Triumph of integrity
It was the triumph of integrity and honour. The poll was a referendum on the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari. The second term, like the first term, was not won on a platter of gold. The successful election underscores the fact that Nigeria is becoming more stable and building critical institutions of democracy.
However, there are two more hurdles for the president and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to cross. There is need for more aggressive and effective mobilisation for the March 9 governorship and House of Assembly elections. Also, as the presidential battle shifts from the ballot box to the court room, the ruling party cannot afford to sleep on guard.
In his victory speech, President Buhari was conciliatory. The second term, in his view, will enable him consolidate on his achievements in the four critical areas of anti-corruption war, economy, security and job creation. The last manifesto is more important. It is targeted at the youths and the poor. While the elite who apparently had score to settle with the president cast protest votes, he was greatly assisted by the masses’ votes.
The outcome of the election affirmed Nigerians tendency towards two party system. Instructively, President Buhari won in 19 of 36 states. Atiku won in 17 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Although, constitutionally, Nigeria is a multi-party state, past experience has combined with the present indication that it only has two strong dominant parties. The fringe parties only constitute a big burden to the INEC.
However, the election was not conducted for ideological parties. The APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PD) do not subscribe to any ideology. Yet, it is ideology that gives form, content and predictability to political parties. The restoration of ideological culture will properly demarcate the parties and present wider opportunities for constructive choice by Nigerians.
Election observers have pointed out certain electoral hiccups that threatened to dent the image of the exercise. In a number of states, violence was recorded. Despite President Buhari’s warning, unpatriotic elements still indulged in ballot box snatching. Also, past mistakes were not totally avoided by the umpire.
In many units, polling officers reported late for work. When voters got to the voting units and INEC officials were not on ground, there was anxiety. If there was vote buying, it was not within the vicinity of the polling units. However, the complaint by a presiding officer that he was declaring results under duress in Imo State was worrisome. This may need to be further investigated to prevent the circumstances that led to it in the future.
Less than 30 million voted out of the 84 million Nigerians who were issued with Permanent Voters Card (PVC). That underscored a sort of voter aparthy. Many experts have suggested that public indifference to election may be a function of disenchantment with the government and lack of faith in the opposition. It is expected that, INEC, in its post-election analysis, will release vital demographic statistics on voting age bloc, gender, and zonal responses to the exercise. The information may be helpful to parties while strategising on mobilisation for future polls.
The overview of the voting pattern suggested that the APC still maintained its dominance in its traditional strongholds in the North and Southwest. PDP maintained its hold on the Southeast and Southsouth.
In addition, PDP made an in-road into Oyo and Ondo states, thereby upsetting the poll-confident Southwest. PDP’s victory in Adamawa could be attributed to “the son of the soil factor.” In Taraba State, voters may have carried out partisan instructions of influential Generals and community leaders who have an axe to grind with President Buhari over what they called his slow response to the security challenge. The Abuja result is a product of elite voting. In Benue, the propaganda of Governor Sam Ortom against the APC produced a fatal result, to the detriment of the president. Many indigenes reacted to the security challenge that claimed many lives in the Northcentral region.
The poll results showed that Southeast and Southsouth are the backbone of the PDP. Indisputably, Southeast was motivated to vote for PDP in honour of a ticket that had accommodated its son, Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State.
President Buhari almost turned Southeast into a construction site. He fought the infrastructure battle in the region with vigour. But, there was no correlation between the presidential intervention and Southeast voting pattern.
In Edo, people still voted for PDP in post-Anenih era, meaning that the bond between the party and the state has not been severed by the demise of ‘Mr. Fix It.’
Challenge of second term:
In this first term, the take off of the administration was abysmally slow. It took the Commander-In-Chief six months to set up his cabinet. At the end of the day, the nominees did not spring surprise. The anxiety should not be repeated in this second term.
Another cabinet of talent is required. While performing ministers can be retained, it is important that square pegs should be in round holes.
A total overhaul of the security apparatus is also critical. This is critical to the success of the war against insurgency. Security agencies should not work at cross purpose. A situation whereby the president will forward the name of nominees to the senate and security agencies will write reports to scatter the appointment is not tidy.
Also, it was alleged that critical opposition figures who assisted the president to get to power were sidelined. The wife of the President, Aishat, cried out that cabals have taken over and drawn a wool in the eyes of the leader. That provoked a sense of alienation in some quarters.
Allegations of nepotism were also rife. Political foes criticised the president for the skewed distribution of government appointments. The bone of contention was that the skewed formula favoured the Northern Region, to the detriment of other zones.
Although the president worked hard to deliver on his promises to the nation, he was handicapped by financial constraints. While fighting corruption, corruption was also fighting back.
In his second term, Buhari should not relax the battle. The past loot must be recovered fully in national interest. The greatest problem confronting Nigeria is the culture of graft, which is now being inherited from generation to generation.
The lip service to job creation should give way to more concerted action. Unless the electricity problem is addressed, unemployment will persist, manufacturing sector cannot be revived and cosmetic measures of token poverty alleviation will not solve the problem.
President Buhari has not been vindictive. As the president of all Nigeria, he should carry along the six zones, which accepted or rejected him at the poll. He should also strive to re-unite the country that has been torn apart by the partisan struggle for the presidency. In post-election period, all the zones should also cooperate with the president. After election, the collective challenge is governance in national interest.
The achievements of the president in the areas of road construction and rail transportation should be sustained. President Buhari should defend the education sector to prevent protracted strikes by tertiary teachers.
President Buhari should learn from the mistake of the first term. He should not be indifferent to the nature, tendency and sentiment of the next Senate President. The two arms of government must work in the atmosphere of cooperation and togetherness. The executive must also moderate itself in utter sensitivity to the existence of a virile and active parliament, where experienced statesmen are serving as legislators.
The president must unite his divided party. Anti-party activity is now the hall mark of the APC. This has been demonstrated by aggrieve governors of Imo, Ondo and Ogun states. As the APC national leader, President Buhari should ensure that there is always a basis for reconciliation. He should initiate and fortify the party’s crisis resolution mechanism. Conflict resolution is an essential feature of politics.
Need for reform in APC:
The ruling party has not become a model for other parties. It has a strong leadership. The structure is formidable as an election machine. But, it is devoid of clear ideology. The party is not yet supreme. Lack of party supremacy breeds indiscipline. The contradiction within the fold, right from its formative stage, when it came into existence, as an amalgam of incompatible political groups, paved the way for the protracted feud that led to defections from the fold.
A party is an organisation of like-minded individuals and groups united by similarity of ideas, and strengthened by their collective bid for power. The way forward is reforms.
The leaders of APC may have offended one another during the electioneering, particularly during the tension-soaked nominations. They should bury the hatchet, forgive and embrace. Post-election vendetta could be counter-productive. They have unfinished battles ahead, particularly governorship and House of Assembly polls.
The national leadership should focus attention on the five divided chapters; Oyo, Ondo, Imo, Rivers and Zamfara. How will APC handle the division in these crisis-ridden chapters during the governorship and House of Assembly elections?