With the 2023 general elections set to be the most keenly contested since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, there is only very little doubt that many political gladiators are sharpening their knives in preparation for a contest that would go a long way in determining the direction Nigeria will take post-2023.
If the amount of vitriol which has already gone into the buildup is anything to go by, then there is every chance that the elections will be marked by bile and brickbats. The hope is that it will not descend into violence and chaos.
The reason many Nigerians see politics as a dirty game is that in Nigeria, many of those who go into politics do whatever it takes to attain power which is the mark of political success in Nigeria.
Many would kill, maim and blackmail others to attain power. Of course, the attraction to the corridors of power is clear for all to see in a country where impunity is considered a virtue and accountability a vice.
Contenders and their crickets
Of all the things that politics and democracy offer people at any point in time, choice stands out. When people have the ability to choose, they are able to live a bit better with themselves because suddenly, they know they have choices and options and will not just have to go with anything forced down their throats.
Backed by this shift in mentality, the Nigerian political space has exploded in the last six months, especially since some heavyweight Nigerian politicians clinched the tickets of their respective political parties to give grease to what promises to be a gripping contest.
While the major contenders in the polls have not had much to say themselves, their supporters have since filed into the political boxing ring where some very brutal blows have already been exchanged by those who feel that one candidate or the other represents Nigeria`s best chance of making headway out of the wilderness that the last seven years have been.
There have been allegations of death threats issued by the supporters of a particular candidate to those who do not support him. If this is true, nothing can be more abominable or condemnable. If the elections are set to hold because democracy gives Nigerians the chance to make their choice at the polls, then no one should be threatened with unlawful consequences for taking that chance.
In Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission, which is the major electoral umpire, comes with a baggage. Past indiscretions overseen in the Commission by staff who were more than happy to look the other way while transgressions were committed against the electoral system in Nigeria, long bled the Commission of much of its credibility.
Many Nigerians scoff at the word ‘ independent’ in the Commission`s name, and since at least 2003, even before the first ballots are cast in any elections, suspicions are nursed about INEC`s independence and impartiality.
Yet, in spite of the cloud of suspicion which surrounds the Commission, next year, by law, it will fall the lot of the Commission to conduct elections in Nigeria. It is in the light of these that the recent warning of the Commission against the use of masquerades, public facilities and religious centres for campaigns is timely.
The campaigns for the presidential and national assembly election which is scheduled for February 25, 2022 are set to commence on September 28,2022. If INEC has deemed it necessary to warn political parties to ensure that the campaigns are devoid of abuse, and are in strict compliance with Section 92 of the Electoral Act, it is because the Commission having read the signs worry about campaigns degenerating into chaos.
But it is here that Nigerians must take responsibility for the choices they make and how they go about those choices. The country may be going through an especially rough patch at the hands of those who have broken practically every promise they made to Nigerians years ago, yet, the exercise of one of Nigeria`s most important civic responsibility and the buildup to its exercise must be devoid of rancor.
Nigeria hope for a day when its national affairs will be conducted with supreme dignity and decency. If that day is to come soon, then Nigerians must reject the advances of those for whom politics is a tangle of frustration and desperation.