The task of nation-building and deepening Nigeria’s democracy should be taken as matter of strategic importance
In calling for the healing process in his statement yesterday, the president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, set the right tone. He expressed sadness by what he described as “isolated infractions during the elections and its aftermath in some states” along with the report of arson after the announcement of governorship results in one state. “The physical and verbal assaults committed are unacceptable and antithetical to democratic ethos,” said Tinubu, and appealed to Nigerians “to rise above our differences, which, in reality, are fewer than the valued strings that bind us together as a people.”
We agree. While healing will not erase injuries, it would afford stakeholders the ability to live with them in constructive ways. But the ultimate responsibility still lies with Tinubu. The kind of healing that Nigeria needs today is a civic connection that transcends our delicate fault lines, especially ethnicity and religion. It also includes rebuilding our levels of trust in one another as well as in critical institutions so that we can together begin to take collective action for the common good. We commend key opposition figures, especially former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Mr Peter Obi for their restraint. We also urge the courts to be thorough and firm in dispensing justice on all election cases.
The challenge at hand is about rebuilding relationships that have been fractured by what transpired before, during and after the elections in some states while ensuring that aggrieved people are availed justice. We must banish fear, intimidation, and revenge between and among people who have lived together in peace before being torn apart by partisan politics. Those who were successful at the poll particularly ought to understand that 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. Those who lost should also accept the redemption that there is almost always a tomorrow.
As we reiterated recently, there is an intricate correlation between unguarded utterances and the heightening of tension in the polity. While disappointment in defeat and triumphalism in victory are natural entitlements, both can be dangerous if not properly managed under the prevailing circumstances in Nigeria. 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 to guarantee peace and prosperity.
Meanwhile, we must condemn the resort to violence and ethnic-coloured voter repression in Lagos and a few other states. We call for stiff punishment for the perpetrators to prevent a return to the kind of violence that truncated the first and second republics. Indeed, one of the most regrettable episodes in this election cycle was the open mobilisation of ethnic sentiments in Lagos and the resultant inter-ethnic tension it generated. We must move fast to restore peaceful co-existence among all groups to sustain the city’s prosperity as a major economic hub on the continent.
However, we need to put the bitter acrimony of the election period behind us and pull together as a country. We can’t make the urgently needed progress or sustain our democracy in an atmosphere of continuous bickering, bitterness, division, and anger. It is time to return to the serious work of nation-building and national reconciliation. It is time for healing. But healing is not a self-induced, spontaneous event. It is a process that sometimes involves several actors while the mutual tasks of nation-building and deepening Nigeria’s democracy should be taken as matter of strategic importance by the leadership.