It is gladdening to note the commitment of the Federal Government towards the provision of adequate security for the success of the 2019 general elections.
The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali recently revealed that the National Security Council is ready to curb every challenge during the forthcoming 2019 general elections. Dan-Ali who made the revelation shortly after President Muhammadu Buhari presided over the National Security Council meeting at the Presidential Villa, said it recommended the deployment of security agencies to the states, to enable the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conduct the elections peacefully.
The Minister was hopeful that the deployment of security personnel would further douse the tension created by the outcome of the political parties’ primaries and “some desperate persons” to sabotage the electoral process.
Meanwhile, the federal legislators have also approved expenditures for security agencies towards the success of the election. The Senate recently approved the security budget of N53.2 billion for the 2019 general elections. The approval of the budget followed a presentation of the report of the National Assembly Joint Committee on Appropriation at plenary. On the other hand the lower chamber of the National Assembly, House of Representatives also approved N831.3bn virement for INEC, security agencies.
Some of the beneficiaries of the funds included INEC, ONSA, DSS, NSCDC, NIS and NPF based on the approved request by President Muhammadu Buhari for passage.
With all these encouraging development from the executive and legislative arms of government, should there be any fear for concern on the preparation for the 2019 general elections?
Some politicians, especially from the opposition have raised concern and expressed doubt on INEC’s ability to conduct credible polls in 2019. Leading the critics, the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) accused the Federal Government of being unable to conduct credible polls across the country next year. The PDP Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, says the party does not have confidence in the activities of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Speaking when he received a delegation of the European Union Election Exploration Mission to Nigeria led by Nicolay Paus, who visited him in Abuja, Secondus said that intelligence available to the party allegedly showed that the ruling All Progressives Congress had concluded arrangements with INEC to manipulate the electoral process.
Secondus said that what happened during the governorship election in Osun State in September merely underscored the party’s fears that INEC was not ready to be neutral in 2019.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has restated his commitment to ensuring free, fair and credible elections in the country. In a speech delivered to mark the celebration of the 58th anniversary of Nigeria’s Independence, the President stressed his support for credible elections when he said: “I have committed myself many times to ensure that elections are fully participatory, free and fair and that the Independent National Electoral Commission will be exactly independent and properly staffed and resourced. The ballot box is how we make our choice for the governments that rule in our name.”
Given the foregoing, as the clock ticks down on 2019 election, some pressing questions are bound to be asked by many concerned Nigerians: What can be done to ensure that the 2019 election is conducted peacefully? How do we ensure that political campaigns do not spiral out of control and cause clashes? And what can be done to ease the task of INEC in conducting free and credible elections? How can the security agencies stay out of the political fray by not acting in a manner that suggests their men are out to rig the election for the party in power?
These are difficult questions that need to be answered as we gradually inch towards the 2019 general election. Although the authorities including the Hon. Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali have issued some assurance about containing the situation, what is very important is to ensure that the rules and regulations governing the election are binding on every participant and that critical stakeholders play neutral and non-partisan roles by being fair in their conducts. The citizens, especially the electorate should also abide by the INEC’s guidelines and rules during the election proper.
How fairly security agencies ensure their neutrality and conduct themselves in most professional manners will create confidence in the system and save the country from the looming storm ahead.
Zayyan U. Gwandu
Federal Ministry of Information
Radio House, Abuja