Nigeria’s Elections: The Past And The Present Expectation!

Before now, the situation in Nigeria was such that every pre-election tendency looked as if the surest way to win an election was to be connected with those in Aso Rock and be acquainting with a State governor but it is no longer so, the game has changed. Nigeria was one such country where citizens were free to elect leaders of their choice, and the instruments for choosing leaders are well provided through such institutions as the Independent National Electoral 1Commission (INEC).

Thank God for President Goodluck Jonathan initiatives, who in any way you look at it, deserves our vote come Saturday 16th April 2011; and the late president Umaru Yar’Adua’s electoral reform .During Obasanjo’s regime baseless allegations of criminal conduct were leveled against imminent opponents and that top up. Indeed, the resort to insults and defamation of opponents is more awful within parties when the primaries are on to select a candidate for a political party. While the average politician is averse to the commonly held Nigerian belief that politics is a dirty job, they do not care a hoot in heaping upon those carry-go politicians heaps all sorts of insults that they can think of against the INEC decision.

We praise Prof Attahiru Jega and his INEC team for the measures that have been put in place, such that brought about the credibility of the parliamentary election held last Saturday; 9th April, 2011.
The Nigerian publics have also been told to give candidates equal opportunities and time to carry out their campaigns, without allowing opposing camps to provoke or seek to scuttle votings taking place as has been the case on many occasions.

The other important reminder is for the parties to respect ELECTION MATERIALS for the purpose of credibility because there is nothing to gain from violent polls. INEC has staked their honour and dignity on a code of conduct prepared by them in conjunction with the Electoral law. We are also encouraged by the step the INEC.

Although the scenario may look bleak, we still believe it has not gone beyond redemption. With the election already in place, it is now up to the INEC to make sure that it officiate an election, which will be participated by the camps on either side of the political divide. The constitution empowers the commission to demand of the present regime for measures that will ensure a free, fair and credible election. As a statutory body, it does not have to play into any partisan scheming and so it should not. It should immediately initiate constructive dialogues with the feuding political camps so that they are encouraged to effectively participate in the electoral process. Election still remains the best option out of the impasse that Nigeria is in. It is now up to the commission to use the option to full effect.

That is why in recent times; some of the aspirants for the flag-bearer who happened to be in then president’s “enemy’s” camp for instance, have had their names smeared, either through text messages or media reports. Elections are an opportune time to review our past in order to prepare for better political choices for the future; it is a time to vote for honest and selfless leaders. Those whose only discernible preoccupation is to demonize, scandalize, defame and character-assassinate others don’t deserve our votes. We need honest and clean politics. Liars, crooks and dishonest politicians of all hues should not be given our votes – they don’t deserve them.

Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as a president had done clearly and excellently well, and deserves another tenure; there are other national challenges his charisma will put to rest. But we believe his next tenure as an elected president of Nigeria will have to deal head-on and more or less immediately with investor perceptions and the effects of the worldwide economic downturn because, for Nigeria, the prognosis is not good.

It could become worse, depending on how his regime is perceived by the legion of foreign investors, who now drive the country’s economy. A negative perception could dry up investment even as it already is slowing down due to the ever-widening global economic crunch. After a sustained period of economic stability and increasing economic gains, the economy seems headed for a downturn. The alarm bells are beginning to ring louder and things seem set to take a turn for the worse, not better.

Already, inflation at 14 percent is at an all time high in recent years and is clearly adrift of the year-end target of seven per cent. The local currency, the naira, is weakening by the day as the scramble for convertible currency among the major investors continues. The price of staple food is rising and there seems no end in sight. More fundamentally, the price of bonny-light crude oil, the main export whose high price has spawned occasionally of an economic boom in our country, has become unstable in recent months with Libyan crisis. And with the global economic slow down now a reality, demand is bound to go further.

Free, fair and constructive elections would become a reality in our country; Nigeria, when the politicians take their responsibility seriously by addressing themselves to real issues, to their manifesto, so that voters could judge what ideas the parties and their leaders had on problems that really matter: cost of living, unemployment, corruption, poor services in education, health, government offices and so on and so forth. They should respect truth and their political opponents.
It is always interesting and inspiring watching the leaders of the advanced democracies of the world during electioneering campaigns. Their campaigns are usually issue-centred. Candidates do take one another up on critical issues affecting the lives of their people, especially during presidential debates which we hardly hold here because the ruling party has consistently refused to take part in such debates. And theirs goes beyond ‘I will do this, I will do that’, ‘I will provide this, I will provide that’, which have become usual platitudes with our politicians here.

They make it a matter of duty to truthfully explain how they intend solving identifiable problems in every facet of their lives and how to make life more liveable for their people. They hardly engage in name-calling, abuse, lies, slander, character assassination, malice and insults. This is the kind of campaign approach one expects our politicians, especially those in the ruling party, to emulate. Only those candidates who have nothing to offer the electorate resort to lies, slander, character assassination, calumny and deceit during electioneering period. This is unacceptable and should be discouraged. This is the type of politics and campaign the ‘nigeria4betterrule”debate participants are discouraging in favour of issue-based campaigns. There are many issues for any serious politician to pick on.

It was unfortunate that elections were chaotic, as some parties used to go into the polls with preconceived notions, usually to claim that the ruling party would rig an election. Some areas in which elections were taking place suddenly turned into bloody scenes because some political leaders start inciting their supporters to reject the outcome long before the polls were held. Campaigns have many times taken the image of violence, as politicians exchange insults and excite their followers with explosive and highly-divisive language. The whole unfortunate situations reflected badly on Nigeria, which for many years has stood out as a peaceful and organized country.
We have maintained all along that election remains the best option out of the prevailing political standoff. We have made it clear that when we say election, we mean an election that will be participated by all concerned, accepted by all and, more importantly, credible to all.

The feuding political camps should engage in a dialogue with the President Jonathan’s camp prior to the April 16th, 2011 election; however, the dialogue should focused

more on political blame game than on constructive exchanges on the issue at hand; Electoral reforms. We need no court obstacles this time; Dr. Jonathan has proved the doubting “thomases” wrong.

Against such a backdrop, the hearing of the desperate, aggrieve and power-hungry politicians will certainly pave the way for some debate between the stakeholders and peaceful poll. We do not expect violent, prejudice and or quagmire as an aftermath of this Saturday’s presidential poll and the subsequent court-action, to facilitate resolution of the prevailing standoff. We only hope that, in the process of arguments and counter-arguments, it will be clear to the people where each side stands and where they intend to go.

Written by
L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu
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