Controversial congratulations to Mr. President-elect
The February 25 Presidential Election in Nigeria has come, but, if at all, it has gone, it has not yet been done with, even after the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has produced a President-elect, which was the main aim of the election.
Congratulations, which normally come in torrents for a winner of presidential contest, has not been plentiful to Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the President-elect. Where there is no mute reaction, the nation has been in moaning mood. Although Tinubu is not without his teeming supporters, the reactions of his fans have been more on defensive to fence off vociferous offensive of condemnation launched by many Nigerian nationals and international observers against the election. So, the victor is celebrating the victory in vituperation to void the protestants, and not in victory songs to herald procession of incoming president!
Those congratulating the President-elect have not even been spared criticisms. Reminding President Joe Biden of the United States of his words on emphasis on “global community for democracy” and the essence of standing up for “justice and the rule of law,” Nigerian and worldwide known Chimamanda Adichie queried: “Why would the United States, which prioritises the rule of law, endorse a president-elect who has emerged from an unlawful process?”
Beyond the cacophony of voices for and against the sobriquet of President-elect handed to Mr. Tinubu, Messrs Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, the first runner-up and second runner-up in the election, have challenged the result of the election in the law court, constitutionally assigned to adjudicate on such a matter.
Aside the June 12, 1993 presidential election, which was not without its own controversy, my take is that the February 25 presidential election, conducted alongside national legislature elections, has had considerable improvement of no mean magnitude. If one is not comfortable that it remains the best among annals of our elections, at least, since the return to democracy in 1999, it is not hard to see that it is the best among the series of bads that Nigeria has been having.
The secret behind some wonders of the February 25 election lies in the instrumentality of technology called BVAS (bimodal verification and accreditation system). The BVAS, an improved device from Smart Card Reader that was introduced by Mahmood Jega-led INEC in 2015, brought out the lies that had been laid bare in the public in the past. Until 2015 elections, conducted under the watch of President Goodluck Jonathan, who was ousted in that exercise by Muhammadu Buhari, other elections in Nigeria were shabby as they were also shocking to certain realities.
In many instances in the past, all registered voters were accredited and voted with not even a single void votes recorded in many places. In some polling units all the voters voted for one candidate. The indication was that no one died, no one fell ill or hospitalised, no one abstained, no one traveled or relocated, no one engaged in essential duty, no one was detained or imprisoned within the period and that there was no dissension among the electorate at a given place as to which party or candidate to vote for.
The February 25 election dislodged some entrenched positions. Nigerian governors have been seen as the persons holding the pendulum of where votes swing to in their respective domains, yet many of them lost their states to opposition party. No fewer than seven current governors lost their bid to go to the Senate, which has somewhat become automatic station for Nigerian state chief executives to retire to.
Tinubu, the godfather of Lagos politics since 1999, was defeated by Obi in his backyard and frontage. Atiku defeated Tinubu in Osun, which is said to be the state of origin of the latter. PDP lost its stronghold in south-east and some states in the south-south. Obi’s Labour Party, a third force, made waves that shocked many bookmakers, including this writer. For the first time in Nigeria’s history, three leading presidential candidates won the same number of component units of the federation – 12 each. Really, it is extremely hard for any person with a grasp of history of elections in Nigeria to agree with those averring that the February 25 election was the worst in the country!
With legal spine for enhanced transparency injected into the country’s electoral law and many assurances offered by the chief electoral officer, Mahmood Yakubu, and his lieutenants at INEC that they would stick to the letters and spirit of the law, hope of getting credible poll was at its peak. But it turned out to be hope dampened after heightened. INEC failed woefully, especially in the presidential election, to adhere to its guidelines of photographically capturing figures on result sheets and transmitting same to its dedicated server. Had the result of the election been poured into INEC Results Viewing Portal (IRev) as stated in the rule of the game, how the winner and losers emerged would have been seen even before the declaration of the final result.
That erosion of transparency snowballs into the hullabaloo and disputation. It is curious that the violator of INEC’s rule was INEC itself. Within the context of Merriam Webster’s dictionary, which offered one of the meanings of bad as “failing to reach an acceptable standard,” adjudging that the election was bad is not wrong. Non-adherence to rule of the game by an umpire is not just bad but criminal.
The excuses advanced by some that no election is perfect anywhere in the world are recipes for collective complacency and calls to condone criminality. Undoubtedly, imperfection of any kind is inherently deposited in the genes of all humans. Attaining some sort of near-perfection demands conscious effort. The strife for perfection, even as it may not be fully achieved, exceptionally marks the difference between a person and another, between nation and another. One of the significant measures to perfecting a system is allowing the rule of law and due process to run a course unimpeded.
The status quo of the February 25 presidential election is unequivocally controversial in that, notwithstanding emergence of a President-elect, who becomes Nigeria’s next President is shaky because the result of the election is in disputation awaiting adjudication. Again, Nigeria has entered another round of quadrennial ritual of counting votes in court, which 2015 was an exception in the annals of presidential elections in Nigeria since 1979!
When President Jonathan congratulated Buhari in 2015, whether out of good luck or bad luck, some Tinubu’s panegyrists, who never saw anything good in Goodluck but always see everything good in Tinubu, saw no excellence in the exceptional act. For expecting Atiku, Obi and co to toe Jonathan’s path, those Tinubu’s loyalists now owe themselves a duty of introspection. If they do thorough and rightful self-evaluation, they would acknowledge that accepting defeat and congratulating the winner springs out sportsmanship in political competition and provides effective healing balm where wound of divisiveness is situated. It also makes winners to freely savour the victory instead of dissipating energy and resources in defending disputed victory. It helps to fence off distraction, thereby boosting concentration of works on the path of the winner.
Since accepting defeat and congratulating a winner should not be done to fulfill all righteousness even in an act of unrighteousness, those declared losers of the election are not to blame. Tinubu is not blamable either. INEC, the grand violator of its own rules, is liable for blames, and it can best be blamed through rightful judiciary interpretation of the unlawful act of discarding with the guiding rule in the middle of the game. It is only then that the February 25 presidential election can be said to have come and gone. And that is when controversial congratulations will not be trailing whoever would be rightly announced the President-elect.
Ekanem sent this article through nsikak4media@gmail.