Nigeria’s Historic Election of March 28, 2015: Prelude to Nigeria’s Readiness to Take Back Continental Leadership of Africa, Setting Democratic Examples - Part 1 of 2
Out-Going President Jonathan Exhibits Statesmanlike Leadership Characters Worthy of Emulation by Other African Leaders - both Current and future!
By Dr. Onyema Nkwocha
The envelope please! Friends, Nigerians, country men and women, people of the world, ladies, and gentlemen, the people of the Commonwealth States of the Federal Republic of Nigeria have spoken, loud and clear! The presidential election of March 28, 2015 was a groundbreaking event in the history of Nigeria and entire African continent…!
And the winner is, Democracy 1, corruption and dictatorship, 0 (zero)!!
Over these many years, the people of the most populous and richest nation in Africa, Nigeria (170 + millions) and the biggest economy, prayed to their God and one day, just on March 28, 2015 their God heard and answered them saying: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance” (ps.33:12) and who adheres to the virtuous democratic philosophy of one-citizen-one-vote, for they shall reap many more uncounted years of the benefits of practical and effective DEMOCRACY! And so it was with the people of Nigeria that on March 28, 2015, with one democratic thunderous voice, bellied and irreversibly etched under the most powerful weapon of the secrecy of the voting booth of one-man-one-vote sided with democracy to triumph yet again in Nigeria by the majority election of the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari. In the plebiscite of March 28, 2015 of the people, by, the people, and for the people of the commonwealth-Federal Republic of Nigeria, one more democratic eagle's feather was added unto the 16-year-old-wings that democracy has been growing in Nigeria, the heart-beat of the African continent. This model democratic accomplishment of, by, and for the people of Nigeria is worthy of replication throughout the entire African continent if democracy and its practices must survive in Africa. And when we do this, together, we would have brought into Africa's body-politic, that most elusive base and missing link for democracy, and development to take root, germinate, grow, bloom and yield fruition. Without honoring the most sacred phenomenon on which democracy stands and is built, of one-citizen, one-vote, and of leaving office and handing over power when the people of Africa speaks or want the incumbent to do so, the talk for Africa's democracy and development will just be nothing more than a vicious circle of spinning the wheel on one spot, one leader after another and year in, year out without any tangible or substantive change or accomplishment of note.
Nevertheless, there is hope on the horizon and light at the end of the tunnel. That hope and embers of light at the end of the tunnel in Africa was renewed and excitedly brought alive in the recently concluded Nigeria's all important Presidential Election of March 28, 2015. Here is a government and its party noted to be overly and overtly corrupt in the past 16 years since they assumed leadership and now stands defeated at the polls/ballot boxes and booted away by the opposition party, backed by the people. Hence on this day, actual winners were the people and democracy and the looser corruption and inefficiency!!
Although, very much belated in joining the team of the world's political game or practices, if the current democratic trend that has sprouted in Nigeria for the past 16 years continues to be the norm and hold sway much longer in majority of African nations, then I believe we're on the cusp of the long-awaited democratic political revolutionary change coming to Africa that will not only make current despotic and dictatorial leadership practices (wherever they still exist) odious to the steadily and progressively enlightened African electorates and populace but also a thing of the past much sooner than we ever think. I believe!
Of the current Nigeria's democratic dispensation, barring a few unavoidable but deadly aftermath incidences here and there after any election in Nigeria in the recent past, whether it is yet clear or not to the naked eye, one quiet but historic fact underlying contemporary Nigeria is that in the past 16 years, Nigeria has steadily been progressing along the long continuum of democracy by changing and handing over powers from one civilian democracy to the next without interruption. This phenomenon is good for democracy to flourish not only in Nigeria, the epicenter of Africa's democratic principles and practices, but throughout Africa and other third world democracies that look unto Nigeria as their beacon of democratic hope. At this point, one would only hope and pray that Nigeria sustains this continental and international honor she has either wittingly or otherwise been garnering for herself in the recent years past.
The bell for peaceful and sustained democracy on Nigeria's soil started tolling hard and fast and now incessantly (it would seem) on the day, May 29, 1999 when Nigeria's last known military strongman, General Abdusalami Abubakar handed over power to the former head of state of Nigeria and military general, Obasanjo. That this, peaceful transition from military to civilian democracy was possible could also in fact be attributable to the behind-the-scenes and quiet efforts made by Lieutenant General (retired) Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, the Chief National Security officer who assisted in no small way to see that the ex-military leader, General Olushegun Obasanjo was elected the democratic civilian President in 1999. This peaceful transition from military to national democratically elected government in 1999 was the prelude to today's historic election of President-Elect, Muhammadu Buhari in the most orderly and peaceful election in recent years in Nigeria's history. Continuing that historic gain for democracy, in 2006, after failing to change the terms of the Presidency from 4 to 6 years, Obasanjo handed power over to yet another civilian democratically elected President, Umaru Yar'Adua, who picked Professor Goodluck Jonathan as his running mate under the umbrella of the People's Democratic Party, (PDP).
As the writing of the Eventual Unification of Nigeria as a peaceful United States of Nigeria would have it, in June 2010, Umaru Yar'Adua passed away in Saudi Arabia after a lengthy period of illness, thereby creating a vacuum that saw the accidental presidency of the outgoing president, Good Luck Jonathan. President Jonathan would be elected on his own terms and right in a nearly landslide election of his own recognition and accord, as the democratically elected President of Nigeria in 2011 over the then opposition and challenger, now the President-Elect, Muhammadu Buhari. Although more than 800 Nigerians lost their precious lives as the aftermath of Jonathan-Buhari 2011 election in which Jonathan clearly emerged as the peoples' choice of Presidency, painful as the shed of blood was, the killings and accompanying disturbances did not halt the wheels of democracy as the nay Sayers to democracy had hoped, and so, democracy, yet again won at the ballot boxes!
Coming in as the long awaited national democratic panacea, the government of Jonathan started off with very high hopes that before long were dashed to the ever spiky ruggedness of Nigeria's politics and Aso Rock's entrenched corruption and ineptitude of the highest order. Hence the people of Nigeria, soon became disillusioned, fed up with Goodluck and his administration and were counting their days and numbering the remaining days when the opportunity of the secrecy of the ballot booth will once more rear its powerful head on the corridors of Nigeria's national politics. Though the longest four years in coming, that day did in deed come on Saturday, March 28, 2015 when the people and the rightful owners of Nigeria breathed a sigh of relieve at which time, they were once again confronted with the most coveted citizen's role of choice-making, the most powerful decision of their commonwealth life to continue the corrupt and inept status quo of President Goodluck Jonathan's administration and government or to make a change and garner victory for democracy.
As we now know it in the last 22 days or thereabout, not surprisingly or rather as was expected, when the all-powerful (more powerful than the President, Governor, senator or Assembly person at-the heat-of-any election) Independent Electoral Commission, INEC for short opened and read the envelope, the result was “…and the winner is, democracy and the people of Nigeria, one; corruption and dictatorship, zero!” And thus, former general Muhammadu Buhari was elected Nigeria's President and President Goodluck Jonathan was defeated and thrown out of office by the people, the true owners of our beloved country, Nigeria!! And this brings me to the point of making the case for Nigeria waking up from her long decades of slumber and now realizing that it's time to take back reins of the leadership of the African continent where it belongs rather than continuing sitting on the fence and throwing cold hands of apathy in every and any inter and intra continental roles she should have been playing all these decades gone by with the audacity of confidence, territorial integrity, good governance, leadership, power, and the economic wherewithal to match!
I dare say to you that today, apparently Nigeria, the sleeping lion and giant has woken up from her deepest slumber and is better off placed democratically to take the reins of continental African leadership than she was 17 years ago at the hands of despotic and dictatorial military leadership. Yes Although current democratic leaders can mostly be written off as corrupt and inept officials, it is better to have civilians managing the affairs of the nation than military autocracy in the sense that the laws made by these corrupt law makers and presidents and governors, crafted for the people, eventually will be the same legal instruments to be used to prosecute these law makers found operating outside the realms of the same laws they promulgated as long as the statutory limitation does not run out on them. And in most cases, the people have every right to make those statutory limitations stay in effect until the last culprit who took part in ruining Nigeria and the people are brought to books to face the music and wrath of the law. Because, that is how democracy triumphs - democracy is like an elephant, it never forgets nor forgives and therefore it prosecutes criminals and the guilty, no matter how long they can hide their criminal looting of Nigeria's commonwealth resources - it never easily forgets nor forgives until proven otherwise. And this brings me to the big win Democracy scored on Nigeria's internationally watched political score-card board of the presidential election March 28, 2015.
Although the March 28, 2015 presidential election has been dubbed the most smoothest, calm, well organized, and democratically conducted election in Nigeria's history since gaining independence from Britain on October 1, 1960 and may have in fact been a contributing factor to the outcomes of the election in which for the first time in the history of Nigeria, (nay of entire Africa,) where the opposition party defeated an entrenched ruling party, the outcome, as important as it was, pales in comparison to what took place after the election.
Thus the most important aftermath of the election was not that the opposition challenger, Muhammadu Buhari won the election as he defeated President Jonathan. No! That's not it, because it (the outcome of the election) was given!! Rather what were most important were the actions taken and not taken by the defeated President, Jonathan afterwards - marked by his conceding statements! The most important post-election aftermath action that the President (in his mind) earlier on resolved not to take was to “contest” the outcomes of the election and to accept it “as is!” This was a gallant political move - a statesman's action marked by integrity, honor, and brevity!
The next set of important actions he took was in the crafting and choosing of words for his conceding statement. I call them, the 333 words that changed the cause of democracy to the better in the entire African Continent. And perhaps, just perhaps, these 333 words may have been the only most important reason God Almighty (Allah) decided to choose Jonathan to be the President of Nigeria at the time He did so thus:
“Fellow Nigerians, I thank you all for turning out en-masse for the March 28 General Elections. I promised the country free and fair elections. I have kept my word. I have also expanded the space for Nigerians to participate in the democratic process. That is one legacy I will like to see endure.
Although some people have expressed mixed feelings about the results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), I urge those who may feel aggrieved to follow due process based on our constitution and our electoral laws, in seeking redress.
As I have always affirmed, nobody's ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. The unity, stability and progress of our dear country is more important than anything else.
I congratulate all Nigerians for successfully going through the process of the March 28th General Elections with the commendable enthusiasm and commitment that was demonstrated nationwide.
I also commend the Security Services for their role in ensuring that the elections were mostly peaceful and violence-free. To my colleagues in the PDP, I thank you for your support. Today, the PDP should be celebrating rather than mourning. We have established a legacy of democratic freedom, transparency, economic growth and free and fair elections. For the past 16 years, we have steered the country away from ethnic and regional politics. We created a Pan-Nigerian political party and brought home to our people the realities of economic development and social transformation.
Through patriotism and diligence, we have built the biggest and most patriotic party in Nigerian history. We must stand together as a party and look to the future with renewed optimism.
I thank all Nigerians once again for the great opportunity I was given to lead this country and assure you that I will continue to do my best at the helm of national affairs until the end of my tenure.
I have conveyed my personal best wishes to General Muhammadu Buhari.
May God Almighty continue to bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” http://dailypost.ng/2015/03/31/nigeria-decides-full-text-of-president-jonathans-concession-speech/
And notice that in his concession speech, he informed the Nigerian citizens and people of the world that he had already conveyed his personal best wishes to the winner and President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari. Jonathan's actions were nothing more than states man-like - of a leader who wants peace and unity for his people. It was an action that tells of a leader who realizes that the people have spoken and to save the people from further heart and headaches, the best thing is to accept the results of the election as the peoples' wishes move on and allow the new administration to build on the democratic legacies his Administration had thus far begun…! Thus, although his Administration may have been a disappointment to many a Nigerian, however, in defeat and exit, out-going President Jonathan stood tall and took the statesman's political road less trodden by previous Nigeria's and the entire Africa's presidents, and heads of states and governments! (Please stay tuned for Part 2 and the conclusion).