The Sun News

Now that INEC has fixed 2019 election dates

Last Thursday, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) broke its own record when its national commissioner in charge of voter education and publicity, Mr. Solomon Soyebi, announced of February 16 and March 2 as D-Days for the 2019 national and state elections, respectively. It was a first, considering that INEC always waited until the last minute to set such dates. Expectedly, politicians and allied stakeholders have been applauding or swearing. For instance, while former acting national chair of People’s Democratic Party, Prince Uche Secondus, cursed the early release as one sure “proof that the commission had begun rigging” the next round of general elections in favour of the governing All Progressives Congress, the latter’s national publicity secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, lauded it as “a welcome development and a good innovation.” But, of course.

It is difficult for anyone who doesn’t have any political antecedent and a third eye for matters of this nature, both of which Prince Secondus boasts of, to see how a two-year notice is tantamount to rigging. However, some aspects of the alarm he raised cannot and should not be pooh-poohed. Did this roll-out follow due diligence? Did INEC perform adequate consultations with critical stakeholders such as parties, civil society, etc.? Do the 2019 dates bear their input? Furthermore, is INEC properly constituted? Not sure what that means, can I be more specific? It is not true (is it?) that over 30 states are currently without resident electoral commissioners. Nevertheless, the longish notice by INEC is a good step, plus and minus, in that it gives our people early knowledge and enough time to prepare; if we ever do. No politician should contemplate throwing spanners in the works, for example via court action, just because of one or two indiscretions by the electoral body.

Going forward, INEC must see the Abuja statement by the former acting national chair for what it is: a wake-up call. Now is the time to hit the sky flying, because as experience has proved conclusively, the elections would be a disaster if the electoral umpire insists on only hitting the ground running. Two years is too short a time for running to achieve meaningful success. Flying is our best option in the circumstance. Work should start today, on all fronts. On voter education that the Rivers Prince also alluded to, I am with him on that, and even more. For 2019, INEC must go beyond voter education. In fact, seeing how completely politics has pocketed this country, the time has come to change INEC’s periodic enlightenment drive to political education; a 24/7 nationwide mission to ensure that every Nigerian understands politics inside-out. Unlike the gun policy in the United States intended to ensure, but which has ended up hurting, citizen safety, political education developed into a law in Nigeria would save our people from abuse, headache and exploitation by politicians. Nobody should tell me about funding making it impossible. All we need is partnership with faith-based organisations, schools, the National Orientation Agency, civil society, media, organised groups and such other bodies who should understand the place of corporate social responsibility. We owe it to ourselves to waive cost in matters of national redemption!

We always look to complain. We never salute the gallantry of our leaders (some of them), or of our football teams, of our security agencies, etc. We only wait for them to put a foot wrong, then we descend on them. Our INEC might not be Global No. 1, but the body is also not Global Worst. Just like our police in whom we never see any good, INEC has tried to make the best of what is clearly a horrible situation. Isn’t it amusing that Nigerians who lampoon INEC are the same people who cut corners before, during and after every election, making it impossible for the commission to give us credible elections in sync with global best practice? Nigerians must come to that point where we realise that it is 70 per cent in our hands to have Eldoradoic elections. INEC has just 30 per cent responsibility covering preparation, organisation and fairness.

Let’s stop deceiving ourselves that only INEC is to blame for our faulty elections. Government(s) and political parties must come clean. Ditto the electorate and indeed the masses. If we jointly say that enough is enough and mean it, elections would become less of the quasi-civil wars and robbery-styled operations we are used to. If all Nigerians agree today that never again would we allow our Neanderthal mentality to override our sense of nationalism, the colossal stain that money politics, electoral violence and result manipulation have connived to leave on our escutcheon in the eyes of the world would disappear like magic. Let Nigerians never believe that Prof. Mahmood Yakubu or his successors at INEC would sit in Abuja and alone conjure up universally-accepted elections when we, the people, didn’t first play our part. May this or next be the year we shall start working towards electoral change. God bless Nigeria!

President’s return: matters arising

It was quite a relief to see President Muhammadu Buhari back last Friday. While praying for the Medic-of-medics to heal and make him whole speedily, one cannot but reflect on a few issues about him. Nigerians love this man, but this is a country that is horribly polarised. The administration should rally NOA and other critical stakeholders to develop a unity-framework and implementation strategy. Two, presidential handlers and indeed all those managing leaders must rejig their approach(es). That’s what I learned during the 49 days the president was away. A little more openness or public-relations dexterity would have preempted all the storytelling and lousy exchanges. And, three, most importantly, those around the President must ensure he gets even more rest. He needs it!

‘Obasanjo is the best President Nigeria will ever have’

On page 12 of this paper, last Monday, former Prelate of the Methodist Church Nigeria, Dr. Sunday Mbang, was quoted as having dropped the above caption while ministering at the former President’s 80th birthday thanksgiving service in Abeokuta, penultimate Sunday. The statement worries me, deeply. No, I am not contesting its veracity. I won’t dare. My grouse about it is whether it is a prophecy or just the position of the former president of the Christian Association of Nigeria. I wish it was ‘… has ever had’. ‘… Will ever have’ is too strong. Prelate, please pray and speak again, Sir!

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