Elections are our major tool of promoting democracy. All anti-democratic forces must be stemmed
Political desperation on the eve of an important general election can breed wild speculations. One such dangerous speculation came to the surface last week as part of the last leg of the gruelling political campaigns. A major spokesperson of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential campaign and former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, alleged that the presidential candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar held a secret meeting with some senior military officers. Fani-Kayode’s narrative imputed that Atiku may have discussed the possibility of a military coup to upend the general election.   

It is proper that the Department of State Services (DSS) has invited Fani-Kayode to discuss his frightening allegation for useful insights. But the former minister has since recanted and apologised for misleading the public. His unsubstantiated claim turns out to be a manifestation of the lack of tact and caution among our politicians. Sadly, we have heard many of such allegations lately, especially from serving governors in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). However, the timing and context of this wild alarm makes it consequential. We are just a few days away from a crucial presidential election.  

For the leading political parties, the campaigns have sometimes overreached themselves by descending to very low levels of exchange, sometimes bordering on slander and personal insult. Occasionally also, national sensitivities have been stoked in a desperate bid to score political advantages. But there is yet no serious adverse political development to indicate that the democratic process has drifted anywhere towards a credible threat to national security. If anything, majority of Nigerians are anxiously waiting for the general election as an avenue of peaceful democratic change to a better reality. The admissible shortcomings of governance currently being experienced in the country are all within the confines of day-to-day issues. They are in fact added reasons why democratic change had become more urgently needed. Both the hiccups with the Naira redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the perennial fuel scarcity fall within the limits of systemic challenges. 

Therefore, in our estimation and the enlightened consensus of most Nigerians, there is no threat to the general election to warrant unreasonable flirtations with undemocratic ideas as being suggested in certain quarters. While desperation among politicians is an understandable feature of a keenly contested political race, politicians should desist from selling undemocratic ideas to score cheap campaign advantage. Since we see no valid reason to fly dangerous kites of illegitimate meddling in the ongoing process, politicians who engage in such dangerous speculations need to have their democratic credentials more closely scrutinised.  

We are satisfied that arrangements put in place by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and all relevant agencies are adequate to ensure hitch-free and credible elections. It is also a welcome development that the Defence Headquarters and the Service Chiefs have denied Fani-Kayode’s toxic allegation. With some governors joining the fray, the presidency last Friday reaffirmed its commitment to holding the general election while dousing public anxiety over the alarms. But the federal government must also address the suffering of Nigerians over the implementation of the Naira swap policy that is becoming a national security challenge. Everything must be done to deny anti-democratic forces any excuse to derail our democracy.  It is also important for public office holders to weigh the consequences of what they say, especially at such a critical period as this.

The background of our history of long military involvement in politics makes coup speculations a matter of grave concern. Recent political developments in the West African subregion with a rash of military interventions in Mali, Sudan, Guinea, Burkina Faso, also call for an abundance of caution. Strategically, Nigeria is the most important pillar of democracy in West Africa and indeed the entire continent. To that extent, the stability of our country is a continental imperative and global necessity. Nigerians desire it. West Africa requires it. The world expects and demands it as a minimum irreducible contribution of Nigeria to the global triumph of democracy and freedom.  

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