The second term is never a must for all politicians. But in Nigeria, every political actor thinks the second term is a constitutional right.
President Muhammadu Buhari recently assured the international community that the 2019 election will be free, fair and credible. In other words, the president is saying that the government under his watch will not interfere with the outcome of the poll, whether it favours it or not. By extension, the president is alluding to the fact that the election will not be rigged or manipulated for a predetermined outcome.
On its face value, the president spoke well and probably meant well for the forthcoming poll that is likely going to be the fiercest electoral contest in the history of Nigeria. However, critics of the administration would readily point out that despite such assurance in the recent past, the gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun states left much to be desired.
Apart from vote buying, the polls witnessed intimidation of voters to the extent that some of them were disenfranchised. These polls had shown that the 2019 election can still be rigged if certain measures are not put in place now. The likely impediments to the 2019 poll are already manifesting. The recently concluded party primaries are veritable signs that what happened in such primaries will be translated wholesale into the 2019 election unless those characters that participated in the rigged primaries are prevented from carrying such infractions into the main election next year.
The shooting, killing and unruly conducts that characterized most of the party primaries are likely to rear their ugly heads during the poll except something is done now to nip them in the bud. The duty to ensure that a national election is free, fair and credible rests squarely on the shoulders of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
This position is given. But in a polity where the umpire is suspected to be under the control of those in power, the duty to make the poll free and fair goes beyond the umpire. It even goes beyond the security agents. This is where Buhari’s statement on the forthcoming poll matters a lot. In 2015, the All Progressives Congress (APC) won the election because the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) under the former President Goodluck Jonathan allowed a free and fair poll to take place.
Jonathan did not wait for the poll to be concluded before calling the winner and conceding defeat. Jonathan was hailed for his exemplary action. He is still being hailed today because of that statesmanlike conduct. President Buhari, some days ago, still hail Jonathan for conceding power despite the fact of being in power for ten years both at the state and national levels. We recommend the Jonathan model to all our politicians.
Since Buhari has promised Nigerians and the international community a free and fair poll, he shall keep to its promise. INEC must assure Nigerians and the international community that it is going to conduct a free and fair poll next year. The umpire must ensure that the card readers are in good condition. Over the years, this instrument that determines who will vote and who will not, has been found to be malfunctioning.
INEC must get this equipment working. It is sad that many permanent voters cards (PVCs) are yet to be collected from every state of the Federation and Abuja. It is the duty of INEC to distribute these cards so that no Nigerian voter will be disenfranchised on account of not getting his PVC. There are rumours that the PVCs are being hoarded in some states. With about three months to the 2019 election, it is not good that many voters are yet to collect their PVCs.
The government must impress it on the electoral umpire to ensure that all eligible voters get their PVCs by the end of December 2018 or January 2019 if possible. INEC should also embark on voter education so that voters will be enlightened on what they are expected to do during election. Politicians and their supporters have roles to play to ensure that the election is free and fair.
Politicians must do away with the mindset that they must win always. They must eschew violence and thuggery and say no to ‘do or die’ approach to politics. Nigerian politicians must note that the 1999 Constitution allows for a term of four years. Although an incumbent governor, president can contest for a second term. It is not a right that he must win. If he wins, it is good, and if he loses, it is also good.
The second term is never a must for all politicians. But in Nigeria, every political actor thinks the second term is a constitutional right. The second term is based on the performance of the incumbent. The second term is like a referendum on someone’s first term. It is a reward for hard work and never a constitutional right as some political actors claim.
Politicians should emulate Goodluck Jonathan who conceded defeat and congratulated the winner. In everything, the national interest must override personal interest. The lessons of the 2015 election must be imbibed by all politicians including those in power. Let the political class learn how to win and lose gallantly. Since the electoral season comes up every four years, they can run again if they fail in the first attempt.
The whole world is watching Nigeria and how the 2019 poll will go. Africa is looking up to Nigeria to get it right. We must never disappoint the world and Africa. We must show the light to the black world that we have arrived. Just like it was done in 2015, the current political actors and presidential candidates must sign an agreement that they would accept the outcome of the poll irrespective of who emerges the winner.
None of them should resort to violence or urge its supporters to resort to self help. The only sensible way to reject an electoral outcome is to seek redress at the tribunal. The electorate must be allowed to vote according to their conscience. The craze for vote buying and other forms of bribery of the voters must be stopped. We don’t want to hear again ‘vote and cook soup or stew’ that characterized Ekiti gubernatorial polls.
Nigerians should use their PVCs as weapons to remove bad leaders and vote those they believe can redeem the country and salvage it from poverty and security and other ills that make us the laughing stock among comity of nations.