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Lessons from John Kerry’s Visit

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The visit of the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, to Nigeria last week, three weeks to the nation’s general election, serves as the needed control and voice of wisdom to the unprecedented reckless campaigns and conducts of the two leading parties, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and their aides.

Since the commencement of electioneering a few months ago, the supporters of the APC and the PDP blighted and hijacked the nation’s polity and ashamedly ignored the politics of issues that would take the nation out of its present bedridden state. They have consistently dished out lies and propaganda to the electorate for selfish reasons. There are enough indicators and signals that the politicians should approach the next election with caution.

The nation’s socio-political scorecard is horrendous and requires clinical surgery. The nation’s critical sectors – economy, oil, security, education, health, among others – are in dire straits.

The ominous signs that 2015 would be a defining year for the nation started about ten years ago when a US agency predicted in a report that the nation showed some centrifugal indices that might spark its break up in 2015.

Seeming signs of confirmation of this prophesy later came with the Niger Delta insurgency, the 2011 post-election war, sectarian crises, and, lately, the Boko Haram insurgency.

Unfortunately, elections in those years and since 1999 when the present democratic dispensation have been anything but credible, free and fair and have  thus nudged the nation to its present dangerous precipice.

While the electorate have expected to get manifestoes creatively crafted to fix the nation’s economy and deliver the good life to them from May 29, 2015, the candidates have been busy releasing damning and reckless propaganda. The few electoral promises are banal and short of workable strategies while the strengths of the candidates have been dwarfed by reckless propaganda.

From Niger Delta to the North East, from APC to PDP, the polity has been consistently blighted with offensive campaigns and threats and seemingly confirming the anxieties and apprehensions of the electorate arising from the doomsday prophesies of the naysayers.

While some unscrupulous elements in the Niger Delta are now threatening war if their son, President Goodluck Jonathan, is not re-elected, the Boko Haram insurgents whose roots have been rightly or wrongly traced to protest against Jonathan’s presidency, are intensifying their illicit acts in the North East. The unfortunate somber situation is that, either way, crisis is inevitable. This is unacceptable!

The campaign organizations of presidential candidates of the APC and the PDP, General Muhammadu Buhari and President Jonathan, have been busy enmeshing their principal’s arch opponent in puerile and unverifiable certificate scandals.

There have been inordinate calls from unlikely quarters for the postponement of the February 14 elections under the pretext that millions of Nigerians would be disenfranchised if the elections are held as scheduled in the face of the inability of INEC to fully distribute PVCs to teeming eligible voters.

Offensive adverts, including death wish, are sponsored in the media by aides and supporters of the two presidential candidates.

There can be no better time to intervene in this campaign madness than now, especially when presidential candidates have ignored voices of wisdom from within, including editorial opinions by respectable newspapers, to approach campaigns with caution and decency and have disregarded the non-violence pact they signed three weeks ago in respect of the forthcoming February 14 election.

Neither can there be a better check on the unbridled recklessness of the presidential candidates’ men than the founders of representative democracy and the world police – the United States.

Kerry spoke the minds of the people. He also employed the right strategies – command and subtle penalty: “It is imperative that these elections happen on time and as scheduled and must be improvements over past elections. Anyone who participates in, plans or calls for violence against the civilian population must be held accountable, including ineligibility for an American visa. Perpetrators of such violence will not be welcome in the US.”

Kerry has demonstrated to us that politicking and political office are about the people, the real owners of the nation and democracy.

Kerry’s visit is an indication that the whole world is watching and that the 2015 election is important to the world. It is also a signal and a warning that if things go wrong, the spillover effect will be calamitous and the implication would be grave for the nation.

By saying that his country will deny politicians who promote violence during the next election, Kerry has passed a message to the nation’s politicians that there is no hiding place for them. He has made it clear that they must fix their country and that the US is not a hideout for lawless and selfish politicians.

The politicians may need to realize that the unspoken message is that US will go to any length to mobilize other countries to deny access to this brand of politicians.  Kerry has made the point that our candidates have approached electioneering wrongly thus far and have to retrace their steps. His counsel that the 2015 general elections must be “must be improvements over past elections” is a subtle denigration of our wobbled journey to nationhood 55 years after independence.

The American Secretary of State has shown that politicking and public office are about accountability and responsibility and that the survival, integration and interest of the nation are far beyond and above personal or party ambition.

But the citizenry, the civil society and the media must be a significant part of the army to hold the politicians “accountable” in the forthcoming elections.

The world is tired of the nation’s shabby elections and, consequently, economic and political diarrhea in the last 16 years. It has had enough of a potential world power booming with natural and human but steadily becoming a concern to the global community.

The nation and the world expect that, three weeks to the general elections, the parties and their candidates should go back to the drawing board by not only approaching next elections with caution, decorum and a sense of patriotism but also setting the tone for making the nation take its place in the world.

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