By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Features Editor
While stating how well to accept electoral defeat, Melissa Schwartzberg and Jennifer Gandhi in “How to Coexist After Defeat With Citizens Whose Views You Despise,” declared that democracy means accepting shocking outcomes.
In explaining how upsetting results could be embraced in the wake of bitter polls, they pointed at Hillary Clinton’s early attitude to her defeat.
The duo wrote that: “Clinton’s willingness to concede privately even prior to the final tabulation of the popular vote is a model in this regard, as was her invocation of the importance of accepting the legitimacy of the election and the rule of law in her concession speech.”
Surviving defeat is indeed, one of the most difficult post-election phases for politicians making veteran statehouse reporter with Illinois News Network, Scott Reeder, in “ Political Sportsmanship,” to argue that how it is handled speaks to character.
To avoid the mismanagement of post-election anxiety , he said: “It doesn’t matter if you are a Republican or a Democrat, losing is the pits, but how you respond to your loss speaks volume about yourself. Now that the election is over, civility would be a good balm to apply for an electorate weary of mudslinging and anxious for answers.”
As simplistic as the suggestion sounds, coming to terms with election defeat is quite traumatising for politicians, especially in Africa where election literally means war.
Accepting the outcomes with equanimity and even magnanimity is not in the political DNA of the average Nigerian politician.
Though former President Goodluck Jonathan had pioneered the gracious acceptance of defeat in the country, the lessons associated with loss means the opposite to most politicians.
Hence the failure of many to rise with, to or above the occasion presented by the surprises and upsets that characterised the 2019 election outcomes.
More concerns than excitement
As far as Sunday Vanguard is concerned, most actors only succeeded in raising more concerns than excitement in their response to defeat and victory.
Across the six geopolitical zones, only a few of those who won and lost, have either emphatised with losers or accepted defeat graciously.
Others are carrying on in ways that could harm the prospects of reconciliation across the political spectrum.
Instead of sending an important message to their followers that it is time to put the election behind and move on, the rhetorics are still as divisive as they were before the polls.
In Imo State, Governor Rochas Okorocha is spitting fire over the defeat of his son-in-law, Mr. Uche Nwosu at the polls.
That the Action Alliance, AA, candidate’s loss elicited widespread celebration in the state meant nothing to Okorocha, who now uses the catchphrase “stolen mandate” in responding to the outcome.
Just the way the symbolism of the defeat seems to be lost on Okorocha, his son-in- law, who polled a total of 190,364 to emerge second in the contest that was won by a former Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, believes his “mandate’’ was stolen.
In Governor Udom Emmanuel’s Akwa Ibom, it is also the same story as Sen Godswill Akpabio is insisting on retrieving his “stolen mandate” despite popular belief that he suffered a humiliating defeat.
“As far as there is a mistake anywhere, you go to court and get your mandate. My mandate is somewhere waiting for me. My people know that I can’t fail an election,” Akpabio who lost in what was more of a popularity contest, boasted. For a man who famously charged that Warsaw saw war and War saw Warsaw, it is indeed more humiliating that he lost.
At the end of tabulation of result, Chris Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, scored 118,215 votes to defeat Akpabio who polled 83,158 in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District.
The Imo and Akwa Ibom scenarios, are just a microcosm of the bigger picture where the refusal of losers to accept the will of the people has brought tensions in their respective domains.
The stalemate in Rivers State, and inconclusive polls in some states were also found by Sunday Vanguard to be emblematic of the desperation that sustains the culture of not being graceful in defeat and triumph.
However, people like the Senate President, Sen Bukola Saraki, Oyo State governor, Abiola Ajimobi and even Ogun State governor, Sen Ibikunle Amosun, whose defeats also rank among the biggest upsets, seem to be exhibiting grace and statesmanship in defeat.
While Saraki hailed the man who defeated him, Ajimobi, pledged to work with the victor in Oyo, to ensure a peaceful transition of power.
Amosun’s disposition to the outcome of the governorship poll in Ogun, remains stunning considering how bitter the race was.
“I’ve been in politics since 2000. So, when things like this happen, you have to just move on because the job is there to be done. Eyes on the ball, you don’t lose focus. No distraction. I told people that whatever the outcome, by Monday I’m back. I’m doing my work, “he said suggesting that he may have accepted the outcome in good faith.
Character in defeat
Of the trio, Saraki’s character in defeat is spectacular and leaves many things to ponder on for different reasons.
First, the outcome of the presidential, National Assembly, governorship and
state assembly polls in Kwara State turned out to be an anti-climax for him.
Second, the result implied that the party and structure in control of the state since the 1999 lost completely in the just concluded election circle.
The wider implication is that Saraki’s political structure, which he inherited from his late father, the late Chief Olusola Saraki, moved from 100 percent control of all the elective offices to having zero control.
Though he has gracefully accepted his fate, some of his supporters still claim that he was defeated under questionable circumstances.
To them, the APC came out viciously to overwhelm Saraki.
A Saraki supporter, who pleaded anonymity told Sunday Vanguard that: “Massive security arrangements were made to intimidate him and his supporters. One of the incumbent senators from Kwara who was a candidate in the last election, Sen. Rafiu Ibrahim (Kwara South) was arrested on the eve of the polls and was only released after the elections. Many other foot soldiers of the Saraki political machine suffered similar fate. Others simply scampered for safety.
“The last general elections, therefore, before which he had abandoned the ruling party to become the national leader of the opposition PDP, contested for the Presidency and almost created a situation where the number three man was contesting against the number one, later became the Director General of the campaigns of Abubakar Atiku, created the right atmosphere and opportunity to deal with him.”
Nonetheless, Saraki still seized a higher moral ground from the polls.
Instead of fomenting crisis or creating chaos, he simply accepted his fate. He behaved like a true democrat by congratulating the winners and wishing them best of luck.
He returned to Abuja and just like Amosun, the man has faced his job as a parliamentarian seeking to finish his tenure as Senator and Senate President stronger.
His calmness and composure in this situation, depict a high standard in a polity where desperation is a virtue.
Analysts are of the view that if Akpabio, and others whose states are now embroiled in crisis had adopted this pacifist standing, sportsmanlike and dignified mode and style like Saraki, the polity would not have been this overheated.
Many reasons have been given as to why Saraki and his associates lost in Kwara, findings by Sunday Vanguard showed that the loss resulted from the convergence of many opposing factors.
In the build up to the election top members and sympathizers of the Buhari administration had confidently boasted that they would use the elections to punish Saraki.
So weighty was the anti Saraki rhetoric that those behind it boasted that they would retire him politically.
Others said they would bury him and ensure he does not rise again politically.
The disregard for the implications of the statements nearly created the impression in some quarters that there may have been a predetermined arrangement.
An all-inclusive party
Sunday Vanguard recalls that Saraki’s emergence as Senate President against the party’s wish is still regarded as a coup.
The many battles he fought as the leader of the eight Senate meant different things to people.
For instance, the APC felt he created an opposition within its fold in the National Assembly and prevented them from enjoying the spoils, benefits and comfort of being the party with a good majority.
But a cross section of Nigerians argued that he fought for the independence of the legislature and the judiciary with inherent checks and balances as separate arms of government in a presidential system of government.
Other symbolisms of his battles include inclusiveness and justice in a multi-ethnic modern state, need to develop institutions as against individual whims and caprices and need for a virile opposition in a democracy.