In accordance with the timetable of the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), political parties are now permitted from this month to carry out campaigns often characterised largely by rallies, road-shows and the like.
Hitherto, campaigns were carried out in various forms including town-hall meetings, unrelenting media crossfires on every topic under the sun worth politicizing, all aimed at eventually producing upsets at the polls.
Of note also were the tense political activities prior to the staggered National Assembly elections conducted in various states to fill voids created by death and gubernatorial elections just concluded across the country.
The announcement of the lifting of ban on campaigns has clearly gingered politicians who have started pulling the strings to enable them clinch their slots in the 2019 Presidential, National Assembly, Governorship and Local Council polls.
Here lies the challenges facing INEC and its Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, in conducting elections for 1,558 constituencies made up of one presidential constituency, 36 governorship constituencies, 109 senatorial districts, 360 federal constituencies, 991 state Assembly constituencies, 774 Local Councils and wards.
The elections will be contested by at least 80 political parties, in an area of 923,768 sq. km extending from mangrove swamp forests in the south to the semi-desert northern fringes — with an estimated 186 million people, speaking 520 different languages.
As we speak, the fallout of the just concluded elections have already thrown up so many issues that are already threatening to ridicule the elections like vote-buying, hate speeches, personal attacks and the like. In desperation, even the health and photo image of the president and his major opponent’s visa status are not spared.
We believe that in achieving a just and disciplined society, freedom of speech should not be overlooked. Our people must also not set aside the age old norms of truth, respect and honesty grounded in all of Nigeria’s cultures.
Politicians have found a new trade in spreading rumours and thwarting perceptions to suit their objectives even if it translates into dangerous collateral damage. Oftentimes in the jostle for power, attention is less focused on the ideals that bind us but narrowed on ethno-religious cleavages that divide us.
The colossal effect is unimaginable. The bulk of our youth are heavily brainwashed away from development issues to narrow sentiments such that leaders are no longer cherished by merit but geography, tribe or religion. This, we must avoid at all cost in order to sustain and develop the country of our dream.
Therefore campaigns for the forthcoming elections must be issue-based to enable Nigerians make wise decisions as the status of this country among the comity of nations should always drive the brand of politics played by politicians.
To achieve a rancor-free and fair politicking, in this case, requires the cooperation of all stakeholders. While INEC is expected to deliver a credible election, politicians should also stop attempts to compromise election managers or spark violence in areas they lose.
Efforts should be made to reduce or eliminate issues that lead to inconclusive elections. Furthermore, the ruling party should continue to assure citizens through its conduct, of the willingness to ensure equity and justice.The security agencies are also expected to be neutral in the discharge of their duties without fear or favour.