Friday, 8th December 2023

Beyond the euphoria of electoral victory

By Okey Ifionu
08 April 2015   |   2:33 am
THE All Progressives Congress (APC), no doubt, can do with some euphoria, some victory dance in the aftermath of their victory in the March 28 presidential election.
Jonathan and Buhari

Jonathan and Buhari

THE All Progressives Congress (APC), no doubt, can do with some euphoria, some victory dance in the aftermath of their victory in the March 28 presidential election.

Theirs was an upset of the rarest type. Despite the media hype about Buhari’s capacity to govern the country, I was never for once convinced that he would be the right president for Nigeria at this time.

Indeed the change mantra never made any serious impression on me, not because change would not be a good idea, but fundamentally, because the insincerity of those chanting the mantra was rather obvious.

Be that as it may, even the gullible majority must be allowed to have their way in a democracy. And so I congratulate General Muhammadu Buhari. I also congratulate President Goodluck Jonathan. For me he is the real winner and hero of Nigeria’s democracy.

This president, unlike most of his predecessors, is not a do-or-die sort of person. The president has enough grounds to reject the outcome of the polls. However, Jonathan would not go for anything that will further endanger the fragile unity and peace of the country.

Not quite an hour later, word was out that good Jo had called to concede defeat and congratulate Buhari. Now everybody has been praising the President and that is good.

He certainly deserves it. But what if the president had won the election? Will the APC’s mob, who are now pretending to be true democrats, have done what he did? While we celebrate Jonathan’s rare statesmanship, we should equally be concerned about the unfortunate attitude of certain elements in the country for whom defeat in an electoral contest is unthinkable.

Asked in the heat of the campaign whether he would congratulate Jonathan if he lost the election, Buhari had demurred.

When leaders hold such a scorched earth notion about electoral contest, they unwittingly prepare the ground for their supporters to go wild against any verdict that is not in their favour. For me, there is no greater evidence of political backwardness and timidity than this attitude.

Not without reason, many people are happy that Jonathan, by conceding defeat, has saved the country a major political convulsion. Conversely they believe that the APC’s rabble remains the greatest threat to our democracy. Their leaders claim to be politically enlightened, but all their utterances and body language say something to the contrary.

The first challenge of Muhammadu Buhari therefore, even before his inauguration on May 29, will be to arrest this high degree of political rabidity.

The APC supporters need to understand that if every other Nigerian behaved like them, there probably won’t be a country called Nigeria.

Winning is important, but managing the victory is even more important. The flipside of victory is not necessarily defeat. It could indeed be chaos and crisis, unless some maturity is brought to bear.

What Nigeria needs now is consolidation of the gains that the nation has made in nearly the past 55 years. Any change must be such that really works. Change that will leave the nation more divided must be avoided.

Whatever anyone, including his implacable foes, may say against Jonathan, it cannot be denied that he made conscious efforts to give all Nigerians a sense of oneness. He may not have succeeded on all fronts, but that is precisely why he is only human. I have read the president-elect’s acceptance speech and it is obvious that the reality is beginning to set in. His appeal to Nigerians not to make unrealistic expectations from his incoming government must be one sign of post-election sobriety.

There is no magic wand anywhere to wave off the country’s myriad of developmental challenges. What is needed is sincerity and determination on the part of both the leaders and the led if we must get to the Promised Land.

Those ranged against Buhari should realise that he needs the support and co-operation of all Nigerians to succeed. If he should be subjected to the sort of sometimes, needless attack that the current president has faced, I can say with certainty that he will derail. Buhari is brittle-tempered and therefore may not be able to take what Jonathan took.

Now a word of caution to the president-elect on the activities of intellectual, political hypocrites and vultures who pretend to know always what is wrong with the nation but fail to proffer any realistic solution.

They will swoop on him very soon, that is if they are not yet doing so. But he must be on his guard. Their real intention hardly goes beyond self-aggrandisement. To succeed, Buhari must be clear-eyed about who really can help him.

Many of those currently hanging around him are already in the bad book of honest Nigerians who know how intricately corrupt such persons are. I make a special point of this because the Buhari presidential campaign manifesto on my desk, says he would tackle corruption to a halt, ensure security of lives and property and create jobs.

Regardless of who helped him achieve this dream of being the next president of Nigeria, Buhari must adopt the Lee Kuan Yew approach if he is to make any serious dent on the corruption monster.

After he got some tough legislations against corruption passed in Singapore, Dr Lee’s friends, including a few who helped him become prime minister, were among the first victims to be caught in the net of the new law. The new prime minister couldn’t be bothered. He knew that you couldn’t make omelettes without breaking an egg.

His friends faced the law, were convicted and sent to jail. That gesture sent the right signal to all Singaporeans. It was not long before Singapore was freed from the stranglehold of corruption.

For me, what Buhari does with the tainted characters who played a role towards his election, will tell us whether he is really determined to change Nigeria for good. We will be watching keenly.

Meanwhile, I salute President Goodluck Jonathan, who is fast becoming a living legend, far ahead of anyone who has had the privilege of leading Nigeria. History will record him not only as a rare African statesman, but indeed the real founding father of the nation.

•Rev. Canon Ifionu, a priest and journalist, sent this piece from Lagos.