Tuesday, March 31, 2015

APC Victory: Few Thought it Possible
April 1, 2015
Written by Adekunle Ade-Adeleye
The Nation, Nigeria

Of all the fairy tales that ever came out of Nigeria, yesterday’s victory by the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, in the presidential election is probably the most spectacular. Thirty years after he was ousted in a military coup d’etat, the retired general and former head of state will assume office in May as elected president, the culmination of an incredible, breathtaking journey from three past presidential elections defeat. Tenacious, soft-spoken and generally taciturn, the Daura, Katsina State-born Gen Buhari, 72, won the March 28 election by a an appreciable plurality of about two million votes to beat the incumbent, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, an Ijaw from Bayelsa State. Gen. Buhari swept the Northwest, Northeast, North-Central and Southwest to put the election far beyond dispute. The shape and texture of the victory may also help Nigeria begin the process of healing from self-inflicted injuries caused by probably the most bad-tempered campaign since the inauguration of the Fourth Republic in 1999.

For a campaign that began inauspiciously in January, projections of a Buhari/APC victory were thought to be exaggerated. The APC was formed in February 2013 from a union of some four parties, registered as a political party in July that same year, and presented its road map and code of ethics about a year later. Derided and goaded by the ruling PDP, the party struggled through internal disagreements and defections to hold a surprisingly successful convention in December 2014, from which Gen Buhari emerged as candidate. He was later joined on the ticket by Yemi Osinbajo, a professor of law and former Lagos State Attorney-General, who was selected as his running mate after tough negotiations lasting a few days. Together with their reinvigorated party, the candidates began a gruelling and financially handicapped campaign in January to win office.

The President-elect and his party will, however, face two pressing problems in the next few months. First, given the scale of the damage done to the economy by the outgoing Dr. Jonathan administration, Gen. Buhari and his team will struggle to justify huge public expectations. Quick fixes will not work, nor are they even available. Indeed, in the short run, the new administration will have to take tough choices that may in the immediate future cause a serious backlash and electoral problems. And because everyone’s patience will wear thin, the new president may take options that will make many question his democratic credentials, especially with a wounded PDP unaccustomed to the inconveniences of opposition politics.

Second, having come a fairly short way from formation to winning the presidency, rather than a long and testy stay in the wilderness, the APC and its leaders in and out of office will struggle valiantly to manage their stupendous success. There will be disagreements in sharing the spoils of war, and the party will have to devise new and ingenious ways of rewarding those who midwifed the party’s success, including the legacy parties that formed the new behemoth and the individuals that defected from other parties, some as late as one or two weeks to the epoch-making poll.

But perhaps more importantly, the party will have to find ways of rolling back the decay, confusion, indiscipline and stagnation that have entrenched themselves ingloriously in the system for nearly two decades. It will be helped by its dominance of the legislature and the expected success in the state polls of April 11. The security services, which have compromised themselves and become irrationally subjected to the whims of the ruling party, will have to be reformed, reoriented and rejuvenated. Had Dr Jonathan not been defeated, the country would have inexorably marched towards a revolution. The APC will, therefore, have to assemble a crack team of politicians and technocrats to snatch the country from the jaws of anarchy and disaster. Luckily for them, they have a long list of eminently qualified and patriotic Nigerians to pick from. The task is urgent, and the job onerous and demanding. The president-elect must use the about two months left before inauguration to concretise what he plans to do, and the men and women he hopes to use in order to hit the ground running.

What stands the party out, and probably accounts for its quick and colossal electoral success, is its intrinsic and even intuitive ability to dare and envision great things. It owes this fine attribute to the presence in the party of a few people who imbue the struggle and the party with their modernising and expansive views of issues and new political and developmental paradigms. Their talents will be in great demand if the party is to succeed in the challenging tasks ahead.

And considering the almost anticlimactic end to the presidential and legislative elections, which are expected to set the tone for the next set of elections, the victorious party must recognise that after an intensively divisive campaign, a healing process devoid of the fanfare and extravagance of the South African-type truth and reconciliation commission is needed. That process, surprisingly, was kick-started by Dr Jonathan himself when he called the president-elect and congratulated him even before the final ballots were officially counted, thus taking the wind out of the sail of troublemakers. The task of redeeming and reclaiming the country from the hands of antidemocratic forces and mediocre economic managers is truly urgent. Gen Buhari, the beneficiary of an historic election, the kind never witnessed in Nigeria, must now rise boldly and courageously to the historic challenge before him.

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