Nigeria Elections: Letter To My Friends

Dear friends in many parts of the globe: You asked me for my thoughts on the recent Nigerian elections. Not what you have seen on the broadcast and television networks, nor what you read on the various online forums and websites. You wanted to know many things, and each of you has his/her priorities. It is difficult to answer all the questions individually and I have combined them into groups and responded accordingly. You have always been interested in Nigeria and we all agree that it is not just another country.

You asked for my views and that is what you will get. Some of them are joyful. Many are troubled and others are depressing. I do have profound views on my well endowed country, as you well know.

Electoral officers. Photo credit: Sahara Reporters Media

Electoral officers. Photo credit: Sahara Reporters Media

On the presidential elections of March, you wanted to know whether I agree with the uproar over President Goodluck Jonathan’s concession as an extraordinary issue. I do and I do not. It was a statesman-like decision that became a popular gesture. It was extraordinary for us in Nigeria. It was the first time that a sitting president was voted out of office. It was the first time that a presidential candidate who was losing accepted defeat and did not shout “robbery”. It doused tension and suppressed ill-intentions of agitators. That was important for us, and for the rest of the world. Forget about what we said here that it was the first in Africa, deserving of platinum medals. Like many large countries we pay little attention to what happens around us. We forgot that in several African countries elections take place regularly; fairly and peacefully organized to a large extent. Senegal, Botswana, Tanzania, many of the islands, and joined more recently by Ghana, Zambia, Lesotho, and post-apartheid. South Africa, to mention examples. In these countries and others, conceding defeat before winners are officially declared is usual. However, give it to us, we can now be counted among those countries where democracy is taking a foothold.

As regards the elections themselves, we did well. Overall, the elections were free and fair. We used advanced technology and got most things right.

Thank you for congratulating us on limiting violence to a few hotspots. Although I noticed that you wondered why we increased violence, killings and fighting in the second elections of April for state governors and members of the house. Part of it was that desperation crept in as many people saw literally the rugs being pulled from under their feet; losses staring them in the face. Reality dawned on their loss of power, money, status, influence, authority. Many political heavyweights got desperate. They had spent vast amounts of funds and resources which they expected to recoup once they or their candidates got elected. Those whose party did not win at the federal level wanted a toehold at state level. Politics is the direct route to wealth for most politicians, hence a lot of “investment” goes into political campaigns.

You wanted to know what our President Jonathan would do as a regular citizen. If I ever meet him I shall ask. I can guess that he does not have to worry about survival. Our country has massively generous pensions for former presidents. They can live happily ever after just on the pensions. Some state governors and some other office holders have made sure that they have similarly generous pensions. Presidents and senior political figures have other means of income too which are not known to ordinary citizens like myself. We notice that their lifestyles do not diminish because they leave high political offices. Our outgoing President will become the youngest former President to date. He will have many years to enjoy his resources. Sadly though, we are unable to pay the meager pensions of civil servants, teachers, government workers across the country. Some of them are not paid pensions at all, or are owed arrears of pensions up to ten years.

You worry about news that many leaders of the defeated political party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), were decamping to the newly-elected political party, All Progressives Congress (APC). You asked me how would they fit well into a party that they just literally did battle with. Very good question. I have asked myself the same question. The more I look at both parties the more they look the same. Having said that though, in both parties some individuals stand out in leadership positions and actually serve their people. In my experience you find such individuals more in the APC than you do in the PDP. Within the political system yet, people wake up in one party in the morning and go to bed at night in another party, and they can repeat it every day without feeling uneasy. Very funny? We are happy people here.

How will the traditional leaders, religious leaders, police and military officers who openly supported, or even got money from the political leaders and party candidates carry out their functions objectively after the elections? Also a very good question. In the group of recipients of election largesse you may include some journalists, media organizations, and even some in the judiciary. If you ever think that they would resign their jobs, apologise or feel ashamed, then you should visit this country. We have no time for repentance. If you listen to the same people today, or attend the same churches, mosques, or check out the same media organs, or see the security and law enforcement officers perform their duties, you would have to rub your eyes and blink twice. The situation has changed and all these people and entities have changed their behaviour too. They are now for the party and people in power. They no longer recognize the past power holders. Don’t you do it the same way? If not, come and learn from us.

You were curious on how the government was able to contain Boko Haram so convincingly in weeks when it could not do it in years. I wonder too, and I do not have the answers. I expect that outgoing President will explain it all in his book. He should write one.

Has the government abandoned the abducted Chibok girls and other abducted people? Not really. Government has said that there would be good news. You would say this claim was not new. We have heard it many times.

What about the funds that were missing in accounts, cash held in South Africa, reports of committees on frauds, and what have you? The new government will decide what to do. If past experience is anything to go by, we shall forget these things or most of them in the spirit of forgiveness and magnanimity. Our arguments: they stole the peoples’ funds and they will spend them on peoples too; it is a common practice anyway, everybody steals; the past is gone, let us focus on the future; how far back shall we go, should we investigate former presidents and ministers and senior government officials who were accused too?

The President-elect, will he really deliver on his promises? Who knows. There is a lot of expectation. He is dogged and determined. There is so much to do and he really wanted the job, badly. He has no excuse and he has to turn many things around for us. Really.

Someone complained that she would miss the outgoing first lady. The comedy, laughter will disappear in Nigerian politics. Oh yes, we will all miss her too.

Makinwa is a communication for leadership entrepreneur based in South Africa and Nigeria. Twitter: @bunmimakinwa

This post first appeared on Sahara Reporters.

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