2015 general elections must not be ‘do or die’ affairs

Now that the die is partly cast for the 2015 general elections – the presidential on special focus – with the adoption of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as the sole/consensus presidential candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nigerians should run to their worship places and shrines to seek the intervention of the Supreme Being for a smooth transition from democracy to democracy which the nation has enjoyed for the past 15 years, from 1999. They should stay too long in this search for an overpowering Hand that can salvage Nigeria. This call to prayers must be solidly backed up by actions. Socio-political organizations, civil society groups, political activities and all patriotic Nigerians who are interested in the unity, peace and progress of the nation should engender non-partisan strong sensitization campaigns for this purpose. But without mincing words, this transition, my prediction stands stark, will be over in favour of the best candidate accepted by Nigerians and the National Independent Electoral Commission (INEC).

Whatever may be the case, the giant of Africa must not be allowed to fall; the self-acclaimed largest party of Africa, the People Democratic Party (PDP), the foremost opposition party of Nigeria, All Progressives Congress (APC) and other parties which would participate in the 2015 elections must play by the rules. The National Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) with its caliber of personnel has the power to make or mar the elections. Truly, elections anywhere in the world has one definition which is the electing citizens of a place into elective posts such as the parliamentarian, the president, the governor, the chairman of local government area or the ward counselor. It is not different in Nigeria.

The democratic processes of electing these citizens into positions of choice are not novel in Nigeria. The novelty in Nigerian electioneering processes, in the final conduct and in the outcome of the elections is the fierceness, intolerance, do or die inclination of politicians and to a large extent, the confusion and tension it creates. Since 1999, it can be comfortably argued that no general elections had been conducted without loss of lives, destruction of property and wild criticism from the citizenry, and even local and international election observers.

The question remains why Nigeria is different in the way it handles its affairs. Countries like South Africa, Sierra Leoneand other African countries have conducted less criticized elections. Liberia had hitch free polls because the electoral body made up of fantastic and patriotic citizens was not corrupt, at least not wildly money-conscious. Same was recorded in other African nations. Primary elections were conducted by parties without bloodshed. Campaigns were conducted by parties without bloodletting. The incumbent allowed the opposition to carry out their political activities without infringement. Oppositions were mindful of their limited and never interfered or badly criticized the activities of the incumbent. No campaign murder, no inter-party or intra-party or political murder was recorded. At least, if there were, it was not noticeable. There were generally less elective accusations, corruption and mismanagement of the citizenry. In short, such were models that many women who worked hard got elected easily into high positions without loss of woman dignity.

Nigeria is going to be once more tested by another bloodsucking entity called general elections. Is it possible to conduct free and fair general elections, the one that is not grossly marred by corruption? Is it possible that general elections would hold in Nigeria without a Nigerian killed? Yes, it is, at least if top politicians can practically display that the election of any of them is not worth the blood of any citizen of Nigeria; Yes, at least if money politics will be minimized in Nigeria politics; at least if the youths will not be held hostage by the politicians to do the dirty jobs of stuffing of ballot boxes, multiple thumb-printing and intimidation/killing of the oppositions in any stronghold of a party; at least if the opposition will be allowed to fully participate without hindrances; and at least if the INEC will not play the fiddle role in the electioneering and result declaration processes.

If only that words were actions in Nigeria, if only that the power in oratory conjecture can turn a people to hard work and patriotism, if only that words meant the same as in other climes, if only that our politicians can heartily accept and carry the burdens of governance, I would ask Nigerians to go and pray and sleep so that by May 29, 2015, all Nigerians would gather in their respective villages and states to give thanks to God for giving Nigeria a detribalized, humane, development-driven and God-fearing leader, maybe once again or ever since 1999. But nay, words in Nigeria are like Shakespearean rags. There are thin demarcations between political orators and religious propagandists on the one hand, and economic looters and religious impersonators on the other hand. It is hard to differentiate politicians from the clergy, the businesslike from the professionals and the kingmakers from the juju priests. In Nigeria politicians and kingmakers own large worship places and shrines where they dine and wine and determine the fate of Nigeria like two former Heads of State of Nigeria were said to have, before their leaderships, displayed the fortunes of the country on a chess board. When these types of citizens – yes they can still be called citizens­­­ – are allowed to lead us, then elections can never be free and fair in Nigeria.

Nigeria's elections have often been marred by way of eliminating the rivals within the party. To attain victory, lots of political killings and unwarranted assassinations of rivals become commonplace. First the masses, some of who would be the real victims of the killings would be staged. The politics would, intently, be heated up with religion and ethnicity carefully smuggled into manifestoes to created ethno-regional disaffections among the citizens. Then some politicians, in the most undignified manner, would jump like free-minded children from one party to another but merely seeking a favourable platform to actualize their deadly plans against the people and the motherland. What would be expected from men who spend so much for elections, most times from borrowing from kingmakers and political fathers? Or have taken oath to deliver their constituencies to their parties by all means? That is the source of the dictum “do or die” declared by a former Nigerian president who was unfortunately a member of the ruling party then.

I believe that Nigeria is ripe for an intellectual revolution. I believe that Nigeria can do it right this time. I believe that it is time to take our destiny in our own hands. It is time, not only to say no to political thuggery, no to stereotyping our intellectual capacities, no to mismanagement/massive looting of our God-given fortunes, no to ethno-religious gangsterism, no to electoral corrupt practices – all of these that have become diehard in the mainstream of our political lives – it is also time to rejuvenate the spirits of Sir Tafawa Belewa, Dr. Nnmadi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and my own father Ajah Ogwu who was ever prayerful that one day faith and love would defeat evil and wickedness in his little world, nay Nigeria.

Moreover, it is time to preserve our youth and the dignity of our mothers and sisters and allow them cling challenging positions of trust on merit and not imposition. It is time to display our unity in diversity. It is time for love, tolerance and togetherness. It is time to be like South Africa and like Ghana, in the pursuit of an intellectually revolutionalized, democratically sanitized and economically stabilized society.

But will 2015 general elections be a departure from the past? Can our politicians muster the patriotic will and gumption to accept change in the political direction of the nation, with special interest on who presides over their affairs in the next four years after May 29, 2015? This is the most ripe time for the interfaith establishment to preach religious tolerance so that while Christians can vie for and win positions of choice and trust in the northern part of Nigeria, the Muslims can also vie for same and win in the Southeast and South-South geopolitical zones of the country. However, this will be the next point to discuss. May we meet the 2015 general elections and cross over to the next political era without killings, violence and the mortgaging of our future in the next four years.

Muhammad Ajah is an author, publisher and socio-political analyst. He can be reached via [email protected]

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Articles by Muhammad Ajah