The election into the office of the President of Nigeria has been conducted and although the Chief Returning Officer of the Federation, Professor Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC is yet to announce the results, it is to be expected that out of the many who went into the race, only one could win. There is no question that the winner will be overjoyed by his victory while those who don’t win will naturally feel disappointed and unhappy.
Even so, we must take pride in the fact that we, Nigerians, have disappointed our detractors who say we never can organize free, fair, and praise worthy elections. Thank God, we did it- beyond our most optimistic expectations. And for this, the credit must go to the Federal Government and the INEC, particularly its Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega. With the conduct of the elections, Professor Jega has openly and unequivocally vindicated all those that have been swearing with his integrity. Similarly, even though few believed him, President Goodluck Jonathan has made good on his pledge not to use his position and interfere with the work of INEC but to allow the Commission enjoy its law-given independence.
No one should pretend not to know how important winning the election was for all the presidential candidates of the major political parties. That was evident from the massive scale and the bellicose tone of the campaign. There was unprecedented mobilization for support through even brinkmanship, grandstanding, violence and death. There was resort to campaigns of hate and animosity, often-taking religious, ethnic, and north/south lines. No doubt, an adverse outcome from a contest in which so many people invested so much effort such as this cannot but excite deep emotions.
Yet, as people of faith who believe in the divine laws of life, the presidential and other candidates in these elections would be the first to affirm that God gives power to whom He wants and at the time He wants. And while God would always anoint the leader, it is the people who will cast the votes to elect them. For the office of the President, our founding fathers, in their wisdom, made additional laws requiring that candidates not only obtain overall majority of votes cast but to get at least 25% of votes in 67% of the states of the federation. This was designed to promote our integration into one big family and deny sectional or divisive candidates a place in the nation’s seat of power.
Let us therefore refrain from giving our detractors any reason whatever to mock at us. Let us finish this election in the same responsible manner we started it. Those who won should be humble in victory and extend hands of fellowship to contestants that did not win. And those who lose in this contest will do well to remember that another opportunity will become available some four short years from now. They should ensure that nothing is done either by themselves or on their behalf to undermine or even destroy the fragile peace and stability we enjoy in this country today.
It is the duty of the political leaders, especially the presidential candidates, to calm down their members as well as their supporters and to get them to live peacefully with the results of the elections, no matter how painful. As leaders, they must know they will get the blame for any foolish actions their supporters take. The nation looks up to them and the world expects them to show leadership at this critical moment of our history. All Nigerians have an obligation to step forward and help the political leaders, the civil authorities and the security agencies maintain law and order in all parts of the country. Democracy will not be worth its price tag if major elections such as this pitch us against each other and make enemies of otherwise friendly neighbors. We owe a duty to make democracy work for Nigeria as it did for other nations.