Why Nigeria must succeed on its democratic journey
By Emmanuel Oloniruha
Since return to democratic government in 1999, Nigeria has continued to witness successfully transition of power from one administration to another. From former President Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007) to his successor, Umaru Musa Yar’adua (2007-2010), to Dr Goodluck Jonathan (20102015), Muhammadu Buhari (2015-2023) and now President Bola Tinubu on May 29.
Following the peaceful conduct of 2023 general elections and successful transition of power on May 29, political analysts believed Nigeria democracy is becoming sustainable.
Although, litigations challenging the outcome of the 2023 president election are ongoing at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, lovers of democracy believed that Nigeria deserves some commendations for not allowing its democracy to be truncated, for whatever reason.
It is an indisputable fact that each time Nigeria goes to poll at every general election circle, global attention shits to the country.
This is not just because the election offers Nigerians the opportunity to elect their leaders, it also offers pivotal opportunity for the Africa most populous country and largest economy to solidify its place as a democratic leader in the continent.
According to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria needs a stable and reliable democracy for her leaders to meet the expectations of the people and adequately address present challenges facing the country.
“The world looks up to us to get our democracy right and become a force to be reckoned with in the leadership recruitment and governance process.
“We need peaceful elections to give democracy a boost on the continent, especially in our subregion where civil rule is threatened by a wave of unconstitutional change of government.”
In line with the global interest, no fewer than 33 international organisations, including the international observer the West African Elders Forum (WAEF) were accredited by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to observe the 2023 general election.
Like every other foreign election observation mission, WAEF deployed a pre-election mediation team to Nigeria to interface with major political actors and key stakeholders on the need for credible and peaceful election.
The mission, led by a former President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, met with relevant stakeholders including INEC, leaders and candidates of political parties before the elections to ensure credible and peaceful election.
The mission delegates also stayed back after the poll and dialogued with stakeholders including major presidential candidates on challenges witnessed during the election to avoid post-election violence.
The WAEF in a statement jointly signed by its leader for the 2023 Election Mission to Nigeria, who is former President of Ghana, John Mahama; and the Convener of the Forum, ex-President Jonathan urged all stakeholders to exercise their constitutional responsibilities in a manner that would promote peace and protect the integrity of the Nigeria electoral process.
“We reiterate our earlier statement made after the Presidential and National Assembly elections that Nigeria is a major stakeholder in the sustainability of democracy in West Africa.
“The responsibility of maintaining the nation’s thriving democracy and the general peace of our subregion rests on all our shoulders, especially on the credibility of INEC and other election management bodies in West Africa, during elections.”
The forum also urged Nigerians to be law-abiding and desist from acts that could threaten the peace of the country and the West Africa sub-region.
The elections have come and gone with diverse views on the outcome and performance of INEC in the conduct of the polls. Some analysts argued that the elections were below expectations, others argued that it was fair.
Without prejudice to the awaited decision of the judiciary on the subject matter, elder statesmen and stakeholders have continue to mobilise Nigerians for peace, especially the youth and aggrieved candidates in the election, who are presently seeking redress at the tribunal.
They also beckoned on Nigerians to allow the judiciary to perform its constitutional role on the various litigations and the judiciary to be diligent and firm in handling the cases.
The former President Muhammadu Buhari in his farewell broadcast on May 27 urged Nigerians that irrespective of the outcome of the various cases, all parties involved should accept the decision of the courts and join hands to build a better Nigeria.
Buhari said that as a nation, Nigeria must improve and sustain gains made in the electoral process, on an incremental basis for the country to take its rightful place among Nations.
The immediate past president commended the doggedness and resilience of all the presidential candidates and their political parties for believing in Nigeria judicial system by taking their grievances to court.
“In the course of the campaigns, we had argued and disagreed on how to make Nigeria better but we never disagreed or had any doubts that Nigeria has to be better.
“I call on all of us to bring to bear the strength of our individualism, the power of our unity, the convictions of our beliefs to make Nigeria work better and together with one spirit and one purpose,’’ Buhari said.
The former Military Head of State, Gen.Yakubu Gowon (retired), also urged Nigerians, especially aggrieved candidates to allow the judiciary perform it constitutional responsibility as well accept the outcome from the courts.
Gowon speaking at the 15th edition of Punuka annual lecture 2023 in honour of Chukwunweike Idigbe, a late Supreme Court Justice, in Abuja, said the judiciary played a vital role in nation-building.
He said that as a former military leader, he had seen and know first-hand the importance of the judiciary in maintaining stability and order in the society.
“As such, we need to allow the apex court, their deliberations, come up with their decisions and as the public to be humble enough to accept their decision as final in order to maintain the sanctity of the judiciary as individuals and institutions.
“The litigation tribunals that are now ongoing, let us give the judiciary the opportunity to do their work and let us accept their decisions as it is,” Gowon said.
Also speaking during a condolence visit to Gov. Douye Diri over the loss of his father, Pa Abraham Diri in Sampou, Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area, Jonathan on March 17 urged Nigerians to maintain peace, irrespective of the challenges including those encountered in the collation and transmission of results during the election.
“Notwithstanding all these, we are pleased and encouraged by the mature attitudes of the candidates who contested the presidential elections.
“We are encouraged by the restraint they have exhibited and their commitment to seek justice through due process. This is in keeping with the spirit of the Peace Accord.
“We, therefore, appeal to the supporters of all parties and our citizens to please follow the good example of their leaders and remain law abiding till the process is brought to an end,’’ Jonathan said.
Jonathan, who has always been a vanguard of peace, appealed to Nigerians not to allow elections to be a source of violence and anarchy.
Similarly, Prof. Anthony Igyuve in the Department of Mass Communications, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, advised youths not to make themselves as available tools for violence on the outcome of the elections.
Igyuve in a keynote address at “The Peace For Free Lecture Series” in Abuja, with the theme “Sustainable Peace Beyond Elections” commended the candidates in the election for towing the path of peace by seeking redress in the court.
He also commended Nigerian youths for their uncommon courage, enthusiasm and active participation in the general election in spite of the challenges, which he described as the demonstration of the commitment to make Nigeria better.
Igyuve tasked young Nigerians to emulate former President Jonathan who sacrificed his ambition for the peace of the country when he lost the 2015 presidential election to Buhari.
He urged youths to maintain peace in the country, saying their dream of a better Nigeria would not be possible if there was no peace.
“Let no one make himself easily available for politicians to manipulate by causing unnecessary unrest because those who are manipulating you don’t have good intentions for you.
“They are not doing it because they love you. They are doing it because they want to benefit from you,” he said.
To the founder of Peace for Free Advocacy Initiative, Chris Kalu, said that peace, unity, tolerance and dialogue remained the critical ingredients for a healthy democracy without which no progress could be realised in a country.
Kalu said no doubt 2023 general election, unlike previous elections, so far have generated a lot of public attention and increasing youth’s participation in the collective struggle for good governance, hence the need to properly mobilise Nigerians for peace.
“Election is an important part of democracy, which in itself is a process involving human and technological elements not absolutely immune from errors.
“Like all processes, democracy needs to be allowed to grow, to develop to maturity for most of the population to enjoy the promises and gains thereof,” Kalu said.
To the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, Chief Tony Ojukwu, said there was need for all to be committed to peace, even after the general election.
He said the quest for peace transcends the boundaries of elections: ”it is a journey that must be undertaken each day, in every aspect of human lives.’’
Ojukwu called on all Nigerians to embrace the virtues of democracy – equality, justice, and freedom, as well as allow them to guide their thoughts, decisions, and interactions.
“Individually and collectively, we have a role to play to nurture the peaceful coexistence of Nigeria otherwise we will be adversely affected one way or another.
“The ethnic and religious tensions in some parts of Northern and Southern Nigeria respectively are clear testimonies that peace pays, while war, violence and conflicts bring destruction in terms of human and material resources.
“We can create a world where sustainable peace becomes the cornerstone of our collective existence, transcending elections and permeating all aspects of our lives,’’ he said.
Experts opined that though Nigeria still has a lot to do to make its elections more credible and more transparent, the peace Nigeria enjoyed after the 2023 general election is evidence that democracy is taking its roots in the country.
This they say is something worthy of emulation by other Africa countries to sustain democracy and it gains in the continent.
While Nigerians await the decision of the judiciary, they must not fail the expectations of the world, especially West African countries including those presently under military rule, looking to her to set the pace for a sustained democracy in the Africa continent.(NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
**If used, please credit the writer and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
**The article is in collaboration with the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation