The 2015 election has come and gone, yet leaves plenty in the mouth to talk about. There is no doubt that the recent national election will continue to be debated by scholars of history, sociologists, political scientists, international relations experts among others for a very long time. The reason for this is not far-fetched – the election is seen as a further reminder that Nigeria’s democracy has evolved and it can only take a matter of time before our elections are fully strengthened to suit global electoral best practices. Furthermore, this election will be the first where an incumbent at the centre would lose election since 1999 and willingly concede defeat at the polls even before final results were announced. It will also be the second time two former military heads of state will preside over the country’s democracy, the first being former President Olusegun Obasanjo and now Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
Despite the ominous signs that showed Nigeria was not going to get it right by 2015, Nigerians today have been vindicated by their unmitigated commitments to the electoral process. We have not only shown that we can hold our own anywhere but also continue to remain true to our collective effort for change through the ballot. At a time when Africa is lampooned daily against the backdrop of electoral crisis and sit-tight-mentality among its leaders, Nigeria has shown against all odds that its democracy can thrive when the peoples’ wishes are respected.
It is instructive to note that with the recent yet sad political events in Burundi, African leaders must begin to learn that power is transient. They need to bow out when the ovation is loudest. It is quite sad that a number of African leaders continue to skew the constitution in order to perpetuate themselves in office even when it is obvious they have contributed little or nothing to the development and economic uplift of their countries. The long and suicidal migration of Africans by sea to Europe in recent times should serve as a reminder that African leaders need to start getting it right by seeing the larger picture. Africans continue to lose hope of survival in their motherland, one which today has led to the rise in the number of horrific and long migrations by sea, most times claiming hundreds of lives, of young men and women who otherwise would have largely contributed to the development of their home countries. Rather than plunge their countries into civil unrest and unending wars through unnecessary ambition to remain in power, African leaders should learn to concede defeat and leave the stage. Africa remains a continent that can attain global political and economic power if its leaders take the initiative towards developmental policies that will uplift the African and remove him from the woes of hunger and poverty.
Even as Burundi returns to the trenches of civil unrest after just few years of relative peace, Nigeria has refused to toe that line. From former President Goodluck Jonathan’s altruistic actions, we have come to understand the dangers in not conceding defeat in a national election, especially when the implication of such action could plunge the country into yet another crisis even when we are still battling with one in the North-East. Above all, Nigeria’s recent election has shown that there could be African solutions to African problems if only we are willing to explore that line. The introduction and use of card readers and PVCs in the 2015 election to counter the hydra-headed monster of election rigging is a typical example.
Having said this, it is important for us to begin to re-assess some, if not most, of the issues raised before, during and in the aftermath of the 2015 elections. We need to set a whole lot of records straight so that we and the next generation do not fall victim of the wrong interpretation of our recent political history. We need to begin to gather and put into proper perspectives all the events that happened, the issues raised and most of the discourses that emerged throughout the electioneering process so as not to ingrain the wrong messages into our national consciousness. This is important because we are not a historically conscious people and nation and as such may likely come to stamp a wrong historical occurrence as a historical fact. It is however, imperative for us to begin to tell it as it is and correct those who in their bid to score cheap political gains skewed history for the wrong reasons.
The reason for the above view stems from the fact that history should be seen as what it is and not what a few think it must be because of politics. This argument is primed on the series of wrong facts tabled by a number of commentators that former President Jonathan was the first person or politician to concede defeat in the history of elections in this country. While there is an element of truth in the argument, if the series of election petitions held in this country since the days of yore is anything to go by, we must however be careful not to attribute such “first” to former President Jonathan. Although it may have occurred under a different electoral platform, it would still be wrong to say former President Jonathan was the first to call to congratulate his opponent in an election. Not even the amiable former Ekiti state governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who shocked as much his own party by openly congratulating and conceding defeat to the current governor, Ayo Fayose could be said to be the first politician to have done such.
Since the beginning of our nascent democracy in 1999, candidates have always disagreed with or challenged the outcome of every election. If we have to go back to both the First and Second Republics too, one would not be wrong to assert that our elections at all levels have always faced one form of dispute or the other. In the process, disputing candidates flood the tribunals with one petition or the other. The courts are not left out, as they too listen to cases candidates not satisfied with the judgements given at the election petition tribunal bring along. Many of these cases eventually end up in the Supreme Court were final judgements are given and case closed. Many of these cases which eventually go to the Supreme Court go in favour of the so called winning party or candidate while quite a few go in favour of the petitioner. The case of Governors Kayode Fayemi and Rauf Aregbesola are quick reminders here. Not even the presidential election since 1999 has been spared. Chief Olu Falae had challenged in the court the victory of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo soon after the 1999 election. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari whose penchant for disagreeing with the outcome of all presidential elections since 2003 also challenged his defeat until it got hearing at the Supreme Court.
The outcome of the 2015 election, both presidential and gubernatorial and of course, the legislative at federal and state levels has changed it all. While the presidential election didn’t go to the tribunal, first of its kind for 16 years, the gubernatorial and legislative elections have also followed the same line except in few cases like in Imo, Rivers etc. However, while one must give kudos to all those who had at one point or the other conceded defeat, starting from former President Jonathan, we must also look back at 2011 where like in 2015, national elections were held. While the aftermath of the presidential election had brought with it post-election troubles in selected states in the north, and success recorded by many incumbent governors of the ruling or opposition political parties depending on the state, someone was already making history. While results were being announced, many defeated candidates already dissatisfied with the conduct of the election condemned the electoral body and process and headed straight for the tribunal. It was, however, not so in Lagos, Oyo and Ogun states.
It would be recalled that after the 2011 gubernatorial election in Lagos, Dr. Ade Dosunmu, a former D.G NIMASA and PDP candidate had not only conceded defeat but openly congratulated the winner Babatunde Fashola on the latter’s victory. Same could be said, the same year, of the PDP candidates in Oyo and Ogun states, Adebayo Alao-Akala and Chief Adetunji Olurin who quickly congratulated the winners Abiola Ajimobi and Ibikunle Amosun respectively. Even Alhaji Rasheed Ladoja of the Accord Party was humble enough to have said he was “prepared to work with Ajimobi to provide the change the people [of Oyo state] desire”. That was just about four and half years ago, yet many have suddenly forgotten.
For the sake of history and to lay the facts bare, former President Jonathan would not be the first person to concede defeat in an election. Not even former governor Kayode Fayemi. Both would only be known to have continued what very few had started way back in 2011. Truly, the positions with which these candidates contested may have been different – one a sitting president contesting for president and the others as governors – yet we cannot but situate the argument within the ugly and sad realities that would have arose if these individuals had not conceded defeat and congratulated the respective winners.
It is therefore, the reason when the history of the 2011 election is recalled; bloody as it seemed in some parts and revolting in others, Dr. Dosunmu, Rasheed Ladoja, Adebayo Alao-Akala and Chief Adetunji Olurin will never be forgotten. These individuals will serve as a pointer to this generation and the next as those who belled the cat where many failed. Their humane actions and political maturity will forever be a lesson for future leaders to emulate. They have taught many that one can be gallant even in defeat just like former President Jonathan and governor Fayemi.