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Lessons from 2015 Polls

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Its scathing criticisms, inherent imperfections and perceived failings notwithstanding, the just-concluded 2015 elections will not only go down in history as a relatively peaceful, free, fair and credible poll but also one that lays a solid foundation for subsequent successful and credible polls in the nation.

The 2015 Polls is one that reflects the paradoxes and the resilience of the Nigerian nation.

With the benefit of hindsight, the 2015 polls took place under the worst sombre political atmosphere in the nation’s political history. From over a decade of prediction by an American agency of a possible break-up of Nigeria in 2015 to the coincidence of the year as an election year; from the Boko Haram insurgency that threatened the foundation of the nation close to the elections to the threats by the Niger Delta militants to make the nation ungovernable if their son and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, President Goodluck Jonathan, did not win the election; from unprecedented employment of hate speeches and advert during campaigns to deliberate rubbishing of the electoral umpire to discredit it and the election, the nation waddled through the brink to arrive at a destination now popularly regarded as beginning of a new Nigeria.

It is one election, which threatened the collective existence of the nation and yet sets the most solid foundation of a united and indivisible Nigeria. Indeed, the outcome of the election speaks to the resilience of the nation and its ability to solve its own problems, no matter how seemingly insurmountable.

The threats arising from the centrifugal quarters notwithstanding, the election produced many firsts and surprises. It was an election in which an incumbent president with all his enormous powers as the most powerful president in the world, would lose an election for the first time. It was one in which, for the first time, the President would congratulate the winner and rein in his belligerent aides and party members.

By congratulating the winner of the election even before the results were announced, President Jonathan had demonstrated and re-defined statesmanship. He has also communicated it to the world that the nation is set to get democracy right. It is a standard that will define political leadership in the nation forever.

But President Jonathan will not take the credit alone. The intervention of the international community, especially the Africa Union, the Economic Community of West African States and, indeed, President Barack Obama, made good sense to prevail. It is a statement to the world that as humans, we have a stake in each other, and we will achieve peace and prosperity when we seek each other’s good. Indeed, it proves that Nigeria’s known and unrelenting intervention in the affairs of its neighbours in crisis is not in vain.

The declaration of 2015 general election as peaceful and credible by local and international observers is a credit to the electoral reform instituted by the Federal Government and a tribute to the courage of INEC to introduce and insist on the use Permanent Voter Card and the card reader to eliminate electoral fraud that made nonsense of previous elections.

The introduction of PVC and card reader has not only sanitized the electoral system, it has also set a minimum standard for holding free, fair, peaceful and credible elections in the future.

The defeat of the incumbent President has shown that, when the bright reform is in place, electoral success answers to performance and good campaign strategies, and not employment of state power or electoral fraud. It is a message to the nation’s leaders that if they fail to deliver on their mandate, the electorate will show them the door.

Although there were pockets of influence of money politics, snatching of electoral boxes and other electoral breaches, all these electoral infractions pale into insignificance when compared to the gale of electoral fraud in the previous elections.

The President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, together with the National Assembly, has a duty to further reform the electoral system and improve the economy to eliminate loopholes and unnecessary irregularities that politicians capitalize on to compromise elections.

While it cannot be controverted that the election had its own imperfections, those failings are issues that INEC and other relevant institutions need to correct and improve upon.

With substantial break of the myths that surrounded elections in the past – tribalism, religious affiliation, nepotism, power of incumbency, rigging and other unwholesome political tendencies – it is clear from the outcome of the 2015 general election that, when electoral reform is fully in place, the game of politics will be played with all fairness and decency, and development will be delivered to the people.

No doubt, the outcome of the recently-concluded election answered to the prevailing situation in the country. When this is sustained, prevailing political situation will create its own persona, interests, equation and alignment.

The courage demonstrated by INEC under the watch of the chair, Professor Attahiru Jega, in the face of crass threat and propaganda to discredit the electoral body and the elections, played a big role in the success of this election. The institutions responsible for appointing the chair of INEC and his team have a responsibility to ensure that persons appointed into these positions are men and women of integrity. And the standard set by the Jega-led INEC is the minimum their successors cannot go below.

The nation has to learn a lesson that when elections have integrity, meagre resources area wasted in the courts to get justice. Besides, the nation and its institutions enjoy stability and development, and then fortune and image of the nation improve.

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