IT HAD to happen. I wanted it to happen. Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s outgoing president, lost to Muhammadu Buhari of All Progressive Congress (APC) in Nigeria’s election this past weekend. This was Buhari’s fourth attempt to lead Africa’s biggest economy. He’s ran numerous times for the highest office in the land before, but to no victory. In this election, he wins at a critical time for most Nigerians – the economy is stuttering, Boko Haram continues with its mass murders in the North, corruption is rife and the staggering unemployment that afflicts the entire nation.
Like many people, my level of frustration and anger with Goodluck Jonathan’s administration had reached its zenith.
Last year, I wrote on my Facebook profile that what frustrated me the most about Jonathan’s government was its inability to protect its citizens from the murderous terrorist group Boko Haram. The stories I heard about Boko Haram’s atrocities and kidnappings were excruciating.
One of the primary functions of governments is to protect their citizens from foreign invasions and attacks from one another. Jonathan’s government failed to deliver on this very important duty.
It’s impossible to strive and surmount the social and economic challenges we face without peace and security. There is no way we can be able to create conditions that fuel business investments, private job creation, economic development, and in the process eliminate poverty.
My gripe with African politics is that incumbents rarely lose elections. Most of these incumbents represent liberation movements that led their citizens to independence. They cling to power forever; in two ways – they both rig elections and intimidate the opposition, or, their citizens re-vote them into power.
The reason their citizens vote them back into power is because they promise them free goodies and economic equality. None of this is attainable.
During their rule, they plunder resources, open accounts in foreign banks and transfer all the looted funds. All this happens at the expense of the poor.
For the first time since independence from Britain in 1960, Nigerians have democratically booted their incumbent out of the presidential seat. Not because they had personal issues with him, but because of his dismal performance. Impressive.
Nigeria is not the first African country to do this. Peter Yakobe of the Centre for Free Market Enterprise is correct when he says “It all started here in Malawi and Zambia, we showed Africa that an incumbent president can lose election if he/she is not performing”.
Yes Malawians did it last year when, through the ballot-box, they removed Joyce Banda out of the presidential office. Zambia did it in 2011 when they stopped Rupiah Banda from pursuing the second term of his presidency. It can be done. But it’s sad to see that many Sub-Saharan countries have never gone through this process.
We South African citizens should take notes. We’ve been voting for the same political party since the birth of our democracy. As corrupt and incompetent as our ruling party is, we’ve voted for it in all the elections since 1994; and it has always won decisively. Today the arrogance of the African National Congress (ANC) is astonishing.
In all of this, let’s be honest, Buhari’s reputation is itself questionable. He’s accused of human rights abuses during his military rule in early 80s. So Nigerians were faced with imperfect choices. Given the situation in the country, Jonathan deserved a boot.
In his campaigns leading up to the election, the former military ruler, promised to fight Boko Haram, root out corruption and revive the nation’s ailing economy.
As a champion of liberty, I hope Buhari’s policies will guarantee economic and personal freedoms. It’s the only way he will bring prosperity to his nation.
Many leaders in the African continent tend to do not want to concede defeat during elections. As a result, their countries subsequently slip into political violence. It is this reason that I take this opportunity to commend Jonathan’s decision to humbly concede defeat by the opposition. For that alone, he’s earned himself respect.
We all learned something from Africa’s biggest oil producer. I hope that my fellow South Africans will also be brave enough to kick the ANC out of power one day. And I hope they do so, while I’m still alive.