Those interested in wielding power must use the platform of electoral politics    

The 2023 general election may have come and gone but some Nigerians are yet to come to terms with the outcome. That perhaps explains some of the bizarre incidents that may also be provoking overreaction from the authorities. In a controversial statement last week, the Department of State Services (DSS) raised the alarm over what it described as a plot by some “misguided political actors” to foist an interim government on the nation. The DSS “considers the plot, being pursued by these entrenched interests as not only an aberration, but a mischievous way to set aside the constitution and undermine civil rule as well as plunge the country into an avoidable crisis”.  

The statement from the DSS is too sweeping, political and laced with threats. We hope that the agency is not trying to justify surreptitious attempts to trample on the rights of the opposition as being suggested in some quarters. Recourse to judicial process by aggrieved parties after an election is a democratic right that cannot be denied. Neither should non-violent civil protests be criminalised. The security agencies must understand that we are under a presidential democracy which guarantees maximum expression of the fundamental rights of citizens. Therefore, security reports must not be a weapon to scuttle or abridge those civic rights, even when we admit that some political groups may be exceeding the bounds of decency by their actions and utterances.  

For those who may be disappointed by the outcome of the 2023 general election, the idea of an interim government is clearly an odious proposition. Calling for election annulment or holding people inside an aircraft hostage are also reprehensible actions. Only the democratic process unhindered by extraneous machinations offers the society and the state opportunity for periodic change of government. To interfere with that process is to deny the nation the opportunity of peaceful transition and sustainable self renewal. Any such plan, if established as true, must be treated as a treasonous attempt to subvert the state and dealt with according to law.  

Yes, the 2023 presidential election has polarised Nigerians along ethno-religious lines. We are also not unmindful of some of the challenges thrown up by the elections. But the enduring lesson that our politicians must begin to imbibe is that democracy matures when the will of the people is vindicated no matter how thin the margins of victory may be. And to the extent that the 1999 constitution in operation leaves no space for any arrangement that involves the military, we condemn those who carry their demonstrations to defence headquarters with weird suggestions for undemocratic interventions. Such desperation is a gross deviation from the rule of law and is off limit.   

As we reiterated before the concluded elections, democracy may not be perfect but the idea that leaders can be peacefully replaced weakens all attempts at arbitrariness that were at the core of the other forms of government we tried in the past. We are also aware that to entrench constitutional democracy, credible periodic elections must be sacrosanct with the liberties and political rights of citizens guaranteed and protected. As we keep reminding Nigerians, the democracy that we now enjoy took the sacrifice of far too many people. There is therefore an urgent need for responsibility on the part of our politicians and their supporters to guard against the mistakes of tempting dark thoughts from an ugly past.  

 On several occasions before and after the elections, President Muhammadu Buhari has come out to state that he is not in support of any undemocratic move that will roll back all the gains Nigeria has recorded in the last 24 years and could set in motion actions that can destabilise the country and our fragile subregion. But if there are anti-democratic forces around him as it is also being suggested, the president must rein in such people. As Nigerians reaffirm their faith in the inbuilt self-correcting capacity of the current democratic order, those interested in power must use the platform of electoral politics to realise their ambition.   

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