We go to the polls on February 16 and March 2 to elect our political leaders in the executive and the legislative branches of government nation-wide. This will be our fourth civilian-civilian transition in our national history. As a nation, we should be justly proud that despite challenges here and there, we are making a steady progress in sustaining and deepening our democracy.
But we are not there yet. Democracy is a process attained through a long but steady walk along its path. It takes commitment and the right temperament of give-and-take to make that journey smooth. Nearly 20 years after our transition from military dictatorship to democracy in 1999, our politics is still volatile and violence prone. Each election circle raises genuine concerns about peace in the land and even the future of our country. In 2015, retrogressive forces of ethnicity and religion threatened our togetherness, especially because the two leading presidential candidates, President Goodluck Jonathan and Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, represented opposing ethno-religious tendencies. The National Peace Committee led by the former head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, helped in its pre-election effort, to stave off crisis by committing the two candidates to the peaceful conduct of the elections. Jonathan capped that effort by demonstrating his patriotism in conceding defeat even before the collation of results ended.
We, in the Northern Media Forum, associate ourselves with the continuing effort by the peace committee to make the politicians respect the rule of the game to ensure that the 2019 elections are peaceful and violence-free. We are dismayed, however, to note that the presidential candidates, their parties and their supporters appear to be going against the terms of the peace accord. Their utterances are incendiary. Instead of committing to issues in their electioneering campaigns, they are busy recklessly throwing insults and brickbats. They are heating up the polity, the very thing the peace accord was intended to avoid. This is unfortunate.
We urge them to pull back from the brink by respecting the terms of the peace accord. It is the right and honourable thing for them to do. We are lucky in that the two leading presidential candidates are both Fulani, Muslims and northerners. There is, therefore, no room for any attempts to exploit their ethnicity and religion as factors in their election.
It needs repeating. Nigeria is the most populous black nation in the world. Whatever it does will affect black people everywhere. Our politicians must not fail to make the country the leader of black people in Africa and elsewhere. Our elections are not just internal affairs of our country. They excite global interest and even concern. Election observers from the European Union are already here. Our politicians must not disappoint the expectations of our people and those of the international community. Yes, we can conduct free, fair and credible elections. We have reasons to believe that INEC is prepared to deliver on that promise. But the commission cannot achieve those laudable objectives without the full commitment and the support of the politicians to the same objectives.
We, in the Northern Media Forum, join men and women of goodwill in urging our politicians to put Nigeria well above their individual political ambitions. In any case, they have to have a peaceful country to realise their ambitions. Peace is critical to human progress. We need peace to build and cement our unity so that together we can build the nation of our collective dreams.
Dan Agbese Zainab Suleiman Chairman Assistant Secretary