By Abu Michael
The electoral body of Nigeria, INEC has given its reasons for rescheduling the Presidential, National Assembly and Gubernatorial as well as State Houses of Assembly and FCT Area Council elections to Saturday February 23rd and Saturday March 9 of 2019 respectively. The postponement as contained in the statement signed by INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu became necessary after a careful review of the implementation of its logistic and operational plans.
However, in spite of the divestment of opinions and perceptions about the deferment, there is no need for Nigerians to act in a manner that can heat up the polity. It is imperative for citizens to understand that the expressions of groups and individuals over the shift indicate the rising political awareness of the masses, which represents a complete shift from a carefree attitude to a readiness to make political and public office holders accountable. For me, it is a positive feedback to the political awareness creation, sensitization and mobilization engaged by the agencies of the government, civil society organizations and groups.
The shift no doubt has caused Nigerians and organizations some inconveniences and pains. For instance, the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) dispatched its researchers and technical staff to all the states of the federation for the elections. Despite the postponement, they have been instructed by the Acting Director – General of the Institute, Dr. Bakuttswah Bakut to remain in their stations of duty until after the elections. I am certain that it could be same for other organizations that have the interest of the country at heart, just like there are individuals who have spent their resources to travel to their homes or to places where their PVCs could be utilised. There are many instances to recount, but whatever the situation, the opportunity provides the leverage for Nigerians to build on their resilience as people of one of the most appreciated countries of the world. We can still prove to the rest of the world that we are great and substantially important to the world’s sociopolitical and economic circumstances.
It is my utmost belief that we will get things right if we begin to put national interests, peace and the unity of our people first and then endeavour to reconstruct our support and disapprovals in this direction. Even though as humans, we are inclined to one belief or the other, likes or dislikes; sentiments of adverse nature such as ethnicity, religion or even politics must not be allowed to becloud the judgments over issues that border on common goals and national interests.
History indicates that this is what the people of most of the civilized and advanced democracies do. It is also glaring, their understanding of a multicultural and multiethnic enclave like Nigeria where the Almighty Creator has adorned the Hausa, Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba as well as other tribes with different sociopolitical milieu. The mixture of Muslims and Christians are avenues for collaboration and dependence on one another, calling for benign appreciation for the beauty and strength of diversity.
In view of its mandate, IPCR has continued to preach the importance of peace, re-emphasizing the fact that there is no alternative to peace. It is a message that we must take with us wherever we go or in whatever we do. Being peaceful in our actions and reactions should remain a sure path to national reconstruction and advancement. Therefore, anyone who is seeking for political position or public office must show himself or herself as an agent of peace in their utterances and actions, and should encourage their supporters to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner.
Now that INEC is set to carry on with the earlier postponed elections with almost the same vigour, the best thing to do is to deplete from political space antagonism such as distrust, unhealthy rivalry, inflammatory statements, mudslinging and character assassination, violence, killings and pyromania as all these can destroy our dear country. We must endeavor to populate the political space with mutual trust and understanding, the ideals of dialogue, tolerance and peace to will help sustain united country.
Let us embrace peace, be tolerant with INEC and support the move for peaceful and credible elections as one dear country and Nigeria will be great again.
Michael Abu Writes from the Institute for Peace & Conflict Resolution in Abuja, Nigeria (Edited: Ogar Nchu)