macroafricaintel | Nigeria Decides 2019: Post-election note (1)

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

I spent the election weekend power-reading two books about Nigeria’s recent political evolution.

The first, “My transition hours” by former president Goodluck Jonathan, details the author’s version about the events that led to his concession of defeat in 2015 to incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari.

The second, “On a platter of gold – How Jonathan won and lost Nigeria” by former sports minister, Bolaji Abdullahi, provides a more objective view of the same events during the Jonathan presidency.

I also did a quick recap of two other books; namely: “Against the run of play: How an incumbent president was defeated in Nigeria” by former presidential spokesman, Olusegun Adeniyi, and “Fighting corruption is dangerous” by former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

I was trying to get a better understandng of the workings in the corridors of power, the State House especially, during an election in which the incumbent is seeking a second term.

True, the circumstances now are very different from those of four years ago. But as far as I know, there has probably not been an administration, with as many books by former insiders, so quickly after its end, as that of Mr Jonathan.

A fifth book, “Political order and political decay” by Francis Fukuyama, which I have to admit, I am yet to finish, has a whole chapter on Nigeria. It makes for sober reading.

The book reflects on the political evolution of different parts of the world. Why is northen Europe (“Germany, Holland, and Scandinavia”) more prosperous than southern Europe (Greece, Italy), for instance? Fukuyama identifies “clientelism” (or patronage) and “corruption” as key reasons why.

Still, these countries, though still troubled, have managed “to provide basic public goods at a level sufficient to turn their societies into wealthy developed countries.”

When we turn to the African country of Nigeria, however, we observe clientelism and corruption of an entirely different order of magnitude and, correspondingly, one of the most tragic development failures in the contemporary world.”

What is abundantly clear is that any candidate seeking to unseat an incumbent president of this country deserves our sincere best wishes. Because he or she would need it.

When you read the accounts of these former government insiders and reflect on the comments of key government officials during this election period, it is unbelievable how much you begin to understand. And how much more you do not.

You certainly know for sure that there is no such thing as an “independent” electoral commission in the Nigerian context, for instance. That is, in the practical sense of the word.

Because judging from the accounts of various schemes around elections during previous administrations, you realise there is a lot people in the executive branch of government can do to determine how “independent” or not an electoral commission would be.

Let us just say when the current insiders also write their books, there is likely a lot we would learn that is likely very different from what they have been telling us.

Was the adminstration totally caught by surprise by the postponement of the polls by one week, for instance? I have a view. But it is irrelevant now.

Still, I thought the consistency in the responses of ‘surprise’ by top officials of the ruling party in and outside of government, when the news broke, to be a little odd.

Regardless, as far as one can objectively assess what happened on election day, the presidential and federal legislative polls on the 23rd of February were likely better than they would have been had they been held a week earlier.

Turnout was impressive. And it was pleasantly surprising how the new accredit-vote-and-go process turned out to be quite effective. It reduced bottlenecks, as people did not have to wait till accreditation was over before voting.

It was also heartening to see governors, those of Kaduna and Ogun for instance, and other gubernatorial aspirants, stand in line with ordinary Nigerians, genuinely waiting to get accredited and cast their ballots.

True, there were some problems here and there. Card readers malfunctioned in some places. Ballot boxes were snatched in a number of places as well. Violence was also reported in at least three states. But by and large, these incidents were not outside the realm of expectations about a typical Nigerian election.

But that is the calm before the potential storm. It is the aftermath of the announcement of results that bears watching. The admonition to all the candidates is that in the event the outcome is not to their satisfaction, kindly do one of these two things: Go to court or go home and rest.

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