Africa

Viewpoint: Ivory Coast's lesson to Nigeria

  • 13 April 2011
  • From the section Africa
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An elderly Nigerian man casts his ballot in the Ketu district of Lagos. Photo by Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images
Nigerian voters will choose their president on Saturday

Ahead of Nigeria's presidential elections, Nigerian-born novelist and journalist Kingsley Kobo - who has spent the past 16 years in Ivory Coast with his Ivorian wife and children - reflects on what lessons Nigeria could learn from the Ivorian crisis.

Fellow Nigerians, it is a great opportunity to exercise your civic rights as the country goes to the polls. Generations to come will salute your courage in helping to consolidate democracy in our beloved nation.

However, the most important thing in an election is not the voting process but the aftermath. Will the ballots be well handled? Will losers accept the verdict? Will the winner humble the vanquished?

As a Nigerian-born, adopted in the Ivory Coast and now living modestly in Ghana with my little family after fleeing the Ivorian post-electoral conflicts, I wish to arm your spirits by sharing some of my own bittersweet experiences.

'Setting the land ablaze'

African women called for an end to fighting in Ivory Coast at a recent summit in Abuja

Similar to the Ivory Coast, the campaigns in Nigeria during the last days culminated in some violence and tension.

But these conflicts don't matter - what matters is the change your one single vote will bring to your life and to that of your family.

During the Ivory Coast elections, few thought about their own future while voting.

They wanted their candidate to win by any means necessary, even if the price meant sacrificing their own lives and setting the land ablaze.

My brothers and sisters, what shall it profit you and your loved ones in fomenting civil disorders for a candidate you have not, and may never, meet?

Elections are meant to create a peaceful atmosphere for progress and development, in the way we imagined the Ivorian presidential election would. Sadly, artilleries and mortars, pillaging and looting are speaking.

I urge you never to let this happen in our great country, Nigeria.

No matter which region you hail from, you remain a Nigerian, and your primary duty is to see the country win.

If your candidate loses, never mind, whoever wins is a Nigerian and it is therefore a victory for everyone.

During the Ivory Coast elections, some voters and aspirants vowed never to live and see the victory of others, which is why the final results were never accepted, and which is causing the war today and claiming the lives of thousands who had queued up to vote on polling day.

Living together

Aspirants, if you lose it's nothing, but please don't let 150 million Nigerians lose.

After decades of deadly conflicts between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, we ought to learn tolerance from Ivorian Christians and Muslims, who refused to kill each other, even after mosques and churches were attacked and parishioners killed.

Vengeance belongs only to our supreme God.

Although Ivory Coast has been politically split into north and south since the 2002 rebellion, and Nigeria still alternates leadership between the north and south, we are bound to live together as one people.

If we can intermarry why can't we live together?

Ivory Coast, a once peaceful haven and economic power, is now a shadow of itself because of a failed election.

Please, voters and aspirants don't let our election fail. Let the vote count for peace. Long live Nigeria!