By Abdul Rahman Aliagan, Editor
The opposition mega party, APC, sweeps the PDP from power after 16 years of tumultuous administration.
Other than cursory students of American history, many would not readily establish the link between Abraham Lincoln and Nigeria’s emergent President-elect, Retired Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, served from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. The iconic Lincoln had led the United States through its civil war—its bloodiest war and its greatest moral, constitutional and political crisis.
In doing so, he preserved the union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government and modernized the economy.
Buhari, the taciturn general from Daura, Katsina State, like Lincoln, had also weathered the vicissitudes of serial failures in the aspiration for high office, having took a shot at political office no fewer than three times and losing.
From a weeping Buhari in the angst of the 2011 presidential loss, what was presented to relieved Nigerians in the days after the landmark March 28 election was a euphoric president-elect at peace with the world in the laid-back ambience of his Daura home.
But indeed, there were more than one reason why Nigerians were apprehensive about the election which was earlier scheduled for Valentine’s Day.
For one, there was the vitriolic vituperations of ethnic warlords who predicted the end of the country as a nation if incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan did not win, inspite of indications that his popularity ratings had dropped from its all time high of 2011.
This may well have prompted the doomsday prediction by foreign and diplomatic intelligence sources that Nigeria would cease to exist as political entity in the aftermath of the 2015 elections.
Indeed more than anyone else, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr John Campbell, was widely cited to have argued vociferously the Nigeria would break up in 2015.
Perhaps drawing from his years of his experience in Nigeria as Political Counsellor in the United States Mission between 1988 and 1990, Campbell said the election would plunge Nigeria into chaos.
Presenting a report to the United States Council on Foreign Relations entitled “Nigeria’s 2015 Presidential Election: Contingency Planning Update,’’ Campbell argued rightly that Jonathan was unpopular and his defeat was only too imminent.
But all the fears of a potential failed state evaporated as the votes trickled in from states under the watchful eyes of Prof . Attaihiru Jega’s INEC, the media and the international community.
As the APC and indeed all advocates of the change revolution savour the spoils of victory, it had been one lonely and hard path to the top for Buhari, the long distance runner.
Buhari made a launch into politics to contest the presidential election with then sitting President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003 but lost. Not satisfied with the outcome, he contested the election result through the Presidential Election Tribunal, Appeal Court and finally the Supreme Court which eventually ruled in favour of Obasanjo.
In his never-say-die spiri Buhari again in 2007 stood up in another fiercely contested presidential election with late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and the latter won.
Ahead of the 2011 general elections, Buhari came up with a party matching his change mantra– Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) which debuted in 2009.
CPC was the 63rd political party to be founded in the country and also the most recent political party to be registered in Nigeria as at 2009.
“Mai Gaskiya’’ as he was fondly called engaged Jonathan in the presidential duel but lost in a contest described as free and fair by the election observers and the international community.
But, Buhari was of the opinion that the election was characterised by anomalies and irregularities and proceeded to challenge the result in court amid pockets of violence.
Again, he failed, but only with an eye on the future.
With the successful registration of CPC and other opposition political parties such as All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the foundation for a formidable mega political party was being laid.
Interestingly, the four major opposition political parties finally coalesced into what is today known as All Progressives Congress (APC).
In a communiqué signed by the representatives of the four parties in Abuja, the APC said: “The adoption of the new name is to satisfy the urgent national need for a party that will give the disillusioned citizens of the country a recipe for peace and stability.’’
The new party spelled out its commitment to the principles of internal democracy as well as focusing on serious issues that concern the wellbeing of Nigerians.
It expressed the determination to bring corruption, insecurity and impunity to an end.
The party vowed “ to grow the economy and create millions of jobs through effective education, housing, agriculture, industrial growth. stressing This will check the increasing mood of despair
and hopelessness among Nigerians.
“The resolution of these issues, the restoration of hope, the enthronement of true democratic values for peace, democracy and justice are those concerns which propel us”.
Inspite of the moves to scuttle the registration of the new party through an emergent African Peoples Congress (APC), the application scaled through bringing to the fore Nigeria’s first formidable opposition party.
Apparently incapable of rationalising the new threat posed to the PDP, its lethargic leadership dismissed the movement as a conglomeration of strange bedfellows.
Congratulating the APC emergence as healthy for the development of the nation’s democracy, the PDP said the development does not pose any threat to the ruling party.
The statement by the then acting National Publicity Secretary, Tony Okeke, said: “Nigerians now expect the leaders of the opposition party to eschew all forms of bitterness and desperation and desist from politics of propaganda which characterised their former parties.
“The PDP urges the APC leaders to focus on issues and engage in more robust debates on the economy and other issues of governance in the general interest of the country.
“We hope to see a vibrant opposition that will constructively engage the PDP on issues of governance in a way that Nigerians will be the utmost beneficiaries, instead of overheating the polity by promoting violence and hatred among the people.’’
The ante was to be upped with the exit of five “ dissident’’ governors and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo from PDP and the attendant crisis that led to the sack of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, its chairman.
Inexorably, the death knell for the PDP was being sounded, yet to the deaf ears of the party’s leadership.
As the Jonathan presidency battled internal insurrection within the ruling PDP so did it contend with an avalanche of criticisms owing largely to its cluelessness in the handling of the economy and the ravaging insurgency, particularly in the North East Zone of the country.
With the approaching elections, however, there were growing concerns over the country’s long-standing stratifications based on ethnic and religious lines.
On December 11, 2014 the APC announced the septuagenarian, Buhari as its presidential candidate and the issue of running mate immediately came to the fore.
The party leaders beamed their searchlight on Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, professor of Law and pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God, one of the fastest growing churches in the world.
Suddenly, the ruling PDP realised that APC was ready to give it a run for its money.
This may well have informed the sudden resolve to postpone the elections, ostensibly for security reasons. But it was clear that the administration was at its wits end and wanted to buy time.
This much, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, APC’s spokesman, dwelt on in his presentation at Portcullis House, House of Commons, London on Monday, September 8, 2014.
Mohammed said: “The government’s attempt to make political capital out of the insurgency, the Boko Haram crisis and the Jonathan Administration’s response to it must be seen in the context of the 2015 general elections in Nigeria.
“Beyond that, reports from the grapevine are that the government is even trying to cash in on the worsening crisis to explore the possibility of delaying the elections and extending its tenure. It does not occur to them that the country must first survive for anyone to rule it.
“Our worst fears were confirmed recently when the Australian hired by President Jonathan to help negotiate the release of the over 200 school girls named the president’s allies and members of the ruling PDP as the sponsors of Boko Haram.
Ironically, the routing of the extremist sect in the North East may well have contributed to the successful conduct of the elections in the area and the APC victory.
To be sure several persons and institutions contributed to the successful outcome of the general elections, but Jega and his electoral machinery may well stand out as Nigerian heroes.
His courage in the face of an overbearing administration, the use of novel ICT tools such as the Smart Card Readers and of course the transparency in the electoral process all stood Jega out as a man of history.
And quite untypical of the Nigerian, he would not seek another term when his tenure expires on June 30, 2015.
He had told the British Broadcasting Corporation: “ I am grateful to God. I was asked to come and contribute my own quota to national development and I have done my bit to the best of my ability.. Whatever assignment one would do for five years—0just like this difficult one—to me if one is able to achieve the task, some one else should be given the opportunity. Because for me, I am not interested and if I am requested to serve again, I will not do it, by God’s grace.’’
But instructively, it may well be Jonathan’s conceding of defeat through a phone call to Buhari as the results were trickling in that finally doused the tension all over the land, transforming the president to an unlikely hero of sorts in the 2015 general elections.
How the president-in-waiting now handles the myriads of challenges facing a country at the cross roads remains to be seen in the next four years.