Nigeria has had a rather chequered history with democracy. Since 1999, Nigeria has had an uninterrupted democratic experiment which has been largely successful. INEC has continuously improved its handling of elections where the votes of the people are increasingly being reflected in the results subsequently announced by INEC. Under former President Jonathan and continued under the Buhari/Osinbajo Presidency, elections in Nigeria have shown both parties win and lose elections. Surprise results, such as the senatorial result in Osun state, have at times gone against the party in power. Northerners have acquitted themselves very well when they have been in charge of INEC.
However, the conduct of elections and participating in elections are but a part of Nigeria’s democratic experiment and experience.
The other part of the democratic experience which Nigeria is trying to learn is the effect of the result of democratic elections and the mandate given to a winning party for the 4 year period that it has to govern. Nigerians are grappling to come to terms with the consequences of the results of the 2015 elections. Then President Jonathan made the implementation of the 2014 national conference resolutions by selected members of the wider society the main focus of his re-election campaign. Candidate Buhari made the fight against corruption, the defeat of Boko Haram and the prudent management of the Nigerian economy the major plank of his election campaign.
Candidate Buhari won 22 of the 36 states and obtained over 2.5 million more votes than the then President Jonathan. Consequently, Nigerians had voted to discard the resolutions of the national conference of 2014.
Nothing could have prepared the civilized world for the bizarre dance that is now playing itself out in Nigeria. A section of the country that voted for then President Jonathan and in favour of “restructuring” along the lines of the resolutions of the 2014 conference have through the use of the mob have now effectively used blackmail, threats of secession and mob rule to try to obviate the will of Nigerians as effected through the ballot box. We also have self selected socio-cultural organizations who also supported then President Jonathan during the 2015 Presidential elections, were members of the national conference and campaigned for then President Jonathan on the basis of the implementation of the 2014 national conference resolutions bizarrely now thinking that they represent the preponderance of views of Nigerians on the issue of the 2014 national conference and restructuring.
Nigeria as a country has been continuously restructuring itself over the last 100 years. It went from (1) being a country of the Northern and southern protectorates and Lagos (2) Northern, Western, Eastern regions and Lagos (3) Northern, Western, Mid Western, Eastern regions and Lagos (4) a nation divided into provinces (5) a 12 state structure (6) a 19 state structure (7) a 30 state structure and (8) a 36 state structure plus Abuja.
Effectively, Nigeria has restructured itself once every 12 years over the last 100 years and still Nigerians are displeased. Now we have hectoring voices of those that want to go forward to the past by having 6 regions (despite the fact that it was the need to cater for minority rights that gave rise to state creation from 1967 to the mid 1990’s) whilst we have others that want 18 new states created despite the fact that many of the existing states cannot raise enough internally generated income to meet its basic needs. We also have the South East wanting an extra state despite the fact that (a) all states of the South East put together cannot raise internally generated income that would equal 2/3 of the internally generated income generated by Ogun state (b) the land mass of the entire South East is less than the size of Oyo state and (c) it is the least populated zone by a significant margin.
Nigeria has not only experimented with different structures over the years. It has experimented with different forms of government. It had (1) the parliamentary system with the Queen as head of government, (2) Parliamentary system with a Nigerian President as the head of government (3) Presidential system, (4) Military system with a head of state, (5) Military system with a self declared president, and (6) a military government at the federal level and a civilian government at the state level. Still Nigerians are unsure of what they want and clamor for more equally unworkable options.
Confusion and a confused people have become eternally entangled in the geographical expression now known as Nigeria. Introspection has ceased to exist. Respect for the rule of law and the sanctity of the ballot box has taken flight. In its place, the rulesof the mob appears to have arisen and the silent majority watch in sheer disbelief.
Nigeria’s issue has never been the structure of Nigeria. It has been the quality of people elected to manage the various levels of government. A lot must be said that the culture of Nigeria and its emphasis on corruption has not helped matters one iota.
The government has a role to play here. It must implement the policies on which it was elected. In 2019, it must determine the grounds on which it would fight the next election. The results of the PDP case, ensures a good opposition will provide a counter-weight.
Hopefully, policy will determine the choices between the parties and we hope that with time Nigerians will learn to respect the will of the people as expressed through the ballot box as opposed to the will of the mob as expressed through hate speech , threats of secession and war.
Written by Dele Awogbeoba