Battle over 2015 portends danger for Nigeria-Full text of General Abdulsalami’s address


I am very delighted to be here this morning for a number of reasons. Firstly, the organisers of this conference – publishers of Peoples Daily newspaper – are close friends whom I have lost contact with for a while, therefore this gathering provides an avenue for us to re-establish contact with the fervent hope that this time we will remain in regular contact despite our busy schedules.
Secondly, the newspaper itself, Peoples Daily, is one paper I have come to respect over the years. I have taken a keen interest in the paper since it hit the newsstands some five years ago and I must say despite the tough odds in the publishing industry in the country, the paper has succeeded in establishing a good reputation for itself as a defender of truth and one willing to stand for the poor and downtrodden in our country. I urge the Board and Management of the paper to continue on this path in order to leave an enduring legacy for generations to come.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the third reason why I am happy to be in your midst this morning is the topic we are here to discuss: Nigeria: The 2015 Question. As political animals that we all are, nothing seems to have gripped the 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. The way we are able to handle this very important event will largely determine how successful our efforts at remaining a united, indivisible 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 is expected to among other things determine where power will reside in the next four years. 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 in office. Distinguished guests, the unfolding scenario may portend danger to our nation if Nigerians from all parts of the country do not close ranks and put to interest of the nation first. The sad and tragic experience of the 2011 post election violence is a reminder that election matters have become serious business that must be handled with the utmost seriousness and patriotism in order to avoid a repeat.
I am confident however that we can collectively rise above this challenge and deliver elections that not only Nigerians but Africa and the rest of the world will be proud of. For this to happen, the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] has a significant role to play in ensuring that it presides over free and fair elections that expresses the will of the people.
As someone who had the honour to midwife our new democratic experiment back in 1999,I am sure Nigerians will excuse 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. As an international elections observer, I have monitored polls in less endowed countries who have managed to organise more credible elections and I am always left with the sad feeling why with all our resources, we are unable to set an example for the rest of the world.
I believe if we are able to get our elections right then we are well on our way to fully entrenching democratic values in our society.

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