I must confess to having criticised INEC Chairman Professor Attahiru Jega and President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) in the past, due to what transpired to be a lack of preparedness or decisiveness in their office, but praise must be given where it’s due.
Like many Nigerians waking up the morning after the election hangover, I woke up truly proud to be Nigerian. There have been very few instances in the past three decades when ‘men in power’ – politicians and civil servants alike – have cast their selfish ambitions aside, in order to put the constituency and people they represent first. Most at times, the past thirty years has been laden with men who have courted greed, offered broken promises, fuelled quarrels along ethnic and religious lines, and as a consequence facilitated outbreaks that have left civilians counting their loses. Even more disturbing are the examples these ‘men in power’ have set for the younger generation. A cross examination of our secondary schools, universities and even the National Youth Service Corp orientation camps will show that there is no reward for gentlemanliness, etiquettes, honour and pride in our educational system. The majority share the view that if you do not fight fire with fire and sometimes play mago-mago – as if to quell the proper use of the word ‘cheat’ – then you will loose.
However, the events that unfolded during the election announcement yesterday were examples that you do not have to fight fire with fire to attain victory nor play mago-mago to come out victorious, but instead showing composure in the face of adversity and statesmanship after fierce competition were qualities that also warranted the tag ‘victor’. These were the qualities exemplified by Jega and GEJ yesterday, characteristics that are lacking in our society today, characteristics that brought about a renewed sense of optimism for the future, for all Nigerians. The outcome of the election was not just a victory for the All Progressive Congress (APC) party or a demonstration of the growth of democracy in Nigeria, but also a reference point of decorum, composure, professionalism and statesmanship for all Nigerians, from the youth to even the existing pre-Madonna politicians that loiter the offices in the State House of Assembly.
As if the unenviable task of conducting free and fair elections in a nation that has had a history of violence following the pronouncement of the election results was not enough, Jega’s patience was tested. The test this time was in the form of public intimidation, false accusations that crossed ethnic lines and treats from ‘Elder’ Godsday Orubebe. Through it all, Jega personified calm and collectedness, attributes that are duly needed in Nigerian politics because you are tested in this form daily. The situation that transpired yesterday in the ‘situation room’ could have spiralled out of control. What if Jega had lost his cool, like most would, and responded in kind, forgetting he was in the world’s eye? Or what if Jega had ordered security personnel to restrain Elder Orubebe and escort him out of the hall for fear of his life or for damage limitation to what was becoming a national embarrassment? The People Democratic Party (PDP) would probably have pointed to such actions as examples of the tribalism claims they levelled against him. Instead, a composed Jega waited patiently, listened to the accuser’s claims and then proceeded to explain his own version of events to the public, even dressing his accuser down in the process, by reminding him of his position in office. Whatever claim the accuser had no longer held water, not because of the manner in which he laid the claims but the comportment of Jega. Indeed I was proud! Within minutes the name ‘Jega’ started trending on social websites and everybody, but the PDP of course, saw him as a class act. Dare I say, through this act, he had put to distant memory the postponement of the elections, the malfunctioning card readers, the poorly prepared officials, the challenges with logistics and the failings to complete the election results within 48 hours.
Another man worth mentioning that emerged victorious yesterday was our outgoing President, GEJ. When reports started filtering through that President Jonathan had called General Buhari at about 6:00PM to concede defeat and congratulate his opponent, I was full of praise for him. For here was a man that must have been under undue pressure from his party members to fight fire with fire by challenging the election results in the courts, thereby dragging this already wounded nation through unnecessary misery. Rather than wait to discuss with the big wigs in the PDP, who would have no doubt insisted that he remained in office until the judiciary presided over their allegations, ala play mago-mago, President Jonathan made the all-important call to his opponent. That single action of selflessness, courage and statesmanship served to quench the unquestionable tension that was already evident to all Nigerians. For this Mr President, I commend you. History may not be kind to you now, but over time it will label you victorious and Nigerians will see your successful hand over of power to the opposition as a precedence to follow. Sir, you have raised the bar for even the APC to follow.
Perhaps, the attitudes of men like Elder Orubebe in the corridors of power are the reasons why Professor Jega failed to meet his high targets for these elections, or why President Jonathan performance in office was widely criticised, we will never truly know. Nevertheless, in a time of few political role models, aspiring politicians in this nation should take heed from the gallant actions exuded by Professor Jega and President Jonathan – by staying calm in the face of adversity and exhibiting an attitude of selflessness. These are the hallmarks of true winners.