And it came to pass that on the 16th year of the reign of the people of power over the country of the Niger-area, also known as Nigeria, a wind of change enveloped the land. It all happened on the last Saturday of the first quarter of the year 2015. On that day the power of the people met the people of power and the power of the people prevailed. It was much like the scriptural records when a divinely directed snake swallowed up the magical one inspired by a powerful earthly king.
On March 28, Nigerian people yet again confronted a powerful force they have been used to having around and that force, represented as the people of power, with a high taste for impunity, buckled. On that day, theoretically speaking, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) lost the presidential election to All Progressives Congress (APC). But in reality, the victory was Nigeria’s whose citizens have now seen and shown that they can in fact determine their future, with their votes. That, for many of us, was revolutionary.
While many knew and accepted we needed a revolution, they were always afraid of how best to go about it, a bloodless revolution not being a common occurrence. But here we have it. We may not fully comprehend how this was made possible but a lot of work went into this victory. At one end is an electoral management body whose leadership is focused on achieving credible elections, even in the face of daunting opposition by a political class which is more bent on manipulating a credible process to attain its selfish ends. It was also made possible by the activities of civil society and citizens who took it upon themselves to urge the people to keep pushing and focusing on getting their votes to count.
Strangely, for several years, many of us in civil society strived to let citizens know the power they have within and suggest how best to channel such power to influence what they want. I daresay that the outcome hardly matched the efforts we invested into such advocacy. But on March 28, there was a significant shift when Nigeria went to the polls.
The international community also played significant roles by stressing the need to play by the rules, even pointing to the fact that there could be international consequences for criminality related to the polls. That is aside the numerous acts of overt and covert diplomacy that went on with the major players, including the open signing of peace pacts on two occasions.
A few acknowledgements would suffice though. The first recognition must go to the Nigerian people who came out, stood it out in the rain and sun and stayed throughout the night in some places. They volunteered their means including power generators and fuel, car headlights, rechargeable lamps and even meals, to make sure their votes counted. General Muhammadu Buhari and his campaign team in APC deserve commendation for their steadfastness and eventual success in getting this change to happen.
And of course, we must also acknowledge President Goodluck Jonathan who behaved like a statesman by conceding defeat early enough to douse the tension that was swelling across the land. That singular telephone call helped to decelerate the climb to boiling point and possible tipping point on our dangerous race to conflict. Happily, many of the (bitter) opponents of Buhari have taken a cue from President Jonathan to also congratulate the president elect.
That call on Tuesday March 31 was most timeous and we needed it badly. In fact, about 45 minutes before that historic telephone call, I had called for it when I posted on facebook thus: “With 25% votes in 25 states already for Buhari, he is home and dry with two more ‘favourable’ states and one ‘difficult’ state to be declared. Mr President should pick up his telephone and do the needful. #Nigeria has to move forward.”
Earlier that same day on Tuesday, I urged people who hadn’t considered change management as encapsulated in the story of ‘Who moved my Cheese’ to do so quickly because it was a lesson we would have need of very soon. And that is the very point that we have to make. Change may have come with the presidential and national assembly election results, but how best should we manage this change. I expect the immediate beneficiaries of the victory (Buhari, APC and their supporters) to be magnanimous in victory. A few incidents of indecency in celebration call for concern as some people on the streets have even gone belligerent and provocative, sometimes harassing other road users and forcing them to shout ‘change’ or ‘sai Baba’ etc as some password.
I have also seen discussions by even the elite class suggesting that those who did not vote a particular way were therefore wrong and should have themselves to blame for the consequences of their unsuccessful choice. It has even got so bad that ethnic nationalities or geopolitical zones are being ‘queried’ for not supporting APC. And sad enough, this discourse is setting friends at loggerheads. That is nonsensical and undemocratic. This feeling of ‘this is our time’ will not help our healing process as a nation, which is what we truly need now. Thankfully, in his acceptance speech, President Elect, Muhammadu Buhari warned his supporters to act responsibly. He also promised that APC will not be a ruling party but only a party in government. We must hold him to that.
It is clear that this change has come. But the change beneficiaries should know that even change is not permanent and if they fail to act for the people, these same citizens who own the change will also change them.