An Election Process Is Only As Good As the Result [opinion]

March 2015 ended with a bang! Retired General Muhammadu Buhari beat incumbent Goodluck Jonathan in the general elections to win the Nigerian presidency.

Buhari certainly deserves heartfelt congratulations it is not easy winning an election against an incumbent president anywhere in the world but everyone knows it is harder in Africa!

Buhari also had the extra baggage or burden of his own history as a military dictator who overthrew an elected government and ruled Nigeria with an iron hand. Even though he was commended for intolerance to corruption, he was never forgiven for his crusade against ‘indiscipline’ in which media freedom was killed, opposition politicians jailed and citizens beaten by the military when they did not line up at bus stops.

Renowned writer Wole Soyinka has aised Nigerians to forgive Buhari in a Mandela-like way. It seems that the citizens had already forgiven him anyway since he had lost in the three previous elections.

Or have Nigerians chosen austerity and tough measures? One has to remember that this election was postponed and pushed six weeks ahead just days before it was to be held in January. It does not help that the boss of the Independent National Electoral Commission, commenting on the body’s preparedness, made a mistake by saying that even the results were ready!

The reason for postponement was Boko Haram, the terrorist outfit that has tortured Nigeria for six years now. Buhari has promised to wipe them out in months after taking over the presidency and perhaps he is believed because of his tough military background.

Did Goodluck Jonathan lose because he was seen as weak, having failed to defeat the Boko Haram, refused US help and then finally succumbed to seeking aid from poor neighbours including Chad and Cameroon?

Now tough measures are required in Kenya where suspected terrorists attacked a university in the north last week. By the end of the gruesome siege, the death toll was 150 people including students who were in class studying and others sleeping in dormitories.

Garissa, the town in which the university is located, has been prone to al-Shabab attacks because of its proximity to the Somali border. So it is not clear why the university had only two policemen guarding the university.

On the other hand, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta has taken a tough stance on corruption by naming all of 140 public servants and politicians, including ministers, as suspects of corrupt activities. Nearly all have been asked to ‘step aside’ as investigations are being conducted, a first for Kenya. Of course in Uganda we know about stepping aside and we may not believe that it yielded useful action against corruption.

Whilst austerity and tough measures are sought after in Nigeria and Kenya, few believe that it will be a vote winner in the UK come voting day in May 2015. On March 30, the British prime minister visited the queen to officially dissolve parliament, a tradition that marks the start of the election campaign period.

The programme leading up to election day was published earlier and on April 2, all the seven contestants participated in a live television debate, the first of many. Whilst the British economy has recovered lately thanks to the Conservative government in power, it seems that their tough austerity measures will hurt them in the elections. Opposition parties yonder are hammering away at that point especially concerning the reducing public services as a result of expenditure cuts.

Interestingly, the British election campaign period is just over a month long and probably the cheapest in the world. It is thought that this time round, the Brits are keen to vote and that the field is open to another round of power sharing hence the seven contestants.

Whilst the Nigerian election process seemed ugly especially after the postponement, the country has turned out to be a shining beacon for other African countries to emulate. And this is not because the opposition won.

Voting was extended into the next day to allow everyone a vote, the process was transparent and President Jonathan has emerged as a great statesman! Not only did he concede early, he called Buhari congratulating him and urged all his supporters to accept the result without bloodshed!

A Nigerian friend informed me that he had not had reason to feel proud about being Nigerian since winning the African Champions Football tournament – these elections have provided another moment!

Our own Electoral Commission has published a calendar of events leading to February 2016 beginning in October. Shall we be proud Ugandans after the elections?

The author is one of the founding Kigo thinkers.

Source : The Observer

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