. You have got to know who you are and what your limitations are. But heaven forbids that Nigerians should be making peace and compromises with our limitations. The election has raised so many expectations and we believe that the winners may have their own limitations but within us we shall recognize no limits; that the sky is our limit.

Meanwhile we must credit those who worked behind the scene to create a strong second political system in Nigeria which has given the people an alternative voice and the opportunity to use their brooms. It is only under a prevailing competitive atmosphere that the best can emerge and choices can be made available to the common people. Unfortunately we now run a risk that a losing political party (PDP) may soon fade away because of the Nigerian factor in us. There are a lot of opportunities in being part of the alternative voice (opposition party) rather than belonging to a ruling party. Officially many offices are opened to be occupied by the opposition party members and it must be grabbed. Also being in the opposition allows for preparation to take over. You can hardly take over from within as the incumbent factor is enormous. To over throw a ruling president is no small task and unless a good and doggedly focused opponent is available and willing to go through with calculated perseverance. The opposition party (PDP) that is emerging comes mainly from one part of the country as South-South and South-East just because of their allegiance to President Jonathan rather than being sectional as claimed by the Orubebe. We doubt whether they could manage being in the opposition for a reasonable length of time, whereas the interactive activities of the ruling party and the opposition part is what is described as inclusive governance when each plays its roles successfully.

Politicians of all shades must create a great room for self participation in a robust political system that is beyond just winning. Therefore to forestall after election violence the winners must believe in themselves, transparent good governance for the people, understand the aspirations of the people, identify and use latest available technologies and people, and recognizing and placing Nigeria where she ought to be amongst the committee of nations. Similarly one can disarm his opponent by being a good election loser. Running a viable opposition is an honourable position to be in Nigeria political fields. Hence every one of us is a winner therefore.

Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi

ipinyomira@yahoo.co.uk or/and raipinyomi@unilorin.edu.ng


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