2019 Polls: The Looming Dark Clouds

When people who love the country say that the issue of electoral violence is mostly caused or funded by the elites in the society, especially well placed politicians that have immunity from prosecution is not far fetched from the truth.
Hate speech, intolerance to divergent view,s and the fear of contesting in a free and fair elections are all seen as threats to the status quo.
In Nigeria, no politician likes to lose in any election, if he or she loses, than it is rigged, but if the person wins it is free, fair and credible.
But the most worrisome trends as the presidential election gets nearer, are the high level of threats, hate speeches, childish behaviour exhibited and false rumours spread by the political class.
Some of the ugly incidents being experienced in this present political dispensation that seems not to go away is the issue of intimidation and childish behaviour meted out to political opponents in Kano, Kaduna and Lagos States. In Lagos State the Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP, Peter Obi and the gubernatorial candidate, Jimi Agbaje, were locked out of the trade fair complex when they went there to campaign and it took the intervention of the state police commissioner for them to be allowed to use the venue.
Also this week Tuesday the Kano State Governor Alhaji Abdulahi Gunduje ordered closure of two major stadiums in Kano city for renovation.
The order is coming just five days to the scheduled campaign rally of the PDP Presidential Candidate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
A Similar scenario had also played out in 2015 in Rivers State when the then commissioner for information and communication, Mrs Ibim Semenitari said the Rivers State government had put under lock and key the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium for renovation few days before the campaign rally of President Goodluck Jonathan in Port Harcourt. It seems that there is something seriously wrong with some of our politicians, because they don’t really realise the consequences of their actions while they are in their lofty and dreamy palaces, Power is transient and will continue to be transient as there is life beyond politics.
From 1999 to date, how many people who started the journey are still holding political offices as presidents, ministers, governors, commissioners or legislators or even party offices? Very few!!!.
Another worrisome scenario is the recent threat issued by the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El Rufai, that any foreigner election observer who interfered in the forthcoming elections will leave the country in a body bag. This threat is not only a hate and violence initiating speech but shameful to the country. And rather than condemn this gutter language, his party, the APC has kept MUM.
In a civilised society El-Rufai should have been sanctioned by his party, but here in Nigeria, provided you are in the ruling political party or in the good books of the powers you can do no wrong.
The ruling party at the federal level should reflect back if it has conscience, that in 2014 it advocated for foreign observers to monitor the elections of 2015 and was crying to the high heavens that the then ruling party, the PDP, intended to rig the elections.
Surprisingly today, that APC is in power, its body language, actions and comments seem to indicate that it does not want anything like opposition political parties in the country. And if there is to be an election, it must win. So threat to opposition figures, political, parties the judiciary and now that of the international observers, is normal.
This attitude, or hypocrisy to issues of national importance is why Nigeria according to the late musical maestro, Fela Anikulapo-Kut is a ‘’Big Blind country’’ where nothing works.
Elections should be seen as a sporting event where someone wins another loses, based on skills and hardwork like in football or any track event. It should be competitive to bring out the best in us. We cannot afford to stand aloof and allow people without the necessary skills to continue to run the affaires of this country, no matter the political leaning or affiliation.
The beauty of democracy is the conduct of elections where individuals cast their ballots to choose who will represent them. And the essence of this, is the freedom to exercise that franchise without any intimidation from organs of the state.
Do we claim that our politicians are now matured? The answer is unequivocally no. Meanwhile, in its reaction to the recent happenings in the country, the election observer team has expressed concern on the issue of the independence of the judiciary and the threat of violence by Mallam Nasir El Rufai. It said, it has been observing elections in Nigeria since 1999 and the forthcoming elections will be the sixth in the country and said that threats would not deter it from carrying out its function.
It however said it would continue to review its security arrangements before and during the elections.
Why is it that between 1999 and 2015 no one issued a threat to international observers but in 2019 when the APC is in office and is about to contest for election from the position of strength, threats to institutions and to individuals have become the vogue?
For how long shall we continue to address this issue even at the state and local government levels, politicians across the various divide see themselves as enemies instead of competitors for various offices. The name of a political party is just a label of a product or a football team which can be changed at anytime. So the struggle, intimidation, killings in the name of a political party is not necessary. Nigerians must never let themselves down by staking their lives for politicians.
This is 2019, the year when we are expected to renew the mandate of those who claim to govern us.
In the situation whereby they, by their actions, continue to heat up the polity, the consequences will not only be grave but send the signal that all we have gained in the first 16 years of our democracy has now gone down the drain.
There is need for attitudinal change in our psyche, and this call is especially meant for our political class, as the country is on the threshold of making another history of a ruling party which was once in opposition, holding an election in which it is either expected to win or lose.
If the independent electoral commission and the security agencies do a good job and the elections are devoid of manipulations and violence, the message it will send across the globe will be positive, loud and clear that Nigeria has consolidated its democracy. But if the reverse is the case then have to go to the drawing board and begin all over again.
Election is not a do or die affair, but an avenue to widen the horizon of governance by us electing individuals who are capable of providing us with the best necessities of life.
Democracy is about choice, freedom, free speech and making the right decisions without fear and threats.
The hard-won freedom from the military juntas that have ruled should not and never be replaced with a civilian dictatorship. We all should rise up and say Not to politics of hatred and intimidation in Nigeria as we ought to have advanced beyond this primitive level of abuse of privileges bestowed on us.

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Tonye Ikiroma-Owiye



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