Over eighty-four million Nigerians are set to cast their votes tomorrow in Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Slated to take place a week earlier, polling was delayed due to problems connected with the transportation of electoral materials to some parts of the country. Addressing a cross-section of the diplomatic community last Wednesday in Abuja, INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu said, as at yesterday Thursday February 21, all electoral material have been distributed to all the seven hundred and seventy-four Local Government Areas of Nigeria. He stressed the commitment of the electoral commission to surpass the achievements of previous polls in the country. In the same vein, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, urged the international community to respect the sovereignty of Nigeria and allow the country solve her internal challenges without undue interference. At the official level therefore and judging from ongoing activities, all hands appear to be on deck to ensure a fair and free from fear electoral process.
A man’s country, we are told is not just a certain area of land. It is a principle and, patriotism appears to be loyalty to that principle. Watching the Nigerian political scene a few hours to balloting in one of the most highly contested Presidential election in its history, indices of a collective resolve for a peaceful, free, and fair elections emerge. The two principle contenders have been urging followers to respect the national resolve for a peaceful balloting. President Mohammadu Buhari of the APC Party appealed to Nigerians to “refrain from civil disorder and remain peaceful, patriotic and united to ensure that no force or conspiracy derail our democratic development’’. The PDP flag bearer, Atiku Abubakar called for calm “appealing to Nigerians to come out and vote and be patient about it.” Although the electoral history of Nigeria is riddled with rampant rumour mongering and a pre-disposition to suspect the worst, all indications point to a hitch-free outcome. The penchant for fears that a fix is being organized is taking a nose dive, giving room to voter enthusiasm and growing confidence in the electoral process. The daily press briefing at the Abuja International Conference Centre by the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Pro fessor Mahmood Yakubu has contributed in building trust in the entire electoral process. The consistent efforts of the INEC Chair to distance his organisation from the contenders have been highly applauded by international observers of the Nigerian electoral process. Professor Mahmood Yakubu’s position on the ‘’ shoot-on-sight’’ order of incumbent President Buhari is one of many examples of the Electoral Commission’s resolve to play the card of a neutral umpire.
On the eve of elections tomorrow, the civil society in the economic capital, Lagos and throughout the entire country, has been taking measures to encourage voters to perform their civic rights. The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria has reduced the price of hydrocarbon products by five naira. Fares on land and air travel are also seeing a reduction for the next forty-eight hours by the Transporter Union to incite voters to flood the polling booths tomorrow. The Federal and State Go vernments started paying salaries as early as last Tuesday in a calculated attempt to enable voters prepare for tomorrow. Many other incentives by other civil society outfits geared towards encouraging millions of Nigerians to contribute in the choice of leaders in a democratic dispensation are highly applauded. At the level of security, all has been put in place to ensure a crime free environment. Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai held strategic meetings with field commanders in Abuja last Wednesday. Clear and precise orders were given to Military Commanders to deal decisively with ballot box snatching, thuggery and other electoral crimes. The Army High Command insist that “ all must be done to avoid creating deliberate avenues for post electoral mayhem”. Injecting democratic values into the genetic components of the world’s most populous Black Country is a sterling indication that Africa has come of age. The reading of the current electoral pulse in Nigeria appears to be in the positive zone.