By Nuratu Abdur-Rashid
As a Nigerian youth, I have been wrapped in thoughts about the forthcoming general elections in my country. The nearer the elections, the more pressing the feeling of uncertainty that has developed in me that is simply petrifying. I remember what happened to some youths, especially corps members during previous elections. During the post election riots in Bauchi State which erupted on April 18, 2011, at least nine youth corps members were part of the over 800 who lost their lives. Seven of them were killed in Giade Police station where they had ran to for safety, but rioters overpowered the policemen on duty and killed the corpers with machetes and sticks before setting the station ablaze. Three others were Batch A members who just left orientation camp in March and were not allowed to travel because of the general election.
Again, I still nurse fear that the election may not hold at all because the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) does not seem to be fully prepared while security in some parts of the country has deteriorated. Another fear is the possibility massive rigging by leading political parties, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC). The election might throw up many surprises, which will make some of the parties reject the results. More worrisome is the likely violent protest that will erupt after the elections.
As preparations for February election heat up, tension has enveloped Nigeria and its citizens. It should be noted that politicians have been making reckless statements and inciting comments. For instance, some supporters of Presidential candidate of PDP and incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan were threatening fire and brimstone. Mujahid Asari-Dokubo and Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo were quoted to have said that President Jonathan has already won the 2015 presidential election and threatened that the country will be on fire if he did not eventually win. The ex-Niger Delta militant also said if the North takes the power away from President Jonathan, the people of the Niger Delta region would take their oil back.
Voices from the North quickly countered those from the President’s kinsmen. Patron of the Middle Belt Forum, Ambassador Yohanna Margrif warned Niger Delta youths to be careful with their utterances, saying they were capable of setting in more sentiments and crisis that would not be beneficial to the country.
Also a former Minister of Defence, Theophilus Danjuma also lambasted the former militants for threatening to plunge the nation into war if Jonathan is not sworn-in come May 29 2015. In fact he demanded the arrest of the militants.
Meanwhile, Director General of Buhari Campaign Organisation, Governor Rotimi Ameachi of Rivers State had earlier threatened that if his party is rigged out of victory, the All Progressives Congress would form a parallel government. While responding, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe described the statement attributed to Ameachi as “open threat to democracy.”
The need to have a secured election process that will engender popular confidence and remove fear before, during and after the 2015 general election is particularly significant especially because of its potential to be the first truly contested elections featuring a viable opposition since the transition to civilian rule in 1999.
As the country moves towards this critical election, all eyes are on security agencies and electorates. For peaceful election to be achieved it is important to have a conducive and secured environment.
It is heart-warming that members of the Forum of Spokespersons of Security and Response Agencies (FOSSRA) have issued a Communiqué reassuring law abiding citizens of the preparedness of the security agencies to ensure safety of lives and property before, during and after the forthcoming general elections.
The forum, which has membership drawn from military, security, intelligence and response agencies assured Nigerian of their readiness to remain neutral, non-partisan and professional during the forthcoming general election. They also urged the citizens to imbibe security consciousness by being vigilant all the time.
Nigerians must do everything in their power to ensure that elections are not just fair, but peaceful. It is also necessary to call on politicians to avoid making reckless statements and inciting comments to avoid heating up the polity and creating panic. Past experiences had shown that provocative utterances triggered violent protests in the country. The media too has role to play in ensuring fairness, balance and objectivity in their reportage and other editorial contents in their various channels of communication.
Finance Estate, Wuye