THIS week, President Goodluck Jonathan held a meeting with Nigerian security chiefs and governors of the North eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, where there is the rampaging Boko Haram insurgency. At the end of the meeting, it was announced that despite the insurgency, elections would be held in those states in February 2015. That is how it should be! Nigeria must refuse to be intimidated by the insurgency to the point of abandoning the democratic electoral process in those states. We must show that our institutions; our political and electoral processes are central to the content of our nationhood. That the federal and state governments can come together in defense of the electoral and democratic processes deserves the support of all Nigerians. We must not allow the insurgency to truncate the pace and process of democratic development. When people are able to cast their votes and choose who would lead them, it would be a major statement of the intentions of people to build a democratic system.
It is imperative to remind ourselves that in countries with far more serious insurgencies than the Nigerian variant, elections have been held in respect of the democratic processes in these countries. Afghanistan has held three elections in the years since the war against the Taliban insurgency commenced. Similarly, in Iraq, they have gone to the polls at least three times since 2003, while recently, the Syrian people defied the rebels and insurgents of all hues to hold elections. The Nigerian people in the Northeast must similarly be assisted to cast their votes.
Those in the IDP camps can be reached and it is important that INEC has also been making preparations for elections in the Northeast. I travelled in the region in the last two weeks of 2014. And it was remarkable to see the level of political mobilisation and activity that is taking place in Borno and Yobe, where I visited.
People in these states are warming up for the elections and members of the political elite in these communities are meeting people; holding party caucuses and addressing the party faithful. There are posters of candidates of the different political parties and of individuals looking forward to becoming elected for various positions. The momentum is one that cannot and should not be stopped or be subverted. The 2015 general election is going to be the most important in Nigeria since the 1999 transition to civil rule. The stakes have never been as high at any point in the past sixteen years.
Nigerians are very expectant and more so in the Northeast, where the insurgency has destroyed the basic process of existence for millions of people in communities and states. These people have the fundamental right to exercise their democratic rights as citizens of a democratizing country. It is therefore a most welcome development to notice that President Goodluck Jonathan is meeting with the governors of these states as well as the leadership of the nation’s security forces in order to work out the best ways to secure the country in general and the Northeast in particular, so as to provide the enabling environment to ensure that the people in these states can actively exercise their franchise during the 2015 elections.