Saturday, April 11, 2015

#Nigeriadecides, then what?

Nigeria’s 2015 elections has been interesting and remarkable. 
Nigerians and Africans are proud that the elections were not marred by widespread violence. It shows  that gradually,Nigeria’s democracy is maturing. 
Nigeria’s election success story began in 2011 with the election of president Jonathan. That  election was regarded as credible and representative of the  wishes of Nigerians though there was  violence in the North. He won the 2011  elections based on the goodwill he enjoyed. 
He was also voted out in 2015 based on his non-performance especially  in the areas of corruption and insecurity. The fact that a sitting president can be voted out shows Nigeria and Nigerians are getting there and are capable of putting their leaders on their toes. Similarly, APC (All Progressives Congress)- the ruling party in Lagos lost 5 seats to the opposition in Lagos and to non-indigenes. That the President conceded peacefully is commendable  as it calmed frayed nerves and doused the expected violence. 
Another positive of the presidential elections is the surprising revelation of the swing blocs in  the country. The fear of a North West/ North East domination in elections has been quelled by the swing votes of the North Central and South West.
In spite of this progress Nigeria's democracy has made, deep-seated issues of weak institutions and ethic bigotry remain and need to be addressed.
When it emerged that the South-South and South-East voted for President Jonathan, tweets like below went viral on social media. 

Thankfully, it was roundly condemned and this particular user's account was deactivated. Also, the Oba of Lagos in tirade against the Igbos in Lagos cursed them for not voting APC during the presidential elections. In that speech, the Oba incited violence against the people. Again, saner heads prevailed and citizens including the APC dissociated itself from the Oba's outburst.  Just like the Buhari certificate saga had no effect on citizens determined to vote for him, I believe that the Oba's outburst will also not swing votes to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
 That there are voting patterns/ blocs that will always vote a certain way is typical of most democracies. In the United States, there are red and blue states and once in a while when there is popular candidate or a burning issue, a purple state emerges. Also in the United Kingdom, the North and South also vote along party lines (Labour/ Conservatives). That Nigerians vote along ethnic lines, personal and religious interests is not a reason to promote hatred and violence against them. As this election has shown there are swing votes and these  votes can be trusted to be non-partisan (as seen in the presidential elections for the North Central and South West).  
The fault lines of religion and ethnicity need to be addressed because may Rwanda never happen to Nigeria but inciting comments from the Oba and  the current vice president during his campaign in Minna shows this is an issue that needs to be addressed. 
Lagos has led the way because there are numerous non-indigenes in positions of authority in the state and currently 5 of those have been elected to the house of representatives. This can be replicated across of the states where a Yoruba Christian in Kaduna or Imo will be able to run for an elective position and win. People in authority have to be mindful and careful about what they say. Like it happened in Rwanda, where the leadership promoted the hatred between the Tutsi's and Hutu's and led to the genocide and in South Africa, where a traditional ruler's comment has led to attacks and looting the businesses of foreigners, leaders should be aware of the responsibility that comes with the positions that they hold.                                                            
This election season has also revealed the weaknesses of our institutions. Below statement is credited to Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State.

There has been an ongoing battle for Rivers between the Presidency and the governor and state institutions have been used as proxies in that battle. There was a time the Governor had a running battle with the Commissioner of Police and now it appears it is pay-back time.  The statement of the military officer is most shameful. Add to this the withdrawal of the Speaker's security detail, the re-appearance of President- elect's certificate in military custody, the hate documentary against APC's presidential candidate tells the new government that State institutions need to be strengthened and independent.
 Strong, fair and independent institutions are germane to the growth and development of any nation because it prevents tyranny, oppression, impunity and anarchy. 
For instance in the United States, issues of corruption always arise, but because there are structures and systems in place, corruption is addressed and for those who insist on beating the system, they tweak the law.
Nigeria's election is being celebrated because INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) has been strengthened in between the 2011 and 2015 election cycles. INEC is far from conducting the best of elections logistics and fairness-wise but the last 2 elections have been credible and transparent. Social media may have helped because citizens can now record and report incidences of rigging and keep the institution honest.  Holding other factors constant, 2019 elections would be more credible. Like the use and exercise of a muscle, State institutions need to be independent of governments, that is the only way they can grow.
Once upon a time, Nigerians elected two Muslims as presidents. Ethnic biases will always be there but it should not be dominant. The incoming government has its work cut for it and as it addresses the issues of the economy, social orientation.  Social re-orientation in terms of messaging and role modelling by leaders.
Again, Nigeria has been given a fresh slate. She can write better this time.

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