May the 29th, 2015, has come and gone. New governments have been ushered in across most of the land with the kind of pomp and pageantry ‘fit for the gods’. Particularly significant was the party switch at the center, the ruling People Democratic Party, PDP, bowing out to the All Progressives Congress, APC. A coup de grace that has seen Muhammadu Buhari return to the helm of affairs, as a democratically elected president of our dear and beloved nation.
Commentary on this epoch making event would not be complete without the mention of that all-important phone call, by the then President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, to gallantly concede defeat and the soft measured responses from Mr. President that shows he fully understands the diplomacy of how to sooth wounds by showing humility in victory. Had these two Gladiators acted otherwise, the nation could still be embroiled in the aftermath of the attendant ill winds.
These acts of patriotism and true statesmanship on the part of these national icons announced unequivocally to the world at large that Nigeria has come of age and capable of transiting power without violence. Perhaps we have crossed that elusive threshold and have entered a new era where politics is no longer a matter of life and death.
They say what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Now, the PDP, in its last throes has drawn our attention to a behavioral pattern that is worthy of emulating by drawing our attention to the peace option. If by extension, the looser at the polls is constitutionally allowed certain roles in the emerging government, perhaps the bitterness that greets the conclusion of each election could be mitigated considerably. In other words we can make inclusive governance part and parcel of our political culture, especially for the runners up. If the opposition has a stake, perhaps we would be more accommodating since coming second at the polls could be a target in itself.
Mr. President, the goodwill and camaraderie at the national level, between your predecessor and your good self, needs to trickle down the line to make this national victory complete.
The onus is on the APC, as a change oriented, ruling party to be magnanimous and lead other aggrieved parties at the polls to make that peace call, notwithstanding their constitutional rights to seek redress for perceived injustices. More so the APC can always take care of its own. Furthermore, parties that won everywhere would, as a matter of courtesy, reciprocate by soothing the nerves of their opponents and ensuring they are not left out in the scheme of things. Let us engineer a new, uniquely Nigerian political culture by introducing the Post Polls Amnesty!
The just concluded polls were widely reported as free and fair, amidst a host of teething problems. While we continue to hone our act on how to conduct hitch free polls, we must pay attention as well to how we react after the elections. The vilifications that immediately follow these polls such as personal attacks and violence widen the divide between aspirants and turn them into sworn enemies that set the stage for an even more cut-throat, do-or-die encounter at subsequent outings.
Furthermore, the balkanization of the citizenry on party, ethnic and religious grounds is an anathema to our collective existence and progress and for these reasons we remain constantly at war with ourselves, never trusting enough to forge the true unity and alliances necessary to enable us tackle our numerous intractable challenges.
Akwa Ibom State is a case in point, where we truly need to rethink our uncompromising and aggressive attitudes each time election results do not go our way. During the last dispensation, Akwa Ibom election related cases were still being heard at the national courts even to the penultimate week to the elections. The costs of such protracted cases are not necessarily measured in the size of the legal fees but also by the time wastages, the distractions as well as the non-participation of the entire aggrieved faction in the development process because breaking ranks to interact with the government of the day is usually construed as sabotage.
The post polls visit to the courts have become a recurring decimal in Akwa Ibom irrespective of how free and fair the polls may have been and if history is anything to go by, the matter will not be over until the fat lady sings. Just like crying wolf story of yesteryears, when the wolf finally shows up, the cries fell on deaf ears and no one responded to the call for help. The need to show restraint, especially in an intra-family contest like ours is most expedient, so we do not get to that point we cut our nose just to spite our face.
Mr. Udom Emmanuel was declared winner and duly sworn in as the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, after a landslide victory at the polls. This result was consistent with pre-polls forecasts and the voting patterns over several elections outings. The PDP may have had its shortcomings elsewhere, but in Akwa Ibom they have impacted positively in the advancement of the state development aspirations. Worthy of note were the efforts of His Excellences, Obong Victor Attah and Godswill Akpabio, the two PDP governors to date. Attah with the championing of the famous on-shore-off-shore oil well dichotomy fight and in-depth planning inter alia and Akpabio with the blitzkrieg, dubbed the ‘Uncommon Transformation Agenda’ that saw the rapid development of numerous basic infrastructure and is hailed everywhere as a resounding success. With the result, the state remains in the PDP fold but the center has all the time and freedom to woo the Akwa Ibom. That, I believe is true politicking, there is no bitterness to it.
The APC, perhaps due to its control at the center has its tail up, and the tabloids are already reporting that they have secured a promise from the number one citizen to guarantee justice, which in APC parlance would most probably mean victory in a re-run. First, the mentality behind the assumption that Mr. President would guarantee APC victory is the same godfatherism President Buhari has vowed to abolish. If the result, for any reason, shifts in favour of the APC, it will be deemed as the machinations of the President, and could scuttle the primary objective to put the nation on the right footing even before it has a chance to begin.
President Muhammadu Buhari, is a disciplinarian par excellence, which is why all Nigerians have come to expect strict adherence to the rule of law. Reminds me of my growing up days, where my primary school teacher and a friend of the family, would mete out twice the number of lashes to me for coming late than he would others. The enormity and expediency of the task of fixing the nation cannot be overemphasized and to have a chance at success, Mr. President, must be seen to be above board. The APC in Akwa Ibom blundered by touting the name of Mr. President as accessory to the act. Thus it must take measures to rectify the error by letting the status quo remain.
Arc. Etokowoh can be reached through: [email protected]