In a matter of hours, Nigerians will be going to the polls to elect the leaders who will be in charge of governance in the country in the next dispensation. Specifically, they will be voting for their choice presidential and National Assembly candidates on Saturday, 25 February. The window for campaigns and other political activities for the presidential and National Assembly elections, which had been open in the last five months, formally closed midnight of Thursday, 23 February. Political parties and their candidates have used that window to showcase themselves to the electorate with the aim of convincing them that they are the best candidates to be elected to power or returned to office as the case may be. Many took very good advantage of the period, moving from one location to the other to engage individuals and groups and articulate their manifestos and programmes in order to establish more support bases for their aspirations. By and large, it will be safe to say that the citizenry were served with tastes of the good, the bad and the ugly menu of politicking by these politicians of different shades. While some of them always dished out messages of hope for a batter tomorrow to their listeners, some others never had any good thing to tell their supporters apart from calumny against their political opponents. In some other rallies, the talks centred on equity, justice and fairness by people who do not really know the true meanings of these principles and what they represent in governance. In other instances, the focal points of their campaigns were purely based on sentimentalized ethno-religious balderdash. There were also reported cases of violent attacks and killings of rival political supporters at campaign venues and different locations in the country.

As if the above were not enough, the hullabaloo also extended to various platforms on social media where the supporters of the different parties freely exchanged derogatory and bigoted remarks that were capable of threatening social peace. It became so bad that some of these people did not even blink before attacking and insulting anyone perceived not to be supporting their preferred candidate(s). Therefore, it was not surprising that they never capitalized on some of the constructive and objective criticisms that were meant to help them to re-strategize and boost the chances of their respective principal(s) for now or the near future.

Now that the campaigns are formally over, the next important thing to focus on is the election proper, which comes up Saturday, 25 February. There have been series of online polls which a lot of people are now relying on as the most likely outcomes of the elections. The only advice I can give to such people in this circumstance is to start having it at the back of their minds that those results, which could best be described as social media results, cannot stand in the face of the real results that will start coming on air immediately after the elections. Anyone who banks on the “Social Media Results” as sacrosanct will only be doing so at their own peril. The politicians themselves know quite well that this is going to be a unique election because it will largely be dependent on the physical participation of the electorate. This is not going to be that sort of election where people would sit in the corners of their homes to write results and find ways of making them to count. It is not going to be that sort of election where party agents would collude with electoral umpires to allocate fictitious figures to their candidates. It is not going to be that sort of election where some people would employ all types of nefarious activities to disenfranchise legitimate voters. It is not going to be that sort of election where votes would be freely and openly bought. And, it is not going to be that sort of election where ballot boxes would be snatched to manipulate and distort the true picture of the process.

As a result of the uniqueness and cruciality of this election, some candidates and their parties have done objective self-appraisals of their preparedness to face the contest headlong or align with other candidate(s) and party(ies) to form formidable alliance(s). It is based on these political calculations that some of them have started collapsing their structures and endorsing preferred candidates across other parties. So, in the next few hours, we shall be witnessing more of cross-carpeting, collapsing of structures, and endorsements across board. However, we will be hoping that these movements should not eventually take an unpleasant trend. Much as this phenomenon is normal in politics, my only fear has always been that such should not take us back to the old era of politics of North-South dichotomy and religious prejudice. From the look of things, the unfolding trends are gradually tilting towards giving credence to my very cogent position. This will become clearer in the next few hours and by the pattern of distribution of votes for the presidential candidates on Saturday.

As I have said earlier, these movements are normal and would not have deteriorated to the extent of posing concerns, if not for the inappropriate approaches that some of our politicians and leaders adopted lately to handle some very crucial and intricate political issues. All the same, there would not have been any problem considering the fact that no law debars anyone from moving from one political party to another in this circumstance or collapsing one’s structures to support another preferred candidate(s), but it becomes a big problem when such are hinged on factors that are more likely to tear us apart than unite us.

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Flowing from the above, all that is expected of us as patriotic citizens and participants in the exercise is to play our respective roles diligently and decorously. We should all comport ourselves and follow the rules and regulations guiding the processes before, during and after the elections. We should not for any reason engage in acts that are capable of jeopardizing the free, fair, peaceful and credible conduct of the elections. Also importantly, we should not allow ourselves to be carried away by the outcomes of the online and opinion polls about the elections because they are not in any way the constitutional basis for measuring and determining the results. The true and genuine results will be determined by the collation of our real valid votes at the end of the exercise. Therefore, it is not cast in stone or sacrosanct that a particular candidate must be the winner. The earlier we accept the fact that it is the majority of the voters that will determine who eventually wins, the better it will be for all of us.

In view of the above, we should all be willing and prepared to accept whoever is declared the winner regardless of his ethno-religious and political affiliation. There should not be any form of protest or chaos as a result of the outcome of the elections. We should remember that there is still a government in place that is fully prepared to maintain law and order as well as uphold national unity and territorial integrity of the country. The whole world has been following the happenings in the country with keen interest and will be willing and ready to support the government to curtail and crush any unreasonable and unnecessary agitations or insurrections as a result of the outcome of the polls. Therefore, I appeal to everyone to join hands with the government and INEC for a free, fair, peaceful and credible exercise.

Let us make it a win-win situation for all of us.

I wish all the parties and their candidates the best of luck.