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.