18 January 2018

Nigeria: As INEC Releases 2019 General Elections Schedule

editorial

Election is like alcohol which intoxicates and harms with abuse. At the mention of the word 'election', many an active participant begins to lose his senses. Which is why the recent announcement of the schedule for the 2019 general elections, by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), would usher in a flurry of activities, many of which would be inconsequential to governance. As would be expected, henceforth, politicians and contractors would begin to mop up funds, finances and manpower in a common ritual of channeling and directing all resources towards election victories. It would be a time to spend lavishly in a frenzied rat-race that may often lead to nought.

According to the schedule of activities announced by INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, political parties would have a time frame spanning August 17, 2018 and February 28, 2019 for the electioneering activities. A run-down of the schedule goes thus: Publication of Notice of Election for National and State Elections would be on August 17, 2018; the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council Elections would be done on September 3, 2018. Collection of nomination forms by political parties for national and state elections is to commence from August 11 to 24 while that of the FCT Area Council elections would be between November 3 and 10, 2018.

The commencement of campaign by political parties would be November 18 for Presidential and National Assembly Elections; December 1 for Governorship and State Assembly Elections and December 2 for the FCT Area Council Elections. Whilst the last day for submission of nomination forms to INEC is December 3, 2018 for Presidential and National Assembly Elections; December 17 for Governorship and State Assembly and December 14, 2018 for the FCT Area Council Elections, the last day for campaigns is February 14, 2019 for Presidential and National Assembly Elections, and February 28, 2019 for Governorship, State Assembly and FCT Area Council Elections. Based on the new guidelines, Presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on Saturday, February 16, 2019, whilst Governorship and State Assembly elections will hold on Saturday, March 2, 2019.

For providing this schedule of activities well in advance, INEC deserves commendation. A timely start-off like this indicates readiness to make things work. It is expected that INEC will put in the same goodwill and efficiency with which it drew this schedule in the management of the general elections. The commission should learn from the bitter lessons of previous elections and the modest achievements in 2015 elections. It should convince Nigerians of its capacity to deliver and also motivate its personnel and ad hoc staff to understand the enormity of their assignments. This is necessary to prevent the hitches of 2015 elections and by-elections and avoid pitfalls.

However, it needs to be stressed that elections, not minding their portentous nature, have consequences. Because they ought to emanate from the free exercise of the individual's will, elections are a means by which citizens deliberately choose leaders that would affect the fortunes of a civil society, either for good or ill. It behooves everyone, therefore, to be interested in the leadership recruitment process. Mobilisation should begin in earnest. Political parties should co-operate with INEC to mobilise people.

In all this, the government of the day should be mindful of the fact that it still has more than a year to accomplish its set goals and review its score-card in the last two years. Whilst it goes back to the drawing board, it must not forget that there are pending issues in the polity that would require government attention. Perhaps, too, it may well be that it is how well the government addresses pending crises and problems that it can win the electorate. The perceived nonchalance and seeming insensitivity being displayed by this administration should be addressed

The election time-table is also a wake-up call for political parties. Rather than use the awareness of the election schedule to contemplate criminal and fraudulent activities, political parties should utilise the window period before the commencement of campaigns to review their performances and think out ways of improving their strong points and re-strategise on areas where they have been found wanting.

Politicians should earn the confidence of the electorate not only by wooing the lower stratum of society, but also by mobilising the participation of the critical mass and the enlightened middle class to participate in the voting exercise. Experience has shown that compared to the so-called advanced democracies of the west, the participation of the enlightened critical mass in elections is abysmally low. Thus the exercise of choosing leaders for elective positions is left to the ordinary masses to most of whom the value of a vote cast is, more often than not, the price of a loaf of bread. In this kind of scenario, our democratic experience becomes a naturally unjust political setting whereby the ignorant and vulnerable determine the quality of the nation's leadership.

Nigeria

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