By Banji Ojewale
SOUTH African Nigerians now returning from the home of vuvuzela are coming back with a mixed reaction. They are meeting a nation whose president has just been ‘vindicated’ by a competent tribunal over claims by the opposition that he wasn’t eligible for the office. Their old hosts are used to taking up the local instrument as both a weapon of intimidation and celebration.
South Africans reach out for their two to three-feet long plastic horn to celebrate, to make raucous noise at football matches in support of their national teams. It was popularised during the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. The myth is that its beastly emission – some 120 decibels – can conjure victory for their club or national side. Or it can cudgel opposition to concede goals for their players to win the day. To their grief, these didn’t happen nine years ago. Rather, vuvuzela drew gross global glare. A newspaper writer called the trumpet “an instrument from hell”. And because it nearly ruined the first-ever World Cup in Africa on account of its noisome dispatch, FIFA, the world’s soccer administrator, banned vuvuzela from the tournament in Brazil in 2014. The BBC has also been calling for “vuvuzela-free broadcast”.
But our fleeing compatriots from the former apartheid enclave can’t find any room for joy, whether for being back home alive or for witnessing an admirable run of democracy as expressed by the Nigerian judiciary. Their trip can’t be celebrated with the infamous vuvuzela. They were stampeded home, leaving behind prized property and enterprises that took them years of hard work to build. Here at home, the condition of the state they ran away from years ago is the same, if not worse. It makes the future somehow uncertain. They are home as strangers in their own ancestral community. Where do they start after what appears to be a pyrrhic triumph? There’s been escape from the xenophobic hell of South Africa; but it is inflicting a long-term fatal toll that disallows and disavows riotous vuvuzela celebrations. Not a mood for mourning. But not a mood for music either!
Ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo once found himself in that quandary but missed the chance to be a statesman. He didn’t quite decode what was written between the lines when he secured his back-to-back second term mandate in 2003. Muhammadu Buhari and the other losers, Buhari notably, were grieving and crying foul at what they perceived as a “flagrant and wanton conduct of the election” that returned Obasanjo to power. They threatened they would have nothing to do with his “illegitimate” government. That led many patriotic voices to call on OBJ to form a coalition government at the centre. They also pleaded with him and his party men and women to don a subdued mien as they staged victory parties nationwide. Unfortunately, the nation was locked in wasteful orgies beamed on national TV. OBJ and his party loyalists danced lustily in the face of those mourning their electoral disasters.
Today, nearly 20 years later, we are back to where we were then. What will make a difference is how we rejoice when others, our opponents, are lamenting and hurting. We drive our crying friends and neighbours into more agony when we don’t moderate our wild festivities on V-day. No doubt, there will always be losers and winners in any contest. But the winner in politics must not contemn the loser through injuring his self-esteem in mindless jubilation. A loser is already in the mud, as it were. He has enough to battle with. We can’t saddle him with more, unless our goal is to break him into smithereens, out of existence!
But Buhari himself has been there before. He was the butt of ridicules that once made him decide that he would no longer vie for the highest political office in the land. He wept and claimed he had been robbed over and over again at the poll. If he has now been given the elusive mandate at the ballot, with unanimous judicial endorsement at the court of first instance, I think all he needs to do is to ignore the hawks around him and walk the talk that his victory isn’t personal, but for democracy and for all Nigerians.
I don’t think we should be asking the opposition PDP to “apologise” to Nigerians for “wilfully distracting the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari with a frivolous election petition”. Litigations of a political nature enlarge the borders of the process of nation-building; they don’t constrict them. All the years Buhari was walking the length and breadth of the courts with his lawyers to seek justice couldn’t have been reckoned as frivolous. Those who understood the dynamics of the rule of law and its link to democracy and development of nations and their citizens hailed him. Those cases have benefited the legal history of the nation. That he didn’t win in the courts then does not dismiss the judiciary as inept and corrupt as Buhari has erroneously believed for many years.
We should remember there’s still the hurdle of the Supreme Court adjudication, if PDP makes good its plan to go the whole length of the judicial journey. The party must not be discouraged. We have learned much from the proceedings at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to guide us in future electoral engagements. How else would we have known that there is no perjury if you fail to deposit what you claim to have in a sworn affidavit? How would the nation have known that assumptions can sometimes be promoted to the exalted pedestal of the law? How would Nigerians have known that contrary to what many citizens subscribe to, their president doesn’t believe in his party’s winner-takes-all philosophy? Which is why he has nobly stretched his hand of fellowship to his political foes to join him in running the country, regardless of your politics.
Before now, I did recommend to him the likes of Kingsley Moghalu, Tope Fasua, Omoyele Sowore, etc., who contested against him, to be part of his team. These are illustrious Nigerians who can help engender the all-round breakthrough we need. I stand by my counsel as Buhari shops for assistance in his next level mission.