When apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction, it is called an oxymoron. When you have antithetical words with opposing meanings coming together. Examples: ‘A gentleman of the road.’ ‘A honest thief.’ ‘Why, then, O brawling love” (Shakespeare, in Romeo and Juliet). ‘Organized confusion.” ‘Deafening silence.’ These are oxymorons. I remember a teacher who had told us long ago: “You are a moron, if you don’t know an oxymoron.” Lol.
But why have we gone back to elementary literature class today? Because we approach watershed elections on Saturday to elect governors in 28 States of the Federation, and 993 State Assembly lawmakers across 1,021 constituencies. When you consider that the Presidential and National Assembly elections were done in 470 constituencies, then Saturday is huge. Humongous. Mammoth.
As we concluded the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday, the first being attended and chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari since conclusion of the Presidential election held on February 25, he responded to congratulations on the largely successful polls.
Said the President: “I was in Doha (Qatar), and people were congratulating me from different parts of the world. I guess some people had been expecting that all hell would be let loose in Nigeria. And they were disappointed.”
And that is what I call a ‘good disappointment.’ Why must elections always be accompanied by doomsday projections in our country? There was serious trepidation in the land before the polls. Two weeks ago, I had written about a young mother who had told me before the election that when trouble flared, she would just strap her baby to her back, and make a dash for it.
Where would you run to, I had asked?
And she responded: “To nowhere. I would just start running.”
Can you imagine what we subject ourselves to in this country, dying many times before our deaths whenever elections approached? Yes, because one election was always worse than the other, since the 1960s to 2015, when Buhari came. But thereafter, the man had determined that elections must be free, fair and credible. And so they have been. Largely.
Are we saying perfect elections? No. They don’t exist. Not anywhere in the world. National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, corroborated the assertion last Monday. At a stakeholders meeting of the party in Abuja, he declared: ‘It is fair and honorable to admit that the February 25 elections were not perfect. We did not set out to conduct perfect elections. World history has no instances of perfect elections. Like all other democratic nations, we set out to conduct free fair, and credible elections. This we did.
“I am proud to say we achieved this feat, and delivered on the promise made by President Muhammadu Buhari to the people. For the first time in living memory of our elections, there were no allegations of vote-buying and outcry over all the other ills associated with the conduct of our elections. Rigging may not be dead, but it has been decapitated. Our democracy is maturing, and we are maturing with it.”
Honest. Frank. Dead pan. Thanks, Chairman Adamu. That is the truth, and nothing but the truth, which the electoral umpire itself has admitted. Many other observers, locally and internationally have also said the same thing.
What then is the option for those challenging the processes and outcome of the polls? Legal action, which they are taking now. Even the then Candidate Buhari adopted that option three times in the past, up to the Supreme Court. It is the inalienable right of the aggrieved, the irreducible minimum, rather than riots and civil disobedience, which would lead to anarchy and loss of lives.
Why did the ‘good disappointment’ happen, despite the imperfect elections we had? Many reasons.
The aggrieved candidates sued for peace. It only needed a wrong word to have served as a spark in the tinderbox. They only needed to have told the populace, particularly the youths to rise up and fight for their rights. And that young mother would have truly strapped her baby to her back, and showed a clean pair of heels. Running to where? To nowhere. Confusion. Mayhem. Anarchy. We thank the candidates for embracing the peace option.
Another reason was that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) itself admitted the imperfect nature of the elections, particularly the inability to transmit the results real-time from the polling booths to the server. And manual collation is usually fraught with all kinds of sleight of hand. Did it happen? That’s why we have the courts. And so, there’s ‘good disappointment’ in the land, till the matter is conclusively settled.
Yet again. The security agencies acquitted themselves well, round the country. We didn’t hear of brazen partisanship, with those who should uphold the law assisting parties and candidates to pervert the law. They had heard the words of President Buhari. They had read his body language. He didn’t want any form of underhand deals. Not for his political party, or for anyone. And they complied. The people saw it.
And the electorate themselves. They had exercised their franchise. And they expected fidelity to the ballot boxes. Did it happen? Yes, on some sides, and no, on some other. So, what to do? Wait for the judiciary to adjudicate, and do it fairly.
As we go on the march again on Saturday, we must realize that it is a contest, and not war. Let warlords and merchants of violence be disappointed again. I love how INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu puts it:
“It is important for parties and candidates to speak to their agents and supporters to see the elections as a contest, and not war. They should refrain from acts of violence that may mar the elections or compromise the security of our personnel, observers, the media, and service providers.”
Good. The people are listening loud and clear, while also expecting to see INEC correct the lapses that manifested on February 25.
The National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (retd) also weighed in, at a meeting of Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security early this week:
“I want to also urge the same individuals at the state level, to demonstrate the same level of maturity, the same level of discipline by calling their supporters to conduct themselves in a manner that is congruent with the expectations of the larger Nigerian society…We must comply with the rules. We must also allow everyone, I have said this so many times, to exercise their fundamental rights as citizens of this country. What we do not want to happen is for anybody to preempt, and take the law into his or her own hands. I want to be very, very clear on this. We are going to give the maximum support to all entities involved in this process. And we are also calling on political bigwigs, the gladiators to call their lieutenant to order, anybody who is itching to undermine this process should please think again. It is not in his interest. It is not in the interest of the nation as well.
“Finally, those of us in the security agencies will continue to work around the clock, all the crisis centres are open, and all the communication systems are also open. And we have been talking with the chairman of INEC. If there is anything that needs to be done or anything that needs to be added, my office is always open, ready and available to give that support. Once again, I want to thank each and every one of you. And I hope Saturday will be a day that will come and go without any incidents.”
Yes, Saturday should come and go without any incidents. It is in the interest of our country and her people. Let there be fair deals, fair play everywhere. Let the will of the people be respected. Public office is all about service, and not an imposition of yourself on the people willy-nilly.
President Buhari has shown that things can be done with rectitude, honor, integrity and probity. He has shone the light, so that we can find the way. Let us do. That’s the ‘good disappointment’ we want.
*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity