Friday 23rd June, 2017
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Opposition parties lead West Africa's new political evolution

Opposition parties lead West Africa's new political evolution

It was the President of Sierra Leone who said a few years ago that” if Nigeria sneezes, the rest of West Africa catches cold”. That statement only con­firmed what has long been known that it is Nigeria that is keeping West Afri­ca down. Any day Nigeria decides to rise, West Afri­ca will automatically rise with it. Indeed it is Nigeria that is delaying the rise of Africa itself. South Africa, Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria determine the fate of Afri­ca. South Africa is doing ok, Kenya is doing great, Egypt is flagging and Nigeria is gasping. While this may be disputed by some, everyone agrees that the fate of West Africa is in Nigeria’s hand- for good and for bad.
So during the 2015 elec­tions an opposition party-an alliance between Tinu­bu’s ACN and Buhari’s CPC glued together by the new PDP swept the Nige­rian elections to cruise to victory, beating an incum­bent President and displac­ing a ruling party, it was clear that a revolution was on the offing. And then the unthinkable happened. The incumbent President- Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan conceded defeat without a whimper. He did not chal­lenge the result in Court and actually persuaded his par­ty not to either. There was then initiated the smooth­est transition in Nigeria’s political history. Though some uncharitable Nigeri­ans thought nothing spec­tacular about this phenom­enal development, others more discerning knew that Nigeria had made enviable history and had set a prec­edent that was most likely to be repeated elsewhere in Africa. An entrenched Af­rican party, in power for 16 years,allowed an electoral system to work without in­terference in its favour and even when there was specu­lation that the electoral um­pire was sympathetic to the opposition, the ruling par­ty still accepted the result without any form of dispu­tation and gave up power meekly.
Just as it is easy to copy bad behaviour, it also easy to emulate good Behav­iour. When the Majors over threw the Nigerian Civil­ian government in Janu­ary 1966, Ghana followed suit in February and sub­sequently the military took over power in several West African And other Afri­can Countries such as Libe­ria, Ivory Coast, Togo, the Gambia, Guinea, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Egypt and the Congo. Because Ni­geria returned to democra­cy, many of these countries also returned to democracy, including following Nigeria’s example where former mil­itary rulers transmuted into Civilian rulers, and where Ruling parties perpetuate themselves in power. PDP once boasted it would rule for 60 years!
About two weeks ago, the World woke up to be greet­ed with the wonderful news that the opposition party has won the election in The Gambia. Mr Adama Barrow, a real estate baron had de­feated General, Alhaji, Dr Yahya Jammeh. Jammeh the maverick military turned ci­vilian has ruled Gambia for 22 years with strong hands and was gunning for the 5th term as President be­fore Mr Barrow led the op­position to win the elec­tion. The greatest miracle was that the strongman of Gambia was quick in con­ceding defeat. A pity that he was subsequently afflicted with ‘buyers remorse’ which made him recant his earli­er conceding of defeat. He now wants the election re­peated. Though the margin of defeat which was original­ly 45.5% vs 36.7% later nar­rowed to 43.3% in favour of Barrow, it is evident that Jammeh’s defeat was deci­sive. It is my hope that with pressure from Global Politi­cal leaders, Nigeria inclusive Jammeh will back down or be persuaded to go to court rather than ask for outright cancellation of the election results.
Following in Tow with the emerging political evo­lution in West Africa, news came over the week­end that the veteran poli­tician Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party( NPP) has defeated the in­cumbent President of Gha­na- John Dramani Mahama and his National Democrat­ic Congress(NDC) with a decent margin of 53.8% vs 44.4%, and also winning a majority of parliamentary seats. Traditionally, Ghana and Nigeria seem to have their fate tied. Nana Aku­fo- Addo is in his 70’s as Ni­geria’s President Muham­madu Buhari. Akufo-Addo became President at his 3rd consecutive attempt,whilst Buhari became President at his 4th consecutive attempt. In line with the example that Dr Goodluck Jonathan set, Dr John Mahama conced­ed defeat before the final re­sults were announced by the electoral umpire. Just as Dr Jonathan succeeded Umaru Musa Yardua who died in office, so did Dr Mahama succeed Professor Evans Atta- Mills who also died in office. And Just as Jonathan failed to make what some called his ‘third term’ hav­ing stood for election either as Vice President or Pres­ident for the third time, so has happened to Mahama . Some call it tying of fate between Nigeria and Gha­na and some say we are Sia­mese twins.
What ever may be the case, it is exciting and shows a good level of political ma­turity that opposition parties can win elections in West African Countries. This will help to redeem the political image of Africans and will also dampen political des­peration and delinquen­cy. It is so nice to think that in Africa, we can remove a non- performing Party af­ter four or eight years. This will help to put pressure on political leaders to do their best to retain the confidence of the electorate conscious of the fact that power now be­longs to the citizens and no longer to the barrel of gun or to political god-fathers with their corrupt electoral um­pires who write results that negate the wish of the Peo­ple.
Now that Nigeria has shown a good example which is being emulated by Other countries especial­ly the West African Coun­tries, my prayer is that we do not regress. The stories we have read concerning what transpired in the re­cent State elections in Ni­geria, where votes were be­ing sold and bought in the open are not cheering. I be­lieve that the Challenge the opposition parties which have won elections have is to ensure that they further im­prove and sanitize the elec­toral system so that the mat­ter of spending billions of Naira in post-elections ju­dicial contests with its cor­rupting tendencies will be eliminated. That is the way to strengthen this new evo­lution of Political plurality and maturity, ensuring the sanctity of citizen votes.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR , lives in Abuja.
 

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