2015 election will determine Nigeria’s continued existence – Abdulsalami Abubakar

Ex-Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar
Ex-Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar

Tambuwal says success of next year’s polls would be determined by INEC and political office holders.

A former Head of State, Abdulsalam Abubakar, has said that the continued existence of Nigeria as a united and indivisible nation would be determined largely by the 2015 general elections.

He stated this at the 2nd edition of the Peoples Media Limited, PML, Conference, tagged “Nigeria, the 2015 Question,” in Abuja on Thursday.

PML is the publisher of the Peoples Daily Newspapers.

Mr. Abubakar, who was the chairman of the event, said while the north was pushing to have the presidential power back, the body language of President Goodluck Jonathan suggested he would want to have another term.

“As political animals that we are, nothing seems to have gripped our imagination of Nigerians as the issue of the coming 2015 general elections which in my view is a watershed moment in the history of our dear country,” he said.

“The way we are able to handle this very important event will largely determine how successful we will be in our efforts at remaining a united, indivisible and stable country.

“Already, the fault lines are apparent and politicians are ready to exploit them to the fullest to achieve their sometimes not so noble objectives. The 2015 elections are, among other things, expected to determine where power will reside.

“The North is determined to have it back and its leaders are pulling all the stops to see that that happens. On the other hand, the body language of the incumbent president strongly suggests he wants another term.”

Mr. Abubakar, a retired army general whose military administration midwifed the current political dispensation in 1999, said the unfolding scenario in the polity might portend a great danger to the country if Nigerians from all parts of the country did not close ranks and put the country’s interest first.

He said the experience of the 2011 post election violence was a reminder that election matters had become serious business that must be handled with utmost seriousness and patriotism in order to avoid a repeat.

The former head of state said he was, however, confident that the country could collectively rise above this challenge and deliver elections that not only Nigerians, but African and the rest of the world would be proud of.

“For this to happen, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has a key role to play in ensuring free and fair elections that express the will of the people,” he said.

Mr. Abubakar said he feels distressed when Nigeria failed to organise free and fairs elections, something crucial to sustaining a democratic culture.

He said, “As someone who had the honour to midwife our new democratic experiment back in 1999, I am sure Nigerians will appreciate why I am very passionate about elections.

“Free and fair elections are crucial to sustaining a democratic culture, hence my distress whenever we are unable to hold elections that can pass basic standards.”

The former head of state said, as an international elections observer, he had  “monitored polls in less endowed countries that have managed to organise more credible elections and I am always left with the sad feeling that with our resources, we are unable to set an example for the rest of the world.”

He said if Nigerian would be able get the elections right they would be on their way to fully entrenching democratic values.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, who was the Guest of Honour at the occasion, said 2015 was “pregnant” because of the elections, but that INEC and the political office holders would determine if the year would be peaceful.

The Speaker noted that practically every discussion in Nigeria at present had been shadowed by the coming general elections and that it had made the usually challenging federal system more difficult.

He attributed the problem to tribalism and nepotism, saying they had become such a critical part of “our policy and politics that people often feel that they will not be reckoned with unless their candidate, their tribesman or woman, or their party wins.”

Mr. Tambuwal said the country must learn to run its government in such a manner that whoever was in power would guarantee the rights and privileges of every citizen.

He added, “Once we stop seeing power as an opportunity to enrich our friends and cronies but an opportunity to leave positive mark on governance, the extreme views that people hold over candidates for elections will be substantially moderated.

“The whole concept of democracy is built upon the idea that the people are supreme and we hold power in trust for them. However, in modern democracy since it is impossible for people to exercise power directly, they elect representatives to exercise these powers on their behalf.”

Stating that the polity was getting more heated by the day, Mr. Tambuwal said people from different parts of the country seemed to have drawn the line on the issue of elections and lamented that even highly respected Nigerians now throw caution to the winds when they comment on 2015.

He said, “Today, there is so much noise about 2015 and so little action. We have heard people raise their voices in condemnation, in castigation of people who do not agree with their points of view but we have seen no attempt to correct the failure in the system or of party officials making conscience their guide rather than greed and fear.

“We must resolve as a people to be less emotive and combative. Let us use our heads more. Let us think of the future and the judgement of history more. Let us sympathise with the suffering masses of this country more.

“Yes, 2015 is indeed pregnant. But it is in our hands if we want it to deliver a bright future or a foetus of aborted hopes and dreams. The responsibility is of course first on those who hold power currently and the election umpire that we now have. If they decide to conduct fair and free elections, if the scales are not rigged, then the hope that 2015 will usher in a more peaceful and more progressive year is not in doubt.”

The Speaker said Nigerians were the ones that would make the 2015 “a turning point in our politics and our nation.” He said the political parties must enthrone a democratic culture that should provide level playing ground over and above every other consideration.

According to him, more often than not, people were forced to abandon the political parties they had laboured for, not because they wanted to, but because party officials had proven themselves incapable of running a fair contest.

“They (party officials) must learn to make party primaries a genuine exercise in testing the acceptability and popularity of every candidate rather than a make-believe, a mere gathering of political party faithful,” Mr. Tambuwal said.