- Documents on Democracy
On July 22, newly elected president Muhammadu Buhari delivered a speech at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., highlighting the successes of Nigeria’s March 28 general elections and the challenges ahead. Excerpts from his speech appear below:
As far as the critics and doomsday merchants were concerned, Nigeria’s end was the 2015 general elections. Nigeria was not expected to make it. The general perception was that Nigeria would be undone by violent and disputed elections riven with deep ethnic and religious divisions.
You all know what happened. Nigeria confounded the pessimists and its critics. All those who predicted the worst possible postelection scenarios for Nigeria missed the mark by very wide margins, because the premises upon which their narratives were based were simply wrong.
The peaceful conduct and outcome of the 2015 general elections attest to the fact that elections in Africa can be conducted in a free, fair, and credible manner, just like in any other part of the world. Those elections were different from previous ones, not only because citizens were allowed to vote, but more importantly, because their votes counted. I must therefore salute the patriotism and commitment of the Nigerian people who conducted themselves peacefully and responsibly during and after the elections. Similarly, I must also commend the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the civil society organizations, and other nonstate actors for their various efforts at improving the electoral process and entrenching the democratic culture. I would like to seize this opportunity also to, once again, pay tribute to my predecessor Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for his uncommon display of statesmanship in setting the pace for Africa. His conduct and outlook in the aftermath of the elections have further proven that the African electoral system is gaining strength and maturity.
Important lessons are being learned from the successful conduct of [End Page 182] those elections. Our electoral processes are evolving. Nigerians of all political leanings recognize that there is much work to be done to improve electoral transparency and the integrity of elections. I feel confident that, going forward, our electoral body will apply lessons learned to improve its processes, including the use of appropriate technologies in the conduct of elections, and innovative approaches to voter education. To this end, I intend to raise the cost of impunity by working with the National Assembly to strengthen our electoral laws in ways that would provide stiffer penalties against all forms of electoral malpractices. The enforcement of the laws would equally be given greater impetus. …
As we ramp up our efforts to defeat Boko Haram, we know that winning this battle sustainably will require that we expand economic opportunities and create jobs for our teeming young population. We must also improve the quality of governance; ensure that governments at all levels are responsive, inclusive, transparent and accountable, and that public institutions deliver services in a timely and efficient manner. We must win and sustain the trust of the people we govern.
The fight against corruption is a full time job that the Federal Government will carry with sustained resolve. I have always maintained zero tolerance for corruption. I am even more committed to fighting this number one enemy decisively because I am convinced beyond any shadow of a doubt that the much needed impetus for our country’s survival is held back by corruption. …
I believe that the future of Nigeria, indeed the future of Africa, lies in democratic governance, not only because it is the expression of the will of the people, but because democracy can help us build fair, just, and inclusive societies. Only in a democracy can Africa’s numerous ethnic, cultural and religious diversities find harmonious expression, and the freedoms and opportunities that come with it.
Fixing Nigeria’s problems, as formidable as they are, is the responsibility of Nigerians. The international community can only assist, but the hard work belongs to Nigerians and their government.
The political opposition must see itself as an integral part in ensuring development and good governance for the citizenry. Governance in a democracy is always a shared responsibility, a fact underscored by the current power configuration in Nigeria...