Following his declaration as winner of the presidential election of Saturday February 23, 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari was full of gratitude to God and our nation for giving him another opportunity to serve the country for one more term.
Although he specifically named a few members of his party hierarchy and also saluted the nation’s security forces and several volunteer political groups for their contributions to the conduct of the election, there is doubt if we all actually deserve the presidential appreciation. How many citizens may not justifiably include themselves among those the President applauded? This question is what this piece seeks to answer today.
The goal is to put in proper perspective the gratitude of the President such that those who do not deserve it will be conscious of why their exclusion is rational. In that way, the President’s thank you message would be restricted to only those who deserve it. Of course in order to avoid being superfluous, senators-elect on the platform of the President’s political party ought to be excluded having already enjoyed a presidential dinner.
Our point of departure would be to put the analysis in the form of a vote of thanks starting with the big players in the All Progressive Congress APC. Perhaps, the party’s national leader, the national chairman and the Director General of the Campaign that were specifically identified for commendation may have worked hard, but one is reluctant to praise them. First, the said leaders and many of their followers are not on the same page with the President on the subject of magnanimity in victory. For instance, some of them have not been able to comply with the humane presidential directive that members of the ruling party should not gloat because in the words of the President, “our God-given victory is enough cause for joy, without deriding those who were in the opposition.” As veteran journalist and now presidential adviser on information Femi Adesina as aptly put it, ‘an eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind.’
In any case, if anyone was to gloat at all, it should be those who truly and clearly won their states for the party which is not in essence the end results from the states of Lagos, Edo and Rivers where the three leaders hail from. In reality, many of those who boasted that they would deliver millions of votes failed to do so. Now that the President and all of us know that the exact worth of such leaders and supporters is a far cry from reality, we need to watch the degree of thank you that should be extended to them. Two weeks back, this column had wondered where supposed admirers of the president would be able to garner their pledges totaling 175 million votes when the number of registered voters was put by INEC at about half of the pledges. It can thus be argued that those who bastardized the election must include those who must have fought strenuously to meet their unreasonable pledges. That seems to explain why the election was turned into war in certain areas where overzealous well-placed politicians used every means to intimidate voters so as to manipulate the elections.
Some questions on the bizarre activities of some actors no doubt call for answers. For example, is it true that in Imo state, the governor and his supporters compelled election officials to announce his victory while collation of results was on-going? If so, it means politicians in that state are yet to depart from such inglorious act which according to history happened in the same state some 36 years ago when the then governor of the state used the public broadcasting outfit to announce his own victory during the 1983 governorship election in the state while the electoral body was still counting the votes. Could it be true as revealed by a member of the National Youth Service Corps, who served as an ad hoc INEC official in Nasarawa State that out of 900 registered voters at his polling unit, the card readers were able to authenticate only 15 persons, while all the others forcefully voted without being accredited? According to the corps member, stalwarts of a political party forced him to hand over ballot papers to them for thumb-printing. If this is true, it may be difficult to identify those who deserve Buhari’s thank you in such locations. Apart from depriving the state from having free and fair elections, the action would no doubt dissuade many young citizens from believing in Nigeria. This is obvious from the corpers Facebook post where he reportedly remarked that he regretted ever working for INEC, as his life was put in danger adding that “this is the last time I’d be doing this bullsh** INEC ad-hoc nonsense.”
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If the corps member was lucky to be alive to report his experience, not everyone was that lucky. The case of one of his female colleagues who was also an INEC ad hoc staff in Rivers state who died serving her fatherland comes to mind. The father of the deceased took to his Facebook page to mourn his daughter saying “Here lies my beautiful daughter, Ibisaki, a post-graduate degree holder, full of cheer, love and kindness and mother of two. She was shot dead by a trigger happy and jittery soldier while she was on a national assignment with INEC.” Painfully the incident was confirmed by the commission’s chairman who promised to “forward a comprehensive report for security agencies to investigate.”Another report claimed that a 19-year-old Kogi state University student was killed by the violence-induced actors during the election in that state. With these reports, it is obvious that what the perpetrators deserve is condemnation. It is therefore unreasonable to extend the President’s general note of appreciation to all those that used state resources to manipulate our elections and in the process unleashed violence on fellow Nigerians
One point which must be made in this piece is the fact that violent politicians do not belong to only one party, they are everywhere. In other words, whereas there are politicians of the opposition parties that deserve our sympathy as the underdog in the whole saga of political violence in our elections, those of them that also engaged in violence in their areas of strength ought to be condemned. We are therefore unwilling to give a blank cheque of sympathy to them all. As for Atiku Abubakar the main opposition candidate, we disagree with those opposed to his decision to go to court. Election petition is an integral part of elections. It is better to do that than to engage in extra legal activities for the purpose of ventilating political grievances. At the end of his election petition, Atiku’s disposition would determine our thank you or otherwise.