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2023: Why it is too early to give up on Nigeria

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By Isah Aliyu Chiroma

“When two birds are on a tree, one does not tell the other that a stone is coming”.

Chief MKO Abiola

Anyone who has been paying close attention to the turmoil in our political environment is aware of the confusion, the discussions, and even the current incidents. An image that challenges the general election on February 25, 2023, has been painted by the grim nature of Nigerian politics and the international arena. Anyone, voicing his own opinion starts the debates that will determine how Nigeria’s democracy will develop in the future. Empathy is a good quality especially when observing other people’s viewpoints because it will help you understand what actually captured their attention.

Each voter has unique expectations when it comes to an election. No matter who wins the election, it is expected that the transition to new governments on May 29 would occur without a hitch. Though it seems that some are against this transitory stage—or perhaps not the stage itself—the process itself is in question. As we have seen over the past few weeks, there is a number of reactions around the nation that have grabbed notice. These reactions range from the LP presidential running mate Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed’s interview on Channels TV, which resulted in a N5 million fine, to an LP fan who shouted that the president-elect should not be sworn in. All of those responses are accompanied by a variety of emotions as our democracy’s future is being created, both practically and aesthetically.

If an election is required, there must be a victor, and if there is a victor, the opposing party has legal avenues to demand his right from what he believes and appears. After putting all of this into place, famed Nigerian author and novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—whom Chinue Achebe called “fully made”—suddenly published an open letter. She arrived completely prepared this time, complete with a letter addressed to Joe Biden, the American president.

Chimamanda raised the topic of why America is praising the victor of this awful election in her letter headed “Nigeria’s Hollow Democracy.” She brought out various issues that cast doubt on the electoral process. Elections, she alleged, were frequently rigged, with predetermined “winners” declared as a convenience. The elections in 2023 were similarly manipulated and conducted in a way that belittled Nigerians’ intelligence. She addressed a democratic nation like the United States with those comments and questioning why. She came to the conclusion that the United States shouldn’t support a president-elect who was chosen through an illegal process if it values the rule of law so highly.

It seems unsettling that those statements would come from a well-known author like Chimamanda. I believe that many people’s candidates did not succeed in the election, should they all raise alarm and disturb the atmosphere on their own interest? But her courageous attempt to share her opinion in a letter that might never make it to the president’s desk is not the best course of action for resolving the problem. Imagine we spot her at the trial, standing beside her candidate as we wait for the verdict, maybe then we can see a full supporter. This would have been the appropriate course of action under the circumstances. While I don’t think it was wrong for her to write those letters, the way she addressed them endangers our democracy. But what should be our utmost interest in the election, should it be our candidates, party or our democracy?

We had been persuaded that technology would protect the sanctity of votes, so she wrote in her letter, “I supported Peter Obi, the Labour Party candidate, and hoped he would win, as polls predicted, but I was prepared to accept any result.” It’s difficult to concede loss when your candidate loses, especially when your hopes are high. However, Nigerian politics have undergone significant change over the years, and the course we’re on to make history is more satisfying than where we started.

The outcomes of the 2023 general election were unexpected. Many candidates lost their wards, local governments, or even their entire states as a result of political calculations. similar to how the incoming president’s state was lost, President Muhammadu Buhari’s loss of Katsina, Bello Matawalle losing Zamfara or the governors who lost their senatorial seats. It all came with some setbacks, one way or another, but the outcome decided who would prevail, proving that it was a war of wins and losses.

The enduring worth of the 2015 elections cannot be wished away, as the former presidential spokesman, Olusegun Adeniyi stated in his book: “After all is said, regardless of whether the expectations of Nigerians who voted “Change” are met or not, the enduring value of the 2015 elections cannot be wished away: an incumbent president can be defeated, even in Nigeria. This is an important lesson for the current incumbent and a lasting victory for the Nigerian people” The same will hold true for the elections in 2023; the outcomes may not match our expectations, but voters showed up to cast their ballots, and some did so successfully. But the crucial factor in our democratic politics is that the Nigerian voter became the supreme political authority as a result of the power of the vote, creating a larger sense of public ownership of the political process. So, one way or the other, election must give voters what they wanted, through their choices that they made.

We must hold on to the factors that will determine how Nigerian elections will be conducted in the future and how our leaders will emerge as we stand among the throngs of people who want our democracy to be protected. Even if it doesn’t support our decisions, we must maintain our capacity for optimism in the midst of terror, brutality, and so much tragedy. The only way to respect our court system and demonstrate that you are a patriotic citizen is to give the legal system the opportunity to make judgements that may or may not favor your preferences.

If we have the patience, the verdict will come, the choices will be made, and our democracy’s history will be written. A past that will always be a part of who we are and how we respond to the events that form our democracy.

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