Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Now that power has changed hands

Welcome to the new Nigeria! Sequel to the general elections held on March 28 and April 11, 2015 in the country, power has finally changed hands from one political party to another at the centre as well as in many states. The routing of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party by the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, which began on March 28 was completed on April 11. During the first leg of the polls, the APC defeated the PDP at the presidential, senatorial and House of Representatives elections. By the results of governorship election thus far released as of Monday, April 13, 2015 by the Independent National Electoral Commission, the APC has won in 19 states namely Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna, Jigawa, Kano, Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Adamawa, Plateau, Benue, Kwara, Niger, Nasarawa, Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states. The PDP has only managed to win in seven states. They are Rivers, Gombe, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Delta states. Unfortunately, elections were stalemated and declared inconclusive in three states – Abia, Imo and Taraba. It will be recalled that there were no governorship elections in seven states – Kogi, Bayelsa, Ondo, Osun, Edo, Ekiti and Anambra.
These elections had thrown up a number of firsts. It is the first time in this Fourth Republic (i.e. 1999 to 2015) that the PDP would lose power at the centre and many of the states (Both executive and legislative arms). It is the first time two deputy governors would be elected governors to succeed their principals. This happened in Kano and Ebonyi states. It is the first time three governorship elections will be declared inconclusive. It is the first time an opposition political party would defeat the ruling party in states like Kaduna, Niger, Katsina, Adamawa, Plateau, and Benue. It is the first time peace accords would be signed by political parties and their candidates contesting presidential and governorship elections.
Furthermore, it is the first time many candidates would concede defeat and call to congratulate the winners. This happened first at the national level when President Goodluck Jonathan called to congratulate Muhammadu Buhari on March 31, 2015. This exemplary conduct had been emulated by defeated governorship candidates in Niger, Benue, Adamawa, Lagos, Kaduna, and Oyo States. It is also the first time so many incumbent governors will lose their senatorial ambitions to the opposition party. This happened in Adamawa, Niger, Bauchi, Kebbi and Benue. Lastly, it is the first time that an incumbent governor would win re-election in Oyo State. That feat was performed by Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State.
At the level of the Independent National Electoral Commission, it is the first time machine readable Permanent Voter Cards and Smart Card Readers would be used. On a lighter note, it is interesting to note that the two frontline governorship candidates in Sokoto State were brothers-in-law. I learnt the governor-elect who is also the incumbent Speaker of the House of Representatives is married to the younger sister of the PDP governorship candidate, Ambassador Abdallah Wali. It was also reported that the governor-elect in Niger State, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, will be sworn in by his mother-in-law, Justice Fati Abubakar, who is said to be the state’s Chief Judge. Well, congratulations to all the winners of the March 28 and April 11 polls. I wish them all fruitful and successful tenures in office.
As the curtain draws on the elections, a number of issues need to be dealt with. It is saddening that many lives are still being lost to election-related violence. The APC in Rivers State alleged that about 55 of its members had been murdered prior to the April 11 governorship poll. Some few lives were again lost last Saturday while multimillion naira properties were also destroyed. INEC in a press statement released on April 12 said, inter-alia, that, “Overall, many parts of the country remained relatively peaceful during the elections. Some states, however, recorded a significant number of violent incidents, the most affected being Rivers, AkwaIbom, Cross River, Ebonyi and Ondo states. INEC’s records show that there were 66 reports of violent incidents targeted at polling units, the Commission’s officials, voters and election materials. These were in Rivers State (16 incidents), Ondo (eight), Cross River and Ebonyi (six each), Akwa Ibom (five), Bayelsa (four), Lagos and Kaduna (three each), Jigawa, Enugu, Ekiti and Osun (two each), Katsina, Plateau, Kogi, Abia, Imo, Kano and Ogun (one each).” Some deaths had also been recorded in Taraba State after the violent protests of April 13, 2015.
INEC during its forthcoming post-election audit retreat should do well to find lasting solutions to the glitches still being experienced on the Smartcard Readers and logistic challenges. Distribution of the PVCs should resume forthwith to enable those who still have interest to collect their cards to so do. Public enlightenment on how to transfer registration details by those who are interested in doing so should also be embarked on.
Now that we sought change of government and we have had our noble heart desires granted, our job as the electorate have not ended. In fact, it just began. We need to set an agenda for the incoming administration both at the centre and at the state levels. We need to hold our newly elected representatives to account. We need to demand the implementation of their campaign promises. We need to revisit their party manifestoes and start to demand of them full actualisation of those promises. There are several ways we can do this: Through advocacy visits, newspaper articles and letters to the editor, press releases, press conferences, memoranda and petitions to their constituency offices, town hall meetings, newspaper advertorials, social media commentaries, peaceful street protests, etc. Impeachment and recall are also two legal instruments we can use to bring an unpopular and failing government down rather than tolerating four years of maladministration.
My own agenda to the incoming APC administration at the centre is that the new government should not throw away the baby with the bathwater. It should audit all the ongoing projects of the Federal Government, study all committee reports and continue with the good ones while discontinuing with the bad ones. I want Buhari to run a small government. We don’t need a cabinet of 42 ministers. Yes, the constitution recommends that each state should have a representative in the Federal Executive Council, the ceiling of that should be 36. The incoming administration should discontinue with sponsorship of pilgrimages to Holy Lands be it Hajj or Isreal. He should do well to sell off the 11 aircraft in the presidential fleet and retain only two. The APC government should not only fight corruption but should be seen to do so without minding whose ox is gored. The culture of impunity should be broken in our society. Perpetrators of electoral violence should be investigated, arrested and prosecuted. Oil theft should be decisively dealt with the same for the insurgency plaguing the country. The perennial problem of the energy sector (oil and gas as well as electricity) should be solved. Best wishes in your new Herculean assignments.
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