A Post-Mortem Of The 2015 Elections - by Anthony Akinola

The 2015 elections, more than any before them, attracted the attention of the international community as well as Nigerians themselves with unequal passion. The international community feared for its outcome, not least because of a history of post-election violence. President Barack Obama of the United States of America, among many world leaders, pleaded for peaceful elections. The prospect of a disorganised Nigerian estate, both to its immediate neighbours and the world community at large, could hardly be contemplated.

Nigerians themselves feared the worst. The fear of a possible disintegration of their nation was not helped by threats of violence being made here and there should the outcome of the presidential election favour one group against another. With the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East zone raging with election preparations, such fear was credible.

However, the outcome of the election defied widely held fears. Both the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, and President Goodluck Jonathan, were lavishly praised for different reasons. The former and his team for conducting relatively successful elections, while Jonathan was praised for sportsmanship in conceding defeat to his challenger, Muhammadu Buhari.

With the elections concluded, attention must focus on what can be taken from them as the reform of the processes of democracy must continue. A “post-mortem” exercise, as a matter of fact, must follow every election, not the least in a nation whose democracy is still at the rudimentary stage.

The first observation in the Nigerian 2015 elections is the role of money played in its politics. We seem to be operating an electoral democracy meant for the rich, or those who can risk becoming debtors in pursuit of their political ambitions. The amounts of money stipulated for “tickets” into the various elective offices are outrageous. Many honest Nigerians can hardly partake in elections because of this.

Equally outrageous is the assumption that there is a monetary tag on every prospective Nigerian voter. There is hardly any doubt that it could be expensive to get political messages across via the media in general but the assumption that money or monetary gifts must be distributed to Nigerian voters is highly insulting and should be criminalised, both for the giver as well as for the taker. The cheering news from the 2015 elections may have been the disappointment by those who still failed to win their elections despite having spent so much attempting to induce favourable outcomes.

There is also a sense in which many celebrated the defeat of President Jonathan, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party. Even when they did not belong to any of the political parties, they nevertheless felt infuriated by the volume of naira that vested interests pumped into his campaign funds. They wished for his defeat because of that, so the rich and their monumental obscenity could be shamed in a democracy that is about all of us. There must be an enforceable cap on how much can be donated to individuals and political parties, as well as how much could be spent on electoral campaigns.

Another observation from the elections is that primordial sentiments still predominate. There was ethnic, regional and religious voting in most of the geopolitical zones. The outcome of the presidential election hinged on who benefitted more from the balance of sentiments. Of course, the election of Buhari, candidate of the All Progressives Congress was popular both at home and abroad; the fact of sentiments in our politics nevertheless remains intrinsic with the nature of society itself.

The South-South and South-East zones, for no considerations other than ethnic, voted overwhelmingly for Jonathan, while it was unlikely the North could suddenly have turned the bastion of progressive ideology were the presidential candidate of the PDP to have come from that region and that of the rival APC from the South. The North voted overwhelmingly for Buhari, a revered member of the region.

Finally, there is hardly any doubt that Jega and his colleagues did a competent and patriotic job. One quite admired the cultured and professorial manner Jega lectured Godsday Orubebe, on the propriety of public conduct. Orubebe, a former Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and an agent of the PDP in the presidential election, seemed determined to disrupt procedures at the election results collating centre, not least because his party was on the losing end. He alleged partiality on the part of Jega, but should have since realised that his rather unruly conduct did not recommend him to the future. However, issues of election malpractices and election-related violence and killings must not be ignored. A future campaign based on issues, rather than personal attacks and desperation, will go a long way in educating our people that democracy belongs in the pantheon of decent cultures.