THE 2015 presidential election is less than one month away and the average Nigerian voter who should have been excited that he or she would be participating in a process that will ultimately determine who among the 14 presidential candidates jostling for the nation’s number one seat would be the next president, they are rather apprehensive over the possible violence that might characterize the outcome of the poll scheduled to hold on February 14, 2015.
As a result, many Nigerians from the Southern parts of Nigeria residing in the north have begun preparation towards temporarily relocating their families to their home states for fear of losing their property or lives in the aftermath of any violent protest that might follow the outcome of the election.
Some of them who came home for the Christmas and New Year celebrations are afraid to return to their respective places of businesses until the 2015 elections are concluded.
By the same token, Hausas living down south are gripped with fear and apprehension over the likely reprisals that might follow any possible attack on Southerners in the North when the presidential poll results which either President Jonathan or General Mohammadu Buhari of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) respectively is expected to win.
The contentious nature of the presidential poll occasioned by the strength of character and popularity of the two leading candidates in the election which the nation would have positively exploited to its advantage in the course of advancing its democratic culture is currently being hamstringed by the negative attitude of some supporters of the two leading presidential candidates who are desperately pushing for the success of their respective candidate.
Going by the sad experience of the 2011 election where over 800 innocent Nigerians including 10 members of the National Youth Service Corps serving in Bauchi were killed, many Nigerians have good reasons to be afraid.
Perpetrators of this form of violence do not need any reason to cause mayhem. The mere fact that someone else is declared winner other than their preferred candidate in an election is enough to cause trouble according to the political dictionary of the street urchins in Northern Nigeria who are desperately wishing that power returns to the north.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the general election, many affluent Nigerians including politicians, CEOs of blue chip companies and business men have started relocating their families to European, Asia and Middle East countries particularly Dubai in the United Arab Emirate following threat of violence by politicians and their supporters.
Media reports quoting some influential opposition leaders in the north particularly the Governor of Kano State Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso as saying that PDP members in Kano are afraid to publicly sell their party’s candidates is to say the least anti democratic and a license to violence.
It means that the activities of the so-called street urchins in Kano City as elsewhere in northern Nigeria are somewhat being encouraged by the political elites of that region who hope to make political mileages from them.
Sadly enough this is coming from those who seek to take over power and are trying to do so through the barrel of electoral intimidation and violence.
The likes of kwankwaso should be made to understand that democracy is all about popular participation in an electoral process and anything short of that will take the country backwards by 50 years with severe consequences.
Granted that the APC Presidential Candidate General Mohammadu Buhari enjoys popular support from the ordinary people of the north, it must not be extended to include the denial of the right to hold opposing view by those who so desire.
This is where the reported removal of campaign posters and other materials of those opposing their favoured candidates is condemnable and should be condemned by well meaning Nigerians who crave the continued existence of the nation as one and indivisible entity.
The right to hold opinion is fundamental to the entrenchment of democracy in any society and Nigeria cannot be an exception. Therefore, politicians must check the excesses of their supporters and stop them from unnecessary attacks on opponents and their supporters either physically or psychologically. The street urchins whose low level- education is usually exploited by the northern political elite to perpetrate electoral violence should be made to appreciate current efforts by the present leadership in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure the sanctity of the ballot box owing to the several mechanism it has deployed including the technology of the card reader expected to be used in this election which will stop incidences of over voting and illegal thumb print of ballot papers by desperate party supporters and fraudulent INEC officials.
Although the Nigeria’s security apparatus has been overstretched by current efforts to rout the Boko Haram elements from our shores; it has to deal decisively with current behaviours among desperate parties supporters who are bent on plunging the country into another round of violence even as we are yet to recover from the post 2011 election violence.
Those beating the current war drums should be made to realize that no one is immune from violence just as no one has the monopoly of it. In the face of the foregoing, citizen’s vigilance is advocated in order for them not to be caught unawares.
This perhaps explains the current exodus of stranger elements in Kano, Sokoto, Jigawa etc to their home states in order to avoid being caught in the crossfire of electoral violence.
The burning of President Jonathan’s campaign vehicles in Jos, Plateau State for no just cause and the fear by PDP members to freely campaign in the areas listed above is an open invitation to anarchy.
Opposition party politicians who are themselves the beneficiaries of this act depravity should hasten to call their supporters to order and stave off the impending catastrophe, otherwise, we might not have a nation to call our own at the end of the day.
We agree that the mass of Nigeria people especially from the north craves for a change in the policy direction of government or wholesale change in the governance structures in Nigeria and to that extent wants a new set of people in government who they believe will put an end to the present poverty and mass unemployment in the land. Added to this is their desperation for power to return to the north after the region, which had dominated the political affairs of the country since independence lost out in the power equation in 2010 with the demise of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
They believe that the man best qualified for the job now is General Mohammadu Buhari who they believe possess an impeccable anti corruption credentials needed to turn things around for the better in a nation so blessed with both human and mineral resources and ironically have great number of people living below the poverty line.
Since democracy is about popular participation and freedom of choice, the right atmosphere must be created for the majority to have their way and the minority their say. Therefore, supporters of the party in power have not committed any offence for which they should be tried and convicted on the court of hooligans parading as champions of democracy.
Electoral violence anywhere in this country should be condemned and its perpetrators denounced by well meaning individuals and groups.
The reported shooting of members of the APC in Rivers State and the bombing of the party’s secretariat in Okrika is another sore point in our electoral development deserving every condemnation one can muster.
It must be stated that all these electoral vices remain with us because of the win at all cost attitude of the average Nigerian politician who believe that the electoral process is only free and credible when they are the ones declared winners by the electoral umpire. The reverse becomes the case when they don’t win in an electoral contest.
The failure of General Buhari in the 2011 Presidential election despite his impressive performance in 14 out of the 19 northern states ignited the post election violence of that year not necessarily because the elections were manipulated in favour of the incumbent by the INEC.
To this extent, politicians across the divide must begin to educate their supporters to accept the verdict of the electoral umpire no matter how unfavourable.
The politicians themselves should learn to accept defeat when they lose election and avoid making inflammatory statements, which suggest that the process was manipulated against their interest.
Recent comments by General Buhari, which tended to cast aspersion on the integrity of our judicial system should be discountenanced as coming from a bad loser.
One would have expected General Buhari to first apologize on behalf of his weird and murderous supporters in the north who killed youth corps members in the post 2011 election violence.
Aside of the general’s allegations of malpractices here and there, Nigerians would have appreciated the retired army general if he had come out openly to accept the result of an election which secured the endorsements of both local and international observers as free and credible.
Nigerians are worried that the same General Buhari is in the current presidential race and fear that he might reject the result of the election should he lose to President Jonathan again.
As a result, not many Nigerians are deceived to accept the television screen show embrace between President Jonathan and General Buhari as enough to show love and communicate their peaceful disposition to the electoral melee.
They expect from the duo a demonstrable commitment to peaceful election by openly condemning all acts of violence perpetrated by their respective supporters in the build up to the February general elections and beyond.
The signing of the peace pact by the 14 Presidential candidates in the February election should be seen as the first step by these politicians among several others, which will truly guarantee violence free electoral contest in Nigeria.
This is so because if the peace pact bars the political gladiators from making any inciting comment or speeches in whatever guise that could cause the eruption of violence, what does the pact say about their body language that is inherently predisposed to violence when thing don’t go their way?