‘How economic crisis may affect polity ahead of 2019 polls’
The same scenario that led to the heating up of Nigeria’s political space in the buildup to the 2011 and 2015 general elections are beginning to manifest as the country advances towards the next polls in 2019.
During the preparations for the 2011 elections when former President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) vied for the party’s presidential ticket as the incumbent, zoning was such a major issue that pitted the North against the South.
It got to an extent that the country was almost pushed to the precipice.
Jonathan had completed the remaining two years of Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua, who died midway into his first tenure. The northerners believed that Jonathan, who is from the South-South, had no right to contest based on the zoning arrangement in the PDP.
Similarly, in the buildup to the 2015 elections, several issues cropped up among which were the Boko Haram insurgency that threatened elections in some parts of the north; the organised conspiracy against Jonathan’s second term ambition and palpable fear that the country may disintegrate according to an American prediction.
With the lack of unity among the political platforms that fused into the All Progressive Congress (APC), the ceaseless presidential ambition of some powerful elements within the party and the alleged attempt to muzzle the opposition, a factor responsible for the reported move to form another mega party, the temperature in the polity is already rising.
Among the factors responsible for this is the alleged position of some northern political elements that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a Yoruba from the South West, would be rejected from assuming the office of the president should his boss quit office on account of ill health.
Bothered by this development, for instance, the Gombe State Youth for Sustainable Democracy and Good Governance has challenged politicians in the country, particularly those aspiring for elective offices, to abide by the principles of true democracy, exercise restraint in their utterances and imbibe the spirit of politics without bitterness to strengthen the nation’s fragile democracy.
The group hinged its position on what happened before the 2015 election when some Nigerians relocated abroad for fear of what might happen during and after the elections.
The state coordinator of the group, Alhaji Abubakar Baggio bemoaned the political situation in the country especially with regard to the needless tension being created in the political sphere by politicians in recent times.
He said, “The situation, if not urgently checked and properly managed, can impact negatively not only on the nation’s fragile democracy but also on the country’s corporate image in the international arena.”
He lamented the unfortunate attempts by some politicians to confuse Nigerians through unguarded utterances and actions inimical to the oneness of the state and the country saying this must stop. He said Nigeria is bigger than any individual or group interest.
Expressing his fear ahead of the elections, former governor of Old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa said, “Beyond what we witnessed in 2011 and 2015, the present negative state of the country is a serious issue that must be addressed before the election. It is good that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has released the timetable about two years to the election. But that will not take away the fact that there could be violence if the state of the economy is not properly addressed.”
Musa, who said a hungry man is an angry man and an idle hand is the devil’s workshop added: “If we take stock of the rate of hunger due to the high cost of living ravaging Nigeria at present, the galloping rate of unemployment plus the fact that salaries are not paid on time and pensioners are not getting their pay, pose serious threat to elections.”
He suggested that politicians should do something about the situation “otherwise the unexpected may happen if we continue like this till 2019.”
Musa contended that the poverty level in Nigeria currently would create the opportunity for the few rich in the system to dictate how the election will go saying, “my argument is that if we continue like this, Nigeria will not get free and fair election in 2019.”
Also, former minister of Defence and governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Ondo State during last year’s election, Dr. Olu Agunloye said “what will certainly heat up the polity as Nigeria progresses towards 2019 is the state of the economy.”
He said there are indices and signs that the economy is not doing well, a situation, which he claimed promotes violence and rigging before and during the elections.
According to him, “It is lamentable that our politicians in various parties are not interested in governance but obtaining power for their selfish interest and purpose. This has always been the case and it is getting worse. Except and until this wrong power-seeking-at-all-cost orientation changes, I am afraid of any general election in this nation.”
Agunloye also pointed to the youths as another source of worry ahead of the elections saying, “The present rate of youth unemployment is alarming and you can imagine how and where they would deploy their energy during the elections. I think something urgent should be done to the economy and the state of unemployment.”
The national chairman of Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Dr. Fredrick Fasehun said political actors should desist from making unguarded statements concerning the country, adding, “They must do nothing to plunge Nigeria into fresh political crisis.”
According to him, “Virtually all the political parties suffer one crisis or another; therefore, no politician or political party can claim a holier-than-thou attitude. We urge all politicians to desist from actions and pronouncements that will make Nigerians suffer from the management of their crisIs.”
He said that political leaders especially Nigeria’s past leaders, should play the role of statesmen and fathers of the nation and refrain from meddling in the internal affairs of other parties undergoing democratic reengineering.
The UPN chairman said it is imperative of the security agencies to ensure the safety of Osinbajo, cautioning that on no account should any adverse thing happen to him; particularly against the backdrop of insinuations that some cabal within the presidency are already putting pressure on him to resign.
He acknowledge that it might be difficult to avoid heating up the polity before any general election mainly because of the system the nation operates.
He however said: “The solutions to the crisis engulfing the parties and the nation lie in the National Conference. Although the negative attitude of key figures in the ruling party to the 2014 National Conference is well documented, it is clear from the calibre and composition of Nigerians at the conference and its resulting resolutions that the conference provided a veritable forum for Nigerians to sit together and agree on the architecture of their joint future.
“The conference was a major achievement of the Nigerian people under the regime of Jonathan. Adopting the resolutions of that confab will stop the country’s drift from crisis to crisis and we urge the Federal Government to take urgent steps to facilitate their implementation.”