Triumph of Democracy in Nigeria - by Ololade Ajekigbe

I write this with so much excitement and joy in my heart. History has been made in Nigeria. We are going into the history books for all the right reasons! For the first time in the history of our dear nation, an opposition candidate defeated a sitting President through the ballot box! 

Whoever thought that day would come, and soon too! Since, Nigerians cast their votes on Saturday, the country has been on the edge as people earnestly waited with bated breath to hear the outcome of the polls which saw an unprecedented number of people who were hitherto nonchalant about voting in previous elections turn out en-masse to vote for their preferred candidate. Nigerians had had enough! They were ready to take their destiny into their own hands by not only being patient enough to cast their votes despite the hitches with card readers and other challenges, but also waiting for their votes to be counted in order not to be shortchanged in any way.

It’s been a long, arduous journey to the famous victory of president-elect Muhammadu Buhari over his rival and incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. The People’s General as he is fondly called has been a serial presidential candidate since 2003, contesting in the 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 elections. Once again, it seemed like he was going to be fighting a losing battle when he declared his intention to contest in 2015, but this time round he aligned with the right set of people to give his chances the much needed bite by merging his party, the Congress For Progressive Change with the Action Congress of Nigeria, the All Nigeria Peoples Party and a faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance to take on the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. It has proved to be a spot on decision further strengthened by the choice of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo as his running mate.

However, there are so many heroes of this victory. First of all, it would be criminal not to acknowledge the efforts of Prof. Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. His commitment to ensuring that the election was free, fair and credible is worthy of praise. Yes, there were a few hitches here and there, but that is almost unavoidable in a growing democracy like ours. Jega’s composure and resolute stance throughout the electoral process even in the face of intimidation and rumours of his impending sack is highly commendable. Not once did we see him look ruffled, even when he was verbally attacked in public on Tuesday by Godsday Orubube during the election collation in Abuja. I can go on and on about the qualities of this fine gentleman whose calm mien and character I fell in love with, and whom we have to thank for not subverting the will of the people in spite of the pressures he faced, but I need not do that. Posterity will surely remember Jega for good.

It must also be acknowledged that Buhari’s alliance with Bola Tinubu most certainly played a crucial role in his emergence as the winner in a keenly contested presidential election. Unseating an incumbent government is by no means an easy feat in any part of the world and Buhari needed Tinubu’s mida’s touch to gain wider acceptance especially in the South-West where he won five out of the six states in the zone this time round, a fantastic turnaround in a region he had always previously lost.

He is the main man behind building Nigeria’s biggest opposition party into what is now the ruling party. Tinubu may not be a saint but one cannot deny the fact that he knows his onions when it comes to politics and how it should be played. And for the great victory recorded at this time, he is definitely a hero!

For the outgoing President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, he remains a hero for his magnanimity in defeat and the uncommon grace and nobility exhibited by him by way of conceding that he lost the election and even calling the president-elect to congratulate him on his victory several hours before the final results were announced. This highly commendable gesture has set the stage for a peaceful reaction to the result of the elections. Despite the many criticisms of his government, Mr President will go down in history as a leader who kept his word by willingly giving up power when he lost an election in a democratic process. Perhaps, the greatest undoing of Jonathan apart from his shoddy handling of the Chibok girls case, is surrounding himself with aides and advisers who worked more against him than for him. Mr President will look back and realise that he was surrounded by people who never had his interest at heart. I would give almost anything to know what the likes of Doyin Okupe, Olisa Metuh, Reno Omokri, Reuben Abati and Femi Fani-Kayode would be saying to him right now.

Ultimately, the Nigerian people are the greatest heroes of our renewed democracy, especially those who voted and braved all odds to protect their votes. The fact that the people’s voice was heard through their votes is such a huge deal given our history and I strongly believe this is the beginning of greater things to come for the country. It has also sounded a note of warning to all politicians, more so the APC that if Nigerians are not satisfied with its performance after four years, it will be kicked out! Nigerians have come of age and are now fully aware that they hold the key to their future. In the meantime, we will savour this victory for democracy and hope that the change that we desire truly comes!

Congratulations Nigeria!