Saturday, July 16th, 2022 was gubernatorial election day in Nigeria’s Southwest state of Osun. The results which followed immediately showed the main opposition party – the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP), defeating the incumbent governor of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) which is also the party in power at the center since 2015.
There are no threats by anyone yet to go to court over Osun guber election result and even of Ekiti which preceded it but won by the APC governorship candidate. No one is crying foul yet. The Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) appears to be delivering at last. And the new electoral law might also appear to be capable of injecting promise into electoral democracy in Nigeria.
Osun governorship election is still undergoing interpretive surgery. While some are saying it is correction of a previous electoral wrong, others are saying it is a signal for what lies in wait for the APC for how it has (mis) handled Nigeria in the last seven years.
Only 2023 will establish which of these claims will triumph when the higher stake electoral sites are involved, particularly the presidency in which regional, religious, class, global powers and other established interest groups are all interested in who becomes the next president.
Meanwhile, all of these brings back the contention by one of Nigeria’s most involved political scientists, the late Omo Omoruyi. The late Professor once told a newspaper Nigeria would never experience credible elections in his life time.
In a way, he has been proved correct. That is to the extent that he is dead and what might be happening now are outside the periodization he had in mind.
However, since no morning can be understood outside of the night that produced it, that periodization also includes today.
The point though is never about whether Omoruyi and others who have said the same thing about credible elections/democracy such as Chief Awolowo, Arthur Nzeribe, Gen TY Danjuma are right or wrong. Rather, the statements they made on the slim chances of electoral democracy taking roots in Nigeria ae reminders of the difficult road producing the more pleasant outcomes today in Osun, for example.
What question the experts the statements of those leading figures pose is whether a country such as Nigeria needed to have gone all through the torturous route before arriving at this point. And what needs to be done to deepen emerging positive outcomes.
In other words, Chief Awolowo’s statement in the mid- 1980s that something deep in him told him democracy has eluded his generation is still with us in the same way that Omoruyi’s is. They remain so until Nigeria is so well organised as to look back and compile the names of those who paid a price for democracy and recognise them. And until democracy has a meaning for the average citizen to the extent that such a citizen would be willing to die defending democracy beyond politicians on the stump, selling abracadabra!