By Bunmi Makinwa
The results of presidential and national elections in Nigeria show that there are more changes than were anticipated by many analysts and commentators. Many politicians must be shocked. Some unexpected turns have happened in the political landscape and a lot of rethinking will go on. Perhaps there may emerge a better country coming in large part from the combination of the failures and successes of democracy.
Has rigging taken place? An elder politician who had seen almost all the elections in Nigeria once told me. “All parties rig elections where they can. But you can only rig successfully where you have the support of most people. Results of voting largely reflect voters’ wishes in almost all the previous elections.” It is the same in these elections. Those who wish to believe it will do and those who won’t believe it will not. No facts, documents or evidence can convince those who shout, “No.”
On violence, Nigeria has never had any elections without some level of violence. Unfortunately, the trend has continued. There are always those who stoke embers of hate and anger. And there are those who are willing to die for nothing. Both groups must be reined in quickly and stopped. Let normal people refuse to join them. More importantly, let citizens and those who wish the country well dissuade the goons, thugs and users. Denounce them, stop them and report them.
Burning, arson and killing does not profit any society. When normal lives resume, the hate and destruction perpetrated during this period will remain and fester. We must reduce hate and destruction.
On the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), there will be blame and commendation. This is just as usual in every election. Few losers of elections accept the results. However, INEC should strive for maximum communication. It should provide as full information as possible to the public at all times.
The reported hacking of INEC’s servers and spreading of fake results are expected. How well is INEC prepared for it? When servers are being hacked, INEC should inform Nigerians. It should also explain what it is doing to counter the hackers. Where there are lapses or failures, INEC should admit them and also state its successes. If INEC decides to make important changes of policy directions, the public deserves to know. When there is no official information, other types of information, mostly wrong ones, will fill the space. The erroneous and false information will be consumed by the public and form the basis of actions.
Trust in government is very low and agents of government, including INEC, are generally seen as only doing the bidding of certain interests.
Former President Obasanjo has criticised INEC strongly and accused it of wrongdoings as election results were being released. He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to impose new directives on the agency. Against the background of Obasanjo’s choice several months ago of one of the political parties, his voice cannot be credible nor respected. He has campaigned eloquently for the party of his choice and its presidential candidate, hence Obasanjo’s advice can only be seen as a protest when his chosen party was not able to reach the goal that he had in mind.
The role of giving advice and finding compromises belongs rightly to a statesman. Obasanjo cannot be a referee at a game in which he is a player. Obasanjo knows what it means to be a statesman. He cannot be the voice of reason, or balanced and objective viewpoints when he has chosen a path of alignment and partisan politics.
Let other past leaders intervene. Former President Abdulsalami Abubakar has called for rational discourse and given his support to the current electoral process. This is important. It is timely and desirable that other leaders of various callings seek to calm the restive populace and commend those who remain calm. Law and order must prevail.
Governance in Nigeria is burdened with many failures. There are far too many challenges and problems to be overcome. Within such a situation, it is highly unlikely that any perfect outcomes can emerge.
There are no elections in Nigeria that have gone quietly and smoothly. This one is not different.
Bunmi Makinwa is CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.