To return Nigeria to a happy and peaceful civilian rule

Part of Chief Obafemi Awolowo s press release of 18th August 1975

IN the second place, past experiences have shown that the most effective time for electioneering campaign in this country is the dry season, which is at its best throughout the country in the months of December to March.

If this is agreed, then, having regard to the time needed for registration of voters, etc., the earliest time when elections could be held is the months of December 1976 and January to March 1977.

On purely religious grounds, many people would not be keen on a December election; but any time from the middle of January to the last week of February 1977 would be ideal. The ceremony for the inauguration of the Constituent Assembly, and the formal transfer of power to civilians can then take place in March 1977.

A date longer than this would arouse deep suspicion, and detract from the goodwill which the Military now enjoy among our people.

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In closing this press statement, I want to address my final remarks to two classes of Nigerians. The first are those who desire to participate in the politics of the future.

Whatever the differences of opinion on ideological or other grounds, I feel sure that it is common ground that the return to civilian rule, as well as the conduct of that rule should take place and be carried on in circumstances and atmosphere in which democracy will have a good chance of firmly entrenching itself, and enduring in a united Nigeria freedom inter-party, inter-ethnic and inter-personal bitterness under a Constitution which provides for a peaceful change of government, and for safeguards against the abuse of power.

Before ban on political activities is lifted, aspiring politicians must realise one thing, and do so vividly. After nine years of military rule, it is natural for some Army officers to have developed such a fondness for public offices as to stimulate in them a nostalgia and animus revertendi for these offices after return to civilian rule has taken place.

It will be the bounden duty of all aspiring politicians, therefore, before and after actual return to civilian rule, to conduct their electioneering and governmental affairs in such a manner as to help such officers to throttle their natural, but socially dangerous inclination to regain political power.

To this end, politicians must regard the time before the actual handing over of power, and FIVE YEARS thereafter as a Politico-Probationary period.

Immediately ban on political activities is lifted, those who aspire to organise political parties must meet to draw up a comprehensive Code of Conduct for electioneering. The overriding aim should be to eliminate vulgarity, bitterness, and hooliganism of any kind from political campaigning.

They should also jointly formulate, for submission to the Supreme Military Council, proposals for providing funds and controlling expenditure during electioneering campaigns and after.

In this connection, I would like to think aloud for the benefit of those who may wish to give this particular issue some thoughts between now and the lifting of ban on political activities.

It is my considered view that Nigeria should invest heavily in democracy. If this is agreed—and here comes the thinking aloud—it is my suggestion that in the matter of provision of funds for electioneering, and for running the affairs of a party generally, the Federal Government should be prepared to give generous subventions to political parties. This is the practice in Western Germany, and I commend it to the serious study of all concerned.

What they do in Western Germany is this. At the close of elections, so much Deutsch Mark per vote is paid by the government to every political party for the total number of votes cast for that party. Before electioneering, an estimated amount is paid to each party, subject to a refund being made to government in the event of a party not scoring enough votes to earn the advance given to it.

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