The electioneering campaigns for the next election should not be done at the expense of suffering Nigerians

In what can be described as an open invitation to partisan frenzy and scramble for the power stakes, given the nature of our political environment, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced a schedule for the 2019 general election. And like all election seasons, this year will test the ability of the incumbent president to balance the abiding imperatives of governance with the exigency of political survival. Yet if the morning, as they say, shows the day, Nigerians have serious cause to worry that 2018 may be another wasted year.

To underscore the urgency of the moment, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, last week appealed to the National Assembly members to expedite action on the passage of the 2018 budget because there is no luxury of time. “Intense political activities will begin this February and as public officials, we have to quickly deliver,” said Mustapha though the question remains as to what can be achieved within the remaining one month. Besides, with reports of governors, including those bereft of ideas on how to run their states going to ‘beg’ the president to seek re-election, it stands to reason that the “intense political activities” spoken about by Mustapha may have commenced apace.

Unfortunately, prior to the INEC signal, many of the politicians had gradually drowned our national discourse in partisan rhetoric. But the stakes were raised even further when President Muhammadu Buhari allowed some of his more ardent devotees to openly canvass the prospect of a second term for him. One cabinet minister went as far as appointing himself the lead promoter of a Buhari 2019 campaign organisation; making the public announcement after a meeting with the president at the State House. Another minister has reportedly been quietly appointed to head the presidential campaign machinery. The latter development has neither been confirmed nor denied by the parties.

In this national frenzy for political campaigns, governance is bound to suffer as appointed officials are drafted into partisan roles. While the professional civil service is meant to sustain the tempo of governance at all times, the reality of our situation is that both political direction and executive initiative rest with appointees for whom the political survival of their parties and principals mean everything. The situation is made worse by the flagrant abuse of process by incumbents—at practically all levels—who most often, divert public resources to partisan political ends. This is the origin of the ‘empty treasury’ syndrome that greets the beginning of every new administration in our country.

However, our main concern is the implications of partisanship, especially by those handling sensitive positions, including the security agencies, at such a critical period as this in the life of our nation. While extant government regulations require that political appointees seeking elective positions resign from those offices, those who do not seek any elective offices yet play active partisan roles hide under a lacuna in the law to compromise their offices to the advantage of their principals. Meanwhile, even when those who run our governments and decide for us in all the parties are partisan champions, the broad majority of Nigerians are mostly non-partisan. In any case, regardless of whether they are partisan or not, all citizens are entitled to all the services and functions which justify the existence of governments in the first place.

To that extent, we ought to insist first that all those who in this election season must play active partisan roles should excuse themselves from all public offices. This is also the time for the National Assembly to look again at the laws on campaign financing. We need to ensure that incumbents at every level are not squandering public funds to gain undue advantage over their rivals in the upcoming elections. But beyond that, President Buhari and his henchmen must put the interest of the suffering Nigerians first at all times, even as they plot their legitimate aspiration for a second term in office.

This is the time for the National Assembly to look again at the laws on campaign financing. We need to ensure that incumbents at every level are not squandering public funds to gain undue advantage over their rivals in the upcoming elections