The 2019 presidential election is over. President Muhammadu Buhari has been offered a second term of four years. The reelected president deserves our congratulations. Of course, he must be the first to admit that there are numerous challenges ahead. But before we go into this, there are some takeaways from the concluded elections.
First, it is pleasing that the nation is tending toward a two-party system as indicated by the performance of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the elections. This means that each of these two parties has a good chance of becoming the ruling party every four years, ensuring a keen competition for the endorsement of the electorates, thus raising our hope for good governance.
I am not suggesting that a multi-party system is bad for the country. But in this matter, “the more, the merrier” is not in the best interest of the country’s nascent democracy. This election featured more than seventy political parties contesting for the presidency. That is simply ridiculous. There must be more stringent criteria for registering political parties.
Second, from intra-party competition for nomination to inter-party electoral contests, our elections are still bedeviled by the influence of money and wealth. This prevents talented individuals without deep pockets or godfathers from having a good chance to serve. Worse, it gives an undue advantage to proven thieves and corrupt individuals, who have illegally and immorally appropriated the wealth of the nation, to exploit the system. To combat this unwholesome trend, there must be a collective endeavor to curb the influence of money with necessary legislation. More importantly, such legislation must be back by strong enforcement measures.
Third, while it cannot be denied that regionalism or ethnic nationalism is alive and well across the land, its role in this last election is debatable. For one thing, both presidential candidates are from the same ethnic nationality and their tickets show that they have inroads into other zones. And though their running mates are of different ethnicities, it didn’t appear to have made much of a difference.
For rising above bigotry and chauvinism, we could pat ourselves on the back. The heavy presence of PDP in the Southeast and South-south predated the choice of Obi as Atiku’s running mate. It even predated the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan. And while Osinbajo is from the Southwest, PDP showed a footprint in Oyo and Ondo. On the electoral map, you could see a red island on a sea of green from Northeast to Southwest. That island is Oyo. Hopefully, the era of ethnic politics and the politicization of ethnicity is passing.
Fourth, to the credit of the contestants, this election has been fought most effectively on issues, including the state of the economy, candidate integrity, political restructuring, and party reputation. These are legitimate issues that will always be relevant in our politics going forward. And while the victorious party may rightly claim vindication of its positions by its victory, there is good reason for it to take a good look at the people’s complaints, which the opposition had tried to tap into.
Fifth, intra-party crisis, fueled by indiscipline, especially within the rank of leaders, played a decisive role in the conduct and outcome of the elections in some states, including Oyo, Ondo, Imo, Rivers, and Ogun, where the governor was implicated in an attack on the presidential election campaign rally in the state. The loss of APC in Oyo, Ondo, and Imo, where the party is in power, and the failure of APC to present National Assembly candidates in Rivers state, are direct outcomes of intra-party crises.
Sixth, every citizen who has faith in popular democracy and in the ability of our people to choose wisely based on their interests must be happy that the cabal of retired generals who seek to impose their will on the nation are now truly disgraced and retired for good. You do not have to be a sympathiser of Buhari or the ruling party to appreciate the fact of his victory despite the vindictive campaign orchestrated by former President Obasanjo who has constituted himself as the kingmaker.
How is it ever fair or decent that General Obasanjo would choose voluntarily to support a candidate for election and within a year later, he turns against him with public letter-writing. What good does that practice accomplish? Even the Almighty gives his creatures a longer time period for them to change and repent. Yet every aspiring candidate runs to this “all-knowing” human for endorsement. Now that for the first time, the candidate he ridiculed publicly has won reelection and the one whose sins he forgave on our behalf has lost, it is time for Obasanjo to honorably retire from active politics, if he has any honor left to preserve.
APC and Buhari must be pleased and be thankful to God that despite their rejection by the military cabal and the generality of the elite whose fortunes have been damaged by their policies, they are beneficiaries of the undiluted devotion of the masses, the poor and working class, whose support made the President’s victory possible.
For the reason of the support from the poor and downtrodden that puts the president on top, it’s only fair to expect, and indeed, urge that the second term will come up with policies and programs that put the masses in the driver’s seat. This is especially urgent if the party and the president still adhere to their progressive ideology. Fortunately, the party would still have a majority in the National Assembly, one that one hopes is more aligned with its progressive mandate.
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To this end, it is fitting to bring to memory the advice of this column to President-elect Buhari in 2015: “General Buhari has a mandate that comes with great expectations. It is not an easy spot to be on. But….there is a lot of goodwill, considering the ecstatic jubilation across the land…. The people’s general cannot afford to disappoint!!!! He must build trust. And he must satisfy the yearnings of the youth and the elderly for the dividends of democracy.”
Continuing, I noted that “the APC manifesto is the political Holy Book of President-elect Buhari. He referred to it incessantly and campaigned on the three priorities that the manifesto highlighted. He promised that he will provide adequate security of life and property for citizens; that he will attack corruption at its root; and that he will reboot the engine of the economy and will diversify it to tackle youth unemployment.”
That was four years ago. There is no doubt, however, that the same advice is apt today. While APC has moved from “Change” slogan to “Next Level”, the party has not changed its priorities which remain focused on anti-corruption war, economic recovery, and security.
The Next Level slogan, which also should be the administration’s mantra going forward, is a nod to its modest achievements on the three fronts in the first term, and a dedication to up its act in the new term. The election has been cast as a referendum on the president’s performance in the last four years. That he won is evidence that the electorate gave him a passing grade.
However, while the victory is not undeserved given the progress in the key areas, especially infrastructure, there is always good reason for introspection and retrospection. On top of the agenda of the party leadership and the presidency must be party discipline, without which it would again start on a wrong foot. Recall, how Saraki and Dogara defied the party and got away with it in 2015. Every challenge that the administration had to struggle with emanated from the way that gross indiscipline was handled. A hands-off approach by the President will most certainly lead to the same unfortunate outcome this time.
President Buhari “must not be tempted to surround himself with sycophants who only tell him what pleases him. He must tap into the wise counsel of those who will boldly disagree with him with good and unselfish reasons. The bulk stops with him now.” These last words from me in 2015 are still valid in 2019.
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