Nigerian Citizens: The game changer for democracy and good governance | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Nigerian Citizens: The game changer for democracy and good governance

Posted: Apr 15, 2015 at 2:22 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Samuel Akpobome Orovwuje


There was no doubt about the victory of General Mohamadu Buhari, the APC opposition candidate in the country’s Presidential election held on March 28, 2015. Yet, what surprised President Good luck Jonathan’s supporters and opponents alike was his clear- minded decision to concede defeat before the official results were announced by INEC. Jonathan is a gentleman and indeed a statesman and above all, he must have been inspired by John Steinbeck who once said: Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power particularly from the standpoint of the constitutional weight of the President of the federal republic of Nigeria, who is enormously powerful and indeed imperious and he could have behaved otherwise to subvert the will of the people – God forbid!

Indeed a peaceful transfer of power without post-election violence, after a relatively peaceful, but charged and mudslinging election campaigns is the testimony of the vigilance and resilience of Nigerian people. However, the campaign templates in my view were not creative, logical and indeed below global governance best practices. But it is hoped that as the process get better there will be significant improvement in the political communication and strategy output.

Interestingly, the main idea that animated and electrified the Nigerian electorate across all political divide for the choice of All Progressives Congress (APC) has been his promise of change and good governance. General Mohammedu Buhari’s election campaign stressed democratic and corruption-free governance, an end to PDP cronyism, and reviving the autonomy of key institutions of governance. This is kind of democratic reform agenda evolved primarily against the 16 years of PDP treacherous, profligate, and semi-authoritarian and self- seeking style of governance.

Quite frankly unlike in the previous elections, the electorates were defining elements in the change agenda this time round and they supported Buhari primarily on his promise of regime change and anti- corruption reform. Furthermore, it reflected the urgency felt by most of Nigerians and citizen’s stakeholders for a fresh political beginning in a post-Jonathan era. However, the ethnic and parochial sentiment was present in the voting pattern across board and in my view major challenge for the incoming president and his party.

Indeed, a fresh beginning is perhaps the phrase that best captures the moment and the political space opened up by the victory of Mohammedu Buhari in this keenly contested 2015 Presidential election. The challenges and obstacles awaiting him would be both daunting and complex. The election result shows some of unusual political complexities. A preliminary glance at the electoral statistics highlights a few salient patterns and dimensions. First, it is the Hausa – Fulani vote which gave Buhari the edge over Jonathan. The support he received from the Northern and South- west and electoral divisions where the East and South- South are a significant minority was not so overwhelming, in many instance not even reaching over some per cent of the votes cast.

The return of Buhari, as the President and commander in chief of the armed forces, it is hope would be a major stabilising factor in the change and citizens – driven government through mutual partnerships and a sustainable pact with the people. Buhari is indeed known and perceived as a leader, who tends to operate from an inner directed, principled, responsible and conservative core with military experience in government as Head of State, as well as for his political shrewdness and sagacity. His pro-conservative and uncompromising political profile, in my view, would help to chart a new version of reconciliatory mechanism — not hostile to the South -East, not so dependent on the power and the oligarchic structures that brought him to power in partnership with the Nigerian people who were determined to defend their votes. This solemn and uncommon contract should be seen as sacrosanct, and he is quite at ease with the traditional and core north that is essentially his home- base politically in this important election and indeed his promise to engage with citizens is a new partnership towards forging a people driven assembly and new government.

Buhari, the president- elect in his pre- inaugural speech has promised fulfilling some of socio- economic reforms within the nearest foreseeable future. This in my view would certainly be a huge challenge and tall order for the President and his new government. Reform benchmarks and projections are easier promised at speech making. The key reform promise with a time limit of first 100 days in office sloganeering is not a constitutional matter but a politically expedient decision to get to the ground running and to drive the process of change his party has promised Nigerians in the build up to the general elections. The greater the promise, the greater can also be the disappointment, once the extraordinary euphoria of the newness declines and the promises meet the daunting political realities. Nonetheless, the issue of unemployment and underemployment particularly for young people and women which is estimated at about 20 million, the number of children of primary school age out of school with an alarming figures of 10 million and the unacceptable numbers of Nigerians with no access to primary health care and women who die annually during childbirth should be top on his agenda.

In furtherance to the campaign promises, the most single contract with the Nigerian people is the critical mass of collective leadership accountability template that mainstream the citizens into this administration’s development agenda. Indeed the demand for open and inclusive government in the international political landscape has gained unprecedented momentum and the new leadership under Buhari must learn critical lessons from the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street to improve on its relationship with citizens through networks and collaborations. Therefore a critical milestone to achieving this is to engage the people directly in policy-making and public service delivery with a view to achieving wholesome development results and enduring feedback mechanism that will help to shape the direction of participatory democracy in Nigeria. The real test of transparency and accountability resides with the people.

Political olive branch of power sharing through appointments at the centre may not be enough incentive for true national identity. In addition, the agenda or plan must rest the pillars of global governance index which include safety and the rule of law, citizen’s participation in programmes, human development, and sustainable economic opportunities for all Nigerians. Buhari has promised that he will engage with the people and also listen. To drive and sustain the promises, he must initiate his party manifesto development huddle template every six months to report critical milestones and deliverables in concrete terms. A seamless cabinet reporting principle of governance issues a way from security and national interest will also enhance the social contract with the people.

Frankly, beyond the call by the president – elect that corruption thrive in Nigeria because of the implicit lack of enforcements of the enabling laws  in the public sector and the disregard for accountability is also the call for the promotion of what I call the psychology of values that would act as national identity glue that bonds us together as a people and ultimately, defines who we are as a people in this change process  and anti- corruption agenda template, and reflects the place of a new movement driven by the people themselves and the institution of state and  above all , as a matter of urgency, the  National Orientation Agency(NOA), must be re- positioned to play positive role in driving values and aspiration for the revival of a national moral bank account which will turn promote the common good.

While Nigeria celebrate this unprecedented triumph in democracy and the display of uncommon courage towards the realisation of a common destiny for our nation, the challenge before the new cabinet of Mohammadu Buhari is that majority of our people are poor and living below one dollar a day. Therefore, the task ahead is creating enabling environment for jobs creation that would accelerate Nigeria’s progress and development for its large population that voted for change and the time has come to see the manifestation of this paradigm shift. It is indeed our sincere hope that the Buhari value of selfless leadership and expression of discipline, courage and the promise of giving voice to the people will resonate in programmes and deliverables of his administration.

On the final note, Nigerians wait this new dawn with cautious optimism and it is only time that will tell. God bless our great country and bravo to the good people of Nigeria that at least their votes counted and Nigerian citizens are indeed the game changer and real change agent. Welcome to a new Nigeria!


• Orovwuje, wrote in form Lagos