It’s over two weeks that Nigeria held her latest presidential election. Like most other such events in the last twenty years, it was momentous. It was presaged by its peculiar anxieties, electioneering brick-batting and the usual bi-polar party muscle-flexing to mention a few.
Unlike other high-calibre elections before it, this result took a bit longer to come; Nigerians had to wait about four days before the election arbiters could announce their verdict: an excruciatingly long time to wait after a dramatic postponement of E-day by one week.
When the result was finally announced, it was a mixed bag of oohs and aahs. Something seemed amiss but not many could place a finger on it. The difference between the declared winner, President Muhammadu Buhari, and the closest rival, Atiku Abubakar, was much but again, not much.
Some had thought Atiku would win but he lost. While many had believed the incumbent President Buhari was bound to lose, he won. Feelings were, therefore, not just mixed, but in staccato fashion. Supporters of Buhari, who are of course members of the All Progressives Congress and their sympathisers, were ecstatic in their rejoicing. On the other hand, supporters of Atiku, Wazirin Adamawa, became ‘disatikulated’, so to speak. They cried foul, they reckon that they had been dealt a bad hand both by the ruling party and the arbiters INEC using the instrumentalities of the federal might.
On that score, Atiku would not congratulate the declared winner as he was expected to do. A peace accord was signed after all that while whoever wins would be magnanimous in victory, the loser must accept defeat in good faith, embrace the winner and elect to act in ways that would uphold the future and overall good of the country. In other words, Atiku is urged to re-atikulate, to stretch a once-winning slogan.
This is the thinking of some Nigerians. Olisa Agbakoba, eminent lawyer and one of those who wanted a change of the incumbent, had spoken about the futility of pursuing litigation and seeking to upturn the announced result. He urged Atiku, a former vice-president, to look beyond the defeat and take up the mantle of a statesman to build a new and united movement.
Agbakoba said: “I understand the PDP is aggrieved at the outcome of the election and alleged massive irregularities. I urge former vice-president not to approach the Election Petitions Tribunal. He might have (been) moved backwards by his loss, but he should not lose sight of the legacy of greatness that lie in front of him. There is also a lot of work to be done in both political and electoral reforms. I request former vice-president Atiku Abubakar to step into those shoes. We look forward to a new Nigeria, strong and united, a new Nigeria that will not vote on the basis of ethnic and primordial sentiments.”
Though many have criticised Agbakoba for suggesting that Atiku should not exercise his right, the former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has raised some sumptuous food for thought here. Again, though we understand the predicament of Atiku and his PDP quite well – the cost of a huge, elaborate campaign, the loss of opportunity to occupy the number one position and the need for self-preservation and even possible witch-hunt by the ruling party.
These anxieties and fears would push any man to press a matter like this to extreme, logical and even illogical ends if need be. Perhaps some reassurances and assuaging of fears by the winner could help here.
But whatever the case may be, the Agbakoba option may well be the stuff for statesmanship in this circumstance. Atiku may well back-track still and surprise Nigerians with a statement like this: “My party members and all those who voted for me on the 23rd of February and indeed all Nigerians of goodwill, it is with great sobriety and a deep sense patriotism that I make this announcement today. It is true that I had rejected the result of our recent election, it is true that I have refused to felicitate with the declared winner and it is also true that I have approached the election tribunal to seek redress…
“My fellow compatriots, I wish to inform you this day that in the overall interest of our beloved motherland Nigeria, I back-track. I hereby congratulate the declared winner of the election, President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Yes, I still think the election was pock-marked by much irregularities, but we all know that no election is perfect. Yes, it is my right to seek legal redress, but I want to say instead that not all wrongs are righted or are all rights pursued. My party and I have decided to take solace in the fact that we ran a good race, I and members of my party PDP gave a good account of ourselves through our robust and well-choreographed campaign. Though the result may seem not favourable, we have nothing to be ashamed of.
“In adherence to the advice of many prominent Nigerians, we shall return to the drawing board and again, in the interest of our country, we shall initiate moves to ensure that future elections are much better handled than this one. We shall do all that is in our power to drive the change for a comprehensive electoral reforms; we shall help to birth far-reaching reforms to reduce malpractices in our electioneering processes and eliminate, to a large extent, the need for both pre and post-election litigations. We shall bring our election up to speed to compare with elections in most parts of the world. Though we have seemingly lost, we have determined to make 2019 elections a watershed in Nigeria’s march to democracy; a watershed of the most pristine kind.”
As someone had said, one doesn’t have to be a president to be a statesman. Indeed, statesmen are not marked by the positions they held or that are bequeathed unto them; nay, it is by their sheer nobility of thought and purpose, by their great deeds to their country and humanity.
To Atiku Abubakar, greatness beckons, nobility beckons and statesmanship is up for grabs. He may yet turn adversity to greatness.