This Saturday, Nigerians will go to the polls to elect the president of the country for the next four years. They will also on the same day elect members of the National Assembly, who will run the affairs of the country until 2023. The elections that start this week would be the sixth in the series since the return of democracy to the country in 1999.
There is no doubt the election this Saturday is important to all Nigerians. It is more than an election. It is about furthering the unity of the country and keeping the democratic process growing. It is about the corporate interest of the country, which must be protected by all concerned. We are of the belief that all the 73 presidential candidates have the interest of the country at heart. We also believe that their motivation for coming out is to offer service to the country towards its betterment. It is neither a personal ego trip for the candidates nor a competition for their personalities.
It is the interest of the people that is at stake. In the past three years, Nigerians have witnessed the change promised by the All Progressives Congress (APC) when it was coming in 2015. The country had also prior to that witnessed the era of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for 16 solid years.
Therefore, we are of the view that it is left for Nigerian to choose between these two big parties on one side and other candidates of other political parties, who have lined up to offer themselves to the public as alternatives to the PDP and the APC. We are of the view that whoever Nigerians choose on Saturday should be left to stand. We have in the past three months seen the presentations of most of the candidates, even though a good number of them have only been candidates by name, without campaigning. The era of campaigns will come to an end this week.
Then, Nigerians will go on and elect their leader. We believe that much as this is no easy task as the presidency of the country has much at stake, but it is not a do-or-die affair in any way. That is why we expect the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the umpire of the election, to be at its best. It must not only be fair but must be seen to be fair.
The INEC has no business being partisan or favouring one candidate or the other against the wishes of Nigerians. In 2015, Prof. Attahiru Jega took the maximum risk and delivered an opposition candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the election.
That is the riskiest the job can get for the INEC. But even in the face of a ruling party losing the election, he did not succumb to pressure. He set the precedence. It is simple logic that Nigeria’s peace and growth are at stake, not individuals. INEC has been provided with all that is needed to make this election successful. We do not expect anything less. It is the same demand from security agencies, who are to supervise the elections. We do not expect them to buckle under pressure.
They must stand by Nigeria. There is no doubt that the world is apprehensive about the election in the country. That is illustrated by the attention focused on the country from different parts of the world. From sovereign nations, to institutions, business groups to election observers, the attention on Nigeria this week has been massive.
The reasons are not far-fetched. With a population of about 200 million people, any major crisis now would have global impact in terms of humanitarian crisis and businesses. There is no gainsaying that Nigeria can easily overrun the whole West African sub region if there is any crisis.
That is why we believe that all hands must be on the deck to ensure that we get it right on Saturday. Although, there is also the National Assembly elections on the same day, the eyes of the world are firmly focused on the presidential election, which can make or mar the country.
But we note that unlike the 2015 election when the two major contenders, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari were from the Southern and Northern parts of the country respectively, this time, the two major contenders, Buhari and Atiku Abubakar are both from the North.
By implication, we do not expect the rancour and bloodshed that trailed the 2011 election when Jonathan won. It is a friendly war between two northerners now. Given a free, fair and credible poll, we expect the loser to accept defeat or quietly go to the courts to contest any grievances. Buhari did so three times before his emergence.
For the candidates, we warn that the corporate existence of Nigeria is at stake. Anybody that is elected will be the president of Nigeria. We, therefore, call on all involved to save Nigeria and the world the needless apprehension that has been the lot of the country during elections. After all, elections take place every day in all parts of the world. We hope that this election would only elevate Nigeria’s democracy rather than destroying it