In the course of history those who have been able to appreciate more than others the gift that democracy gives in the ballot box are those able to draw a distinction between the atrocities of autocracy and the blessedness of democracy because they have experienced both.

In 1999, after more than a decade during which Nigeria was subjected to all manner of indignities by military dictators the culmination of which was the annulment of the 1993 presidential election, the dawn of democracy finally snapped the long, uninterrupted period autocracy had enjoyed.

With the transition to democracy precipitated by the death of Nigeria`s last dictator in 1998, a new constitution was minted for the country in 1999, and with it, the return to democracy and elections. Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo became president in 1999 as Nigeria was finally set on the path to genuine progress that only democracy can pave.

It has been 23 years now and gratefully, Nigeria is yet to make a costly detour from the path of democracy as it remains the only path which gives Nigeria the most desirable options. With the return to democracy has come the return of elections which give Nigerians ample opportunities to determine who will govern them from time to time.

Elections in Nigeria have gratefully been on an upward trajectory. Although the wanton rigging of the early 2000s has since been replaced by subtler forms of electoral manipulation, the Nigerian electorate is more alert to the antics of electoral thieves and brigands. The violence that used to so grotesquely and grossly undermine elections in the country now happen only in pockets as opposed to the days when it cast a pall over Nigeria`s democracy.

With the 2023 elections just around the corner, projections are that Nigeria`s capacity to handle free and fair elections will continue to improve. But before the general elections next year, political parties in the country will go to their own internal polls to select the candidates they will field during the general elections next year.

Political parties in Nigeria have been mandated by the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct and conclude their primary elections before June 3, 2022. It would not be farfetched to elect not to look beyond the opposition Peoples Democratic Party and the ruling All Progressives Congress, ancient rivals in Nigeria`s electoral arena, for the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

However, as members of different political parties determine their candidates through primaries, they will do well to remember the responsibility they owe themselves as citizens of Nigeria, and especially to the country that will most likely be formed in the image of whoever is elected president come 2023.

Internal party wrangling must be eschewed in the interest of democracy and justice. Internal democracy must be the prime consideration in choosing those that will emerge as candidates across different levels in next year`s elections. The freely exercised choice of party members must be allowed to trump imposition. It is the interest of Nigeria as a country that must feature prominently in the minds of the delegates who will vote at the primaries, not pecuniary interests.

As things stand today, no one needs to be reminded that Nigeria is at a crossroads, and that a lot of the uncertainties and anxieties which the country is steeped in today has come from questionable decisions taken by Nigerian leaders past and present. To get the country back on track, the need to get credible leaders on board has never been more pressing.

Kene Obiezu,

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