The 2023 elections and the emergence of those elected, especially the president is one development on the country’s political scene that places it among the league of emerging democracies. The elections on the domestic scene equally have several implications for the country.
The emergence of Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu as the President and Commander-in-Chief and Senator Kashim Shettima as Vice President are, in particular, developments that have serious implications for the country. The fact that the electorate in the country made fundamental decisions that could alter the political direction of the country is equally of immense importance.
Also of serious import is the fact that the election of the duo could alter the political equation of the country and place it among the league of democratic nations. Equally important is also the fact that the elections could be sources of inspiration to other countries in Africa.
On the domestic scene, the 2023 elections clearly showed that elections could be held in the country regardless of security challenges. As feared in many quarters, the country’s territorial integrity and commitment to workable democracy cannot be undermined by some. There is also the belief that all forms of political intrigue by some vested interests cannot undermine the leadership that emerged in the wake of recent election.
This, however, is not to say that the several separatist agitations should be taken for granted. While one looks at the totality of national security threats and the level of disaffection amongst the populace and the possibility of uprising by the populace as the result of the hardship being experienced by the people, the incoming government should be mindful of issues that could impede its ability to smoothly take off.
Many observers have also raised concern on the calibre of those who can assist the new leadership to take off. Many are of the view that the new leadership should be allowed to choose those who can assist it to successfully take off.
The other significant aspect of the 2023 elections is the fact that despite threats to truncate the elections, it was still held. Although there were minor hiccups in a few places the elections were held in a relatively peaceful atmosphere. This is why many people have argued that Nigerians are interested in elections despite security challenges in many parts of the country.
Although the elections were generally peaceful, the possibility of some disgruntled persons unleashing disruptive activities should not be taken for granted. This underscores the importance of the incoming government taking a very critical look at the demands of the people and the level and sources of political disaffection in the country.
The truth is, democracy in the country could be enhanced if the incoming government addresses the causes of political agitation. There is the strong belief that democracy could be helped if the reasons that undermined free and fair elections in the past are promptly identified and dealt with. Equally important is giving key stakeholders in the conduct of elections the type of orientation they need to have that will support free and fair elections.
Relatedly, the expectation of the majority of Nigerians is that those who emerged victorious during the last election will usher in good governance that will result in the citizenry benefiting from the dividends of democracy. Nigerians know those who emerged victorious in the last elections have something to show in offices previously held. They should be able to replicate their past performance. The incoming government should make the interests of the citizenry a national priority.
The other critical implication of the 2023 election is how the exercise has resolved some disturbing developments in the polity. The election has to some extent settled the raucous politics in parts of the country. It is hoped that politicians will learn to play politics according to the rules of the game.
The political parties, the electoral managers and even the security agencies should learn from the many things that transpired during the elections. There were irregularities that were perpetuated by some electorate, personnel and individuals. Those who conducted the elections need to sit up.
The other important fact about the nation’s political situation that is not well appreciated and is very often suppressed is that politics in the country is still substantively about the interests of the rich and the powerful. The 2023 elections have not changed this perception. This is the reason many believe that the 2023 elections have not substantially changed the state of things. Without the change envisaged, politics in the country has substantially remained the exclusive preserve of the rich and powerful.
Although not openly admitted, the elections in 2023 were in some areas characterized by sundry malpractices and irregularities. In some cases, the elections were overtly manipulated by some powerful interests. Some in government were also responsible for manipulating the election. Thus the government and the security forces need to be neutral in all elections. It was evident that the exercise was in some areas characterised by malfunction of electoral equipment and misconduct of some electoral personnel.
Some of the hitches witnessed were avoidable. The advice is all those to be involved in future elections should prepare earlier. All those to participate in future elections should also be thoroughly vetted.
Closely, related to the expectation of the electorate is the expectation that those who emerged victorious especially the president, governors and other higher positions of leadership must pursue issues beyond selfish and narrow interests.
Finally, the success of the 2023 elections has been a source of inspiration to neighbouring countries. Despite isolated hitches, the country has done well by peacefully transiting to another democratically elected government.
The ability of the emerging political leadership to tackle the security challenges that have besieged the country in the last decade are critical responsibilities they should take seriously. This will endear them to the citizenry if they can mobilise to tackle the challenges of insurgency, armed banditry, hostage-taking and kidnapping.
Gadzama is the Chairman Board, National Institute for Security Studies (NISS).