Nigeria: After the Voting Is Over What Next?

President Muhammadu Buhari with Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen at the State House last year.
12 February 2019

This time next week Nigerians would have cast their votes in the 2019 Presidential election.

By now it should be far too late to convince anyone to change their mind. It's far more important to begin to consider where the nation will be when it's all over. Two things can be guaranteed. Firstly, that the result will be hotly disputed by the loser, because the nature of the security forces, greed and lack of professionalism of many electoral officers, and the evil machinations of Nigerian politicians means rigging will surely rear its head. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, the winner will not be the best person for the job. The reality on ground is that either the All Progressives Congress (APC) or the People's Democratic Party (PDP) will win the election, because even illiterates know the broom and, the umbrella and no other political party has been able to build structures and penetrate all 774 local governments.

In the course of campaigning President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) the APC candidate has been found to be incoherent and disorientated at times, while former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar the PDP candidate has been found to fall short of the truth when his facts are checked. It's really difficult to endorse any of the two candidates and regardless of how Nigeria votes on Saturday in a nation of nearly 200 million people neither them should consider themselves to be the best person for the job. The fact that Atiku has gained enough widespread acceptance to make him smell the possibility of victory is an indication of the extent to which APC has failed to satisfy the aspirations of Nigerians. Recognizing this, their campaign has focused mainly on the integrity of their flagbearer promises rather than on any concrete achievements.

Whoever wins the election will have to face a situation in which Nigeria is falling from the frying pan to the fire as a result of the failure to engineer any political reforms. Never before has the country been so factionalized along tribal and religious lines; nepotism been taken to unprecedented levels; and the economy been so pauperized. The election winner must display empathy towards the almost daily mass killings that have become a national disgrace. Democracy is about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness all of which are compromised in Nigeria.

The election winner will do well to stop blaming his predecessor and live up to his own promises. Previous promises of improvement in electrical supply, revival of the oil refineries, economic recovery, the Dollar trading at par with the Naira, and of a ban on government officials travelling overseas for medical treatment came to nothing. Electricity is in critical state, the refineries still don't work, the national debt is rising, the naira is now 360 to 1, and not a single new hospital has been built as the President himself became the biggest medical tourist. The election winner will have to accept the reality that Transparency International still rates Nigeria amongst the most corrupt nations and the anti-corruption war isn't on track.

The Presidency is surrounded by those who have corruption allegations against them which have mysteriously remained uninvestigated or unprosecuted. The election winner must accept that integrity without competence is of little use when surrounded by people with ulterior motives. If APC wins then they must disown their Chairman Adams Oshiomhole who stated publicly that when a corrupt person joins the Party their sins are forgiven!! If PDP wins then Atiku must be wary not to surround himself with the sort of people currently around the President. The election winner must galvanize patriotism through motivating speeches and must not compromise the Federal character principle.

The election winner must work hard to pacify the resentment caused by the concentration of Northerners in all positions relating to security, law, and internal affairs. He must also strive to overcome the factors which currently imperil our democracy and national unity. He must put an end to biased appointments, a failure to fight corruption methodically and impartially, ineffective budgeting, and a lack of any viable well-considered economic recovery plan. The winner of the election must accept that the nation is a dysfunctional mess, with the catalogue of woes, miseries, sufferings, hardships, hopelessness and helplessness increasing daily.

The real agenda of fighting corruption, creating jobs, exterminating Boko haram evaporated like steam in the last four years'. The election winner will have to face an economy in decline caused by poorly- considered economic policies, and daily killings long after government told Nigerians that Boko Haram had been "technically defeated". The truth is that the system of governance in Nigeria is retrogressive and requires an overhaul. The election winner cannot be averse to any sort of electoral reform or restructuring otherwise true progress will be delayed for at least another four years.

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