There was no doubt about the victory of General Mohamadu Buhari, the APC opposition candidate in the country’s Presidential election held on March 28, 2015.
Jonathan is a gentleman and indeed a statesman and above all, he must have been inspired by John Steinbeck who once said: Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power particularly from the standpoint of the constitutional weight of the President of the federal republic of Nigeria, who is enormously powerful and indeed imperious and he could have behaved otherwise to subvert the will of the people – God forbid!
Indeed a peaceful transfer of power without post-election violence, after a relatively peaceful, but charged and mudslinging election campaigns is the testimony of the vigilance and resilience of Nigerian people. However, the campaign templates in my view were not creative, logical and indeed below global governance best practices. But it is hoped that as the process get better there will be significant improvement in the political communication and strategy output.
Interestingly, the main idea that animated and electrified the Nigerian electorate across all political divide for the choice of All Progressives Congress, APC, has been his promise of change and good governance. General Mohammedu Buhari’s election campaign stressed democratic and corruption-free governance and reviving the autonomy of key institutions of governance. This is kind of democratic reform agenda evolved primarily for good governance.
Quite frankly unlike in the previous elections, the electorates were defining elements in the change agenda this time round and they supported Buhari primarily on his promise of regime change and anti- corruption reform. Furthermore, it reflected the urgency felt by most of Nigerians and citizen’s stakeholders for a fresh political beginning in a post-Jonathan era. However, the ethnic and parochial sentiment was present in the voting pattern across board and in my view major challenge for the incoming president and his party.
Indeed, a fresh beginning is perhaps the phrase that best captures the moment and the political space opened up by the victory of Muhammadu Buhari in this keenly contested 2015 Presidential election. The challenges and obstacles awaiting him would be both daunting and complex. The election result shows some of unusual political complexities.
A preliminary glance at the electoral statistics highlights a few salient patterns and dimensions. First, it is the Hausa – Fulani vote which gave Buhari the edge over Jonathan. The support he received from the Northern and South- west and electoral divisions where the East and South- South are a significant minority was not so overwhelming, in many instance not even reaching over some per cent of the votes cast.
In the same vein, Buhari failed to secure majorities in most of the electorates which are predominantly Igbo’s. In many such areas, Goodluck Jonathan emerged the clear winner, indicating that his South- South vote base has not seriously eroded, although it has diminished in the final outcome of the results. Strangely, the PDP still has a clear majority in those area, although there have been some key defections to the APC before and during the electioneering campaigns.
The question in the mind of many Nigerian and indeed the international community is how will Mohammadu Buhari, the new President, fulfill his electoral promises?
The immediate challenge that confronts the APC and indeed Muhammadu Buhari is in consolidating power for his new government. The APC in my view is an eclectic coalition of political and non – ideological forces of somewhat inchoate personalities with the overt residue of PDP renegades that would contaminate the APC core values of good governance at least in some of the state where they have set the pace for others to follow.
The return of Buhari, as the President and commander in chief of the armed forces, it is hoped would be a major stabilising factor in the change and citizens – driven government through mutual partnerships and a sustainable pact with the people. Buhari is indeed known and perceived as a leader, who tends to operate from an inner directed, principled, responsible and conservative core with military experience in government as Head of State, as well as for his political shrewdness and sagacity. His pro-conservative and uncompromising political profile in my view would help to chart a new version of reconciliationary mechanism — not hostile to the South -East, not so dependent on the power and the oligarchic structures that brought him to power in partnership with the Nigerian people who were determined to defend their votes.
This solemn and uncommon contract should be seen as sacrosanct, and he is quite at ease with the traditional and core north that is essentially his home- base politically in this important election and indeed his promise to engage with citizens is a new partnership towards forging a people driven assembly and new government.
Buhari, the president- elect in his pre- inaugural speech has promised fulfilling some of socio- economic reforms within the nearest foreseeable future. This in my view would certainly be a huge challenge and tall order for the President and his new government.
Reform benchmarks and projections are easier promised at speech making. The key reform promise with a time limit of first 100 days in office sloganeering is not a constitutional matter but a politically expedient decision to get to the ground running and to drive the process of change his party has promised Nigerians in the build up to the general elections. As it happens at crucial moments of our political evolution, new leaders and new governments emerge with a great deal of promise for change and the change is here. The greater the promise, the greater can also be the disappointment, once the extraordinary euphoria of the newness declines and the promises meet the daunting political realities.
Nonetheless, the issue of unemployment and underemployment, particularly for young people and women which is estimated at about 20 million, the number of children of primary school age out of school with an alarming figures of 10 million and the unacceptable numbers of Nigerians with no access to primary health care and women who die annually during childbirth should be top on his agenda.
In furtherance to the campaign promises, the most single contract with the Nigerian people is the critical mass of collective leadership accountability template that mainstream the citizens into this administration development agenda. Indeed the demand for open and inclusive government in the international political landscape has gained unprecedented momentum and the new leadership under Buhari must learn critical lessons from the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street to improve on its relationship with citizens through networks and collaborations.
Therefore a critical milestone to achieving this is to engage the people directly in policy-making and public service delivery with a view to achieving wholesome development results and enduring feedback mechanism that will help to shape the direction of participatory democracy in Nigeria. The real test of transparency and accountability resides with the people.
One such challenging prospect which the new President is likely to face is in balancing the interests of the South- South ethnic nationalities and other ethnic groups particularly from the Eastern bloc in the post – elections healing mechanism. Strangely, the patterns of voting along regional and ethnic fault line are essentially driven in my view by the existing mutual suspicions from the civil war era and other political aberrations and indeed it also shows that it is one country too divided against itself and everyone for themselves. The dynamics of the political sentiments of the minorities might not be confined to ethnic sentiments alone but it may be unfound fear of old wounds not properly healed by political and national leadership at the centre. Town hall and engagement meetings during the electioneering campaigns must be sustained to reflect the commitment made and to close the gaps between government operatives and the people.
Against this backdrop, the first starting point in my view for Mr. President elect in this change process and political agenda is genuine and authentic reconciliation. Managing that challenge in a manner different from how General Olusegun Obasanjo did it through the strategy of truth and reconciliation commission popularly known as the Oputa panel. Political olive branch of power sharing through appointments at the centre may not be enough incentive for true national identity. In addition, the agenda or plan must rest the pillars of global governance index which include safety and the rule of law, citizen’s participation in programmes, human development, and sustainable economic opportunities for all Nigerians. Buhari has promised that he will engage with the people and also listen.
To drive and sustain the promises, he must initiate his party manifesto development huddle template every six months to report critical milestones and deliverables in concrete terms. A seamless cabinet reporting principle of governance issues a way from security and national interest will also enhance the social contract with the people.
Samuel Akpobome Orovwuje wrote in from Lagos.