The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council on International Relations and former Commonwealth Secretary- General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku recently lent his voice to the commendation showered on President Goodluck Jonathan for the successful conduct of the 2015 general elections. Anyaoku said Nigerians owed the President a debt of gratitude for conceding defeat even before the final result of the presidential elections were announced. “That singular act has earned our country a great deal of admiration and respect abroad,” he added. Anyaoku’s position affirms the statement credited to the United States President Barrack Obama: “The last few days have shown the world the strength of Nigeria’s commitment to democratic principles.”
We join the world leaders and well-meaning Nigerians to once again commend President Jonathan for his leadership qualities and for his statesmanship in upholding the democratic process which produced Gen. Mohammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the next president of Nigeria. The President kept his word to deliver free and fair elections and accept the outcome of the election in the peace accord he signed with the opposition party. To Jonathan, “If you scuttle a system for personal ambition, it becomes a collective tragedy.” This goes to affirm his now popular declaration that his political ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian.
Against the satanic prophecy that Nigeria was going to disintegrate this year, there was palpable fear in the air that the election was going to be the triggering factor. Many Nigerians were relocating to their states of origin while some foreign governments made preparations for the evacuation of their citizens in the event of a war. All these actions were fuelled by the threat of certain groups that there would be bloodshed if their candidates failed to emerge winner of the presidential election. It is on record that Jonathan’s disposition toward the polls prevented this unnecessary bloodbath. Indeed, the sacrifice he made was for the peace, unity, stability and progress of the country and by so doing he set a record of humility, patriotism and courage in safeguarding our democracy. This quality should be imbibed by leaders across the world, particularly in Africa where gallantry in defeat is a rare attribute among political leaders. Courtesy of President Jonathan, Nigeria is now seen not only as an economic power but also a great democratic example.
However, while we celebrate the peace fostered by the patriotic action of President Jonathan, we should not be blinded to the facts of grave electoral breaches which characterised the electoral process. We demand that these electoral flaws should be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted in a timely manner because the non prosecution of electoral offenders, in our view, entrenches electoral fraud and malpractice. Electoral flaws surfaced in the recent elections, especially the presidential election, due to the fact that most offenders during the past elections were never sanctioned. The electoral umpire, Attahiru Jega, admitted to a coalition of civil society organisations recently that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was overwhelmed by the numbers of offenders during the 2011 elections. From that election, the agency recorded 870,000 electoral offences but was able to prosecute successfully 200 offenders. This certainly is not a pass mark.
With such abysmal performance we are not surprised that the recent elections were also marred by glaring electoral breaches. There were reported cases and televised pictures of underage voting in some states in the north during the presidential election and this contravenes the Electoral Act which puts the voting age at 18 years. INEC officials were indicted for accrediting these underage to vote while security agents attached to their polling units looked the other way. Other reported flaws in the electoral process include rigging, voting irregularities, shortage of election materials, disappearance of some presiding officers with election result sheets, result manipulation, possession of multiple permanent voter cards, amongst others. Many eligible voters were disenfranchised as a result of INEC’s shoddy distribution of PVCs. All these are very serious electoral breaches which question our commitment as a nation to democratic principles.
It is high time INEC showed commitment to putting an end to these electoral offences and flaws that mar elections in the country in order to bring sanity and probity to the electoral process. It is only by so doing that the electoral process can produce winners that reflect the will of the electorate. Even though the INEC boss has said that the agency has commenced the prosecution of electoral offenders in the just concluded elections, it is doubtful if the exercise will be given the urgency it requires. Several weeks after the conclusion of the elections, the Police which have the constitutional mandate of arresting and investigating perpetrators of electoral offences in the country are yet to compile and forward the list to INEC. We therefore urge INEC and the Police to tidy up their acts and ensure speedy resolution of electoral cases to assure Nigerians that the electoral process has been transformed. Jonathan’s sacrifice must not be in vain.