Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari’s persistent assurances that he will ensure a smooth transition to the next administration come May 29, 2023, are very heart lifting. His open commitment in this regard is one of the most proactive actions he has taken in his seven years as Nigeria’s president.
On December 11, 2021, while participating in the virtual summit for democracy which was hosted by President Joe Biden of the United States, Buhari had also pledged: “As we countdown to our next general elections in 2023, we remain committed to putting in place and strengthening all necessary mechanisms to ensure that Nigeria will not only record another peaceful transfer of power to an elected democratic government but will also ensure that the elections are conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner”.
As if to further drive home his earlier commitment to his constitutional two-term limit, Buhari condemned the undemocratic takeovers of government in Africa through resurgent coups d’etat and manipulations of constitutions for tenure elongation which have cast democracy in Africa in a bad light.
Buhari, a beneficiary of a wholesome transitional process in 2015 which enabled him to beat incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan, has drawn the flak for certain anti-democratic tendencies.
The 2019 general election which gave him his second term was written off by most local and international observers as having failed to meet the sublime standards of the 2015 polls supervised by Prof. Attahiru Jega as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Also, Buhari engaged in a prolonged foot- dragging over efforts to amend the 2010 Electoral Act to minimise human interferences towards cleaner elections. He vetoed the amendments a record five times before finally bowing to public pressure on February 25, 2022 and signing the Amendment Bill.
With this, the INEC can transmit results straight from the polling units to its national collation centre in Abuja. Buhari furthermore showed his seriousness in ensuring a people-centred transition in the manner he handled the nomination of his successor during the presidential primaries of his party recently.
He abandoned the option of imposing his preferred candidate and allowed the leaders of his All Progressives Congress, APC, to determine the party’s presidential candidate and his running mate.
What Nigerians need from the departing president is to rise above petty party considerations and lend his authority in ensuring that the February/March elections of 2023 produce the will of the people. The Electoral Umpire should be properly funded while the law enforcement agencies must defend the transitional process professionally.
With the emergence of presidential candidates, Buhari should increasingly withdraw himself from active partisan activities and concentrate on completion of his programmes and policies that will stand his regime out.
Buhari should leave our democracy with fond memories.