The presidential election has come and gone after what seemed to be the runup to a conflict, and everyone agrees we’ve achieved something historic with the election.
For the first time we’ve voted out an incumbent president and we’re getting set to see the PDP hand over to a new party after 16 years in charge. It’s clearly progressive for the Nigerian people in many ways.
Before this election there were a lot of rumours flying around about what would happen and what the government would do. People said a lot about the issue. But with the election behind us now, one thing that’s clear is that President Jonathan has disproved the speculations with the way his government has handled the situation.
Here are five ways the president has proved everyone wrong with this election.
1. Another shift
INEC first postponed the election purportedly to avert potential insecurity, but most people thought it was a ploy by the president to gain time so he could shore up his popularity and catch up with his opponent.
There were also rumours that the election would be shifted again and some believed the government was conniving with the army to delay the election while using the Boko Haram crisis as a pretext.
But of course the election was never shifted further as people thought. It happened on March 28 just as the president promised and everyone can see the president delivered on his word even though many people didn’t believe him at first.
2. The interim government
In the middle of the drama following the postponement, some people alleged that the president would hand over to an interim government led by Chief of Army staff Kenneth Minimah if Buhari wins when the election eventually happens later. The people said the interim would govern for six months and then fresh elections would be held. The army denied this of course, but some people still thought it might happen.
Anyway it didn’t happen. Buhari has won the election and Jonathan has clearly committed to hand over to him as the next president of Nigeria on May 29.
3. Firing the chairman
Newspapers also claimed back then that the government was plotting to sack Jega or force him to a terminal leave, and a lot of people believed this. Punch newspaper even ran an editorial on this with strong warnings to the president.
The premise was that the government wants to remove him for the way he’s managed the election process and the way he presented the postponement, which seemed to lay the blame on the government’s table.
But Jega wasn’t sacked. He organised the election, which Jonathan lost, and he’s still in charge today. The president has disproved that allegation.
4. Another 1993?
Babangida set off a revolt in 1993 when he annulled the election and put Shonekan in charge of an interim government. In the midst of the crisis, Abacha overthrew Shonekan and seized the government.
Some people thought there would be a repeat of that situation given the tension that characterised the election buildup. Former president Obasanjo was even quoted in the media to have suggested that this could happen.
However, the army has stayed out of politics since the postponement brought them into it and President Jonathan conceded defeat when he lost last week. He also acknowledged Buhari as the winner and demonstrated that he will duly leave office when his term expires.
The president’s response to his loss to Buhari has proven that people who thought he’d cling to power and spark a coup are mistaken.
5. The election will be suspended.
One senator named Babafemi Ojudu alleged back then that the president intends to extend his tenure by two years on grounds that Nigeria is at war — the war against Boko Haram.
Section 135 of the Constitution says, “If the federation is at war in which the territory of Nigeria is physically involved and the president considers that it is not practicable to hold elections, the
National Assembly may by resolution extend the period of four years [of the president's tenure]; but no such extension shall exceed a period of six months at any one time.”
What this means technically is that the president could have put off that election for six more months with the support of the National Assembly and then put it off again for another six months and so on, as long as he continued to maintain that we’re in the middle of a war. That way, the president could have put off the elections for an indefinite period, essentially suspending the elections.
That theory was obviously nonsense, but some people believed it or a similar version anyway. It’s no surprise really that the president rose above those ridiculous conspiracy theories and did the right thing for Nigeria and the Nigerian people.