Nigeria: Presidential Election - Let's Put Nigeria First

President Muhammadu Buhari at his campaign headquarters in the run-up to the announcement of the election result.
27 February 2019

The Presidential and National Assembly elections have come and gone, it's time to put Nigeria first. That is the responsible thing to do. In the practice of democracy, once elections are over, all citizens and politicians close ranks for the sake of their country.

Granted that the campaigns were quite robust and often crossed the lines of the acceptable, fact is that Nigeria has to move on, one way or another. To continue with election mentality after the elections have been won and lost will not augur well for the citizenry.

We must all learn that democracy is the rule by the majority mandate obtained through periodic elections. Elections being human activity have never been perfect, but that is the best way that has evolved for selecting leaders democratically.

Most of the world would agree that despite its imperfections, democracy is still the best form of government. Democracy is also not a finished product. Democracy is thus a work in progress. No nation, not even the most advanced democracies, have the perfect democracy. One of the world's oldest democracies, the United States of America, is still dealing with the consequences of its last presidential election in which some Americans accused Russia of interference in their election in favour of Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump. There are investigative panels and state agencies that are still investigating the level of the Russian involvement in the last American presidential election.

Even in America where Nigeria copied the presidential system of government, after over 300 years of democratic practice the country is still grappling with its election process. The presidential and National Assembly elections held in the country on February 23, 2019 were not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. There were reports of a repeat of all that had been wrong with our elections over the years during Saturday's elections.

There were challenges of distribution of electoral materials to the polling units on time. Even when the materials arrived, there was also the problem of malfunctioning Card Readers, which delayed accreditation of voters. There were also reports of intimidation of voters and disruption of voting in parts of the country. There were also reports of ballot box snatching despite the warning by President Muhammadu Buhari before the elections that those who snatch ballot boxes should be dealt with ruthlessly. There were several reported deaths due to electoral violence. There was also the deliberate burning of electoral materials by hoodlums and agents of political parties. Some security agents lost their lives on electoral duty.

However, despite the hiccups that characterised the elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been able to conduct the first phase of the 2019 general elections successfully. INEC has released the National Assembly results in most states of the country and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. As I write, the release of the presidential elections results is ongoing. It was in the midst of the announcement of the presidential election results at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, that the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said that it would not accept the result of the elections on allegation that the elections was rigged by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in collusion with INEC.

The PDP, in a statement by its national chairman, Uche Secondus, claimed that the results announced did not tally with what the party had collated across the country.

"Firstly, I want to categorically state that our collation centres have all original results from every polling unit, in every ward, in every Local Government Area (LGA) in Nigeria, of which the international community is well aware, implying all results currently being announced by INEC are incorrect, thus unacceptable to our party and people," Secondus said.

It is sad that some political actors are questioning the integrity of INEC without any evidence. We are a nation of laws. The laws should be respected. The PDP may have to learn a thing or two from President Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the APC in the February 23 elections. Buhari contested presidential elections three times, from 2003 to 2011 and lost. He did not resort to self-help even though the elections were allegedly rigged by the PDP in collusion with INEC. Buhari in the three occasions that he lost went to court and pursued the matter to the Supreme Court. The courts and the Election Tribunals are there for anyone with grievances over the outcome of the elections. Let the PDP and others who are aggrieved explore the legal option instead of heating up the polity.

We should also stop this culture of internationalising our domestic challenges. It is, therefore, unnecessary for the actors to drag the international community into the outcome of the elections when we have enough laws to deal with the elections' fallout.

The political class must not think that their ambitions are greater than the national interest. The country must not burn because of any man's ambition. The country is greater than any one's personal ambition. With Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, banditry in the North West, and kidnapping and armed robbery across the country, we do not need fresh crisis caused by politicians through their actions and utterances. Let the law take its course in all electoral disagreements. We should not allow reactionary elements to derail our democracy.

Aluta Continua!

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