Nigeria: Refreshing tide of change | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Nigeria: Refreshing tide of change

Posted: Apr 1, 2015 at 9:25 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

It is a new dawn, a new season that offers fresh hopes. Nigeria’s most intense presidential election ended on Tuesday with the emergence of General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), candidate of the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), declared winner.

He outpaced his closest contender, incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, flag-bearer of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in a historic election that saw a Nigerian leader conceding electoral defeat, for the first time in its history.

Analysis of the results released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), showed that both leading candidates met the minimum requirement of 25 per cent votes cast in 24 states.

However, Buhari defeated Jonathan with about three million votes.

With Buhari’s victory, Nigeria is about to close the curtain on the 16-year rule of the PDP, which came to power in 1999, after almost 16 years of military interregnum. The military had, in December, 1983, forced its way into power through a coup d’etat that witnessed the bundling of many prominent political office holders into gaol.

Ironically, that coup was led by Buhari, then Major-General.

As it has turned out, he is consolidating democratic governance 32 years after he led a crop of officers to truncate it.

Buhari’s own political odyssey has been inspiring in some ways. As a military leader, he attained a reputation of ruthlessness in his approach to governance. In order to instill discipline in the polity, he introduced a number of measures that were draconian. One well-known programme of the era was the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) which sought to reorder the behaviour of Nigerians in public places. Queuing as a defined social behaviour became a basic requirement as against shunting.

He introduced a number of decrees that, although intended to curb corruption and crime, and possibly secure the nation, became so unpopular on account of the ruthless implementation of these decrees.

The presence of soldiers with horse-whips at public places became a common phenomenon. Civil servants who were late for work were publicly humiliated by being forced to do frog jumps.

According to Decree Number 2 of 1984, the state security and the Chief of Staff were empowered to detain, without charges, individuals deemed to be security risk to the state for up to three months.

Strikes and popular demonstrations were banned and Nigeria’s secret police service, the then National Security Organization (NSO) was entrusted with unprecedented powers. It became an instrument of intimidation and repression.

One of the most memorable of his decrees was Decree 20 on illegal oil bunkering and drug trafficking with retroactive force.

The leadership of the military government under Buhari became so unpopular that some military power players in the junta capitalized on the general discontent to stage a palace coup on August 27, 1985.

Regardless, Buhari was to stage a return to public life as presidential candidate of the All Nigeria’s Peoples Party (ANPP), but was defeated by the PDP’s Olusegun Obasanjo who was running to get a second term as civilian president in 2003.

He again contested in 2007 and 2011. His pathetic experience in 2011 forced him to bid politics goodbye. Nevertheless, he returned to the familiar turf when he was picked by the All Progressives Congress (APC) outcome of the fusion of three political parties- the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which was Buhari’s party; and All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP).

Indeed, it is noteworthy that Buhari has led the APC to victory in what would go down as a turning point in Nigeria’s history. So much is expected from a president-elect that has positioned himself as a moral reference point and the party as one that claims to have clues to Nigeria’s socio-economic morass.

A former National Chairman of the PDP, Vincent Ogbulafor, once reportedly boasted that his party would lead Nigeria for 60 years. But it only did for 16! Herein lies the significance of Buhari’s tenacity and his perhaps unquenchable desire to erase the unflattering record he had set as a military leader.

As Buhari prepares to assume power, the opposition would be in a celebratory mood while the ruling party begins plans to disengage. But the lesson of this moment must never be lost on Nigerians, especially the political class. It is that only a truly people-focused government can win the people’s heart and confidence. Nigerians would now probably marvel at how possible their determination could change their history and fortune.

More importantly, they would also have to celebrate the fact that, finally, the country’s democracy has come to stay, with the first ever transition from one political party to another. It is, indeed, a new dawn.