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Osun election: A test for democracy

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[File] Election

Nigeria’s democracy faces another litmus test tomorrow when the people of Osun State go to the polls to decide who their next governor should be.

Ordinarily, after about two decades into democratic dispensation, a peaceful transition should be taken for granted.

But the controversial conduct of a similar exercise in neighbouring Ekiti State barely three months ago has automatically placed caution on the expected excitement over the Osun State event tomorrow.

There cannot be a better time to remind the various stakeholders, notably political actors, the electoral umpire and even security agencies that the Osun State election is not just an event, it is a process whose outcome has implications for national security and indeed the country’s image.

And that is why all should remember that the nation would like a better conduct than what transpired in Ekiti with a view to enhancing democratic values.

Despite heartfelt warnings from this newspaper and other outlets to both the people and politicians of Ekiti, that state’s gubernatorial election still ended up being a peculiar and embarrassing mess.

The debacle in Ekiti, which could be blamed on a combination of greed, poverty, incompetence, and an inordinate lust for power could have been mitigated, at least, by the ruling party at the federal level whose reformist agenda was painstakingly and effectively sold to Nigerians only to be summarily betrayed.

By the same token, the other party in power at the state level which should have seized that golden opportunity to prove to the people that its own approach to things would be more reasonable and dignified, did not help matters, in the circumstance.

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What obtained was a comprehensive show of shame on all sides, one that left the Nigerian people dazed and not having anyone to trust.

The real tragedy of that Ekiti election, however, was that it was supposed to be the first sign of good things to come in the 2019 general elections but going by the brazen criminality that was witnessed, it appears that all citizens should approach 2019 with trepidation and a sense of foreboding.

The Osun State election tomorrow, however, provides a second chance for Nigeria to prove that its democracy is viable ahead of 2019.

The hope and joy of citizens for good governance must be rekindled tomorrow.

Amidst the dirty, tooth-and-nail fighting among the various contenders for power in Osun State – vote buying and other election crimes, the people must stand firm on the side of the ideal.

The report that the president had to stop the arrest of a candidate of an opposition party less than 72 hours to the election smacks of gross indiscretion on the part of security authorities and shows the need for vigilance.

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All overzealous actions diminish the stature of democracy and Nigeria deserves much better.

An even graver threat to democracy, and which also suggests that nothing has been learnt from the Ekiti tragedy, is the current militarisation of Osun State.

Reports have it that over eighteen thousand police officers excluding senior officers, have been deployed to the state to oversee security during the elections.

It is curious what the security reports ahead of tomorrow’s polls must be to have triggered such a huge number of security personnel to be called upon to keep the peace.

Secondly, as the Ekiti State experience now compels, it is hoped that orders given to these policemen and women, are truly to keep the peace and not to achieve any partisan goals.

Finally, it must not be forgotten that the deployment of these many police officers will be at the expense of the Nigerian state, and their minimum N50,000 per head special duty allowance will be taken from taxpayers’ money.

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This is certainly profligate for a country that is going down on virtually all indices of development.

The deployment raises further the discussion about the issue of state police.

With state police in place on this kind of election duty, it would have been less expensive.

Hopefully, the politicians of Osun State and their national overlords will not let the nation down in the course of tomorrow’s elections.

In the main, the people of that state should ensure that they are vigilant tomorrow.

They should be law-abiding and brace up to be the custodians of democracy.

They should stand watchful and make sure that what is eventually delivered to them at the end of the exercise is the governor of their own choice.


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