Former Head of State General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd) was right on the mark last week Thursday when he did the unexpected by calling it as he saw it. The General threw caution to the wind when he declared that the coming general elections would be decisive in determining the continued existence of the country as one united natxion. “The way we are able to handle this very important event will largely determine how successful our efforts at remaining a united, indivisible country will be. Already, the fault lines are visible and politicians are ready to exploit them to the fullest to achieve their sometimes not so noble objectives.
“The 2015 elections are expected to, among other things, determine where power will reside in the next four years. The North is determined to have it back and its leaders are pulling all the stops to see that that happens. On the other hand, the body language of the incumbent president strongly suggests he wants another term in office”, he said.
Although campaigns for the 2015 elections have not officially kicked off going by the timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), President Goodluck Jonathan has undoubtedly swung into action with his recent tours of Sokoto, Imo, Kwara and Niger states where he has been attempting to sell himself and his party to the electorate. We are dismayed that he has so blatantly flouted the electoral rules when he should have been their chief enforcer. At every stop, the routine has been to bash the opposition and hail the ruling party. Now if that is not electioneering in full swing, we are at a loss what to call it.
Beyond that, however, what his tours bring to light is the desperation of a president determined to get a head start in a race that he knows pretty well he would not last the distance. The remarkable failure of his government to deliver on the expectations of the people in the areas of peace and security, job creation, steady power supply, improved health services, etc continues to make him a tough sell to a politically aware electorate. This notwithstanding, he is evidently working hard to return to office.
Opposition to his candidature started first as a northern affair with its elite determined to wrest power from him and revert to the PDP zoning arrangement put in place back in 1999. That seems to have now given way to a coalition of forces from various regions of the country under the banner of the All Progressives Congress (APC). As the former head of state pointed out, the political atmosphere is indeed charged and if care is not taken, the elections may come with dire consequences. Evidence of this is apparent in states like Nasarawa, Taraba, Kwara, and others where the battle lines have already been drawn with politicians willing to exploit religion and ethnicity to achieve their objectives.
The onus is now on the electoral umpire, INEC, to ensure that it asserts its independence by conducting free and fair elections where the votes of the people will determine who wins at the polls. Sadly though, INEC has still not proved that it is capable of discharging this enormous responsibility going by some of the elections held recently. The president himself does not come across as one who will ensure that the coming elections are credible. His tacit role in the lingering crisis in Rivers state and his endorsement of the farcical Nigeria Governors’ Forum election where he sided with the person who clearly lost suggest that he will do anything to have his way.
We join General Abubakar in calling on all concerned Nigerians, especially politicians, to always put the interest of the nation first. The task of ensuring a violence free polls come 2015 largely depends on the actions of our politicians. As we saw in the last elections, attempts at manipulation may be violently resisted.