Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My delights and worries about 2015 polls

Following the release of timetable for the 2015 elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission on Friday, January 24, 2014, the commission last Wednesday, October 1 published Notice of Election in accordance with the provision of section 30 (1) of Electoral Act 2010, as amended. That is more like blowing the whistle for the electioneering race for different elective offices in 2015 to commence. Political parties are to conduct their party primaries from October 2 to December 11, 2014. I am very delighted that the preparation for the fifth general election in this Fourth Republic has commenced in earnest. It is unprecedented in the political history of Nigeria to have uninterrupted civilian regimes for 15 years. (Four general elections have already been conducted in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011.) Yes, the quality of our elections is debatable.
However, the fact that we have been having successful transitions from one civilian administration to another is commendable. It will be recalled that the First Republic lasted barely six years before the military putsch of January 15, 1966. The Second Republic lasted four years, 1979 to 1983 before the Khaki boys took over the reign of power again. The Third Republic orchestrated by the Ibrahim Babangida regime was inconclusive as it was truncated in June 1993. Since the May 29, 1999 return to civil rule, the military boys have kept a respectable distance from usurpation of political powers.
The second thing that excites me is the enjoyment of civil liberties under this current republic. It is a truism that there is no absolute freedom anywhere in the world. However, what we have now is far better than what the military regimes offer. There is practically no more detention without trials, press freedom is greatly enhanced without proscription of media houses as was the case under the military junta, no ouster clauses in our nation’s constitution again, the many other fundamental human rights being enjoyed including freedom of association and speech, the much touted dividends of democracy and the likes all combine to make democracy a preferred choice to military autocracy.
Also talking of rights and privileges; the right to vote and be voted for as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution as amended has brought about social inclusion in the society as all strata of the society from the haves to the have-nots, the educated and the illiterates, the religious and the atheists, the male and the female sexes, the young and the old are all at liberty to stand for election or exercise their voting franchise during elections provided they meet the basic requirements as set out in laws and procedures.
That brings me to the current heated debates about Nigerian artistes vying for elective political offices in 2015. Though the number is growing by the day; however those who have already made their intention public include: ace musician, Abolore Akande better known as 9ice, popular actress, Kate Henshaw, start actor, Desmond Elliot, gospel music songstress, Kenny St. Best, ace comedian, Julius Agwu, veteran actor, Jibola Dabo, ‘You don hit my car’ crooner, Anthony Olanrewaju aka Tony Tetuila, actress Funke Adesiyan, ace thespian Bob Manuel Udokwu, and Fuji artiste, King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal. The argument has been whether these artistes can make any serious impact in the field of politics.
Many have called them jokers. Many said they are attention seekers. Say what you want, the Constitution of Nigeria has guaranteed their rights to aspire to the highest elective position in Nigeria. It is a right and not a privilege. Yes, it is true that in politics there are contenders and there are pretenders. All are encouraged to participate. At the appointed time, whether at party primaries or at the general election, the wheat shall be separated from the chaff; the men from the boys.
As the saying goes, low aim is crime. Why shouldn’t these men and women of ‘timber and calibre,’ as the late K.O. Mbadiwe would say, be encouraged to aspire to any political offices of their choice? There are examples to draw from both domestically and internationally. Actor and filmmaker, Mikail Olarotimi Makinde took the risk in 2011 and is today representing the Ife Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. Musician, actor and filmmaker, Tony One week Mounagor is the Minority Leader in the Anambra State House of Assembly representing his Idemili North Constituency under the All Progressives Congress formerly Action Congress of Nigeria. Hon. Ayo Omidiran used to be a female football promoter, Omidiran Babes; today she’s the only female House of Representatives member from Osun State representing Irewole, Ayedaade and Isokan Local Government Areas.
Internationally, two-time president of the United States of America, Ronald Wilson Reagan, was an actor before becoming two time governor of California and later president of the most powerful country on earth. Superstar actor and filmmaker, Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger, was also a two-term Governor of California under the Republican Party in USA. From Ukraine is the inspiring story of a world renowned pugilist, Vitali Volodymyrovych Klitschko. He is the former WBO, WBC heavyweight champion. In 2005 he became active in politics and was elected member of the Ukrainian parliament. Today, he is not only a doctoral degree holder; he was on May 25, 2014 elected Mayor of Kiev. Indeed, ambition should be made of sterner stuff, so says William Shakespeare in his book ‘Julius Caesar’. Nigerian politics need more of role models from Nollywood and the wider entertainment industry.
What worries me about the forthcoming elections however is the monetisation of Nigerian politics. Our brand of politics is not for paupers or people of average means. It is meant for the ‘big boys and big girls’ with heavy war chest. Expression of interest and nomination forms alone is in millions of naira, not to talk of money for campaigns. No wonder 59 year old Wahab Junaid whose story was published in the October 2 edition of this paper will have to vandalise oil pipeline to raise money for his electioneering. Some others have to sell off their assets or use them as collateral to obtain bank loans in order to raise money to contest elections. This makes many politicians to be predisposed to corrupt practices.
As a corollary to that, due to high stakes in politics, violence becomes inevitable. It is often battle royal, a civil war with the theme ‘survival of the fittest and strongest’. According to Sheik Ahmed Lemu Federal Government panel on the 2011 electoral violence, 938 persons died and 735 injured across the northern Nigeria during the last general election crises. Already, deaths are being recorded even as electioneering is just starting.
Among the casualties on record are that of a Peoples Democratic Party leader, Pa Taiwo Ogundele who, murdered in Ile-Ife in March during the INEC Continuous Voters Registration; that of a member of the All Progressives Congress in Ilesa, Tolu Adeosun who, allegedly lost his life during the fracas that ensued during the mega rally of the PDP in the town in the lead up to the August 9 governorship election in the state. Also, more recently, an APC member, Alhaji Azeez Asake, was allegedly killed shortly after the PDP held a rally at Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos on Saturday, September 20, 2014, while ex-NURTW chairman in Ekiti State, Omolafe Aderiye, was assassinated in Ado-Ekiti on September 25, 2014. I hope, truly hope, that 2015 elections will be peaceful and credible. It is our collective responsibility to ensure.
  • Follow me on twitter @jideojong