By Afolabi Aribigbola
T he long anticipated and seemingly well prepared for 2023 general elections that all Nigerians and international community have been looking towards in the last few months began on Saturday 25th of February, 2023 with high hope. The first leg of the two-phase general elections that concentrated on the national aspect has come and gone. Several winners and losers have emerged from this first leg of the election. The second phase or leg of the elections designed to elect State Governors and State Houses of Assembly members has been slated for Saturday March 11, 2023. However, as usual with most elections in the country, the outcomes have always been subject of contestations, rancour and sometimes protests as being currently experienced with that of the President of Nigeria because most Politicians whether they are popular or not or whether they are acceptable to the people or not they want to win and be declared elected at all cost. To these politicians, ‘winning is all that matters.
How it is achieved is insignificant. Of course, it is not a sin or something unusual for candidates or parties to seek or set out to win an election. After all the overwhelming goal of political parties is to organize their members for the purpose of contesting and winning elections. However, the reality over the years was that in a contest that involve many individuals, only one person will emerge victorious. The civilized practice, culture and acceptable universal practice and trend where losers accept outcome of contested elections, congratulate winners and prepare for the future, is largely not popular in Nigeria. Unfortunately, this standard practice has not often been the norm and practice in Nigeria. Often outcomes of most elections are usually contested and are usually subject of litigations in the court most of the time to the apex Supreme Court of the land.
The politicians that indulge in win at all cost were described by Archbishop Emeritus John Onaiyekan and member of the National Peace Committee as undemocratic individuals. In context of Nigeria all the candidates want to win and be declared winners of all elections at all cost. This dangerous retrogressive and crisis laden tendency seems to be rearing its ugly head again at the highest level with the walk out of some party representatives at the ongoing declaration of results of the presidential election that took place in all parts of the country last Saturday. Indeed, individuals or groups in modern societies when dissatisfied with an activity, process or action has the right to protest in many ways including the use of a walk out as demonstrated on Monday afternoon by agents of some political parties during the declaration of the results of the last Saturday’s presidential election.
Of course, prior to the walk out, there has been open contestation between one of the party representatives and the INEC chairman on the failure of the Commission to upload poll unit’s results on INEC website in accordance with the Electoral Act. To me, this is uncalled for as I see it as an attempt to scuttle a process that has been adjudged to be better than the previous ones. The expected action of dissatisfied individuals and or groups is to approach the court or tribunal set up for that purpose instead of heating up the polity. These actions are nothing more than a product of greed and the unenviable tendency to win election at all cost which is common among politicians in the country.
Of course, winning is often a double -edge sword which can and does swing into a particular direction per time. Suffice it to say that election should not be a win at all cost affair and that if one does not win today, one can win some other times. Win at all costs attitude that is fast becoming the order of the day in the country must be nipped in the bud because of its far reaching destructive consequences. This unacceptable syndrome of win at all costs is very dangerous and can engender crisis that can consume the entire country. The reality is that two or more persons or parties cannot win same election to a position or office at the same time.
The serious danger associated with win at all cost tendency in Nigeria by politicians is that it can engender protest and crisis that is already brewing up in the national space of Nigeria as a result of the walk out of some party agents on Monday and a letter from former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who called for caution and cancellation of results of disputed areas. Of course, if all the contestants insist that they must win, what happens? Can two or more persons occupy same position or office?
Nigerian politicians with hindsight must come with the terms that in an election, there must be winners and there must be losers. They must always prepare their minds that results of election can always go either way and wherever it went, they must be courageous enough to accept, see it as a game that can be won or lost and not a do or die affair. That in an election contest only one candidate will emerge victorious per time. This is some of the tendencies promoting thuggery and violence in the polity in the country.
Democracy itself thrives when elections are free, fair and transparent. However, it appears to a cynical common man that we have been scripting narrative that places maximum premium on not encouraging winning at all costs to the exclusion of justice considerations. To be able to do away with the warp attitude of win at all cost, people saddled with elections must ensure that elections are free, fair and transparent. Once such assurance and act is in place, the tendency to win at all cost will drastically reduce.
The reality in today’s Nigeria is that most politicians and their supporters see election as a win at all cost matter. They seek to contest and win election at all cost using all manners of approach and tools whether acceptable, normal or civilised approaches are used or not . What matters is to be declared the winner. This is why many use thugs, buying votes and rigging that are against democratic principles and traditions to accomplish their goals. That is why many people are killed or maimed that stand on their way in their quest to achieve their sinister move to win the contest.
This negative narrative or syndrome of winning elections at all cost must be reversed because it is not possible for all contestants to in at all times. This calls for national reorientation of the major political actors in the country. It also implies a call on the agency responsible for election to be alive to their responsibilities by ensuring free, fair and transparent elections. The security agencies that have often found culpable in election crisis should be alive to their responsibilities. If the security agencies are firm and impartial, it would be difficult for any politician to rig and force themselves on the people. It is time to eliminate and reverse win at all cost syndrome in our political system, otherwise democracy in the country will be jaundiced for a long time to come.