More often than not, leaders congratulate each other for being elected and even attend swearing in ceremonies of each other and the rest of the world sends congratulations when, in reality, there’s nothing worth congratulating but same is done as a mundane and boring exercise much as a megalomaniac speech full of self-praise.
Historically, however, there are those moments where those who have triumphed in politics have earned and deserve wholehearted and genuine congratulations from not just from fellow leaders and politicians but from ordinary folks within and outside their respective countries.
The election of President Muhammadu Buhari in Nigeria comes to mind as one such occasions and to that end I join others in congratulating not just President Buhari for flooring former president Jonathan Goodluck, but also the former president who also deserves congratulations for even in defeat, he has demonstrated Africa has what everyone has regrettably resigned to believe otherwise and that’s, it’s not possible in Africa to have an incumbent who competes freely and transparently and more importantly, one who would accept defeat upon being defeated after such an election.
Nigeria being the largest nation in Africa, has demonstrated that this can be done, namely, that we can have presidents defeated after a free and transparent general election and, more importantly, presidents who would accept defeat upon being defeated and would be prepared and happy to peacefully hand over power to their opponent as has been the case in Nigeria we just witnessed.
It’s for this reason congratulating both former President Goodlick and the new president of Nigeria is in order and genuinely so not just for the sake of mechanically congratulating them.
That’s not to say they alone occasioned this historic event; rather, credit and congratulations must also go to all Nigerians who participated in the process; those who believed and voted for Buhari must be congratulated for their belief in him even as the odds were against him but those who didn’t vote for him or otherwise voted for his opponent must also be congratulated for accepting the outcome even though Goodluck takes the larger share of credit here for but for his statesmanship he demonstrated, we could be writing about a totally different outcome and not a pleasant one for that matter.
That being said, I have read the entirety of President Buhar’s speech which you can read here.
There’s a lot that can be said about this speech but let me just highlight a few things:
First, his opening was both eloquent and humble:
I am immensely grateful to God Who Has preserved us to witness this day and this occasion. Today marks a triumph for Nigeria and an occasion to celebrate her freedom and cherish her democracy. Nigerians have shown their commitment to democracy and are determined to entrench its culture. Our journey has not been easy but thanks to the determination of our people and strong support from friends abroad we have today a truly democratically elected government in place.
The only thing I would quibble with in this otherwise profound opening statement is the use of the noun “abroad” and this in behalf of many a Kenyan who would limit that to mean only countries in Europe and the US where when they say someone as gone “abroad” that’s where everyone or nearly everyone assumes they have gone.
With that limited interpretation, one would therefore wonder why the good president would not acknowledge his fellow brothers and sisters from Africa for being part of this Nigerian journey which has not been easy as he notes, but you get my point and that’s I don’t think that’s what he meant.
The second thing that struck me about this speech is how Buhari minced no words to say exactly what was in his mind and rightly so.
For example, even as he thanked Goodluck for not standing in the way of his match to Nigeria State House, it’s how he said it that basically says, “no; I am not really thanking you for nothing for the people have spoketh the right and only thing for you to do consistent with the law and the new progressive Nigeria we want is to accept the verdict and peacefully hand over power as you have.”
Said Buhari: “I hope this act of graciously accepting defeat by the outgoing President will become the standard of political conduct in the country” (emphasis added).
There are a number of ways Buhari could have made this point starting from the least irritating to the most discomforting, if not annoying to Goodluck’s ears he chose the latter perhaps as a statement he was unfettered in speaking the truth.
As if to underline this, he also said those who succeeded Nigerian heroes and the country’s founders he named “behaved like spoilt children breaking everything and bringing disorder to the house.”
That’s not mincing words for sure and in a way it’s very refreshing to hear from this new president of Nigeria; well; he’s not exactly new but seems to be suggesting in him, Nigeria and, indeed, the world will see someone embracing a new people oriented leadership style and approach than being an enabler of status quo for the benefit of a few and every indication is he will not disappoint those who want a more progressive, less corrupt and prosperous Nigeria leading the way to show Africa can, indeed, take care of its own, starting from each individual country.
That’s what Buhari seems to be promising in his speech; a speech which, all told, could be or can be made by a president of any country other than, perhaps, a handful or so of advanced countries where corruption is not a factor and the average standard of living is actually a livable standard.
For example, Buhari says,
Daunting as the task may be it is by no means insurmountable. There is now a national consensus that our chosen route to national development is democracy. To achieve our objectives we must consciously work the democratic system. The Federal Executive under my watch will not seek to encroach on the duties and functions of the Legislative and Judicial arms of government. The law enforcing authorities will be charged to operate within the Constitution.
The key phrase here is “our chosen route to national development is democracy.” These are powerful words which if put into effect make the difference between a country mired in poverty, strife and oppression and a country awash with high standards of living, peace and prosperity in every respect.
Buhari must be given the benefit of doubt that he will deliver on these words and if he democratizes Nigeria beyond where it is even by one truck load and makes it less a corrupt a nation it is, Nigeria’s prosperity will not only benefit Nigerians themselves but the aroma will reach and touch all other African nations whose leaders would have to once again make a choice whether to follow the proven path to peace and prosperity as would have been demonstrated by Nigeria in the latest example or beat the old path to even more poverty, strife and oppression.
The president recognizes that key as democracy is to national development, its benefits cannot inure to anyone unless there’s corresponding reform or existence of an independent judiciary and legislature detached from executive control or otherwise whose members are less concerned with self-preservation but more with serving the needs of the people at large.
Buhari concluded his speech by appreciating the goodwill shown to Nigeria upon his election and now his swearing-in:
Your Excellencies, My fellow Nigerians I cannot recall when Nigeria enjoyed so much goodwill abroad as now. The messages I received from East and West, from powerful and small countries are indicative of international expectations on us. At home the newly elected government is basking in a reservoir of goodwill and high expectations. Nigeria therefore has a window of opportunity to fulfill our long – standing potential of pulling ourselves together and realizing our mission as a great nation.
Indeed, you do; your fellow countrymen and women patiently wait to realize this potential so does the rest of Africa and, the world, indeed.