By Kunle Sanyaolu
From all intents, the struggle for 2019 elections has started with the announcement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of the dates of the elections. By the commission’s schedule, presidential election will be held on February 16, 2019; the same date elections into the National Assembly –Senate and Federal House of Representatives – will take place. The other elections – governorship, State Houses of Assembly and Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory will hold two weeks later on March 2, 2019.
The electoral commission appears to draw lessons from the past by giving itself some breathing space between one round of elections and the next, instead of the usual one-week interval. Sometime in the last election, INEC had to reschedule an election because it could not meet with the logistics after conducting an election a week earlier.
The INEC’s chairman, Professor Mahmud Yakubu who announced the dates at an induction retreat for Resident Electoral Commissioners in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, also disclosed that implementation of the 2019 election project plan will begin on January 2, 2018. The commission hopes to improve on the use of card readers introduced at the last general election, while also coping with additional 3,630,529 new voters registered in recent continuous registration exercise.
Even before the dates’ announcement, political campaign has started. The two major parties, All Progressives Congress APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have started trading blames for the country’s quagmire.
The fact that former vice president Atiku Abubakar has defected to the PDP speaks volumes of the state of politics, considering his open ambition to be the country’s president; coupled with his realisation that the presidential candidacy in the APC is not vacant so long as President Muhammed Buhari is on top of the party. So far, all the permutations of his political foes that the president may not have the health to go through the next election have been rendered superfluous.
Buhari of course has the power of incumbency strongly in his favour. While he does not have to campaign openly, he can tour any part of the country, make any statement or promise all in the course of his presidency. Besides, the chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun is in a position to say all the right things about the president, again within his capacity as party chairman. Recently too, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo assured Nigerians that Buhari is the best person to steer the ship of state in 2019.
The year 2019 therefore clearly represents the next level for Nigeria. Of the issues to contend with, insecurity of citizens easily present as number one. What with the unrestrained kidnapping exploits, the unrelenting Boko Haram bombings, the incessant clashes of farmers and herdsmen, and the regular unprovoked attacks by militants on otherwise peaceful communities.
Next on the line is the wobbling economy, reflected in the dearth of jobs, the absence of critical infrastructure, the fading enabling environment for business to thrive and of course the protracted issue of irregular supply of electricity.
The tone for anti-corruption campaign having been set in the last more than two years, how to eliminate or further reduce the scourge will continue to be an important issue in 2019 for many reasons. First, there is no over-emphasising the injury that corruption particularly in the public space has done to the country and her citizens over the years, Two, although Buhari is a widely acknowledged forthright person with determination to wipe out the scourge, it is becoming clear, after two-and-a-half years that those attributes of his are grossly inadequate to deal firmly with corruption. It is believed that graft is waxing strong even under his regime.
And lastly, the opposition has accused the president of operating a one sided anti-corruption campaign aimed only at the opposition. Yet, until corruption is brought to its knees, the country cannot meaningfully talk about progress. A major issue that is relevant to tackling these identified problems is the debate whether or not to restructure the country; or whether the problems can be effectively resolved without restructuring the country. Will Buhari shift from his erstwhile hard-line position on this? If he doesn’t, can it cost him the presidency in 2019?
By and large, 2019 remains a straight fight between the APC and the PDP. So far, none of them has displayed genuine sympathy and appreciation of the sufferings of Nigerians, save for the purpose of winning election. In 2019, that trend must change.
●●Sanyaolu, a lawyer based in Lagos is chairman editorial board of everyday.ng