There are heightening tensions, insinuations and palpable fears with regards to recent political developments in the country which tended to point to the fact that the forthcoming general elections starting this Saturday, March 16 may not seem to be credible, fair and violence-free. For us, these concerns are as genuine as they are worrisome.
If care is not taken by concerned authorities, all the much-talked about credible polls may turn out to be a tall dream, the development of which may not do anybody any good as it may derail the hand-won democracy in the country.
Apart from the security challenges plaguing the country for some time which is yet to be abated despite the claims by the Federal Government that the perpetrators of the criminal activities have been tamed, the seemingly unpalatable political developments across the states in recent times are capable of impeding free and fair elections in the country.
From Abuja to Lagos; Ogun to Imo, Ondo to River states among other parts of the country, the story is the same as political bickering and sundry actions capable of scuttling the transition programme are the order of the day. Few examples will suffice:
The dust raised by the recent suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to settle as it is widely believed that the action is more political than fighting corruption. It is also believed that the process of CJN’s suspension did not follow the Constitutional provisions just as the haste with which it was executive seem to defy any logic in the face of other low hanging fruits in terms of the prosecution of alleged corrupt top government functionaries
The matter is still the subject of litigation as accusations and counter-accusations by both Federal Government and the legal practitioners as well as the civil society groups on the issue rage.
More worrisome is the utterances from the Presidency on the forthcoming election in the country are also pointers to the fact that this year’s polls may be far from being credible.
The recent confession of President Muhammadu Buhari on the conduct of the last year re-run of the gubernatorial poll especially in Osun State was enough to tell the electorate that the forthcoming elections may be manipulated by the powers-that-be.
President Buhari, addressing traditional rulers in Osun State had confessed that: “I know how much trouble we had in the last election here (in Osun State). I know by remote control through so many sources how we managed to maintain the party (APC) in power in the state”.
We can deduce from this statement that if this could happen in Osun State, the gubernatorial elections in most states this year may follow suit, the results of which may neither be acceptable nor palatable to many people thus leading to conflagration.
Already, the hues and cries trailing the conduct of the last primary elections in some states are yet to be addressed and these had led to factionalisation in the political parties in the affected states coupled with parallel primaries that produced different candidates in the same party.
The controversies surrounding the appointment of Amina Zakari as the head; Collation Centre of the Presidential Election Results is yet to die down as it is believed that the appointment was to do the President’s bidding. We had wondered why she could not be changed to create a better effect.
The primary election in Ogun State, the home state of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, is still in contention as the APC Governor Ibikunle Amosun is fielding another candidate, Abdulkabir Adekunle Akinlade, as the flag bearer on the platform of another party, Allied People’s Movement (APM).
The same game is playing out in Imo State where the incumbent Governor Rochas Okorocha is fielding his son-in-law Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance (AA) against Senator Hope Uzodinma of APC. The bad blood generated by this development in the state is still there waiting to sprout out at the poll.
In Ondo, Kwara and other states, there have been crises in the political parties to the extent that everybody is on his/her own political wise. Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State is being accused of anti-party activities by his own party, APC, while in Kwara there have been allegations of insecurity by the opposition parties in the state.
In some states, while there have been allegations of arms stockpiling and training of armed bearing members of militia groups under the guise of vigilantes, attacks on members of the opposition parties by the thugs are being witnessed.
All these are capable of causing political upheavals during elections if urgent steps are not taking by security agencies to curb the menace.
Therefore, the security agencies should act fast in dismantling all training camps of militia groups and confiscating illegal arms in their custody.
They should also investigate the activities of some unscrupulous government functionaries who are alleged to be in possession of sophisticated arms and ammunition.
We believe this is necessary because these developments are capable of causing chaos and flagrant attempt at circumventing the rights to freedom to peaceful assembly and association as well as the right to participate in the civic responsibilities like voting during elections.
Government should allow security agencies to perform their duties professionally by ensuring the security of voters and integrity of the entire voting process. This, we believe, will do the nation a world of good if the security agencies perform their duties without interference.
The political parties must be civil and peaceful before, during and after the elections and must shun all forms of intimidation, intolerance , harassment, disruption of peaceful gathering, disruption of campaign materials and personal properties of opposition candidates.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must live up to expectations and be truly independent and maintain neutrality in all the election matters at all times.
While we urge INEC to convince the electorate that it can do a better job, the Commission must surpass what happened in 2015 and must not allow itself to be used to foment trouble by any of the interest parties.
The adhoc staff of the INEC should not be perceived as military men in civilian dresses as being speculated and it must be seen to be an unbiased umpire and ensure that no voter is discriminated against. INEC must guide against influx of foreigners to vote in the elections. Only votes cast by Nigerians should count.
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