Monday 23rd January, 2017
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2019 is around the corner

2019 is around the corner

Come February, Nigeria would have reached the real halfway mark to the next presidential election. I grant that the last presidential election took place on March 28, 2015 while the governor­ship and the National As­sembly polls came up onApril 11. Yet, may it not be forgotten that those elec­tions took place on those dates simply because they were postponed from their original dates of February 14 and 28.

The Electoral Act’s “wish” that elections should be scheduled in such a way that would ensure that the courts would have dis­pensed with all the elec­toral disputations before the elected persons as­sume office (and within 200 days) would be really meaningful and beneficial if elections are scheduled as early as possible. At the worst, Nigeria should be able to hold the next presi­dential election in Febru­ary 2019, to ensure that all the fallout of the election would have settled before the incumbent president is sworn in for a second time or a new one assumes of­fice.

Last time around, Nige­ria was really lucky that former President Good­luck Jonathan conceded defeat and congratulated the man who beat him in the race to the most im­portant real estate in Ni­geria; the Aso Rock Villa. That singular act diluted a lot of tensions and gave President Mohammadu Buhari the chance to settle down fast as the political boat was not rocked in any way while he was still making his way into the high office. Now, the real issue is this: do the lead­ers of today, the President and the State Governors know that they have nearly crossed the halfway mark? Do they know that as is in the nature of the presiden­tial system, they have just one more year for effective governance, and that once we say bye to February of 2018, all the time that would be left would be for political campaign for the forthcoming elections?

Here, President Moham­madu Buhari, perhaps the first stoical President Nige­ria has had in recent times, will be different from his two immediate pre­decessors, and allow the campaigns to begin early enough to enable the true presidential contestants to emerge early enough, put their acts and messages and teams together, so that the 2019 campaigns should be on real issues, if not ideologies, and the campaign messages should be debated, dissected and the issues turned inside out so that the electorate could make their informed decisions about who they would vote for.

In the run up to 2007 elections, former Presi­dent Olusegun Obasanjo delayed the starting of the campaigns for as much as he possibly could. He was quick to proclaim that an early campaign was a dis­traction to his administra­tion. In the interim, the third term tenure elonga­tion nonsensical bid did not die until May 2006, just a year to the 2007 elec­tion. So, there was inad­equate preparation within the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as well as within the op­position parties. That PDP had challengers at all was owed to the courageof Gen. Mohammadu Buhari and the then Vice Presi­dent Atiku Abubakar.

Hey, why did I see cour­age in their contesting for Presidency that year? In “Courage as a Story Need­ing to Be Told” by Lance Morrow in the Nieman Reports (Journalism Jour­nal of the Nieman Founda­tion for Journalism at Har­vard) in the early 2000s, Morrow said: “Unlike love, which may be an emotion only, courage must mani­fest itself in action.” It was a supreme act of courage for Buhari, a former mili­tary Head of State, for­mer Oil Minister under Obasanjo in the 1970s and former Petroleum Trust Fund head under the late Gen. Sani Abacha, to jump into the political turf, his eyes fixed on the presiden­cy. He must have known that Obasanjo would dust his files and search for any incriminating material. When Atiku entered the race he must have hazard­ed his life. He must have wanted to send a message to Obasanjo who had been investigating him on sev­eral fronts, that he did not own Nigeria.

For the benefit of those with fires in their bellies, but who may be wonder­ing whether it is worth any trouble to contest for the presidency in 2019, and for the benefit of any youth who may read this, I’ll re­produce this long quota­tion of Lance Morrow’s on courage: “Courage is one of the cardinal virtues (the others are justice, wis­dom, temperance) and one of the human mysteries. It is hard to define, risky to predict. Courage is not bravery exactly. Not fear­lessness precisely, for fear­lessness may be amoral, even psychotic. Nor does the word fortitude quite cover it. Courage suggests a deeper moral or spiritual dimension — the strength of the heart (coeur). Cour­age may be entirely irra­tional — a matter of the good heart overriding the prudent mind and rising sometimes to an almost mystical level of human possibility. More profanely, it may be a strategy of ca­reerism — courage is not always unselfish — and an aspect of professionalism, a habit of calculated risk.

“John Kennedy consid­ered courage to be the first, the indispensable virtue; with courage, he said, any­thing is possible; without it, nothing. Unlike love, which may be an emotion only, courage must mani­fest itself in action. Un­less courage actually does something, and does it well, it is just bragging”.

In 2015, Jonathan re­peated the same Obasan­joresque game. He refused to say early that he would contest to remain in of­fice. Needless debates took place over that issue, and all the while, precious time seeped away. Come 2019, the campaigns should start early. A long campaign will make the pretenders fall by the way side and let those courageous folks, who could stand the tor­ment of the marathon, be the ones to be voted for in the real elections. By then, their real messages would have coalesced and have a real core – instead of being formless; like the jetsam and flotsam in the sea of life.

Courage may not be in­dispensable to the practice of journalism, but it has become an increasingly pertinent and vivid theme in the dangerous, instan­taneous world of the early 21st century. Seventy-three journalists have died covering the war in Iraq; elsewhere 171 journalists have died doing their work in the past six years.

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