Writer’s Note – As at the time of writing this post, it was 273 days to the 2019 General Elections which starts on February 16, 2019. This is the first post in a series of articles which will run until the elections. This series will comprise of explainers about the Nigerian political system, expository pieces about the often arcane nature of our politics and analysis on how different races are shaping up.
We do not know it all and we are always eager to learn, so by all means, please leave comments and feedback on these articles.
The 2019 General Elections will be the fifth elections since the start of the Fourth Republic in 1999 when the military handed over power to a democratically elected government. It will also be the first elections held under the APC-led administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. This makes it the most crucial aspect of the elections – as it will be a test of how strong our institutions have come along so far:
Will the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) be fair and transparent, in addition to being efficient? Should President Buhari lose, will he concede the elections like his immediate predecessor did? What role will our security forces play? How will the National Assembly affect this process?
These are all questions that are being and need to be asked – and whose answers can be deduced from how events unfold themselves over the coming months.
One other historic aspect of the 2019 elections is that it will be the first time that post-military era Nigerians will participate in; by this, we are referring to Nigerians born in or after 1999 and have never lived under military rule. How much of this will affect our politics?
In a characteristic Nigerian way of looking at the glass as perpetually half-empty, many do not realize how far we have become better at democracy: for a long time from 1999, we lived with the fear of a slide back into dictatorship via a military coup; an incumbent’s desire to have a third term was defeated and we have emerged through the most rancorous and even violent elections together as one country, albeit with scars that linger to date.
Nigeria has so far passed three litmus tests for a new democracy to get stronger:
1. The first elections held in the Fourth Republic: this was scaled in 2003. While other republics had civilian governments (1964 and 1983) hold elections, their total lack of credibility led to the coups that ended them.
2. The first transfer of power in a democracy: this was scaled in 2007 when President Olusegun Obasanjo finished his two terms and handed over to late President Umaru Yar’adua who had won the 2007 elections. Both were of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
3. The first transfer of power from one party to another and the defeat of an incumbent: These were both scaled at the same time in 2015 when President Goodluck Jonathan lost to incumbent President Buhari. His quick concession call doused the tension that had enveloped the country over the tight election race.
Today, we take elected governments as a given and do not think much over it. We do not have the fear of military coups hanging over our heads, and we have continually tested our laws and our system through the courts and through our legislature.
We still have a long way to go, especially in making this democracy deliver on its promise of economic growth and securing lives and property.
But while we work towards a better future, let us reflect on how far we have come.
We do deserve some accolades.