By Chukwudi Nweje
Acting Features Editor
A new Nigeria has been born, and a jinx broken. It had been taken for granted in Nigeria that every sitting president would win re-election. Former President Shehu Shagari won re-election in 1983 before the military truncated his second term. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo also won re-election in 2007 after serving the first term from 1999 to 2003. For the first time in the history of electioneering in Nigeria, a sitting President has lost his re-election bid. He has also gone ahead to congratulate his main challenger, something that has not happened before. The norm has been for the candidate that lost to reject the election result. But President Goodluck Jonathan, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 presidential election, has accepted defeat and congratulated Major General Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
On another level, Buhari has also broken the jinx of contesting and losing the Presidential election. He had first contested in 2003 on the platform of the then All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) against former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the PDP candidate who won his re-election bid. In 2007, Buhari contested again on the platform of the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) and lost to late President Umaru Yar’Adua the then PDP candidate. In 2011, he again contested against President Jonathan and lost before this record fourth attempt in 2015 in which he beat President Jonathan. The implication of this is that the power of incumbency and the effect it is believed to have on the re-election bids of the incumbent has also been demystified.
Apart from President Jonathan, some other incumbents also lost their bid to either retain their seats or launch themselves unto a new pedestal. For instance, Senator Smart Adeyemi lost his re-election to the Kogi West Senatorial seat; Senator Chris Ngige also lost his re-election to the Anambra Central Senatorial seat just as Governor Gabriel Suswan lost his bid to launch himself from the Government House in Benue to the Senate.
Analysts have described the new development as a welcome healthy development for the country’s democracy. According to them the implication is that Nigerians have become more aware of the power of their votes and are now ready to hold the political class to account. Before the declaration of results and conceding of defeat by President Jonathan, there had been some apprehension that the election would still go the old way whereby the incumbent worked himself into office by all means possible.
The Governments of the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) had in fact on Monday nursed the same concern when they warned against manipulation of the result, following the delayed process of collation of the presidential election results. Philip Hammond, UK Foreign Secretary, and John Kerry, US Secretary of State had in a joint statement said that even though they had seen any evidence of systemic manipulation of the process care must be taken to avoid any form of manipulation of the result.
Their statement read in part, “Our governments welcome the largely peaceful vote of March 28. The Nigerian people have shown a commendable determination to register their vote and choose their leaders. The Governments of the United States and the United Kingdom would be very concerned by any attempts to undermine the independence of the Electoral Commission, INEC, or its Chairman, Prof Jega; or in any way distort the expressed will of the Nigerian people.”
Meanwhile, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) has hailed the conduct of President Jonathan following the outcome of the election result. Debo Adeniran the Coalition’s executive chairman commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman Professor Attahiru Jega for his resoluteness and standing firm despite the intense calls for his resignation. In a way, Jega also broke a jinx as all electoral commission chairmen before him had been accused of manipulating the electoral process. He commended Jega for “not pandering to the wishes of some cabals that wanted the status quo to remain against the wish of the Nigerian majority”.
Josef Stalin, former Premier of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) had once argued that the people who cast their votes decided nothing but that the people who count the votes decide everything. This line of argument had held sway in the past where politicians rig themselves into office. This argument seems to infer that it is not necessarily the multitude of voters who defied the atmospheric conditions to vote that decide who gets elected but the few who sit in the cosy collation centres.
Nigeria has finally broken the jinx and the votes of the electorate have counted in the 2015 presidential election.