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2015, year of great expectations

Behind the prayers in places of worship for the peace, unity and progress of the country, is a sense that the elections taking place next…

Behind the prayers in places of worship for the peace, unity and progress of the country, is a sense that the elections taking place next month are crucial for the country. In fact, President Goodluck Jonathan called 2015 a ‘tempting year’, although that may be a reference to the electoral battle he faces from his challenger, General Muhammadu Buhari. With those elections in mind is also consciousness of the dire security situation in the country.  
It is routine that revelries take place at such periods as the New Year, particularly when the government has declared today and tomorrow to be public holidays. It is important that at the end of it all, however, people realise that there are schools fees to be paid, rents to be settled, and sundry expenses that often are associated with the new year. Besides celebration, the New Year is also a time to take stock of past events in order to assess successes and failures in the past year and plan for the new.
The hope and expectations for free and fair general elections should not to be taken lightly. Government machinery, more than any other stakeholder, has the onerous and crucial duty of ensuring that the elections are conducted under the most peaceful environment, where no citizen will be intimidated or disenfranchised from performing their civic responsibility. In addition, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) needs to really get up to speed to ensure that all the hitches currently threatening the distribution of Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) are resolved. Government officials must desist from trying to compromise the process in the use of armed security forces, especially the army, in the conduct of elections.
Political parties, whether ruling or opposition, should not only internalize democracy but imbibe its core principles. They should, as a matter of policy and practice, stop their members and supporters from using thugs at political rallies and during elections. The use of money by parties and aspirants to buy votes only corrupts the process and casts doubts on its outcome. This must be avoided. The voter education department of the INEC should collaborate with the media to educate voters properly on the consequences of selling their voting rights to the highest bidder.
As political campaigns for the 2015 general elections get under way in earnest, politicians should conduct themselves in the most enlightened tradition of sportsmanship. As in any game, playing politics by the rules elevates the process, and the entire country benefits, though winners and losers must emerge. The creeping but disturbing trend of deploying divisive symbols in a crude name of garnering votes is unacceptable and must not be allowed to feature. Labelling parties as Christian or Islamic, or on ethnic grounds, should attract the severest of sanctions, if not by law, at least by the electorates at the polls. Campaigns and partisan politics should generally be issue-based, not name-calling.
Candidates to the various elective offices and their supporters should realize that the use of violence as tool in elections will not auger well for the country; nor would lawlessness lead to sustainable development. No matter how ardent an aspirant might be to serve his community or country, there has to be a constituency first for him to lead. Similarly, no matter how zealous a citizen might be in his desire for change, Nigeria needs to be stable for that change to happen.
The looming economic crisis caused by the continuing fall in crude oil price at the international market has also marked out 2015 as a year of uncertainty. Among Nigerians, that uncertainty was fed from the recent announcement by the government of some belt-tightening measures in the country, including upward review of import tariffs. If the government had taken real steps to diversify the economy by investing in non-oil sectors, especially agriculture, such panic measures it is not contemplating would not have been necessary.
Above all these however, is the expectation that the government would abandon its foolish and pretentious theorising about the genesis and goals of insurgency, and muster the will to defeat this virulent evil that has bedevilled the northern parts and threaten national stability in the past five years.

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