I once again assure Nigerians and the international community that the 2015 elections will come and go and Nigeria will stand stronger. The Nigerians I know and interact with everyday are only asking for transparency and free and fair conduct of elections, and I have promised them that – President Goodluck Jonathan
If the blind men in the famous fairy tale sent to assess the elephant returned with different reports about the features of the giant creature, it mattered little to the one who could see the animal at a go and from all angles.
The blind assessors could only judge by touching and feeling the parts of the elephants. And so there were seemingly disparate ‘views’ in the sightless men’s accounts.
One said nothing else about the animal except that it had a large trunk. No, claimed another; it was all huge ears. But a third ‘view’ was that the elephant was a hose-like beast. The point is that they were all right in their verdict, but wrong in insisting that what each said was all there was about the beast.
An analogy between these blind men and some of those commenting on the conduct of elections under President Goodluck Jonathan since 2011 when he moved into the saddle suffices to reveal how grossly sightless some of the critics have been. They have not seen the whole picture of the President’s patriotic strategy and therefore they have offered wretched half-way judgment to expose their limited understanding of the new politics being ushered in by his presidency.
The President did say that his administration is committed to free and fair elections. He said: “My belief first and foremost is to make sure that our electoral processes are sanitized and that the votes of Nigerians count… In this political dispensation, my feeling is to have free and fair elections. You cannot talk about good governance where election of people is manipulated… If your coming to power from councillorship to presidency is based on manipulation, then there is no good you can do there.”
Has the president walked the talk? Is he fulfilling the promise to deliver free, fair and transparent polls since he became Nigeria’s elected president? The facts of all the elections under him return a resounding positive answer.
What massively reflects a sane and acceptable electoral process is first the independence of the electoral umpire.
Next is the aloofness of government from the affairs of the poll-organizing body.
The third, not of course less vital than the other two, is the provision by the umpire and other agencies of government of what has been described by analysts as a level-playing field for all parties in the electoral process.
A fourth is the construction of an ambience of confidence and safety of the electorate and the candidates through adequate security by armed police and quasi-military personnel where it is deemed necessary.
Instructively, because Jonathan has faithfully and dispassionately guaranteed these and ensured they are in place, there has been no governorship poll result reversed by the court since his presidency started. And if we look at the facts on the ground, he has not wielded the instruments of power and authority to attempt to influence the outcome of any ballot.
His Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has won only one (Ekiti State in June 2014) out of the five governorship elections under him. Edo in 2012 went to the All Progressives Congress (APC). APC also got Osun on August 9, 2014. Ondo in 2012 was won by the Labour Party (LP) while Anambra in 2013 was clinched by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
These are a measure of the improved quality of the process that led to the elections. There was no legal tussle or popular rancour to challenge the outcome.
Contrast these with the elections that were held before Jonathan. They collapsed like a sand castle. In 2003 the election that returned Chris Ngige as governor in Anambra State was annulled and Peter Obi was declared as governor almost three years after. In 2007, the election of Oserhiemen Osunbor as Edo governor was upturned and Adams Oshiomhole was declared governor. In 2007, Segun Agagu of Ondo was removed by the court and Segun Mimiko was declared winner. In 2007 Segun Oni was booted out and Kayode Fayemi was installed in Ekiti. Then in 2007 in Osun, Olagunsoye Oyinlola was removed by the court and Rauf Aregbesola declared winner by the court three years later. Also in 2007 the election of the governors of Delta, Kogi, Adamawa, Sokoto, Bayelsa and Cross River were nullified by the court sand fresh elections ordered.
The irony of the debate is that the APC and its apologists, who say Jonathan has militarized the polls, do not fathom that his strategy while helpful to the nation in the long run is benefitting the opposition more than the PDP.
The President is therefore acquitted and discharged from reckless and frivolous charges that he is using the military and police under federal control to manipulate victory for his party.
The PDP’s loss in Osun is truly an applause for Jonathan’s integrity and ability to allow the vote run its course by going only the way the people want it. He should be commended, not condemned, for deploying security operatives to uphold the cause of democracy, which is the country’s key goal in the search for good governance and development.
It is a tragedy that like the men severely handicapped by their blindness, the myopic critics cannot see beyond their sense of touch and feeling. They cannot see the whole picture. They see men in uniform and hastily conclude that a do-or-die war is breaking out. They become alarmists panicking that the vote is about to be manipulated. This is simply because these critics are violence-oriented and given to ballot robbery.
Jonathan has moved Nigeria away from that. To wit: he created the template that produced a displaced governor (Fayemi), who only minutes after the electoral umpire announced his defeat in a charged atmosphere called the victor to congratulate him. That was not all. The President himself, within hours of the PDP’s loss in Osun, hailed APC’s re-elected governor and wished him well.
This is indeed the Transformation Agenda era.
Alabrah is a Media and Communications Executive and writes from Abuja.