On Saturday, February 16, 2019, Nigeria will be embarking on general elections, the 6th since the democratic experience in 1999. We must commend Nigerians for this great milestone in the Nation’s democratic journey and this must be sustained.
One of the great attributes of democratic governance is its core aspect of granting the people the right to directly elect those who govern them/ (their leaders) periodically and in the case of Nigeria, this is quadrennial in line with sections 77,117,135 (2),180 (2) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
As it is in virtually in every election, the atmosphere becomes a charge to the extent that the peace and tranquillity that hitherto prevailed in the country, albeit relatively, becomes threatened as a result of ill-conceived actions and/or unguarded utterances by political actors and their supporters. Consequently, before general elections, it has become a norm for politicians to sign peace, as a way of extracting commitments to peace, before, during and after the elections. This trend, it must be understood, is a clear deviation from global best practices and it underscores the precarious nature of our elections and the urgent need to outgrow it. It is to that extent that we agreed with the President in his New Year speech that “Elections need not be a do -or -die affair, and we should not approach that eventuality in a democracy with trepidation and mortal fear.”
We must quickly move as a nation and look at public offices and access to same as an opportunity to offer selfless service and not as a gold mine to satisfy our insatiable quest for wealth and fame. There is need to reorient ourselves to look at politics as what it is and not as a business venture to invest our time, money and emotions and to reap in bumper harvest/ when opportunity beckons to get to a public office.
We unequivocally call for peaceful and credible elections in Nigeria. This is the least Nigerians are asking for, including the international community. We are conscious of the fact that this feat cannot be achieved by merely wishing it; it requires concrete efforts and action from all critical stakeholders in the electoral enterprise.
It is in that regard that we urge the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to be just and fair to all political parties in the elections. They should hold the scale even to all participants irrespective of their present positions. INEC staff must strictly adhere to an oath of loyalty and neutrality as commanded of them by section 28 (1) and (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and should not accept any form of bribe or gratification in the performance of their official assignment. The nation is yet to recover from the rude shock of staff of INEC found guilty by the court, undermining the 2015 general elections. That ugly scenario must not repeat itself. Just as the electoral umpire promised Nigerians, it must tackle headlong the ugly trend of vote buying at the polling stations and bring every erring culprit to book in line with sections 124 and 130 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
To the electorates, we urge them to be civil before, during and after the election. They should shun all violence and resist the temptation of any form of incitement from unscrupulous politicians to do violence in any form, in order to score a cheap political point. They are advised to shun the lure to sell their vote like a plague and exercise their civic duties with all sense of responsibilities. This is the time for the electorates to demonstrate loyalty to the nation in line with the Holy Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) admonition that loyalty to one’s country is part of faith. We urge them to exercise their franchise wisely by voting for the candidate that can best discharge the trust in line with Allah’s Exhortation in Quran 4:59.
For political parties and their candidates, there is a need to create a favorable and conducive environment for the conduct of free, fair and credible elections. They and their agents need to refrain from incendiary statements or religious incitement, ethnic or tribal profiling. They need to bear in mind that power belong(s) to God and He gives it to whomsoever he pleases-Quran 3:27. They need also respect and abide by the peace accords and observe the code of conduct geared toward having peaceful and credible elections, just like the 2015 general elections.
To the security operatives, we urge that they should discharge their duty of securing the nation effectively in order to create an enabling environment for the citizens to exercise their franchise. On no account should they give their loyalty to any candidate in the elections, as they only owe their allegiance and loyalty to the nation. They must be impartial and firm in giving the needed support and backing to INEC, in nipping in the bud any attempt at vote buying by any candidates and other election-related vices before, during and after the election.
Overall the essence of governance is the welfare and security of the people. Let this point be in the consciousness of all candidates, and especially, the winner(s) of the elections. We urge them to exert themselves to the utmost and do all that is humanly possible to improve on the welfare of Nigerians who have suffered greatly due to the downturn in the economy. The security of lives and property across the country must be given premium so that an end may be put to the senseless killings across the country. They must justify the huge confidence repose on them by the electorates and govern the nation with the fear of God.