A Promise Fulfilled, But…

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Accept my congratulations, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on your resounding victory in our beloved country’s presidential election conducted on Saturday April 16, 2011. The election, for the aspirants, their sponsors, and supporters, and indeed, the Nigerian nation, was a project, a huge project for which time, money, and other resources were invested. And like any other project, the election and its preparation passed through various phases: enthusiasm, disillusionment, panic, search for the guilty, punishment of the innocent or guilty, and now praise and honour for the winner.

The election was a real contest. So I congratulate Dr. Jonathan and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) again and again.

Victory is like becoming a genius which Edison said is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration. I believe that Dr. Jonathan and his political party embraced their will power, used their brain chemicals, got their stars out, and planned ahead while in the present.

There is always a reason for winning, and there is also a reason for losing. Some of those who lost and their supporters have attributed their defeat to rigging, intimidation, and manipulation of the electoral process.

 Following the massive rigging, irregularities, and violence that trailed the 2007 general elections, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, in his inaugural speech, stated: “We acknowledge that our elections had some shortcomings. Thankfully, we have well-established legal avenues of redress, and I urge anyone aggrieved to pursue them.I also believe that our experiences represent an opportunity to learn from our mistakes”.

Apparently, Dr. Jonathan has learnt from our past experiences that free, fair, and credible election was a first – order condition for participatory democracy and the development of the Nigerian nation. Thus he promised to rise to the challenge.

It was Richard Nixon who said at a campaign meeting in New York on October 29, 1968 that there was nothing wrong with his country which a good election would not fix. A good election is the one that produces good leaders – the leaders who have the capacity and will to rally men to common purpose; leaders who love their followers more than they love themselves; leaders who in the words of John C, Maxwell, have the: “ability to say it, plan it, and do it in such a way that others know that they know how and know that they want to follow him”; leaders who encourage their followers to tell them what they need to know, not what they want to hear; leaders who know how to get along with people; leaders who do not abuse power; leaders who like Benjamin H. Hill know that “who saves his country, saves himself, saves all things, and all things saved to bless him; who lets his country die lets all things die, dies himself ignobly and all things dying curse him.”

Thus, during his memorable trip to the United States of America in April, 2010 on the invitation of President Barack Obama, Dr. Jonathan promised the world that he would overhaul the country’s electoral umpire, and bring on board credible people to conduct free and fair elections that will move the nation forward.

With the appointment of a distinguished academic and former Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano (BUK), Prof. Attahiru Jega, as the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and some other changes he made to animate the body and open a new vista for the country’s electoral process, it was evident that Dr. Jonathan would walk his talk.

After the National Assembly and Presidential elections for which Prof. Jega and his team have received so much cheers and commendations from labour unions, associations, well-meaning Nigerians, election monitoring groups and observers and many countries across the world, the average judgement is that Dr. Jonathan has fulfilled his promise of conducting free, fair, and credible elections for the nation despite his participation in the exercise.

Congratulating Nigerians on the success of the Presidential election, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) commended, among others, INEC for their hardwork, resolve, impartiality, and competence, the police and other security agencies for providing the needed security, and the electorates for ensuring that their votes counted in the election. In a statement signed by its Acting General Secretary, Owei Lakemfa, the Congress said: “Never in our history has such conduct, resolve, and commitment of the voting populace been so clearly demonstrated. The Nigerian people got the National Assembly elections right, we got the presidential elections right, all we need to make definitive history is to get the state elections right, and we can. When we do, these would be the first controversy-free, all- inclusive, and demonstrably fair and just elections in our country since colonial times”.  In the same vein, the ECOWAS Observation Mission led by the former president of Liberia, Prof. Amos Sawyer, commended INEC for its leadership and professionalism saying that the presidential election met the criteria of fairness and transparency.

But even with the commendable efforts of INEC and the federal government and the enthusiastic participation of the Nigerian people, the National Assembly and presidential, elections were still trailed by protests, bombing, killing, destruction of houses, and property, and other forms of  violence in some parts of the country.

As I write this piece, curfew has been imposed in Kaduna, Kano, and Bauchi states over the political violence that has continued to spread to other northern parts of the country following the declaration of Dr Jonathan as the winner of the presidential election.

The lesson from the present situation generated by the elections is that there is still a lot to be done to create the desired national consciousness that can nurture the spirit of peace, order, unity, and ethnic, religious and political tolerance among Nigerians.

So, Dr Jonathan may have fulfilled his promise of delivering to the country free, fair, and credible elections but he must begin immediately to rise to the challenge of building a united, great, just, free, peaceful, and strong nation. May God Almighty that has brought him this far help him to live up to this enormous challenge.

By: Vincent Ochonma