The polity - The Nation

By The Citizen

•The President must take the lead in ensuring that the polity is not set ablaze as stakeholders plan for the next general elections

The year before general elections has always been one to determine how things go. As the clouds gather before it rains, so do telltale signs appear just before the electorate exercise their rights to elect their leaders.

2015 is the major election year, but this is the year for Nigerians to join states where the sovereign will of the people prevails. It is a year when the government and the institutions saddled with the task of ensuring that the people decide the way forward will prove whether they can deliver without fear or favour.

Two major elections are to be conducted within the year - in Ekiti and Osun states in the South West. Besides, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will have another opportunity to prove it has no hidden agenda. It will be compiling and presenting another voter register. Would the biometric features on the cards be activated? Would the commission get the logistics right after the fiasco in Delta Central and Anambra, in 2013?

There are also the security agents that are usually brought into the fray to harass voters. How professional would they be in the Ekiti and Osun polls? Has anything changed since they were last deployed for electoral duties? Then, how mature are the political parties in selecting their candidates and generally conducting their affairs before and after polling?

It is to be noted that the government has much say in deciding the direction things go. If by the body language of the President the country is told that only free and fair elections would be acceptable, the heat in the polity would go down and the institutions encouraged to perform their tasks creditably. But, where the institutions of state are used as appendages of the ruling party; other contenders are told to find other means of contesting for power. In that wise, violence erupts and storms threaten the national health.

So far, President Goodluck Jonathan is yet to deny a bid to continue his hold on power. This may be his constitutional right but it has become a source of friction on the political scene. He has demonstrated a tendency to allow the politician in him override his duty as a statesman and father of the nation. In this wise, the general quest for peace, progress and development is defeated and the prediction that national unity could be undermined is once again brought to the fore.

One method the President has consistently used in recent times is silence in the face of crises. Whether there is a raging storm in Rivers State, he says nothing to douse tension and call those known to take orders from him to order. In his party, when key actors are at war, he pretends to be neutral when he is believed to be located at the centre of the strife. This has not helped matters. It is not presidential. A President should rise to the occasion and lead the search for solutions to problems.

We call on President Jonathan to change his tactics. We urge him to be more decisive in acting in the interest of this country and begin to see things less from the parochial and partisan prism. How he handles the political crises rocking the country this year and reacts to preparations for 2015 may well decide his place in history.

We also call on the major opposition parties to handle the realignment of forces with maturity. They should not aim merely at coming up with a contraption hurriedly assembled with a view to winning elections. What the people want is an alternative to the ruling party. In character, programme and operations, the opposition parties should carefully convince the electorate that they represent a movement to rescue the country.

The people, too, should not present themselves as helpless. At and before the polls, they have to be more active and tell politicians what they want.