By Afolabi Aribigbola
The first leg of the 2023 general elections designed to elect the Executive President of Nigeria, his Vice and members of both the Upper and Lower Chambers of the National Assembly has come and gone. However, as usual with all elections in Nigeria, the outcome of the elections especially that of the exalted office of the President was accompanied with a plethora of issues bordering on intrigues, controversy, outright rejection of the outcome and even public demonstration by leaders of some of the major political parties that participated in the election.
Also, members and supporters of the victorious party joined the trend of demonstration, in their own case in support of the outcome of the elections as credible and acceptable.
Of course, the supporters of the candidates that emerged victorious have been in celebration mood, whereas those whose candidates did not make it have shown flagrant annoyance imbued with protests hinged on the failure of INEC to transmit results to its portal. Indeed, they have gone to the extreme of calling for the cancellation of the presidential election while accepting the other results even though they were products of same procedure and elections. And have further escalated the post-election crisis to demonstration to register their grievances against the unfavourable outcome of the elections to their parties.
While it is their legitimate right to register their misgivings or call for the outright cancellation of the presidential election, one begins to wonder whether the country and her people should still be operating at this riotous level of contesting outcome of every election in the country. The truth is that results of elections have always been a subject of crisis and litigation that sometimes go on as long as two or more years in the country. The burning issue is, should this destructive backward tendency and undignified tradition persist in the polity? Is this the tradition in societies that fostered modern democracy? Without any iota of doubt, this is not the practice in those societies.
In actual fact, elections were held in those flourishing democracies without rancour and everyone goes about their businesses without disturbance. Suffice it to state that elections in those advanced democracies are largely devoid of crisis the type that is prevalent in Nigeria. Not that people don’t contest elections’ outcome, they rarely do and when they do, they conduct themselves according to laid down procedure and law.
After over 60 years of self-government, is the country not ripe to see election losers to accept defeat? All election results have been seriously contested in Nigeria except that of the 2015, when the then President, Goodluck Jonathan not only conceded defeat but went further for the first time in Nigeria’s political journey to congratulate Major General Muhammadu Buhari, the winner, even before INEC officially declared the results. This is the global standard, practice and tradition. This is what is expected of Nigerian politicians, but unfortunately it is not so. They are expected to copy, imbibe and emulate good practices and not to be moving around with hard looking dare devil thugs ready to devour their opponents. It is this unenviable conduct of Politicians not accepting the outcome of elections that has motivated me to begin to ask questions concerning this ugly and unimpressive development. Indeed, why are Nigerian politicians in the habit of contesting the results of all elections? Why has it become the norm that losers of elections don’t accept their fate knowing well that all contestants cannot be winners. Then how can the country change this negative retrogressive narratives to let politicians see elections like a game that can be won and lost. Of course, if Nigeria is to grow and prosper, this destructive behaviour or practice of contesting all election results whether free, fair and credible must be changed to one in which winners and losers will accept outcome and come together to develop the country.
The growing tendency has been attributed to the simple fact that most politicians take politics as their vocation or full-time job. They wholly survive and live on politics. A loss means out of business and no income for their survival. Therefore, for their survival, they or their principal or leader must win election and be in positions to cater for them. This is one of the reasons why win at all cost syndrome thrives in the country. Besides, most Nigerians because of past experience of injustice or manipulation of election results have developed the phobia against credible elections. To them, elections are manipulated in the country.
That also explain the slang that “you rig where one is popular or in majority” This tendency has a lot of negative implications because it has engendered and promoted election fraud and crises that are antithesis of Nigerians development and gave the country a bad name and image in the comity of nations. It has also cost the country precious human live and valuable properties in the recent past. Therefore, the way forward to forestall future rejection of election results is to discourage and eliminate this retrogressive tendency and the factors responsive for it. It is equally essential to seek ways to make our elections free, fair and credible at all times.
This position should not be misconstrued as against people that have been shortchanged in election from seeking appropriate redress. Far from this, without mincing words, while it is the right and acceptable practice for candidates to contest and protest perceived injustice or unfair treatment before, during and after elections, it should not be used to destroy the very essence of the nation. That our country, Nigeria ought to have moved beyond the level where all elections are violently contested. Is it a case of our inability to conduct a free, free and credible elections or a product of greed to always want to win elections at all cost so as to be able to enrich themselves. If their overwhelming intentions s to serve the people, they should be able to accept the verdict of the people.
Unfortunately, the contrary is the situation. Most politicians want to be in government at all cost. In civilized clime, it is an acceptable dictum that elections were instituted to have winners and losers, and not a do or die affairs. Of course, this position is not a suggestion that priviledge or advantaged individuals or groups should continue to lord themselves on the electorate through rigging and other electoral malpractice system to continue to perpetuate themselves in government. This presuppose a need for an electoral system that is credible and fair to all candidates irrespective of their background and dispositions. INEC as an umpire must strive at all times to be impartial and committed to free, fair and credible elections. It must be seen to obey the laws regulating and controlling their activities. Without such assurances, the country will continue to witness election crisis.
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