A few days from now, we shall be headed to the polls for the 2015 Presidential and national assembly elections. Then two weeks later, the governorship and state assembly elections will hold. This year’s presidential election will arguably be the most fiercely contested, and the closest presidential elections since the history of Nigeria’s democracy. The All Progressives Congress (the major opposition party in Nigeria) has over the past one year grown to be a robust and influential party which stands within touching distance of taking over from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Few will argue that this development has engendered a sense of insecurity amongst the ruling party and has ultimately become very healthy for our democracy. Yet, as we go to the polls, it is important that we be careful, and desist from certain acts that may truncate this well worked out democracy.
One of the most important things we need to watch out for is the circulation of false information. In this era of social media, several false information have been in circulation either to gain cheap popularity, or simply to cause mischief and advance some sinister objectives. With the nauseating desire to ‘feel among’, many for the sake of retweets by twitter celebrities have gone as far as cooking up fake stories that they know will pander to the desires of the twitter celebrities, and proceeded to tweet such false news to them in order to gain acceptance and appear relevant. A case in point was when one blatantly lied that the road that leads to the Abia State government house was an untarred single lane road. I was horrified. If I did not know first-hand the state of that road, I would have believed. Yet it was retweeted by a twitter celebrity with over 190,000 followers! Imagine the number of people who thus had access to that lie. This is what I fear the most about this election. Many people will come up with so much falsehood, and those lies will be shared until they are perceived as the truth. My little plea is that we remember that after the elections, we will have a country to build. It will be grossly unwise to use falsehood to engender violence that will consume us all. Remember, the twitter celebrities, the politicians, and so many of those encouraging you may not be in this country if anything violent erupts. At a very safe distance, they will continue to ‘agitate’ for the ‘good of the country’ while you and your relatives face the travails of violence. So it is important for the sake of our country, our democracy, and our own lives and businesses, that we try and report only the truth. Reporting lies will only water the ground for post-election violence which will greatly harm this country.
Furthermore, it is already being touted by some that a certain candidate must win the election. I plead for caution in this. The question I ever tire of asking is; ‘what if he does not win?’ I have never heard of any preparation for that eventuality. What that then portends is that if the outcome of the election does not go as a certain party expects, they may resort to accusations of electoral malpractice which may result in post-election violence. I am really worried about this. Which is why I am using this medium to beg that we all keep an open mind. Whoever emerges as the winner of the 28th March Presidential elections, let us all accept that the electorates have spoken, shun violence and join hands in building a better Nigeria. Violence can only lead to us taking retrogressive steps and I want to believe that what we all want is the progress of Nigeria and not the advancement of the goals and aspirations of a few individuals or group of persons.
We have been enjoined several times to ‘protect our votes’. It is a very important advice. But I will like to add one more advice to it; do not ‘fight’ for your votes. We sometimes misunderstand what it means to ‘protect’. It is not all protection that demands violence. Protecting our votes does not demand violent acts. In any case, if violence mars a polling unit, the likelihood of the votes from the polling unit being cancelled is very high. If that happens, how then have we protected our votes? So please, let us not fight for the votes.
Happily, the two major contestants of the Presidential election(President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, and General Mohammadu Buhari) have signed two peace accords. Their supporters should borrow a leaf from these two noble Nigerians, and embrace peace.
We should all collectively desist from using inflammatory words this election period. No matter how much you desire to insult or shout down anybody, try and not use inflammatory words. Let us all desist from violence. Let us all seek peace and embrace it for the sake of this country which we have confessed many times to loving so much. At the end of the day, the one victor after the 28th March Presidential elections should be Nigeria.