NIGERIA’S longest-serving military ruler, General Yakubu Gowon, has aptly added his voice to the need for aspirants to political offices in 2019 (especially the presidential candidates of the two main parties – the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP) – to accept the result irrespective of the outcome.
Speaking at the University College, Ibadan recently during the exhibition in honour of Emeritus Professor of Medicine, Oladipo Akinkugbe (an event which also marked Gowon’s 85th birthday) the former Head of State reminded Nigerians that former President Goodluck Jonathan’s acceptance of his defeat in 2015 went a long way in preserving the peace and unity of the country.
Recalling the knife-edge atmosphere at that momentous point in our history amidst dire predictions of the possible disintegration of Nigeria after that election, Gowon observed: “What happened last time (in 2015), if you remember, there was so much tension and the tension was so high that if things had gone wrong, Nigeria would have been on fire. Then, as a result, former President Jonathan agreed at the early stage to say he accepted the results and congratulated Buhari. Now, this is the way”.
This call by a living legend who restored the nation’s unity after a 30-month civil war 48 years ago is timely and relevant. It is a message that should keep resonating in the minds of all patriots as we edge closer to the start of the campaigns towards the 2019 general elections.
Nigerians need to be reminded that campaigns and elections are merely means to the ultimate objectives of installing good governance, keeping Nigeria united and taking the country to a greater height. Failed elections have plunged nations (including Nigeria) into spiralling crises and conflicts, which we must avoid at all costs.
However, there are always two sides to every coin. Accepting the result of elections is usually the rational consequence of an electoral exercise perceived to have been conducted in a free and fair manner. The 2015 general elections had their fair share of manmade flaws, but those could not detract from the general perception that they were free, fair, acceptable and credible. This is what anaesthetises the pain of loss. When barefaced cheating characterises an electoral process it is hard for those who feel cheated to accept the outcome.
The ball is in the court of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the ruling, opposition and other political parties and their supporters, the security agencies, the electorate and election observers to ensure that the 2019 elections are free, fair, credible and acceptable. That way, those who lose will have no other choice than to concede.
In 2019, we must show the world that 2015 was not a fluke.