FORMER Nigerian President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has continued to celebrate his landmark decision to concede victory to President Muhammadu Buhari when the counting of votes had not been concluded.
There was no rancour, no litigation that dragged on and no bloodshed. A development unheard of in Nigeria. Indeed, it was the triumph of reason, a major attempt to extricate Nigeria from the frightful rough political culture laden with nightmarish scenarios.
This singular act remains a major challenge to our political leaders if they really want to use politics to develop the nation like the Western democracies and even like Asian countries of India, China, including Brazil, a Latin American nation.
The recent smooth change of baton in the Republic of South Africa which sent Jacob Zuma, the former President of that country out of power is worth recalling and worthy of emulation by all Nigerians including politicians. It is also pertinent to note that South Africa is a heterogeneous nation with eleven official languages.
When his party, the African National Congress, ANC, mounted pressure on him to resign as a result of patent allegations of larceny, the party was unanimous, as well as the opposition and the entire South African people. There was no hostile or negative reactions from Jacob Zuma’s ethnic or religious groups, or region.
The exercise was done in the most coherent manner. The world watched the level of consensus, national cohesion and unity of purpose within ANC, the opposition party and the people of South African. It was a bloodless transition with the dethroned president saying he did not want his party to be divided. What a patriot !
The transition from Jacob Zuma to Cyril Ramaphosa, interestingly did not disrupt economic activities in the country, investors were not kept in suspense, unsure whether their investments would be adversely affected by the policies of the in-coming administration. Gladly, Nigerians and the rest of the international community, saw the South African Rand soaring. The new president, Ramaphosa confidently settled down for real business, no hindrances from Zuma or his party. A big lesson for our politicians and their followers.
In one of this public outings, Dr. Jonathan, who was represented by former Minister of National Planning, Alhaji Abubakar Suleiman, told his honoured audience that his action in the 2015 presidential election was aimed at growing credible election devoid of the current heart rending developments where elections are concluded in the turbulent Nigerian court rooms.
He elaborates his point, “My aim then was to change the narrative and prove that election related litigation should no longer define Nigeria’s democracy. People must not always go to court and obtain judgments before elections in Nigeria are declared”.
Dr. Jonathan’s sense of history, is superbly strong, reminding his audience and the entire Nigerian nation that elections in the country have been laceratingly brutal which must be reversed. His display of maturity and sense of responsibility in the said election, reminds me of late Richard Nixon’s experience in one of his electoral defeats before his final victory at the presidential elections which catapulted him to the White House.
Disappointed by the defeat, his party members, the Republican party urged him to demand for a recount of votes, but he brought the American sense of patriotism of “My Nation First” to dictate his action, objecting a recount, contending that, the exercise would take six months and would dent America’s international image.
That explanation brought the agitation for a recount of votes to a close. No fist fighting. That action did not diminish his ambition to occupy the White House, he continued along with his party to wrest power from the Democratic Party which he did successfully.
Also, reflecting on his defeats at the presidential elections, Richard Nixon in his Memoir, described himself as a “sore loser”, stating that the wound inflicted by war is less painful than that from electoral defeat. Definitely, this is the pain Dr. Jonathan is going through after the 2015 electoral defeat, a phycological wound, very painful, not pains from a fractured bone inflicted by war which his Ijaw kinsmen can easily mend with their unrival expertise in any ailment related to the bone.
A few disgusting example of court battles in Nigerian past elections will illustrate what Dr. Jonathan wants to expung in our national politics. An example was the protracted court room battles between late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a highly revered founding father of Nigeria, the flag bearer of Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, and Alhaji Shehu Shagari, the flag bearer of National Party of Nigeria, NPN, in 1979 elections was time wasting, brought about bitterness with result declared by the Supreme Court, has remained unacceptable till date.
It took the Shagari’s led Central Government quite a long time to settle down for governance. The litigations in the courts across states in the country were also going on for months over governorship elections. Governance then remained a secondary matter. The Supreme Court jugdement elicited severe and vile comments from Chief Awoiowo’s supporters, triggering the publication of a book titled president by “Mathematics”. These are mind boggling problems Dr. Jonathan abhors and not healthy for Nigeria’s political development.
Another disquieting example of the grim situation in which Nigerian politics plunged Nigerians into agony was the 1983 elections. The results of most elections ranging from State Assembly, House of Assembly, Governorship, Senatorial to Presidential elections were vigorously disputed in the courts that decided the victories of the contestants.
The more worrisome outcome of the election, was the unprecedented blood letting, wanton destruction of lives and property in several States. The violence in the old Ondo State then resulted in collateral damages. The mind bleeds recalling how a publishing house in Ondo town went up in flames. The owner of the publishing house and his wife were not spared. The State also was very unsafe to live in as top citizens of the State fled to Lagos State for safety.
The wranglings and prolonged litigations that greeted the elections where contestants obtained their judgements in the courts in the foregoing paragraphs, definitely affected the smooth running of those States and the central government, dampening the interest of potential foreign and local investors who often perceive Nigeria as unsafe for investment.
A salient lesson for the present APC government and iuture democratically elected governments to learn from Dr. Jonathan’s action, is that he has paved the way for the growth and development of democratic institutions namely the judiciary, the executive, the legislature and the electoral umpire the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC to grow. The performance of these critical bodies since Independence has remained dismal in handling elections.
The electorates no longer have confidence in them, but under the immediate past
President, the accusation by the electorate and political parties that the Executive manipulated electoral process was reduced, INEC was equally spared. We are moving. It is also instructive to remind politicians that these institutions are needed for political and economic development of Nigeria. The ball is on the court of President Buhari led APC Central Government to continue the building of Nigeria’s democracy from where his predecessor stopped, a good legacy for Nigeria and Nigerians.
Mr.Orie, a a public affairs commentator wrote from Lagos.