This is no time to gloat. Several weeks to March 28, some irate readers and followers of President Goodluck Jonathan laid ambush on this columnist. Not physically but intellectually. They did it through letters to the editor, tweets, Facebook, emails, phone calls and text messages. They warned that I would be disgraced if Jonathan won again, and they would personally poke fun at me in public for my pig-headed consistency in unleashing salvos at the nation’s number one citizen week after week for the past four years.
After the Buhari win, the intellectual battlefield has been empty. All the Internet rioters seem to have fled. When Jonathan won in 2011, I congratulated him while confessing to voting for some else, specifically Buhari. I, at the least, expected my critics to evince some charity and say how wrong they were, and how prescient I was. No worry.
I lay claim to no special wisdom or courage. As the Russian poet Yevtushenko wrote in one of his flashes of brilliance, I did what I had to do. I am not gloating that Jonathan lost. I bear him no malice. He is a Nigerian like myself who had an opportunity to serve, even if he bungled it mightily. I never wanted him to be president because I believed he lacked the wherewithal.
I persistently fulminated because Nigeria was larger than all, and the presidency was not for anyone not qualified, ill-prepared or not visionary enough for the complexities of politics, economy and the diversity of the people. The past six years show he ran the country on impunity and footloose accounting, leading to a rot in values and crash in standard of living.
There was too much theatre of the absurd, not only in errant rhetoric but also in symbolic imbecility. Yet, he has half-deservedly earned praises for his graceful admission of defeat after the last poll. But those who pour plaudits on him should not forget all that happened in his name in the run-up to the polls. We should not forget the renegades of the west who ratcheted up tension and allowed Lagos to rise to the teeth of fear with invasions of contract-happy goons. Also some militants promised war if he lost. He also came to Lagos and the west to inflame ethnic division, inciting the non-indigenes against the indigenous Yoruba. That is apart from making himself bride with a flurry of royal bribes. The president never saw anything wrong in all these.
We also saw how an obstreperous elder called Orubebe made a show of obloquy in the midst of vote count. His kids and family must regret their blood ties this man and his moment of global dishonour. Contrast that with Jega’s unflappable demeanour and tempered response.
In spite of all, we cannot take away the grace of President Jonathan’s concession because a preponderance of hawks around him wanted otherwise. I wish he exercised this amount of grace in the past four or six years! He might have repulsed the impunities of his fellows and shown single-mindedness in pursuit of education, infrastructure renewal, anti-corruption crusades and health reform. But no amount of valedictory grace can wipe out the sordid picture of the past half-decade.
But I don’t need to gloat. As Winston Churchill said, “In war, resolution. In victory magnanimity.”
If we must tell the story of Buhari’s victory last week, it was the triumph of technology. Those who rigged, especially for the PDP, could not exceed the registered voter count. That is why in the southeast the numbers were relatively tame. Where are the 1.3 million who voted Jonathan in 2011 in Imo State, or the I.1 million in Abia who lined behind Azikiwe in 2011?
That explains why the PDP stalwarts did not want the PVC. It was the revenge of technology in 2015. Some theorists of democracy have argued that technology, while enhancing certain aspects of democracy, is a minus because it takes away the human connection that crowds and face-to-face dynamics provide. Philosophers like Hannah Arendt even believe that technology enhances despotism. Not in the case of the PVC. What this calls for is that in the next election cycle, we should introduce electronic voting. We need the courage to move ahead.
We must not forget the bitterness of the campaign. It was the worst in our history. Even clerics did not help matters, and some openly supported Jonathan and made their adherents believe they heard from God. How silent they are today. They remind us of the prophet’s Jeremiad: “A wonderful and terrible thing is committed in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely and the priests bear rule by their means. And my people love to have it so. What shall ye do in the end thereof?” The same Prophet Jeremiah wrote that, “he that hath a dream, let him tell a dream,” adding that God did not send them and they act on their own imagination. (Jeremiah chapters 5 and 14.) Isaiah lamented, “the leaders of these people cause them to err and they that are led of them are destroyed.” Our clerics will learn from this, as well as our divisive politicians.
Nor is the media spared. The proprietors of both print and electronic media ought to sit and reflect on a disgraceful season. Unprintable material, by all ethical standards, were allowed to be published in the name of advertisements. Deliberate falsehoods passed as news stories. Slants are forgivable and it is allowed for a newspaper to pursue a cause. But all should be done within bounds of decency.
Buhari’s speech showed grace and class, and a lack of malice or bitterness. He needs to reach out to our people in the south-south and southeast to emphasize his lack of malice. Lincoln made a famous speech when he said, “with malice towards none, and charity to all.” He noted that his work was too vast and diverse for any malicious dealing. That is the first task of healing, and Nigeria can take other steps more confidently.