will tomorrow culminate in an election that will launch us into the 21st year of the nation’s democracy.However, there are some unhealthy developments in the election process that we should not allow to undermine the majesty of this thing called democracy, which has been generally rated above authoritarian rule. One of such ugly occurrences is violence instead of fanfare at political rallies.
Political rallies by some of the different political parties ended up in disarray when thugs invaded the scene and unleashed violence on innocent citizens. The most recent was that of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abeokuta at which the first citizens of the country, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo were present. Images of security men providing shield and cover for Mr. President, which were captured on video and which went viral, were scary and to say the least, disappointing. How and why should party stalwarts and their thugs throw stones at the president in a rally where ideas for the country’s development were supposed to be canvassed?
A cursory examination of the incidents shows that the parties are yet to get their act together in terms of internal democracy. The culture of impunity, which politicians inherited from the military appears to have taken hold of their imagination. This is reflected in the selection of candidates for political posts. Some candidates have been imposed by godfathers, making it impossible for the rank and file of the party to have a real say in who gets what. At other times, external interests have been involved.
Yet, as we have repeatedly stated, violence is not the answer. Violence and the use of brute force are antithetical to the principle and practice of democracy. Democracy is a contest of ideas. It is all about winning the hearts and minds of the people, the electorate who are indeed sovereign in the equation. Those who are aggrieved by party decisions are advised to go to court and seek redress. The first line, however, is to explore the internal mechanism within the party to correct a perceived infraction of the rules.
Political rallies ought to be peaceful even if boisterous and celebratory. Different wings or branches of the same party come in with their music and entertainers, ostensibly to whip up confidence and cheer. At political rallies contestants and candidates are expected to present their programmes in order to convince the electorate. Both party faithful and others are allowed to attend rallies.
Therefore, as we go to the polls tomorrow, let peace, justice, fairness and equity be our watchword. There must be no rigging. Leaders in all the parties should instruct their wards and stalwarts that the wish of the people as expressed through the ballot box must be respected. Both the international community and local groups are watching and monitoring the process. Let all parties respect the power and decision of a free and fair ballot box. The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies must be above board and avoid creating room for despair and a resort to self-help. INEC must not only be independent, it must be seen to be independent. Policemen and soldiers should not yield themselves as agents to any of the contending forces. The people should be ready to guard their votes after voting. That way the true results will be respected and we would be sowing the seeds for a solid democratic tradition. In the same vein, presidential candidates who have signed a peace pact should respect that covenant with the people. Finally, the security agencies should be proactive in the days and weeks ahead. It should be possible to preempt outbreak of violence and nip it in its bud.
We believe that there is no political ambition of anyone that is worth the blood of anybody and no one seeking political office is worth dying for. Everyone, especially the youths who are mostly the target to be used for violence needs to understand that they have a future ahead of them and with time and a little effort, they will step into their glorious future. But if you allow yourself to be used by political office seeker, you may never see that future that you desire. Note that the children of the politicians are not better than you. So, think first of yourself and know that your future and that of the nation is in your hands, don’t waste it.
Let Nigeria Win Tomorrow
We implore all actors in this year’s election to desist from engaging in demeaning and criminal acts like vote trading. The outcome of some recent elections was tainted by vote buying, which cheapened the will of the people from being golden to the value of a loaf of bread. Electoral Officers and security personnel should be on the watch out for those who tempt voters with peanuts in order to steal their precious votes. Also, journalists should be protected against the barbaric acts of thugs and security men who consider the presence of journalists at polling stations and collation centres as threats to their evil manipulations. The free and unfettered participation of journalists and election observers, domestic and foreign, is a key to free and fair elections.
We wish all the contestants good luck in tomorrow’s presidential and National Assembly elections but above all, we pray that the exercise strengthens rather than weaken our democracy.