Two nights in a row I kept vigil in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. My mind was on Nigeria and Nigeria was on my mind; - the election results of the Presidential race. I was not the only one whose heart was beating a tad faster. Last night I finally slept. And a sweet one, it was. Here are my 5 "take-aways" from the presidential elections.
Professor Jega, and the role of the academia
In as much as we decry the fallen standards in Nigerian universities, bemoaning the citizens' disappointment by the system, something good was found in that milieu. Professor Attahiru Jega decided that all Returning Officers for all 36 States and the FCT - Federal Capital Territory, be drawn from the numerous Vice-Chancellors of the Nigerian Universities. They may not be the best academics the world has known, they may neither master stage track nor even read well at night (especially without glasses) but they all accepted the challenge. The Nigerian Youth Service Corps (NYSC) also did their part. In principle, NYSC is an old-age institution that spreads Nigerians across the federation, making sure that people go to the parts of the country where they do not come from. "Corpers" on mission learn the "other" cultures and people of Nigeria. This, till date, is the most important unity and integration institution that Nigeria has. My first take away is that if Nigerian education, universities and academia are equipped enough, this country can lead in almost anything. Intellectual probity is the greatest arm against the unbridled greed of politicians, as seen in the epic "Orubebe-Jega Drama"
Citizen engagement powered by technology
This time around, Nigerians were decided that it will not be "business as usual" as it has always been. The population decided to massively engage. I really loved the R-egister, S-elect, V-ote, P-rotect (RSVP) campaign as well as the #NigeriaDecides tag on Twitter. At the end of February, the election fever in Nigeria was higher in °Celcius than Ebola. Almost all discussions were centered on GEJ and GMB, the abbreviated names of the key runners. I saw volunteers who went from house to house to talk to people about one candidate or another trying to "deliver" locations. The extent to which social media played a role in the Nigerian presidential elections cannot be under-estimated. My second take-away is this: Technology is power. Power belongs to the people. When both team up.. they become indomitable, any time, any where.
The Independent National Electoral Commission has pulled off the biggest democratic presidential elections in Africa. The independence of the Jega-led institution is being hailed by all and sundry. INEC has social media outlets that were manned, 24/7. They have hotlines and were taking real-time interactive feedback from voters and the public in general. By the time the number of registered voters and the effective number of PVC (Permanent Voters' Card) that have been collected was known, one knew the maximum number of voters to expect. So far, except for a few rare places, over-voting in any polling unit has had an automatic cancellation of all votes. But beyond these, the declaration of results in "the face" of all media, traditional and new, social and copyright, at the same time... that was THE one that did it. Across the country, and in most parts of the world, calculators came in handy, pen and paper too. Some were using spreadsheets, someone started a Google Document and made it open. Every Dick, Tom and Harry who cared about the Nigerian Presidential elections could track and add up the figures and do so in the same minute as they were being announced. My third take away is that the transparent, real-time, offline and Online, all-media announcement of the results proved to be the biggest challenge and deterrent to intending troublemakers. Real-time transparency is the greatest arm against "backdoor, shadowy and secret" election malpractice.
Global media with "nothing to chew"
First there were allegations from certain media when visas were refused to some journalists. Then came a 6-week postponement. The phobia was palpable as the days approached. There was mass "exiting" of persons, in families, who were expecting Nigeria to tip over. The rush to buy food and store.. in expectation of the violence that will follow.. all of that came to nothing. In the early hours of Saturday the 28, the first reports were that "Nigerian elections are marred by violence" though the images were missing. Millions were sure they will come. The normal "African elections" followed by killings, burnings, and destruction. This time, things are different. My sweet take-away here: prophets of doom can pack up and go home. There wont be any violence-tourism following the Presidential elections in Nigeria. You are free to report or not, but right now, Nigerians have the means to tell their own story.
Jonathan extends Goodluck to Buhari
When it was clear that the game was over, even before the final tallying of all results, President Goodluck Jonathan gave the famous and proverbial phone call to the winner. That call, made to the right person, at the right time, will remain "golden" in the memories of most peace-loving Nigerians. After the call, he also published a message, and later on, gave the speech. Here is my take-home from here: Jonathan may not have been a great leader, he may not have scored well in many a score sheet, but he has refused to lead the country into war, silencing all "demons of destruction" that were secretly preparing for bloodbath. In so doing, he sent the strongest message to all other "losers-to-be", which, for me, is also a great gift.
As Easter rolls in this weekend, Nigerians will be celebrating the death of bloodbath'ed presidential elections and the rising of a new order. The resurrection of a new hope, expectancies of better governance, and the satisfaction that comes with a victory won for the people by the people.
Happy Easter Nigeria!
God bless Nigeria!