In the First Republic , Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa sought for re-election. Former President Shehu Shagari in the Second Republic also sought and contested for second term. In the present dispensation, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, after having his second term, also attempted to have an extra third term which he failed to secure. Constitutionally, President Yar’adua is entitled to seek for another term, but there are two reasons why an average Nigerian like me is sceptical about his ambition. Firstly, what are his achievements in the nearly two years he sat as Nigeria’s President? Secondly, will he be able to conduct free and fair elections that will be acceptable to most Nigerians?
With the dust of the 2007 elections yet to finally settle, will the present administration of President Yar’adua conduct an election different from how it was conducted in 2003 and 2007 elections? Will Nigerians say bye-bye to ballot box snatching and stuffing? Will the votes cast by Nigerians be really counted? And will we really have democratically elected leaders without the courts deciding their legitimacy all in 2011?
The controversy about 2011 has started in earnest courtesy of Justice Mohammed Uwais’ Electoral Reform Committee recommendations, which President Yar’adua still insist on nominating the head of INEC contrary to the recommendation of the Uwais Committee. If the President does not have any personal interest in the 2011 elections, why is he insisting to nominate the INEC chairman instead of the National Judicial Council as recommended by the Uwais Committee?
Can Nigerians trust President Yar’adua to conduct free and fair elections in 2011 if he eventually decides to contest? The study of Yar’adua’s antecedents as former governor of Katsina state during his tenure on how he conducted local government elections and the roles he played during the 2003 and 2007 elections will help Nigerians to know what to expect during the 2011 elections.
Even the re-elections instigated by the courts in states like Kogi, Bayelsa, Adamawa, Sokoto, Cross River, Ekiti e.t.c, can also assist Nigerians have a close study of what to expect during the 2011 elections. After such elections where the opposition cried foul over the conduct, what was the reaction of President Yar’adua? And after the declaration of Prince Vincent Ogulafor that the PDP will continue ruling for 60 years and Governor Sule Lamido’s statement that PDP will rule forever, what were the reactions of President Yar’adua on such undemocratic statements?
President Umaru Yar’adua should also inform Nigerians about his views on the proposal sent by the PDP governors to the party’s National Working Committee asking for automatic tickets to contest the 2011 elections (the PDP change of tactics notwithstanding) and whether or not the proposal is expanded to include him. Will he accept an automatic ticket to contest for the 2011 elections if he decides to contest? And as a PDP leader, what are his inputs in strengthening the internal democracy of the party?
Nigeria and Nigerians should be saved from international embarrassment in the 2011 elections. The ungodly and unholy activities of politicians during the 2003 and 2007 elections should not be repeated in 2011. And for Nigerians to have free and fair elections in 2011, the agitation should start in earnest collectively by all Nigerians, irrespective of tribe, region or religion for us to truly have the leaders we elected to lead and represent us.
It is only when we have free and fair elections in Nigeria that we can start to boast of having true democratic government wherein those in the helm of affairs will feel responsible to their electorates. And even before the proper elections, party primary elections should also be free and fair. Imposition of candidates on party level weakens supporters and paves the way for election rigging. The 2007 elections were the worse ever as all political parties deliberately imposed unpopular candidates or those that did not win party primaries.
Whether President Yar’adua will contest or not in the 2011 elections, the Nigerian people should assist him in seeing that Nigeria, like other countries which have developed , have free and fair elections in 2011. Democracy should be in full action by giving the Yar’adua’s government a very close marking in strengthening its hands to give Nigerians the leaders and representatives they truly elected.
President Umaru Musa Yar’adua has the great and golden opportunity in re-branding Nigeria and himself to the whole world as truly a nation of Good People, Great Nation with him as a great leader, if he could conduct free and fair elections that the opposition, local and international observers will testify is really a free and fair election.
Chaji writes from P.O Box 248, Gyadi-gyadi, Kano, email@example.com