By Sani Adamu
Perceptive observers have been acknowledging the success of the 2015 general elections of Nigeria which were conducted on March 28 and April 11.
Their acclamation is understandable as international and local election observers have unanimously described the elections as peaceful and generally credible.
Specifically, political pundits applauded the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for insisting on the use of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and the Smart Card Reader, designed to facilitate the authentication of voters’ eligibility and consequently reduce election malpractices.
Available records indicate that in spite of the initial controversies generated by the rescheduling of the elections, the polls elicited large voter turnouts nationwide.
Specifically, the Presidential and National Assembly elections were rescheduled from Feb. 14 to March 28, while the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections were shifted from Feb. 28 to April 11.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, who was the Chief Returning Officer for the presidential election, declared retired Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) the winner after polling 15,424,921 votes to defeat all other candidates.
In the election, President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP garnered 12,853,162 votes to place second.
Acknowledging the success of the election, election observation missions of the Commonwealth, the AU and ECOWAS unanimously agreed that the elections were peaceful, transparent and credible.
The election observers particularly applauded Nigerian voters for their maturity, orderliness and commitment towards the success of the polls.
Speaking on behalf of the election observers after a visit to President Goodluck Jonathan, former Ghanaian President and Head, ECOWAS Election Observer Mission, John Kufuor, said that Nigeria’s feat with regard to the elections was a pride to Africa.
“The Nigerian elections are a pride, not only to Nigerians, but also to West Africa and the whole of the African continent; we are all proud of the success of the Nigerian elections,’’ he said.
The ex-Ghanaian president particularly lauded Jonathan for creating an appropriate environment for peaceful polls.
Sharing similar sentiments, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, former Head of State and Chairman of the National Peace Committee, commended Jonathan for his “statesmanship“ in conceding defeat, and congratulated Buhari for his victory in the presidential election.
Describing the election as “very peaceful’’, Abubakar thanked Nigerians and the international community for their support during the election.
“The election has been very peaceful despite the hitches there.
“At the end of the election, at the counting (stage), a lot of upheavals cropped up but thankfully, they were contained.
“We were in the middle of a meeting with the international observers to try to see how we can water the tension down when I called Gen. Buhari to tell him that we were going to see him.
“He (Buhari) told me Mr President had called him at about 5.15 p.m., congratulated him and conceded defeat. We were spellbound.
“And the reason we have come here is to thank President Jonathan for this statesmanship.
“In the political history of Nigeria, I think this is the first time where a contestant has called his rival to congratulate him.
“And through this point, President Jonathan has always maintained a point that the blood of a Nigerian is not worth his presidency and by his action, he has demonstrated that.
“He has proved that he is a man of his words because during our interaction on this peace committee, he has always maintained that he is going to accept the result of the election whichever way it has gone; and he has proved it.
“He has proved that he is a statesman and that he has the love of this country in his heart,’’ he said.
Expressing a similar viewpoint, the U.S. Government said that the peaceful conduct of the election had demonstrated to the world the strength of Nigeria’s commitment to democratic principles.
“By turning out in large numbers, and sometimes waiting all day to cast their votes, Nigerians have come together to decide the future of their country peacefully.
“I commend President Goodluck Jonathan and President-elect Muhammadu Buhari for their public commitments to non-violence throughout the campaign.
“President Jonathan has placed his country’s interests first by conceding defeat in the election and congratulating President-elect Buhari on his victory,’’ U.S. President Barack Obama said in his message to Nigerians.
Obama particularly praised INEC and Jega for what independent international observers deemed largely peaceful and orderly elections.
Echoing similar sentiments, the European Union (EU) Election Observation Mission to Nigeria described Jonathan’s concession of defeat, prior to the announcement of the election’s result, as an extraordinary example to the world.
Mr Santiago Fisas, the EU Chief Observer, told journalists, after his team submitted an interim report on the elections to Jonathan, that the example was worthy of emulation.
“I congratulate President Jonathan because he conceded defeat in the election, even before he knew the official result.
“That I feel is a very important thing; that is an extraordinary example for many countries in Africa and all over the world.
“I congratulate him for that. Of course, we talked a little bit about the elections and I took the opportunity to give to him our preliminary statement about the elections and he was very happy to accept it,’’ Fisas said.
Acknowledging that some die-hard cynics never expected the elections to be peaceful, Fisas stressed that the government and the people of Nigeria had proved such sceptics wrong.
“You know many people didn’t expect this kind of elections; they expected a lot of problems after the elections, which did not happen,’’ he said.
The EU chief election observer, nonetheless, urged Buhari to tackle some of the problems that were noticed during the elections when he assumed office.
Also speaking, Mr Richard Young, the Deputy Head of Delegation of the EU observers, said that the degree of patience which Nigerian voters exhibited during voter accreditation and voting was quite exemplary.
“I must congratulate the commitment and patience of all Nigerians, who have come out in very large numbers to vote, and they did it with so much patience.
“We want to appeal to all the political leaders to show the same degree of patience and dedication that I have seen in voters, in terms of waiting for the official announcement of the results and waiting without any intemperate comments or remarks.’’
Young commended the efforts of INEC, security personnel and members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) who served as INEC’s ad-hoc staff, saying that everyone contributed to the success of the polls.
Similarly, former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, said that the conduct of the March 28 presidential election had put the “prophets of doom’’, who had predicted Nigeria’s downfall, to shame.
Gowon told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Jos that “no one will ever repeat that wild and arrogant prediction that Nigeria will go under; those doomsayers have been shamed and Nigeria will grow from strength to strength.
“Nigeria has always had the mechanism to tackle its concerns; this election and its peaceful outcome have proved that a united and focused nation would always survive and move toward greatness.”
Also speaking, former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings described Buhari as “a man whose integrity is extremely high.
“Nigerians have taken the lead in the rejection of corruption. The election result is a manifestation of the people’s resolve to confront corruption, dishonesty and exploitation.
“This is a clear message to the new leadership. A bold step has been taken towards a new Nigeria and the incoming leader cannot be unaware of what is expected of him.
“Nigerians did not vote for just anyone. They voted for a man whose integrity is extremely high. Nigeria is tired of corruption and the choice of this leader is a clear indication of where she wants to go.
“I hope Gen. Buhari will put together a team whose understanding of the power of the people recognises and respects the will of the people.
“Gen. Buhari owes it to his people and to Black Africans; the restoration of our pride and the black man’s dignity,’’ Rawlings said his congratulatory message to Buhari.
While thanking Nigerians for the trust they reposed in him, the president-elect has pledged to make judicious use of the nation’s resources, declaring that he would never condone any act of corruption.
Buhari, who made the declaration during a town hall meeting in Yola, said that he would give priority attention to fighting corruption and insecurity, while boosting the development of the education sector in particular.
He specifically bemoaned the high level of corruption in the country, which he blamed for the years of decay that led to massive unemployment in the country.
As a way out, Buhari pledged to invest massively in the agriculture and mineral resources sectors in order to create employment.
Calling for the citizens’ perseverance in the coming nation-building efforts, Buhari noted that Nigeria was endowed with vast human and natural resources “but unfortunately, the resources were mismanaged and squandered, leading to the present situation in the land’’.
He, nonetheless, expressed that hope that with the support, sacrifice and resolve of all Nigerians to effect a positive change, the country will be the better for all.
“We will run a transparent government and in doing so; I will not even favour my family,’’ he said.
Commenting on the role of the international community in the election, Buhari commended Italy and other members of the EU for standing by Nigeria in the lead-up to the elections.
The president-elect, who spoke while receiving Amb. Fulvio Rustico, the Italian Ambassador to Nigeria, at his residence in Abuja, said that European nations and the U.S. played key roles in the stabilisation of Nigeria during the challenging period.
President Jonathan, the new hero in Nigeria’s democracy, justified his decision to concede defeat, prior to the official release of the results by INEC, insisting that his action was purely in obedience to the laws of the country.
“I am a Nigerian and I am Goodluck Jonathan. I feel that as a nation we are all bound to respect our laws; I am quite pleased to respect the laws of the land.
“As a nation, we are quite happy we are consolidating our democratic efforts; the key thing is that citizens must be ready to change government properly.
“We must hold elections every four years,’’ Jonathan said, while fielding questions from newsmen at Otuoke, shortly after casting his vote in the state assembly polls.
Nevertheless, the nation-building tasks before the incoming government are obviously quite enormous, judging from the sentiments of a cross-section of Nigerians.
Sen. Oluremi Tinubu (APC-Lagos Central Senatorial District), nonetheless, emphasised that the new Nigeria of the people’s expectations would be created if all Nigerians partook in the new, emerging movement.
“A new Nigeria is possible, this is the reality; it is possible but it will take the effort of everybody.
“So, all hands have to be on the deck because we are the government; the people constitute the government.
“I am looking forward to the time that we will have Nigerian Airways back at airports around the world,’’ said Tinubu, who recently secured a re-election into the Senate.
Nevertheless, observers are quick to draw the attention of the president-elect to the high expectations of Nigerians and the need for him to start thinking seriously on how to justify the confidence which the citizenry reposed in him.
All the same, the general consensus of opinion is that the president-elect, going by his antecedents, will have a zero tolerance for corruption and indiscipline.
Observers, nonetheless, urge the incoming Buhari-administration to launch pragmatic initiatives that will improve the living standards of all Nigerians.
The incoming government must necessarily evolve realistic measures to boost Nigeria’s economy and enhance the standard of living of its citizens, says one of the observers.
Adamu is a staff of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN