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PRESIDENTIAL POLL AND ITS AFTERMATH

By NBF News
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The April 16, 2011 presidential election has come and gone. Winners and losers have also emerged. That is the beauty of democracy. All the same, Nigerians have spoken with their votes. And they have spoken well.

Therefore, the winner of the election and the president-elect, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and his closest rival, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), should join hands together to deepen our democracy and build a virile nation.

The presidential poll has been generally adjudged to be credible, free and fair. Though, there are some protests of the outcome of the poll by the CPC and the ACN, whose representatives did not sign the result sheets, nonetheless, such did not in any way distract from the transparency of the election as buttressed by the reports from the media, local and international observers.

The presidential contest was free and fair. Let all those who think otherwise seek redress at the election tribunals. On no account should anybody resort to self-help. The tribunals are there to remedy any perceived wrong doing arising from the poll.

That notwithstanding, the presidential poll has shown that our democracy is really on course. Jonathan won in 31 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with over 22 million votes, while his closest rival, Buhari won in 16 states and FCT with over 12 million votes and Ribadu won in 4 states with over 2 million votes. The other presidential candidates did not win in any state.

The implication of the result is that the opposition is gradually becoming strong. The only snag with the opposition is their inability to come together. They are like a house divided against itself and there is no way such a house can stand.

Another implication is that Nigeria does not need the numerous parties it has currently. Nigeria, to my own thinking, does not need more than five or at most ten political parties. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should stop registering new political parties and make sure that any political party that did not win any seat in the elections or make appreciable impact be scrapped.

The only way we can have a virile opposition is to reduce drastically the number of political parties in the country. We may first experiment with ten political parties.

What the result of the presidential poll has shown is that the opposition can take power only if they come together. As at now, the PDP remains the only political power with strong structure and presence to win convincingly in a presidential poll. And they have just demonstrated that during the April 16 poll. If the alliance between the CPC and the ACN had worked, maybe the result of the presidential poll would have been different. It should be pointed out here also that the alliance was even late in coming. Some analysts have argued that even if the alliance had worked, it wouldn't have achieved much either.

But all hope is not yet lost. The opposition can still make a strong statement come Tuesday next week when the governorship and state assembly polls will hold by capturing some states from the PDP. Let the opposition use next week's polls to substantiate their claim of irregularities in the presidential poll.

Honestly, there will be surprises in next week's polls there will be a free and fair contest. There is no doubt that next week's polls will likely alter the pattern established by the presidential poll. Many Nigerians voted for Jonathan and not necessarily for the PDP. This point needs to be amplified to those doubting the credibility of the poll in certain quarters. The voters saw in Jonathan a humble and unassuming personality that they can trust.

So, let some governors basking on the outcome of the presidential poll to return to power a second time stop deceiving themselves. The governorship poll is a different ball game. Every governor is on his own now, Jonathan or no Jonathan. The same applies to the state assembly poll as well. Any legislator wishing to return to the House must do so on his own merit and not to climb on the leverage of the governor or the party. Expect no band wagon effect this time around. The Nigerian voters are wiser now and very discernable. They know what they want and how to get it. The voters' power is now well understood and utilized. Nobody should be fooled a second time.

Nigerian democracy is truly evolving. It is not yet perfect. But there is hope that we shall get there someday. That is why the post-election violence rocking some Northern states is regrettable and condemnable. It shows that there is lack of adequate voter education on the part of those orchestrating the mayhem. Let the political leaders in those areas with pockets of violence call their supporters to order. The security agents should go into action and arrest all those fomenting trouble. All those arrested should be tried according to the laws of the land. Nobody has the right to unleash violence on other people based on the outcome of any election.

There are legitimate ways of seeking redress in any election. The election tribunals are there to remedy any shortcoming. Let all the aggrieved parties and candidates go to the tribunals. That has been the practice in the country. We have held many presidential elections in the country and nobody or group had resorted to violence as a method of seeking redress. The April 16 poll cannot be different. Resorting to self-help is out of it and illegal.

Let those using violence now remember that nobody has the monopoly of violence. If nothing is done now to checkmate the orgy of violence in the North, nobody can rule out the possibility of retaliatory attacks in some other places. And that will definitely lead to some avoidable chaos.

Again the large numbers of invalid votes cast during the presidential poll shows that voter education is still very low in the country. Some political analysts have even attributed the post-election violence to lack of voter education. Nigerians, especially the young ones should be enlightened on democracy issues. They should be taught what democracy is all about and how elections are conducted and won. In fact, democracy issues should be among the subjects that should be taught at primary and secondary school levels.

While we congratulate the winners in all the polls so far, we urge the losers not to be deterred. There will still be another election day. Let them start now to prepare for 2015 polls. Only one person can be the president of the country at a time. Let us respect the wishes of Nigerians as expressed on April 16 and join hands to build a strong democratic Nigeria. This 'killi-killi' mentality among some people is not ideal and cannot take us to anywhere.

We commend the chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, all INEC and adhoc staff for working hard to ensure that the elections so far are credible. Jega has really demonstrated that given a free hand, the electoral umpire can perform well. Jega and INEC should strive to ensure that the April 26 gubernatorial and state assembly polls are hitch-free. It should be an improvement on the previous ones. Here also, Jega and INEC should need the assistance of all Nigerians. All of us should put hands together to ensure that the remaining poll is free and fair. This onerous duty is not for Jega and INEC alone.

Let INEC ensure that any noticeable lapse in the presidential poll is not carried over to next week's polls. Already, there are strong indications that next week's poll is like going to war front in some states. INEC should ensure that the poll is not marred by fraudulent electoral practices. Some governors will be so desperate to return to power by all means whether the people like it or not. This is one problem that INEC must solve by ensuring that the people's votes count.

Therefore, let there be adequate security in the states to protect the votes cast as well as the collated results so that the ugly incidents witnessed in Anambra Central, Imo West and Abia North and some other places during the parliamentary poll are not repeated. There is the need for security beef up in Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Oyo, Ogun, Delta, Imo and Abia states where the contest is likely to be fierce.