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Election thoughts in the New Year

Such are the inscrutable ways things work out. Yet on one issue we are all agreed, and that is the year that just ended was…

Such are the inscrutable ways things work out. Yet on one issue we are all agreed, and that is the year that just ended was too violent.  
Thus, in 2015 we will like to see less violence and more peace of mind. By that is meant less senseless bombings of crowded places like Mosques, Churches, motor parks and such places. A return to that time when one could travel at any time of the day or night may be wishing for too much now, as that would amount to bringing back the innocence of the idyllic past when during hot periods you opened your door in the night to let in air without fear of being raided. Even so, any reduction in violence in whatever guise would be more than welcome.
And so with relative peace all things are possible. The year 2015 promises to be an eventful year, starting with the elections next month. The elections have caused many people to be apprehensive, so much so that some have publicly voiced out their fears and called for political campaigns to be based more on issues rather than rhetoric that incites violence.  These fears are well founded. Over the years, elections in Nigeria had always been accompanied by violence. In 2011, aggrieved voters vented their anger and frustration about the outcome of the presidential election in a huge part of the country through embarking on bloodcurdling bloodletting, much of it sectarian in nature.
It is therefore wise to give expression to the danger of election campaigns that throw wisdom to the winds and reap unwanted repercussions. Taking violence out of elections should be made a priority by the major political parties, particularly the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All progressives Congress (APC) and to emphasise the importance of this, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should call a conference of all political parties and other stakeholders on the need to keep political violence out of elections. The parties should be made to sign an undertaking to impress it upon their supporters to forswear violence, no matter the provocation. They should be told there are better and lawful ways of seeking redress to correct real and imagined election malpractices.
The upshot of enjoining people to desist from post- election upheaval capable of causing social chaos and mayhem is that all parties must conduct themselves according to the rules that conduce to law and order. In other words, parties must eschew a tendency to cheat and do so in a blatant manner as to assault the sensibility of others, thereby driving them to take the law into their own hands. It bears repeating therefore that “do or die” attitude which in this case means win at all cost only invites equal amount of desperation from the opposite side resulting in untoward outcome. If smaller, less endowed countries hold elections as a matter of routine with winners celebrating their victory in measure, while losers see the whole process much as a roulette which, for now, dealt them a raw deal, but that the next time they too could very well be the one smiling, Nigeria should also be able to do same. That way the process becomes not a zero sum game but one in which power renews its legitimacy periodically through the electoral system which makes the voters supreme.
Seen in this light, rigging and other electoral misdemeanours not only diminish but also cast a slur on the whole process.  If this persists, overtime the whole routine of electioneering becomes a huge joke and a waste of time, commanding no respect and existing solely to confer dubious and fatuous power on the most cynical party. This is the stage we should do well to avoid, for as Walter Lippman said in 1939 “the endurance of democracy depends on even balance of government and opposition so that the former does not become arbitrary and the latter revolutionary and irreconcilable.”
An arbitrary government does not need any elucidation. They are a dying breed forced to give way to democratic rule in most parts of the world due to public pressure.  A few still abound though, in those places draconian laws hold sway and reside in the hands of the so -called strong man whose word is decree. The scenario Lippman paints is that where this continues without any chance of it changing for the better, then it gives rise to the tendency of extremism and irreconcilability acted out in uncommon violence and irrationality.
Right now something close to this is ongoing in the heedless insurgency that has defied solution for all of 5 years now. Many reasons have been given for its genesis which includes impunity in the exercise of power. So while the insurgency rages, it would be foolhardy to plunge the country into an election mired in disputes and inconclusiveness verging toward mayhem and chaos. The moral here is that all sides must abide by the rule regulating the process in order to project it as one that has surmounted odds and has now come of age.
Whether or not this outcome actually manifests would depend on the parties, particularly the two front running parties—PDP and APC. It is a fact that the long stay in power, at the centre, has made organs of government, including the various security and law and order maintenance bodies to be beholden to the party in power and may erroneously begin to confuse their duties of ensuring a transparent election with working to give an undue advantage to one party over the others by force. It must be stressed that such bodies and organisations should undergo sensitisation and education on the demands and limits of their assignment at election time. They must be told that their essential duty is to protect and support the system’s intent to conduct a transparent and fair election.
On the part of the parties, the days ahead should be for laying out plans and programmes for the future, well thought-out enough to revitalise the economy to become sustainable and able to provide jobs for the teeming millions pining away in poverty and want, as well as arresting the worsening moral and ethical tone of the country. The policies should be capable of instilling discipline and creating a new Nigerian person with the wholesome psyche to distinguish between the good from the bad and the courage to choose correctly. It would be the beginning of putting cynicism that has held sway for so long to take to its heels and with it all manner of anti-social behaviours would follow suit.
All said, it should be possible to debunk all those fears of impending doomsday, including those expressed genuinely out of goodwill and those arising out of ill-will, if all those involved in the election enterprise work in unison to bring it to a happy conclusion that justifies all the human, financial and material investments put into it.

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