Nigerians, others Africans and indeed many people across the world have been holding their breath as Nigeria votes for a new president, amid fears of violence.
These fears are not unfounded because the last time Nigeria went to the polls, nearly four years ago, an estimated 800 people were killed in the ensuing violence. So far it has been relatively calm but this can change quickly as the last results of what has been a very tight contest trickle in.
Yet whoever wins or loses, Nigeria owes it to its people, Africa and the world to stay peaceful. Not only is it the most populous African country with approximately 170 million people, Nigeria also became the largest economy on the continent last year, overtaking South Africa. Nigeria is, therefore, poised to lead Africa, and this election will tell us whether it is indeed ready for that role.
The way Nigeria negotiates this election will also give us a hint as to what awaits the many African countries that are set to go to the polls in the next couple of months, including Uganda.
Ideally, elections should not be something to worry about. In fact, they should be a source of relief as they present an opportunity for poor leaders to be replaced with better ones. But well, this is Africa where we make hard work of everything, and so elections are a big source of concern.
As elections approach in Africa, investors hold back, tourists change plans and central banks are raided as incumbents do everything in their power to hang on. Thus, instead of being a boon to the economy, elections often have the opposite effect.
Since elections are an inevitable aspect of managing modern society, it is incumbent on African countries to learn to manage their elections in transparent ways so as to reduce tension and violence, as older democracies have done.
Today all eyes are on Nigeria to show leadership in this regard and we hope and pray they pass the test.
Source : The Observer