Nigeria’s democracy coming of age?
The handover of power by the military to a civilian administration on May 29, 1999 was historic. Therefore, the uninterrupted democratic process since then has enabled democracy to gain some footing and also confirmed the fact that democracy is the foundation of good governance. However, the question whether Nigerians have enjoyed or are enjoying the dividend of democracy is for the people to decide.
Nevertheless, Nigerians have had a glimpse of the havoc during electioneering period, as political office seekers often used violence as vehicle to victory.
The history of election campaigns in Nigeria and indeed all over the world could be said to be characterised and driven by violence and hatred. Politicians always find a way to plant enmity in the minds of the people either through the political party or religious affiliation or even ethnic sentiments among others. And at the end of the day, the people democracy is meant to serve are the losers. Therefore, instead of enjoying democracy, the people are left to suffer great pains and in most cases, fight among themselves over nothing. Their political disagreement may sometimes result in loss of valuable property and lives.
It is evident that the just concluded Presidential election in the United States of America was characterised by division, hatred and abusive language among other unkind and divisive elements. At the end of the day, American people are still at loggerheads over the seed of discord sowed by the President-elect, Donald Trump during the election campaigns. Indeed, this year’s election has revealed the ugly side of America as a sick country where colour, race and religion still define who is an American.
Of course, the above issues are important because what has been witnessed is a far cry from the American dream and the philosophy of the founding fathers. The American people now suspect one another, that the man next door is either an alien or a terrorist just because of his religion or race.
Indeed, there is no doubt that elections would always provoke politicians to create certain ugliness in the minds of the people. Perhaps there is some connectivity between divide-and-rule in order to win election. Of what benefit would a politician derive from such an act to divide a people first during campaign and come back later to say we are all together?
Notwithstanding the above, the Nigerian democracy in recent years has taken on a new turn for the better. The 2015 Presidential election and campaigns was highly characterised by acrimony and name calling. The campaigns raised tension in the polity and created fears in several quarters as many believed that Nigeria may seize to be if violence was allowed to ruin the election. Of course, the doomsday theory or prophesy did not come to pass and Nigeria’s unity is even primed to be stronger especially if service is the watchword of political office holders and a true federation is allowed to be.
Although the 2015 Presidential election had its hiccups but the drum-beat of war and all the negative issues that played out during election campaigns were silenced and calmed by the singular action of the former President, Goodluck Jonathan who played good sportsmanship by conceding victory and subsequently handed over power to the opposition candidate, now President Muhammadu Buhari peacefully. This, therefore, marked the first time an opposition party unseated a ruling party in the history of Nigeria’s politics. Indeed, the act shocked the world as they never believed an African President would ever relinquish power peacefully.
The 2015 Presidential election triggered a huge shift from the past and subsequently ushered in a new dawn. The level of sanity observed on the side of the electorate was highly commendable and the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) commitment to achieving unblemished success raised the bar in what Nigerians can do to bring about credible, free, and fair elections.
The bloody clashes and irregularities that attended our previous elections process were largely absent and the political thugs who engaged in violence, rigging and snatching ballot boxes were systematically swept away by the invisible hand of technology through the card-reading machine as well as enlightened public minds.
The recent governorship election in Edo and Ondo states are a vivid example of the electorate’s power and most importantly an illustration that democracy has come of age and election violence has no place in Nigeria’s politics any longer. It is high time our politicians learnt to stop using violence to achieve their aim in elections. Instead, politicians should strive to entrench good governance with good policies. The citizens are tired of promises and therefore, are yearning for good governance. What that means is that politicians should sit up and strive to score high on good governance indices as the people are not only watching, they will use their ‘power’ to vote out non-performing politicians in the next election.