One of the happiest moments for many Nigerians was when the cool-headed Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, finally announced the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, General Muhammadu Buhari, as the winner of the just-concluded presidential election in the country. Buhari, after a fourth attempt at becoming president, polled a total votes of 15,424,921 to defeat Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the incumbent President and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, who scored 12,853,162 as well as other aspirants. Apart from the agile voters, there was also doggedness on the part of special class of electorate – the aged, the sick and the physically-challenged – who defied the heavy rain, scorching sun in many places and trooped out to exercise their civic obligation.
The election has been described as the most keenly contested in recent times because the opposition gave the ruling party, a hot chase for the highest position in the land. The electioneering was certainly not without its low periods that almost derailed the efforts to have a successful exercise. The postponement of the polls, the adoption of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), smart card reader and the purported removal bid of the INEC Chairman, were some of the controversies that almost truncated the process and eroded people’s confidence in the credibility of the elections. When eventually, the people’s resoluteness prevailed, an attempt by a PDP agent, Elder Godsday Orubebe, to stop the announcement of results resurfaced. Interestingly, Orubebe, a former federal Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, who sought the stoppage of the release of the results, allegedly cited partisanship against the INEC chairman. All of that is now history!
The victory of the APC should, therefore, be a turning point for the common man that have suffered from many years of neglect and deprivation. The reality today is that many people live in abject poverty. Earning a decent living in Nigeria is almost a mirage. The cost of living is extremely outrageous, as workers’ wages cannot really take them home. The economy is so much distorted, mismanaged and emaciated that only the rich can now afford the basic comfort of life while a majority – comprising the working class and the dependency stratum including senior citizens – continue to live under untold hardship and abject poverty. Many people have died as a result of hunger, the poor state of our health institutions and complete absence of social security. Unfortunately, the Jonathan-led government seems to be cut-off from this reality. It is this disconnect between the government and the governed that the opposition party has struggled very hard to bridge by taking over governance the nation that is abundantly blessed with human and material resources.
Rather than punish public officers found to have compromised their positions, they are even rewarded with national recognitions and appointments. It is in our dear country that abnormality is celebrated as the ideal. The zeal for patriotism, selfless service and excellence no longer have a place in our national life again as mediocrity and god-fatherism seem to have taken over. Upholding high moral values is no longer a big deal to many people. It is this desire for bringing sanity into the nation’s affairs that spurred the imperative for change through the ballot. Rather than revamping the ailing economy, as a winning strategy, the Jonathan administration decided to toe the wrong path by dissipating energy and enormous funds on winning re-election through the back door by using people with little or no political weight and relevance. The outcome of the presidential poll has vindicated this. In the process, he was misled into believing that he still enjoyed large political support. Now that the wishes of the majority of people have become a reality, it is time for the President-elect to make a difference by turning things around for the better. He should prove cynics wrong that he is neither a religious bigot nor a dictator – the two appellations that nearly cost him the votes of Nigerians. He should avoid taking decisions based on religious, tribal and parochial persuasions. He should serve the people with fervour within the ambit of the law. He has a lot of work ahead of him especially in the areas of revamping the economy, ending the Boko Haram insurgency, curbing unemployment and ending epileptic power supply, among others. More importantly, he should be careful in choosing his cabinet by ensuring that only sound, committed and qualified persons are appointed into the various positions. This should not be limited to politicians and card-carrying members of the APC. He should search for experienced, committed and hardworking professionals and technocrats with proven integrity.