There are elections and there are elections but the 2015 Nigeria Presidential Election will for years be considered as “The Election”. It is the election that has defined the Nigerian spirit. A spirit which from independence has been tried, pummeled, and abused by the political class. The 2015 presidential election had everything in it: campaigns rallies, slanderous documentaries, hate speeches, and an iniquitous squander of state funds. Even the release of election results by the collations officers was froth with tension. The suspense was palpable. Professor after professor- the heads of our esteemed Ivory Towers graced the podium and pronounced results that either sunk hearts or made hearts merry. Everyone stayed glued to their TV sets, computer screens, or clutched transistor radios close to their ears: A New Nigeria was about to be born.
In 2011, President Jonathan was greeted as the breadth of fresh air in the political stratosphere. He was seen as the one to liberate Nigerians from hegemonic northern oligarchs. After about two years in office, it became clear the President had fallen prey to some unforeseen powers. His administration floundered over basic responsibilities; from the fuel subsidy removal, the granting of clemency to Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, to the celebration of non-declaration of assets and of course the response to the kidnap of the Chibok school girls. Allegations of corruption by his government were met by defiance and the President stood by ministers who were in the wrong. As time wore on, hope in Jonathan died like a candle flame.
Come 2015, the dynamics had changed. Nigerians were faced with two options: reelect a Jonathan who had nothing else to offer or vote for change at the hands of a ruthless General. We were polarized as the east is from the west. General Muhammadu Buhari, a three-time contender who failed in three previous attempts at the Presidency was here again. Though successful with northern voters, he was bound to fail again unless he did something differently. That difference was offered to him by the National Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a dogged man and political juggernaut in the South-West. Asiwaju, as he is fondly called resisted then President Obasanjo’s attempt to make Nigeria a one-party state. As the governor of Lagos State, he fought Obasanjo’s overtures to take over the South-West. Tinubu, aware that the key to the centre of government was a coalition between votes he could garner in the south and those guaranteed by Buhari from North, sought an alliance the general.
The All Progressive Congress (APC) party was formed and it wore a National outlook. With a formidable opposition in place, the mission was clear: Take the fight to the PDP and become the ruling party at the center. Buhari candidature presented a fundamental problem: How to convince southern and Christian voters he was not a religious bigot and fundamentalist. The answer to that puzzle was Prof. Yemi Osinbajo as running mate. Prof. Osinbajo, a former Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice of the Lagos State government under Tinubu is also a Pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Osinbajo was not just a regular Pastor; he was close to the heart of the General Overseer of one of the largest church organizations in the world- Pastor Enoch Adeboye. It worked!
The campaigns began: The APC’s Change versus the PDP’s Continuity rang over the airwaves. APC had an earlier start and sprung into action bringing the failure of the sitting government and the PDP to the fore. On the other hand, the PDP in characteristic fashion dismissed the APC’s campaign and used the only tool they knew: hominem. They hired Femi Fani Kayode, a hatchet politician who centered Jonathan’s campaign on lampooning Buhari rather than on promoting the President’s achievements. From certificate forgeries and senility of septuagenarians to Buhari’s ruthless human rights background; the PDP fired on. The ruling party’s campaign failed, in fact it seemed that the more the attacks on Buhari, the more popular he became with the people. His acceptance grew like a wild fire and “Sai Buhari” chants were heard within walls of the most ascetic conservative.
February 14, the original set date for the Presidential Election drew near and the PDP entered panic mode. Everyone had caught the Buhari bug and the jury was out on Jonathan’s administration. His petroleum minister and ministry, an inept media and communications team and an anonymous Vice President had done him in. His trusted Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy had mismanaged our economy. Falling crude oil prices and wide-spread corruption were more watershed moments for the President. Something desperately needed to be done and the ruling party threw everything to discredit the electioneering process and the man in charge of the Electoral Commission-Prof. Attahiru Jega They opposed the use of card readers, a device that would obviously improve the integrity of the process.
Six weeks preceding the new election date of March 28, Nigerians saw a metamorphosis in the campaign and personality of President Goodluck Jonathan. Like a Phoenix, President Jonathan rose from the ashes and became a new man. He became the President he wasn’t in the previous five years. He went to Mubi and Baga-towns ravaged by the dreaded Boko haram. He finally visited the troops to boost their morale as their Commander-in- Chief; he met with various interest groups and rallied youths around the country. It was too late. The people had made up their minds, Jonathan must leave.
As the election figures poured in, my heart made sounds I had not heard before. With pen and paper in hand, I painstakingly took note as the last state-Edo- gave Buhari the required coverage he needed. History had been made. “Sai Baba” had done it!
In Nigeria, elections are “winners’ take all”. Usually the party who wins cheers and jeers and goes on as though they do not recognize the citizenry who put them in power. But this is like no other election; it was the people’s election. Buhari’s victory became a victory for all Nigerians irrespective of class, age, ethnic cleavage or religion
It is a victory especially for the electorate because we have sent a clear message that we are the ones who matter. It does not matter what Nollywood actors say or think; it does not matter if Royal fathers point “scepters” at you, it does not matter if thugs and warlords try to disturb the peace, what matters on election day is what the Nigerian people want.
Believe it or not, It is also a victory for the PDP. Nelson Mandela in his book, Long Walk To Freedom said: “…the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred; he is locked behind bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness”. The PDP, being prisoners of their arrogance and misrule for sixteen years, must search their souls to discover where they failed the people. The next four years would give them time to put up a proper manifesto to sell to the Nigerian people. As an opposition party they must ensure that they strengthen democracy by keeping the APC on her feet.
President Goodluck called General Mohammadu Buhari to congratulate him. I have been worried over the legacy of his Presidency for a while now and I am happy he has finally etched his name in gold in Nigeria’s history books. He has defined himself in the hearts of even those who did not support his candidacy. He probably will not completely understand the importance of his actions but history will judge him well.
In the same fashion, let everyone congratulate his neighbor irrespective of religious or ethnic affiliation. Let everyone arise and shine and jubilate for this victory of democracy and Nigeria. Let the President elect reconcile all Nigerians especially those of eastern and southern extraction. Let us discover things that made this change possible and promote them. It is clear that we cannot ignore the importance social media played in enabling a more transparent process. The introduction of technology in restoring the integrity of electioneering must continue.
General Mohammadu Buhari has won the 2015 Presidential Election. He is truly a phenomenon in Nigerian Politics. He is a success and a clear example of resilience and perseverance. I hope he can go the mile and deliver on campaign promises. Nigerians are in desperate need for change. And that change is here!
By: Otaigbe Ewoigbokhan
Follow me on twitter: @otaigbe05