By Colonel Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (Rtd)
No one in good conscience ever thought an exercise as gigantic as conducting a Presidential election in a country as vast as Nigeria, would go without hitches and setbacks. And in spite of the generally positive comments by observers, last Saturday’s exercise did not. It goes without saying that the outcome of an imperfect exercise cannot but remain imperfect itself – a fair illustration of the dictum; garbage in garbage out. In the circumstances, we are obliged to look with sympathy at the decision by the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar not to concede defeat but to mount a legal challenge against the result of the Presidential election that held on the 23rd of February, 2019; result that gave victory to Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress. And yet, regardless of the way he feels about it, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has an obligation to tread cautiously, taking into account the impact any action he or other leaders take will have on the gravely tense political and security conditions prevailing in Nigeria today. As we are well aware, elections and electioneering campaigns in Nigeria as in much of Africa, have almost always proved to be deadly triggers for strife, apprehension, disputes and other forms of conflict, often leading to violence and bloodshed. The longer and the more protracted the process, the heavier the toll. Sadly, Nigeria has suffered terribly from these calamities in the course of this bitterly contested election exercise. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his party ran an admirably strong and sophisticated campaign. He should be justly proud of his achievements. He had established his credentials as a powerful and worthy alternative presidential material now and in the years to come.
Unfortunately, his decision not to accept the outcome of this election or conceded victory to his opponent may seriously detract from the high pedestal that he deserves in Nigeria’s political establishment. In the interest of peace and our democracy, I as one of his admirers, advise that he reconsiders that decision.
While at this, we hasten to remind the declared winner that he does not have all that much time to redeem his pledges of being a leader ad unifier of all Nigerians. The public had welcomed with cautious optimism the promises he made in his acceptance speech to run an inclusive government. To become a leader of all Nigerians requires that he ignores the voting pattern that brought him to power and consider the country as one large family. Agitations over marginalization, particularly in appointments to key government and public offices mounted by groups including Ohaneze Ndigbo, PANDEP, Middle-belt Forum, Northern Elders Forum, and all those well-meaning citizens must be addressed and redressed.
Opposition politicians must not be treated as enemies, haunted or destroyed. A meticulous adherence to the rule of law must be observed. History beckons on President Muhammadu Buhari to take a giant leap forward and re-invent himself. Within his grasp lies the chance to transform into a statesman and become the real father of the nation. Finally, he must discourage and disavow the antics of his overzealous supporters whose excessive and provocative triumphal display can only overheat and further polarize the polity.