#NigeriaDecides2019: Issues & Matters Arising! -Ishola Adebayo

February 18, 2019

General elections will be held in Nigeria on 16 February 2019 to elect the President, Vice President and the National Assembly thereafter on 2 March 2019 to elect Governors in 24 states and House of Assembly members in the thirty-six state of the country. They will be the sixth quadrennial elections since the end of military rule in 1999. Most citizens, have been puzzled and disappointed that the campaigns have been, so far, so barren on a scale never seen before. Hardly have there been any profound or visionary ideas canvassed and hardly have there been concrete issues presented by office seekers for discussions.

Even on the symbolic level, in vain have the people looked for grand orators and oracles whose witty words would have lightened up the political season and found their ways unto the marble. Rather, Nigerians have been insultingly treated to trivia, to accusations and counter-accusations on the level of corruption perpetrated by different individuals from different political parties. Also, focus, even in the media, seems to have been on the personalities of the so-called front-runners and a few other articulate contenders in a field of about 70 presidential candidates. Although about 91 political parties are registered to participate in the election, the electoral battle is between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and main Opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). This, certainly, has been far less than edifying of democracy, 20 years into the experiment in Nigeria.

For credible elections, there are at least five critical groups that must play their roles creditably. These are the electoral body, government in power, the ruling political party, security agencies and the electorate. Of all these, the most powerful force with a vested interest in destabilizing elections in Nigeria is the government in power. The next is the ruling political party. However, both the government and the ruling party require the collusion of the electoral body and security agencies to carry out whatever plans they have for subverting the electoral process. Where the electoral umpire is firm and fair, neither the government nor political party in power will succeed in rigging election.

No aspirant to a political office can carry out electoral malpractice all by himself. Since the materials needed for any malpractice such as ballot papers, boxes and result sheets do not rest with party candidates wanting to rig election but on the election referee, election fraudsters necessarily need the active involvement of electoral officials.

There are several grounds for apprehension about the forthcoming election. From a security point of view, the portents for the success of the elections are bad. This is mainly because the role of the Nigeria Police Force in the past three and half years has not demonstrated the level of impartiality and professionalism expected from impartial gatekeepers of the criminal justice system in the country. In the midst of these nearly impossible social and economic conditions that have been caused by decades of irresponsible leadership, have the electorate been summoned to cast their ballots on February 16 and March 2. Well, vote Nigerians must and will.

All Nigerians must know that the forthcoming elections are not just about Muhammadu Buhari, Atiku Abubakar or any other candidate for whatever position. The fate of Nigeria and the future of the citizens of this badly run nation are at stake. Over the years, Nigerians have been saddled with leaders who are bereft of any new offerings on the national agenda and who have made Nigeria a laughing stock in the comity of nations. The immortal former president of South Africa, the late Nelson Mandela could not have captured the lofty expectation of all Africans better when he once said: “The world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect. The black people of the world need Nigeria to be great as a source of pride and confidence.”

The country is in dire straits, and therefore in need of statesmen whose dream would be to create a modern state, devoid of the shenanigans that have dominated the political landscape in the last 60 years. Let Nigerians, even in this barren political landscape, elect people who can be held accountable to the promise of providing credible and honest leadership to lift the country out of poverty and despair. The 84 million registered Nigerians should troop out and wisely cast their ballots with a view to electing officials of their choice from any of the political parties. It does bear reiteration that the elections are indeed about Nigeria and Nigerians, not about the contestants. It is about the destiny of a great nation and hope of the entire black race.