ONCE we are able to overlook the initial bumpiness of the 2011 elections, there are remarkable differences with previous elections that can make Nigerians more forgiving of the tardiness of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Among them, and most importantly, could be that Nigerians voted, and their votes, in most cases, counted.
The calibre of people who lost in the elections could be evidence that the people made their choices. The people were fed up with some people and their policies.
Former governors Olusegun Agagu, Orji Uzor Kalu, Achike Udenwa, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Chimaroke Nnamani, Adamu
Aliero, Saminu Ibrahim Turaki, and Ali Modu Sheriff all lost bids to get into the Senate. How could those who have managed whole States fail to get a senate seat, which is a third of a State?
The people spoke. These votes were their ways of judging the performances of these former governors. The judgement was further.
Iyabo Obasanjo, daughter of former President Olusegun would not return to the Senate. Her father’s influence, his chairmanship of the Board of Trustee of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, meant little to voters. Iyabo had 56,312 votes. The winner in the Ogun Central Senatorial District, Gbenga Obadara of the Action Congress of
Nigeria polled 102, 389 votes.
The protests in Ogun continued with the Speaker of the House of Representatives Sabiu Dimeji Bankole losing his seat to little known Williams Olusegun of the Action Congress of Nigeria (28,490 votes). Bankole got 23,103 votes. Who would have thought this was possible though earlier signs of the result came during the fiercely contested party primaries?
Could these have happened under Obasanjo who said elections were “do or die” affairs and saw their execution along those lines?
President Goodluck Jonathan said he would not tamper with the electoral process. His disinterest in pursuing the cause of his party was a major factor in votes counting.
This attitude seemed to have influenced losers too. With the exception of few cases where people have expressed their legitimate intention to contest the results, the general impression is that the elections were freer and fairer than in the past.
Civility is returning to elections and the people should be happy about it. “For me the race was not a life and death duel. Of more importance is building, maintaining and developing our democratic institution and processes as a means towards true national development and greatness,” Bankole’s post-election statement stated. Olagunsoye spoke in the same way.
These responses to electoral results have their ways of telling people that failure in elections was not unacceptable. In the years ahead, maintaining the achievements of these elections would help in stabilising peoples’ attitude to democracy in addition to installing truly elected governments.
A major challenge for democracy remains the near absence of democracy within parties. Some of the setbacks parties suffered resulted from imposition of candidates.
Before the next general elections, parties must democratise their processes. For them, it should be a lesson of these elections and for the people, the power of their votes is obvious.