First, Professor Attahiru Jega deserves enormous praise for the role he has played in sanitizing our electoral process. One must remember vividly that Jega inherited an electoral system from Maurice Iwu that was foisted and bedeviled with untold malpractices and uncommon irregularities. In 2011, the journey began to return sanity to the process. It is still public debate how credible the 2011 polls were, but one thing we got a consensus on is that it was a massive improvement from the trend. From that milestone, 2015 was always going to be the true litmus test, especially with a more robust opposition and a citizenry that become better politically aware. The full story of the 2015 elections will yet be told, but the early snippet is that it was a truly remarkable election. Make no mistakes about it, the elections had its own issues, challenges and cases of irregularities but it was another quantum leap in our electoral journey. Jega is certainly not the finished article in the quest for integrity but he is bloody close. In very tough and peculiar circumstances he remained a beacon of strength, composure, integrity and uprightness. With a background in the academia, he might well have debunked the myth that intellectuals cannot thrive in our chequered system. History will be kind to Professor Attahiru Jega and the narrative will end this way: This was a man who stood up to the enemies of democracy and won, albeit bruised.
Then, there is another early hero from this process. President Goodluck Jonathan might have become unpopular for various reasons too numerous to rehash, but he will be remembered in a revered place in history. Without mincing words, he provided the platform to sanitize our electoral process. I have always maintained that one of the anomalies of our current democratic set-up is the excessive power at the center, and to think that President Jonathan didn’t exploit this to his advantage to ensure victory is truly remarkable. In addition, the victory was still yet to be announced when news filtered in of the incumbent congratulating the General on his victory. This singular act of camaraderie displayed by the President helped to avert any potential violent knee-jerk reaction from his loyalists. This action followed a seemingly new trend by this generation of political gladiators who have learnt to take defeat magnanimously, for the collective good. Last year, when Ayo Fayose defeated the sitting governor in Ekiti state, Kayode Fayemi, the latter was the first to call and congratulate him for the win. It is almost a certainty that the PDP will head for the tribunal almost immediately, but the action by President Jonathan was sterling. In truth, that was not weakness by any stretch of analysis.
And finally, in the trio of early heroes from the elections, is the man of the moment, Muhammadu Buhari, the dogged political fighter per excellence of modern day Nigerian history. They say there is something lucky about the number four, but this is not a victory that should be associated with luck. It’s a story of a man who has been reinventing himself in the public eye for the past two decades, while remaining true to the principles he believes in. There is an avalanche of punditry on the factors that aided the General’s victory, but none surpass the courage of Buhari to keep fighting, believing and hoping. There is a new buzz in town, a cloud of expectations that hovers round the nation at the moment, and when the euphoria all fizzles away, that will be the hard part. An economy in comatose in the face of the dwindling oil price, millions of under-employed and unemployed youths, a decayed power sector, the daunting task of insecurity, the challenge of corruption and the horror of poor infrastructure are among the headline issues facing the General and his team, and there will be no time for too many fanfare. One thing is clear, Nigerians will not be patient with this new government and he must now articulate in reality the change he so preached during his campaign days. However, one vital early task before the General is to heal the obvious differences that still exist among the people. There is no denying of the fact that the trend of the votes showed that a vast majority of people voted across ethnic lines, and this is not in any way drawing generalizations. Since the dark days of the 30 months civil war, we have not fully been united. Dichotomies still exist and so much of the General’s early actions will either help to heal or aggravate the wounds of disunity.
Having said that, the biggest heroes from this presidential election is the People. This was the year when the people regained their voice and recovered the power of the majority. Democracy has its own encumbers, but it is still regarded as best practice for good governance. In the heart of democracy, is the power of the people. It might mean beating a dead horse to say that we the people have been restored to our rightful place in the Rule of Law, but nothing can be truer. The biggest takeaway from the Presidential election is that message that has been sent by the people: We will reward performance with our votes and we will kick out underperformance with our votes. In this new era, there are no sentiments. One should end by saying that Buhari and his cohorts should not be deluded, the same people that sang ‘Hosanna’ in 2015 will sing ‘Crucify’ them in 2019 if they don’t get result. It is also a good reminder to the new ruling party that there is a new opposition in the wings who will be looking to recapture what was once their ‘birthright’ sooner rather than later. Performance is the only currency we will accept!