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Buhari, Restoring Democratic Principles Against All Odds



Mariam Mohammed –

I am starting on a sober mood as the nation mourns the loss of an iconic elder statesman, a democrat who sacrificed his comfort to sustain the unity of the nation. To some, he is the father of geo-political zones that we have today in the country. The second Republic Vice President Dr Alex Ekwueme.

As Nigerians continue to wish him peaceful transition to the new home beyond, I say may the nation he toiled for grow in line with the aspirations of its founding fathers to take its rightful place in the comity of nations.

Again, my heart bleeds for the lives that were cut short by suicide bombers at Mubi in Adamawa state on Tuesday. May God in his infinite mercy grant eternal rest to them.

Another episode that unfolded  within the week is the meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee, MPC of the Central Bank of Nigeria, saddled with the responsibility of regulating the tide of rate in the financial market. The Committee which held its last meeting for 2017 on Tuesday, acted contrary to forecast by financial analysts that the rate will be changed. Rather the MPC members decided to maintain the status quo by retaining the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) at 14%, CRR at 22.5%, Liquidity Ratio at 30%, and the Asymmetric Window at +200 and -500 basis points around the MPR.

The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele said the MPC  members in their wisdom voted to  hold  rates unchanged in order to consolidate on modest gains. The governor was optimistic that  single digit inflation target is realisable in a short period given the current  deceleration in inflation figure. But the CBN governor should take cognizance of the fact that many investors in the local market have limited access to loan due to the high interest rate.

In what could be described as a promising note, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was in Kwara, the home state of the Senate President where he commissioned some landmark projects.

At the Presidential Villa in Aso Rock, President Muhammadu Buhari hosted two prominent guests. The first was the Oba of Benin- an elegant monarch of the Benin Kingdom. The President rained accolades on the Oba for the role his kingdom is playing in maintaining the unity of the country.

The second guest, certainly is the man at the centre of my today piece, the man who defeated 37 other contenders to emerge the winner of the Anambra governorship election, Willie Obiano. He was at the Villa for a “thank you visit” to Mr President for allowing the will of the people to prevail at the election that saw him return elected for a second term in office.

Like Abraham Lincoln the 16th President of the United States, President Muhammadu Buhari shares the same characteristics of a dogged and persistent democrat. Probably because Buhari lost the presidential election three times before he won on his fourth attempt in 2015. You will only imagine what Buhari must had gone through those moments of failed attempts and it could only be the major reason he frowns at any form of electoral fraud.

On assumption of office in May 29, 2015 as the 6th democratically elected President of Nigeria he promised to reform the electoral laws that will be free of  flaws. Today we are seeing the manifestation of this promise in the recently conducted election in Anambra State, adjudged to be the best free, fair and credible election in Nigeria since independence.

Bababu as I fondly call him, is a passionate leader desirous of building a strong nation based on democratic principles. Literally, democracy is “rule of the people”, but in modern usage, according Wikipedia, is a system of government in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives from among themselves to form a governing body and the key characteristics of democracy include legal equality, political freedom and rule of law. It is sometimes referred to as “rule of the majority”.

The uncertainty of outcomes is inherent in democracy, which makes all forces struggle repeatedly for the realization of their interests, being the devolution of power from a group of people to a set of rules. I believe that the basic feature of democracy is the capacity of all voters to participate freely and fully in the life of their society.

When President Buhari in 2015, told Nigerians that behold, it’s a new era, many didn’t understand but today majority of people in the country have started seeing how Nigeria is metamorphosing into a model of democracy in Africa. In one of his speeches, he said, “Change for us is not a mere political slogan, but the beginning of a new era desired by the majority of Nigerians.”

The outcome of the Anambra election reaffirms Buhari’s position for credible election in the country. During the campaign, he did not in any way allow the usual use of “federal might” to influence the result of the election to favor his party, rather he ordered that the will of the people be respected. This is a clear departure from the past. At the announcement of the result, the President commended the people of Anambra State, the governorship candidates, INEC, election observers and security agencies and other stakeholders, on the peaceful conduct of the November 18 election in the state.

Buhari states that “The processes leading to the election and its peaceful conduct and outcome, have shown that our electoral reform is bearing positive fruits. This is very encouraging and I am determined to give Nigeria free and fair elections, no matter which way the results swing.”

Unlike previous regimes, he particularly expressed delight at the conduct of the candidates post-election results, describing it as “heart-warming and a renewal of confidence in the sanctity of the ballot which deepens our nation’s democracy.”

Buhari also urged the electoral umpire to improve on areas of logistics as the nation braces for coming governorship elections and the main general elections in 2019.

The beauty of democracy is the freedom of citizens to choose their leaders. I am starting on a lighter note. That an election could be conducted in Anambra State without widespread tales of violence, ballot snatching, killing and all other accoutrements of disorder is a huge credit to the present regime and its commitment to the conduct of free and fair election, bereft of the usual brickbats for which elections are known in Nigeria.

Regardless of who won the Anambra gubernatorial election, the successful conduct of the election adds a great impetus to those who believe and work for the unity and progress of the country. What is more, the election is one of the most hitch-less and well-conducted in the present democratic dispensation that started in May 1999.

Anambra stands out in the history of  violent elections in this country. Its long history of contentious elections had endured and the notoriety the state had gathered over the years on conduct of elections in the country is unique.  I also commend the resolute of the people of the state  for disregarding the threats by IPOB as they trooped out in  their numbers to exercise their franchise. Everything worked against the permutation of doom prophets.

Whichever way one looks at it, the biggest credit for this successful election goes to the Buhari government, which has been living up to its promise of non-interference in the electoral process. That it had not brought its bias to bear on the conduct of elections so far remains the reason why the quality of elections has tremendously improved. The quickest way to do this and get less contentious outcomes is to detach the government and its interests from the conduct of elections. This was at full display in Anambra hence the quality of election and result gotten from last week’s election.

In all I wish to congratulate Governor Willie Obiano and the people of Anambra for victory at the polls. We hope this victory will spur him to work harder to justify the confidence imposed on him by the people.

The  Anambra election set a record as the governorship contest with the highest number of candidates, 37, in Nigeria’s electoral history and was eventually won by APGA. The election may also have been an indication of what to expect in the 2018 Ekiti and Osun states elections as well as the 2019 general elections.