The 2019 election in Nigeria is just a few hours away and the attention of the world is turned on the country, and most especially the key players in the election viz: INEC and its leadership, politicians and the political parties.
INEC, the umpire in this election is expected to be an impartial arbiter. There is so much expectation from Professor Mahmoud Yakubu and his team, especially him as a person, scholar with sound academic records in Nigeria and abroad. He must be firm, fearless and stand for free and fair election like his predecessor, Professor Jega.
Elections in Nigeria have always been conducted in an atmosphere of fear, dread and violence with different issues emerging each time.
The first election in Nigeria was organized under colonial rule in 1959, preparatory to full independence in 1960. It was relatively peaceful and probably the only election without controversy.
Subsequent elections turned out differently. The regional election of 1965 in Western Nigeria was so violent that the military intervention brought a temporary relief, only to spark a bigger crisis which led to a bloody civil war and loss of over two million lives.
There was no election again in Nigeria for 14 years, until 1979, when the second republic was born. This too was soon truncated by the military, after the crisis which followed the 1983 election. Then, a long period of military rule followed from 1984-1998 ( 14 years), a traumatic period which brought on Nigeria all possible ills experienced by the country today; be it economic ruin, destruction of the civil service, coups , aggravated corrupt practices, kidnappings, brain drain, tribalism, nepotism, cancelled election, destruction of institutions and such privations and hardships which pushed Nigeria to this level of despair.
There was so much eagerness to see the exit of the military from the political terrain, that the quality of the 1999 election, rigged or not was of little concern.
The 2011 election was crisis ridden and bloody because of the circumstances which brought in President Jonathan, who inherited the mandate of the deceased President Yar’Adua. Power brokers and vested interests felt that the presidency should have returned to a candidate from Northern Nigeria.
In 2015, President Jonathan was not too keen to rock the boat and the election was relatively free and fair and the transition was hitch free.
The 2019 election should also follow the trend of 2015. The two major political parties have presented candidates from Northern Nigeria, Moslems from the same Fulani ethnic group. The vice presidential candidates are from the South West and the South East, which creates a near perfect equilibrium for a keen competition and peaceful election, unlike in 2015, when the clamour for change was also agitation for power transfer to Northern Nigeria.
These factors have put enormous pressures on the two major parties to give convincing reasons to be the chosen one, rather than rely on ethnic affiliations.
The parties of the ‘ young shall grow’ cannot be ignored. They are likely to draw votes from young people, but it will not be sufficient to win the election. Their strong campaigns will pave the way for their future bids.
The peace pact signed by the two main political parties must be respected. The comments made by President Buhari and the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar at the peace meeting are very reassuring. Indeed, no drop of Nigerian blood is worth shedding for the gains and glory of political office. It is a question of honour, and words spoken must be matched with action.
Of course, there are consequences for insincerity . The wrath of the Nigerian people awaits any individual, no matter how high placed or connected, who may willfully wish to start another crisis in this country.
It is not pleasant to remember some frightful incidents in similar circumstances in other countries. But, it should be told, to serve as a lesson which could deter potential trouble makers.
I can still recollect vividly, when four red beret gendarmes went past the Nigerian Chancery in Abidjan and the National Assembly of Cote D’Ivoire to arrest General Guei at the Cathedral in plateau district of the city.
He was taken away and executed with his aide de camp, wife, children, grandchildren, cooks, stewards, gardeners, drivers, about seventeen family members and personal staff. A bloody civil war erupted thereafter, which claimed over 30,000 lives.
Let us us remember the fate of Mobutu Sese Seko, Idi Amin, Emperor Bokassa, Laurent Gbagbo, Charles Taylor, Samuel Doe, Hosni Mubarak, and such inglorious and dishonorable African leaders who destroyed themselves and countries out of stupid obstinacy.
These are not pleasant stories to tell, but they should serve as examples for us and others to learn in the public interest and the good image of Africa.
Ambassador Akinkuolie Rasheed was Director, Trade and Investments, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Abuja.