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PRESIDENTIAL POLL: A TIME FOR RESTRAINTS
All critical stakeholders should guide against statements and actions that may trigger violence and put the democratic process in peril.
One mandatory outcome of any electoral contest is that there must be winners and losers. But after results are declared, verifiable evidence of irregularities can be tendered by aggrieved parties through the established redress mechanisms. Under the prevailing constitutional order in the country, unrest and violent protests are not part of such variables. The sense of loss, even under highly probable allegations of electoral mischief, do not justify any action that would raise social tension and lead to breakdown of law and order. The discipline to stay the course is an essential quality of true democrats and drivers of sustainable change.
Based on the foregoing, we enjoin critical stakeholders in this election cycle to resist all impulses to self-help as the nation awaits the final declaration of results of the presidential and National Assembly elections held last Saturday. We hope that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will stay true to its pledge to be fair before, during and after the polls so that the outcomes would reflect the aspirations of the plurality of Nigerian voters as stipulated by relevant laws.
However, while political parties must play up their differences and sometimes even bicker, especially after the kind of close election that we just had, such disputations should not be at the expense of our national security. At a time like this, therefore, office seekers and their supporters must be reminded of the intricate correlation between unguarded utterances and the heightening of tension in the polity. Democracy is not just about winning elections or staying in power, it is about service to the people, the ultimate of which is to guarantee peace.
We cannot build a democracy when those who feel aggrieved insist on having their way by all means necessary. There is an established procedure for seeking redress and this has been used successfully in the past, including by these contestants in the current election. So, there is no dispute that may arise on the declaration of the presidential election result by INEC that cannot be resolved as provided for by law. That civilised option should be embraced by all parties in the interest of democracy, development, and nation-building.
Meanwhile, whoever is eventually declared winner, magnanimity is essential. While disappointment in defeat and triumphalism in victory are natural entitlements, both can be dangerous if not properly managed under the prevailing circumstances in the country. Besides, even where the majority may vote one-way, democratic civility demands and requires that we address the dashed expectations of the minority. A federation this large and complex requires utmost political and attitudinal dexterity. That quality is neither mathematical nor statistical and much less mechanical.
Unfortunately, as we saw in the build-up to this election in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it is very evident that many of our political leaders have not inculcated the virtue of elite consensus that holds most nations together and the sacrifice such entails. However, against the background that there are usually challenges in the process of integrating members of any society into a cohesive social whole, what confronts us in Nigeria today is also not peculiar. The greater challenge lies with the Nigerian people who must understand that our diversity remains an abiding strength.
Already, a volatile situation is brewing in some states, particularly Lagos. Ancient suspicions and stereotyping have suddenly resurfaced on social media. Long held prejudices threaten to resurface. If this is allowed to continue especially in the build-up to the 11th March gubernatorial election, no one can tell the quantum of damage it would have on our fragile unity. This must be a source of concern to all men and women of goodwill who should intervene on the side of commonsense and reason. If indeed democracy is about service to the people, those who seek to get power must do so within acceptable limits and not in a way that will put the very people at risk.
Overall, as we await the presidential election result, we urge all the candidates, their party leaders, spokespersons, and prominent supporters to guide against statements and actions that may trigger violence and put the democratic experiment and the country in peril. We also urge the police and other security agencies to take pro-active measures to checkmate the antics of agent provocateurs who may want to use the outcome of this election to destabilise the peace and security of the country.