Last week Wednesday, 30th March, 2016 marked exactly one year when Nigeria boldly joined the league of nations with civilised democratic behaviour following the peaceful conclusion of the presidential election.
For the first time in the country’s history, the then incumbent President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, readily conceded victory to his challenger, General Muhammadu Buhari, an act that perplexed doomsayers at home and abroad. President Jonathan President Goodluck Jonathan’s finest hour came on that evening of March 30, 2015, when he called General Muhammadu Buhari and conceded the most closely fought presidential election in our history. The impact of this gesture was underlined by the many intelligence reports in the West which showed that Nigeria stood in danger of bloody disintegration after the election.
Matters were not helped by the truculent propaganda and sabre-rattling between the front-running incumbents, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and arch rivals, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Between March 28th when the presidential election took place and March 30th when ex-President Jonathan conceded, the entire nation was like a tense time bomb waiting to explode.
But that patriotic action he took defused the tension and brought relief. It saved unquantifiable lives and property and ensured that the nation would continue to exist as one while the search for the peaceful formula for national unity and development would continue. Opinions will continue to be divided over the stewardship of former President Jonathan for decades to come. However, no one would fault his successful transitional programme, which he permitted to reach a logical conclusion even though it did not favour him. We remember with delight the role played by the General Abdulsalami Abubakar-led Peace Committee, which laboured to commit Jonathan and Buhari to the two peace pacts they signed in Abuja.
We also commend the role played by the Professor Attahiru Jega-led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which took steps to conduct almost fool-proof, technology-driven elections. What happened on March 30, 2015, should ordinarily have become the new standard of democratic conduct for our politicians. It is, however, a matter of regret that this has not been so. Indeed, a year later, the elections in Kogi, Bayelsa and Rivers, which were marred by violence and killings and ended up inconclusively, showed a slide into reverse gear.
The growing culture of losers congratulating winners has not been repeated, and the era of do-or-die democracy popularised by former President Olusegun Obasanjo seems to be back in full swing. We call on all stakeholders in our democracy, especially the new INEC led by Prof Mahmood Yakubu and the political practitioners, to learn from our best precedents, build on them and return Nigeria to the path of civilised democratic progression.