Last Sunday, November 18, campaigns for the 2019 general elections officially kicked off. It means that all the political parties are now free to market their parties and candidates to the electorate by either showcasing what they have done in the period they have been in power or unrolling their policies and promises to same electorate if voted into power.
Such periods are supposed to be used by the electorate to listen to parties and candidates and make wise choices; choices that will affect their lives positively or negatively until the next round of elections.
In Nigeria, the period of campaigns has often been used, not to sell parties and their candidates positively through issue based campaigns, but to malign opponents through deliberate lies. Such lies are today mostly done on social media platforms. It is also a period that has witnessed violent conducts through the use of thugs and other forms of intimidation. These have often resulted in needless loss of lives and destruction of property. This is not certainly how things should be in such a period.
We condemn such style of politicking and urge those concerned to caution their members and supporters against acts inimical to the sustenance of our democracy. The electorate reserve the right to be engaged in mature, responsible and issue based campaigns. Elections should not be seen as do-or-die affairs. In any contest in politics, there must be winners as well as losers.
Bearing such in mind, the gladiators should do their best within the limits of the laws of the land, as well as the Electoral Act, and be ready to accept the decisions of the electorate at the end of the day.
But to ensure this, the electoral umpire, in this case, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, should and must play its role as impartial arbiters. They must provide a level playing field to all parties and their candidates in such a manner that will make the parties and candidates readily accept results of the elections.
Coming off the 2015 general elections in which the whole world lauded Nigeria for leading by example, as well as congratulated the former president, Goodluck Jonathan, on his spirit of sportsmanship in quickly acknowledging defeat and congratulating the winner, the country has no choice than to sustain it.
But the process to the point of announcing of results must be credibly followed. This is not a period for hurling of insults on opponents or manufacturing a cocktail of lies against them. It is a period for campaigning responsibly, with all the parties and candidates showing mutual respect to one another.
The electorate should also resist the allure of money and concentrate on identifying with parties and candidates that can make their lives better in the long run. The parties and candidates should also desist from relying on wooing the electorate with money rather than doing so with their manifestos.
No one is greater than the country. Therefore, the stakeholders should place the interest of the country first above all else.
Another successful round of elections will go a long way in strengthening the country’s democracy. But failure to do that will rubbish whatever little gains made so far.