President Jonathan's Mandate and the Fierce Urgency of Now

April 18, 2011

President Goodluck Jonathan has formally been declared as the winner of the April 16 presidential election. While credible allegations of inflated numbers persist, there is reason to believe that this is one of the best elections we have had in decades.

Under normal circumstances, Nigerians should be patting each other on the back for a smooth election. However, a closer look at the pattern of voting gives us reason for concern. Votes were cast along Nigeria's familiar primordial fissures. For instance, General Muhammadu Buhari won decisively in the 12 states that practice Sharia.

On the other hand, for the first time in Nigeria's history, the South-west, South-east, South-south and the Middle Belt voted for the same candidate. President Jonathan's decisive victory is traceable to this unprecedented coalition.alt

Not surprisingly, riots have broken out in many parts of the North where Buhari enjoys overwhelming support. The houses of prominent supporters of PDP have been burnt to smithereens. PDP party offices have also been torched and, more worryingly, scores of non-indigenes have either been murdered or hurt.

Given these divisions, how President Jonathan handles his new tenure will be extremely significant. The truth should now dawn on us all that winning is one thing, but fixing the Jig-saw puzzle called Nigeria is another. President Jonathan therefore has little time to celebrate. He now has a momentous job on his hand and needs to go back to the basics and heal the wounds that his victory has engendered. If this is not urgently done, we could easily descend into an irreversible state of anarchy.

There's no better time than now to:
  1. Reach out to influential northern opinion moulders, including religious leaders, Northern traditional rulers, his opponents--Gen Buhari, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, and Shekarau--and encourage them to issue unequivocal statements to bring down the temperature in the polity. While this may come across as appeasement, it is the sensible thing to do to avoid further loss of lives and property.
  2. Strengthen the security apparatus of the country and ensure that the violence being witnessed in the north stops forthwith.
  3. Convene a full sovereign national conference for an honest national conversation about the structures and processes that should govern our co-existence. We have to finally sit down and decide if and how we can co-exist. The attitude of sweeping uncomfortable facts under the rug has got to stop.