I think I can with justification begin now to anticipate 2019, the election year. It is-not too early to do that now. A war a cripple is informed about in time does not consume him. He starts early to find his way to a safe distance. He does something nobody can do for him, about his nearness to danger.
He doesn't invite observers to come and observe the conduct of the war and submit reports. When the harm has been done and the man is dead, observers are medicine after death and are absolutely of no use. The cripple crawls away to safety where he is home and dry
Let's begin with this: It is assumed that the safeguard for electoral conflagration is the independence of the electoral umpire. Its independence makes the electoral body neutral, impartial and objective and avoids trouble after elections.
This safeguard is not guaranteed in our own INEC so long as the chairman remains an appointee (supposedly a friend) of the president and comes from the same region of the country to which political power is passionately a matter of life and death. There is no way he will not bend the rules to please his friend and brother who gave him such a choice, top job, especially if he is discretely instructed to do that. His loyalty is to the appointee, not the country or its so-called constitution. They did not give him the job. That's why the law in its wisdom insists that he must be independent, which is determined by who appoints him and how he is selected. This was pointed out earlier, but was ignored because the power to appoint the INEC chair is a power worth keeping by the president or anybody. The independence of INEC was compromised in how the INEC chairman was picked and confirmed as head of our electoral organ.
In everybody's interest and to re-assure the country about this, this fact will need to be addressed and rectified before 2019.
It is to be noted also that a number of things and issues are in worrisome and uncomfortable state relating to 2019, One, nothing has been done about the internal democracy in any of the parties. The likelihood is that candidates will emerge as usual by imposition. The process won't be transparent. And that is the match stick with which electoral fires are lighted - elections that begin by being suspect and will remain so even if they are in reality well-conducted. Once the fire has started, the problem is how to put it off before a lot of people have died. Therefore it is better to throw away the match box and remove all the combustible materials around. That's what we must try to do before 2019.
Two, elections proper are where bribery and corruption walk boldly, unchallenged on all fours up to the finalizing stage of the sanctimonious Tribunals. Everybody knows it. The war against corruption has to sanitize this aspect of the exercise before 2019. Laws against this have to be enforced. They have never been.
Three, we must do something about elections that have been producing people to whom the rule of law is meaningless. The laws take no notice of the lawless people in authority who abuse power. Not in the least. When will this be done? Now is the time, not later.
Four, with the ideological boundaries of parties not clear; the voter is in great difficulty knowing where to cast the damn vote; whom to drop it for. Can we accept that after all the wasteful spending in producing election materials, voters can't use them to do a meaningful thing?
Something should be done to put the enormous cost of elections to good use, and alleviate this burden on the hapless electorate, who go to make a choice from nothing. Why embark on an exercise that was doomed to have failed ab intitio? The voter is always handicapped to play his inescapable role?
Five, talk of the zonal claim of the north to an ordained right to Buhari's second term is gaining grounds. The FG has not deemed it fit or does not find the courage to dismiss this as irrelevant, unnecessary and untrue, to prove its faith in fair play and free choice. Even if Buhari has to go again it is inherently divisive for his zone area and people to opinionate on that. Its tacit, silent disposition to this can lead to the dreaded violent rejection of results, results that can be said to be pre-ordained, pre-destined and predictable. That northern demand, not even opinion must be hushed openly by the president himself in order to give the election integrity and give people confidence in its process. This is what any election should first of all aim at achieving.
Six, the good society of our dream as promised by the APC has not come. The prospect that it will come is not bright. The reason would be that electoral promises are never fulfilled. What is the point doing another one? Away with such nonsense! If there is consensus somehow on this, trouble has started.
In Nigeria every election is a moment of great anxiety. Election time is a time of activism. Our elections stoke the embers of disintegration and tend to destabilize and bring the national edifice to the brink. It is inescapable because of our much natural diversity and dichotomies, and the refusal to truly unite. Can this please arouse Federal Government's dormant energies and sensitivity, to work to make this less obvious? Is it not government that carries on with divisive policies of exclusion and segregation? It here and there at various occasions ensures that people don't have either their say or their way? Elections are when the country is more divided than ever. It is when the official efforts to unite should be intensified, but are not.
This surprisingly doesn't happen. Rather it is the time when the things that divide the country loom very large in people's minds, especially among the leaders this should concern more. Elections remind all and sundry that there are 'we and they, us and them'; that equity, freedom and justice are possible for them only when yours is/are in charge at the helm of affairs. They go to find them at polling booths where they make unambiguous statements of their separateness from "others", rather than of their choice of the best who can serve them, not minding where the one conies from.
This is an orientation people should have about elections as evidence of their unity, at least of purpose. Elections shouldn't make the country more disunited as they do in Nigeria. A president standing re-election should be able to say to voters: if you find any candidate better than me, vote for him. I should stand down for that better person. Vote for someone because he is good, not because he is from my area or part of the country. The tendency to be my people-minded should be discouraged strongly. Only a person working for unity and improvement of things is capable of this statement. Nobody has ever said this, showing that there is no selflessness about leadership here.
For these reasons, there are things that must be watched closely as the countdown to 2019 begins. Recently the election record of the world is a warning sign that anything can unpredictably happen. In the almighty and almost perfect US democracy, their electoral mistakes still haunt them big time, simply because they made the normal choice of a president which we shall be making on and half years from now. They have almost come to blows about it, something that has never happened. Kenya and Liberia are currently on fire regarding elections. That's how it starts.
The Gambia, Ghana and Togo managed to escape electoral conflagration. The Congo is in the threshold of an election that is full of apprehension. They can't agree on its date. The date is repeatedly fixed and cancelled for a long time now, because nobody knows what it holds in stock for the future.
Mugabe's Zimbabwe is in the throes of an indecisive election. It does not know if it should hold it or not. Now the military have intervened in a coup, though they say it is not a coup. That's the type of whirlwind, elections bring, whether it is for good or bad. Mugabe won't be in power for ever. There must be a way of removing him, at all costs, whether it is by hook or crook. That's what apparently the military there are saying. Their lame duck, olden presidency has endured and is due for change.
Tomorrow you may hear of election turmoil here too which can only happen because the needful things were not done.
Great care must therefore be taken right now as 2019 approaches. Any looming electoral mishaps here must not take us unawares. It is better to start early to get ready and prepared. Prevention any time is better than cure. The FG shows disturbing insensitivity to the circumstances of the coming elections. It is not taking the steps it ought to take about 2019 while there is ample time to do so. This is fraught with grave danger and may add to our intractable problems. It is not too early to do something now.