As Nigerians go to their various polling units to exercise their civic right of electing leaders that will manage the affairs of the country in the next four years, there is anxiety over the conduct of political leaders and followers. Their utterances have continued to raise tension and cast a gloom on the prospects of conducting transparent elections that will be in line with global best practices. Not a few analysts are of the view that the country’s political space is fraught with tension that is capable of setting the country on edge. Even before the polls are conducted, the ruling party and opposition politicians are enmeshed in allegations of subterranean plots to undermine the outcome of the elections. The attitude of aspiring leaders and their supporters is a grim reminder of the frightening spectre that await the citizenry.
Recently, Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai of Kaduna State threatened that foreign election observers run the risk of being returned to their countries in body bags if they dare to interfere in the forthcoming polls billed to commence on Saturday, February 16, 2019. During a live television programme, TuesdayLive on the Nigerian Television Programme, el-Rufai was quoted to have declared: “Those that are calling for anyone to come and intervene in Nigeria, we are waiting for the person that would come and intervene; they would go back in body bags”.
The governor’s threat has attracted national and global outrage, with the European Union insisting that it was committed to peaceful conduct of the polls and expressed its determination to ensure the sanctity of the ballot box. Not a few political commentators have criticized the governor who has defended his statement on the plank of defending the nation’s sovereignty in the event of military interference. Since no foreign country had threatened to resort to military action over the upcoming polls, many are finding it difficult to rationalize the governor’s outburst. The statement by the governor has also been condemned by Nigerians as capable of increasing tension in a country where no fewer than 15 states, out of 36, are facing serious security challenges, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
As the nation prepares for the commencement of polls, political analysts are becoming increasingly worried over rising hostile disposition of politicians at campaign rallies and the resort to hate speech as they seek for votes. In many states, the level of loathing amongst various parties as an obvious sign of uneasiness in the polity. The deployment of hate speech and threat of violence are becoming trademarks of the present political dispensation ahead of the elections. There seems to be a deliberate ploy to foist the culture of violence and intolerance on the polity. This demonstration of hostility amongst opposing political camps in the country reflect a deep-seated aversion for the fairness that underpins democracy.
While allegations abound against the ruling party of having swung the pendulum to ensure victory come its way in the forthcoming elections, there are portentous signs that many bobby traps have been laid to compromise the outcome of the polls. There is no doubt that, so far, the conduct of the electioneering has not been without serious threats to lives and property. In Taraba State, the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential campaign last Thursday, according to a media report, recorded no fewer than five people dead when the convoy of Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku came under heavy attack by suspected political thugs.
In Kaduna State, campaign posters belonging to parties are often destroyed, with claims and counter claims by the two major parties. In our considered opinion, this demonstration of intolerance among politicians serves as a notice of potential danger to the coming polls.
For democracy to succeed, this newspaper is compelled to appeal to the political actors to see the need to conduct the polls under an atmosphere of non-violence. When violence and tension take over the country, the hope of conducting transparent polls takes a back seat. It is against this backdrop that Nigerians and the international community have expressed commitment towards the conduct of elections that are of acceptable standards globally.
The commitment to peaceful polls should not end on the table. Adequate security arrangements should be put in place to ensure that the country is not plunged into a round of crisis due to the inordinate ambition of some selfish politicians. While critical stakeholders should be given the opportunity to perform their functions, INEC should stick to rules and remember always that the world is watching with keen interest to see what becomes of Nigeria after the polls.
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