The Independent National Electoral Commission has announced dates for the 2019 general elections. In a statement posted on its website, the electoral body said it was making the announcement well ahead “in order to ensure certainty in our dates for elections, and to allow for proper planning by the commission, political parties, security agencies, candidates and all stakeholders”. The 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections were announced to be held on Saturday, February 16, 2019 while the Governorship/State Assembly/Federal Capital Territory Area Council Elections were scheduled to hold on Saturday, March 2, 2019. This is the ideal practice: to announce the election dates on time to allow adequate preparation and participation of the political agents.
Many applauded and called it a welcome development in our political landscape, considering the uncertainty that surrounded the nation’s political environment over the years. A lot of people believe that this idea will be a step ahead mechanism to correct certain anomalies in our electoral process. These challenges include issues with giving proper voter education; omission of candidates or political parties from the ballot papers; late arrival of voting materials; election apathy; ballot box snatching; security challenges and all manner of hitches. These challenges are attributable to inadequate and late preparations.
It is the practice in the US, for example, that the date of the general elections is made public beforehand. The comparison is because of the seeming similarity between their political system and ours. But it turned out that we adopted a system similar to theirs while leaving out the finer details that matter of which national interest tops the list. Over there, you have leaders but here in Nigeria, we have politicians who only think about the next elections rather than the true development that the people yearn for. National development projects that can really impact lives positively are what you see being embarked upon and it is on this basis the political players seek reelection. But here, the average Nigerian politician’s mindset is that of self-interest and seeks how much money they can gather to buy votes and voters in the next elections at the detriment of national development and well-being of the people.
The date for the 2019 general elections has been announced by INEC. Next on the mind of every politician, especially the incumbent public office holders, is not how many projects they can complete between now and then, but how much money they can gather within the period to surmount every opposition. And those ones in their last term of office will be focused on how much money they could go with at the expense of capital and development projects. The concern is that a sizeable chunk of the capital budget allocations for the next two years is likely going to bear the brunt. And this concern cuts across all tiers of government. Little wonder that the issue of unclear, inappropriate, frivolous and wasteful expenditure in our annual budgets continues to be there. As these line items have no deliverable by which they can be measured by design, but become an avenue to serve the purpose of amassing funds to fund electioneering and reelection.
Nigerians must demand their rights to put an end to this. Demand accountability and transparency in all government transactions. Too much emphasis on money politics should be reduced by amending some necessary parts of our Electoral Act and other laws. Undue pressure on political office holders to make donations or provide certain goods and services should be stopped. By so doing, we reduce the undue pressure on them and not to compound the problems by adding to their flamboyant lifestyles which pressure to maintain push them to do the wrong things. With these done, the citizens can properly demand their right to inclusive governance.
It is time to intensify the efforts being put in place by the civil society organisations to monitor and raise questions where necessary on the entire capital budget implementation beginning with the 2017 budget at all levels of government to see that the capital budget allocations are not used to fund 2019 elections by politicians. The decision to move forward from the present state of things will be the difference maker in the forthcoming elections. Your vote is your birthright, do not sell it; for it is the only way to ensure that leader and not rulers get voted into power. Nigeria must be better!