The 2015 General Elections in Nigeria has
generated the kind of interest and
controversy that can no longer be ignored. It follows therefore that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the government of the day will have a lot of work to do.
Already, President Goodluck Jonathan has promised to mid-wife free and fair elections in 2015. Apparently, INEC has also started taking steps towards delivering improved elections next year. Indeed, a four-day retreat for top INEC officials kick-starts the process.
Already, INEC has asked for an amendment of the Electoral Act; a budget for the 2015 elections and powers to deal with unruly politicians. Only a couple of days ago, INEC released the time-table for the Presidential and National Assembly Elections. They also gave dates for fresh governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States.
Clearly, action appears to have started, but some Nigerians are worried and rightly too that the pace needs to be accelerated, especially because of the fact that elections would be due in about a year. Also suspect is the politics that may affect INEC recommendations at the National Assembly.
The Tide is however concerned with the holistic approach to the elections. Steps that would not only facilitate peaceful election, but would reflect the true wishes of the people. Steps that would mark a departure from the past where many people cared less whether or not they voted, as candidates are hand-picked and votes allocated.
For the first time, party internal democracy must be assured while those who seek to run are subjected to the needed security, moral and social tests. Clearly, if anyone fails to understand that politics is about service, but tries to impose self or buy votes, the people must be careful as such persons can do dirty business with power.
The citizens will be able to act responsibly if they have the needed political education. This is not what the political parties would give, but INEC must ensure that the people know what to do, where and when. They must know why they need to do it and credibly. Above all, they must know that sovereignty lies with them and that the vote is their power.
Also important are the activities of INEC itself. From the delineation of disputed wards, review of voters register and the deployment of electoral officials, quite a lot can go wrong. Over the years, politicians have almost dictated to INEC on what to do with wards. It is on record that party men also infiltrated electoral deployment.
Indeed, the last governorship election in Anambra State also exposed more challenges that even INEC hoped to use as some of the experiences they need to prosecute credible elections in 2015. For INEC to rise above these challenges, do right to everyone and earn the approval of the international community, time is already of the essence.
That is why we hope that the National Assembly will resist the temptation to play politics with the recommendations of INEC. Similarly, while we expect the government to give a free hand to INEC, the political parties and the masses of this country must commit to an improved, dependable and safe election.
Indeed, all the stakeholders know what they do to compromise credible polls in Nigeria. Yet, everyone has complained, not only how unsafe and unrepresentative previous elections have turned out, but how they have produced bad leadership in many parts of the country.
This trend must change, if Nigeria must part ways with the inglorious past. Nigerians must come out and stop politicians who want power for power sake. If Nigeria must be transformed, if Nigeria must get the MDG goals right and achieve vision 20:2020, our politics must change, but first the elections must be right.
While we expect INEC to train her staff and get all the logistics ready, strategies must be put in place to deal with the desperation that the mutual suspicion among the stakeholders has created. The 2015 election must bring Nigerians together to enthronegood, accountable and functional governance.
This can only happen when the Nigerian looks beyond ethnic, religious and regional interest. This will happen when INEC opens up to new ideas, insist on fairness and puts the interest of the country first. This will happen only when the National Assembly does the needful and urgently.
The 2015 General Elections in Nigeria has