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The next set of leaders should strive to respect the rule of law, argues Wealth Dickson Ominabo

The 2023 post-election moment in Nigeria has been intriguing, full of anxiety, claims, counter-claims, protests and litigations. The air has been foggy, a climate of hostility, anger, mistrust, accusations, and counter-accusations.

Politicians and their supporters are persistent; the media is flooded with divergent views, opinions, and narratives about the outcome of the elections. The opposition groups are determined; they have continued to chant that the elections were flawed and that a manipulated legitimacy is no legitimacy. They refer to the presidential election as a democratic heist that all men of good conscience should condemn.

The media and the courtrooms have become the new theatres of war, with different actors throwing their salvos to set the record straight or secure and lay claim to their mandates. On social media, every day is war, exchanges of views and ideas that unsettle the checkered peace of the nation. Some opposition members advocate that the president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, shouldn’t be sworn in on May 29. To do so, they say, will undermine the democratic process. They suggest that all election petitions be concluded before the next president is sworn in. The All Progressives Congress (APC) argue in the opposite tone; they say to this advocacy is an invitation to anarchy.   

“I’m still waiting for the court to tell me who won the election. It doesn’t make much sense to be swearing in people when we are still in court. I know it has happened with governors, but the outcome has not been the best of all cases.” Said Cardinal John Onaiyekan, a member of the national peace committee and renowned Christian leader. 

His comments were greeted with many reactions as some even called him an anarchist. He was lucky to be treated with little more respect and dignity than Datti Baba- Ahmed, the vice-presidential candidate of the Labour Party, who had declared that swearing in Bola Tinubu was akin to ending democracy in Nigeria. Datti was called a fascist. Supporters of the President-elect called for his arrest and prosecution for inciting comments and threats to peace. The broadcast regulator, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), sanctioned the media where he aired his opinion.

The APC and its supporters are not resting on their oars. They have utilized every opportunity to sustain a narrative of the credibility of the just concluded elections. The Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed, traveled to the United States of America on a media round where he tried to delegitimize the complaints of the opposition voices on the outcome of the presidential elections. He told his audience that the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, and his running mate Datti Ahmed were committing treason as their post-election rhetoric was aimed at inviting insurrection.

The state actors are not indifferent in this election hangover; the Department of State Service, some months ago, raised the alarm of a coup that was being planned by political elements. Usman Alkali Baba, Nigeria’s inspector general of police, in a news conference recently, maintained that the May 29 handover date is sacrosanct and therefore warned political elites who were bent on deploying extra-judicial and undemocratic means to truncate the country’s democratic heritage to stop.

At the party level, the hangover continues; Labour Party has its walls cracked, as a section of leaders is rising against the others.

In the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the national chairman, Senator  Iyorchia Ayu, became the first casualty of the post-election hangover, as he was axed out of office following a suspension by his ward leaders and a court order. This came after he attempted to discipline some party members for anti-party activities. In the APC, the struggle to share the spoils of their electoral victory has been causing internal problems since the announcement of the party’s zoning arrangement for leadership positions in the national assembly. There have been protests in the ranks of many national assembly members, with some threatening fire and brimstone.

The election hangover explains some of the troubles in Nigeria’s democracy. The anxiety in the polity is because of citizens’ lack of faith in state institutions to deliver justice. The fallout of the recent general elections has created crisis of trust and hope in the country, as many citizens seem to have lost confidence in the capacity and ability of state institutions to enforce and implement laws and pursue justice.

The elections, which were characterised by violence, voter suppression, vote buying, and fraud, amplified the setback within the country’s democratic practice and the inherent drawbacks in Nigeria’s democratic culture, which continue to pose a threat to the collective quest for good governance. 

The zero-sum kind of politics, where a winner takes it all, has resulted in a desperate scramble for power, and resulting in politicians engaging in all sorts of political maneuvering at the detriment of the peace and security of the country. Sustaining this practice definitely will not help foster the growth of democracy in the country. It could alienate citizens from participating in democratic activities, which could pave the way for tyranny for those in power; or it could end up raising an army of resistant and hostile citizenry that might end up challenging the constitutional framework of the country as we have seen in some countries in recent times which could likely translate to national unrest.

This is why politicians and other stakeholders at the helm of affairs must be circumspect in their actions, patriotic in their decisions, and civil in their engagements with various actors while exercising power.

As Nigeria’s democracy continues to be pressed down by post-election malaise, lack of checks and balances, disregard for the rule of law, and perpetual breach of social contracts between government and the people, those at the helms of affairs and the next set of leaders must strive to protect the fundamental guide rails of democracy which include, the rule of law and respect for human rights. They should do all to ensure that peace and justice are felt and seen not just in the homes and courts of the rich and powerful but accessible to all citizens of the land. This way, we can build a democracy that works and a society that is inclusive, peaceful and just.

Ominabo is the Communications Officer at Goodluck Jonathan Foundation 

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