The conclusion of the 2019 presidential elections on February 2019 after the false start on February 16 was indeed a most relieving moment for the nation. On the positive side, Africa’s most populous democracy scored one more notch, successfully holding its sixth elections since the return of democracy in 1999.
However, the conduct of the exercise has also brought with it some other fallouts, including a legal challenge of its outcome by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the main opposition grouping, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP.
Responding to this scenario, a handful of commentators have cast the stated decision of Atiku and his party to head to the courts as an act of villainy. In the view of this newspaper, nothing can be further from the truth.
We hold that Atiku and his party can, and should be allowed to go to court as they have already commenced action on. And even as they do this, we affirm that it is not an unpatriotic act as some barely informed, if not mischievous commentators are insinuating. This is because the electoral process in itself had anticipated this eventuality and made provisions for it. Besides, the precedence for undertaking such a course at this time had indeed been laid most solidly in the past – as evidenced for example by three legal challenges of announced presidential elections results in 2003, 2007 and 2011 – by incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari himself. So we maintain once again that a legal challenge of the results of the 2019 presidential elections at this time is neither a monstrous nor an untoward undertaking.
Indeed, on the contrary, such a challenge has the propensity and potential of even helping to further deepen our democracy and not jeopardising it. This is because asking Atiku to simply let things go when he and his party feel seriously dissatisfied over the outcome of the contest may buy for the declared winners and the nation some measure of temporary calm and a seeming semblance of progress but in all reality, that may only be the proverbial peace of the graveyard.
We also caution that any attempt to bully, force, coerce, cajole or compel Atiku to abruptly drop his reservations over the electoral outcome could also only produce superficial results that may yet haunt the nation in future. And we have an almost very fitting precedence here somewhat in the June 12, 1993 saga that has taken a quarter of a century to partly resolve. Hence we caution that room and space should be found for all of the concerns raised by the opposition at this point – and as they relate to the conduct of the 2019 presidential elections and its declared outcome -to be put on the table and very openly thrashed out.
Like had also happened in countries like Kenya and Congo in the not too distant past, the deeper import of this judicial challenge as we see it is that the institutions that are involved in the conduct of the elections or arbitration over its outcome have been put there to be fully tested against a time like this. We therefore say a loud No to any attempt to sweep the issues under the carpet as experience has shown over and over again, that when they are forcibly shoved under the rug, they are really never happy to remain there and as such could continue to exert a most disquieting choke hold on the overall governance process in the land.
That point made, an analysis of the results already declared shows a worrying trend of a broadening state of division in the country. This is most unhealthy in real terms and should trouble all patriots. It is in this wise then that we canvass the seemingly urgent need for a Government of National Unity to be comprised of divergent stakeholders and voices in the polity. This would afford the nation not only a time to heal, but also provide a fitting atmosphere for unfettered and bi-partisan national agreement and consensus that is needed at this time to address the very extenuating challenges of uniting the nation, attracting local and foreign investments for growing the economy, fighting poverty, rebuilding our institutions, responding to the demographic time bomb, rejuvenating the education sector, motivating our youth, restructuring the polity, and indeed saving Nigeria.
If the truth is to be told, our national inter-group relations may today have plummeted down to one of its lowest imaginable moments in our history this far, and with a lot of the seemingly binding ties that we had taken as given over the years being badly frayed. As a people, we urgently need to reconnect with the laudable visions of our founding fathers even as we continue to chart the path towards the realisation of the great nation that we yet must build. It is time to halt the drift and to get back ‘on the march again.’