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As Nigerians Go to the Poll

Tomorrow, March 28 will mark another milestone in Nigeria’s democratic life.
It is a day when 70 million eligible voters will be going to the polls to elect the President, Senators and House of Representatives members for the next fours years. If all goes well, it would mark the fifth time since 1999 that the citizens will be witnessing another peaceful transfer of power from one elected government to another.
That calls for celebration given that no democratic dispensation since independence in 1960 has come this far. Before now, Nigeria was a byword for military adventurism, dysfunctional politics and a laboratory for all manner of political atavism. Even when the country is yet to arrive at the safe harbour of political stability, there is cause for cheer at the little progress so far made. While the celebration is going on, there is every need to warn on the impending danger to the polity brought about by the tension of the past few weeks through the actions of some prominent political actors.
Incidentally, tomorrow’s election is coming at a time the country is not only polarised along ethnic and religious lines but also threatened by the raging Boko Haram insurgency in the North East. There is no doubt that the entire world is intensely watching the outcome of the poll. There is every reason for this. Nigeria is Africa’s largest democracy and what happens here will have an impact well beyond its borders. That is why we are calling on INEC, the political parties, security agencies, as well as other stakeholders to make conscious and prayerful efforts for a successful election. As the first in the series of other elections, tomorrow’s poll has been so scheduled to test the resilience of Nigerians in the event of any outcome.
At this time of our nationhood, only free, fair, transparent and credible polls will make the difference between the all-pervading fears in the land today and the accolades that will follow a successful exercise. There is no doubt that tomorrow’s election was initially scheduled for February 14 but postponed for another six weeks following security concerns in the North East,where hundreds of thousands have been displaced by insurgency. Part of the reason also was to give these internally displaced parsons the opportunity to vote after the insurgents would have been routed. So, the poll offers Nigerians an opportunity to tell the world that the country has become a mature democracy that is capable of conducting its affairs without foreign interference.
But that can only be true if all the political actors and citizens pledge to keep the peace during and after the poll, whatever the outcome. There is every reason to remind all that Nigerians do not have any other country than this. It would therefore be foolhardy to destroy it in the pursuit of personal aggrandisements or ethnic and religious irredentism. Elections are part of democratic rituals which are always held at constitutionally prescribed times. We must therefore not destroy the country in the name of winning at all cost.

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