Fr. Timothy Etsenamhe
It beats my imagination that at this age and time Nigeria cannot get its act together to conduct free, fair and credible elections – elections where every party involved would be satisfied to a considerable extent with the result of elections without the negative furore that greets Nigeria’s elections.
Why would theIndependent National Electoral Commission perform below expectation, after receiving about N305 billion naira to conductthe elections? Why did the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) not use to transfer results to INEC’s secured portal in real time as promised by the electoral umpire? Why would INEC horridly and clandestinely announce the results of the Presidential and National Assembly elections? Why would INEC staff come late to some designated polling stations and basic election materials like ink won’t be available? How efficient, reliable and independent is INEC?
Why would someone be killed at a polling unit while voting? Why would an innocent woman be stabbed on her face because she left home to perform her civic duty? Why would able-bodied men destroy ballot papers and snatch ballot boxes freely in the presence security personnel? In this age and time, why would a voter casts his or her vote and show to the world the party voted for, real time? Why would voters be induced by money to vote against their conscience? Why would a particular ethnic group be intimidated and vilified because they favour a party of their choice; a major ethnic group in Nigeria that is fantastically resourceful and innovative being treated as if its peoples wereforeigners in their own land?
Against this backdrop, it is pertinent to state from the onset that the APC run administration, superintended by President Muhammadu Buhari, is accused by public opinion, of being characterized by brazen ineptitude, abysmal corruption, deceit, greed and inordinate quest for political power. Therefore, thejust concluded general elections that were frost withirregularities and absurdities reminiscence, or at best, are a shadow of the Buhari’s APC government- ‘’a government where anything goes’’, according to Datti – Baba Ahmed. Invariably, Nigerians wouldn’t have expected anything better.
Many Nigerians have thought that President Buhari wouldensure that INEC conducts the 2023 elections in a free, fair and credible manner as his legacy, and to atone for these turbulent-close- to- eight-years of suffering Nigerians have had to undergo. Sadly, as majority of Nigerians opine, the electionsshowcased deep seated xenophobic tendencies, ethnic, and religious politics, bigotry, thuggery, intimidation, disenfranchisement, vote buying and snatching of ballot boxes. It seems glaring that the APC government has successfully taken us back to the crude old days of democratic elections in Nigeria,where violence and election rigging held sway. The just concluded elections only succeeded in wakening the sedated hopelessness in Nigerians.
It is disappointing that, INEC, in spite of the huge amount of money allocated for the conduct of the 2023 elections, given a four year period of preparation, didn’t meet Nigerians’expectation. Yes, millions of first – time voters came to trust the process because of the new electoral act that was signed into law recently by the 9th National Assembly with the assent of the President; one reason Nigerians believed that Buhari would stand by the people in the just concluded general elections.However, this trust was battered and betrayed by the inability to electronically transmit results of the elections directly to INEC’s IReV portal immediately, owing to technical ‘glitches’,according to INEC. Nigerians were in high spirit before and during the elections, especially the 25th February, 2023presidential and National Assembly elections, only to be totally downcast, inter alia, because of the level of ineptitude of INEC,externalized in late arrival of some INEC’ ad hoc staff to some polling units across the nation, dysfunctional BVAS, lack of vital voting materials as ‘small’ as ink, ad hoc staff putting on airs amidst their inability to operate the BVAS and be professionals.
Today, many Nigerians are questioning the independence of INEC because of the seeming connivance with the ruling party and some politicians. This position is hatched and buttressed by the interview, Rotimi Amaechi, granted to some press men,making the rounds on the internet. Would anyone blame such Nigerians for their opinion? The trajectories of Buhari’s administration and the hanky-panky between the umpire and the government of the day readily betray any cover up for INEC’s independence.
A more disturbing reality noticed in the just concluded elections across the nation is a renewed ethnic imperialism. The Igbos bore the brunt of this negative impact during the elections; thewere grossly chagrined in some parts of the country because majority of them believed in presidential candidacy of Peter Obi whom they believed to be competent, accountable and not frivolous with public funds because of his antecedents. The ethnic-shaming of the Igbo people and Peter Obi by the media personnel of the APC presidential candidate pre and post-election period wasn’t only a tactics deployed to win the elections but also to vilify and discriminate against the Igbos.
In Lagos state, it is alleged that the Igbos were basically hunted in order to prevent them from voting, and when eventually LP won Lagos at the presidential polls, the war against the Igbos heightened to the extent that areas where they dominated in Lagos, elections were marred by thuggery orchestrated by agberos who snatched away ballot boxes and other electoral materials during the March 18th, 2023, Governorship and State House of Assembly elections. Chauvinistic and discriminatory assertions like the Bayo Onanuga’s tweet – ‘’ let 2023 be the last time of Igbo interference in Lagos politics. Let there be no repeat in 2027. Lagos is like Anambra… it is not no man’s land, not federal capital territory. It is Yoruba land’’…, are divisive, bigoted and intend to make the Igbos feel inferior in Lagos and Nigeria as a whole, except they are made with their tongue lounged in their cheek.
Desperation to hold political office and be relevant politically have made some politicians in Nigeria go extra mile to get elected at all cost, even if it means killing political opponents and buying the electoral process. Lest we forget, Nigerians are not unawares of those who kicked against the use of technology to transmit result before the elections; they only believed in the strong affirmation by Mahmood Yakubu that BVAS would be the game changer. Alas, on the very day of the most important election, BVAS wasn’t able to upload results because of ‘glitches’! How long would Nigeria’s politicians continue to see elections as war? How do those who emerge victorious from elections that record scores of human deaths, violence and any form of electioneering malpractices relish in their wins; especially in a democracy, what legitimacy would such government acquired positions enjoy?
Nigeria is rich in all resources needed for development yet the nation is enmeshed in poverty in all facets of human endeavourspartly because the process of electing political leaders in Nigeria is bedeviled by impunity, official rascality, corruption and lawlessness. When would elections palava end in Nigeria? I witnessed the election that brought in Sadiq Khan as the Mayor of London in 2016, and I often wonder when would my country, Nigeria, conduct such an election? It is a truism that manyNigerians’ hopes have been dashed by the outcome of the elections, no doubt; we have heard people committing suicide, burning their voter’s card and tearing up their international passport. However, we must not allow despair to ruin our collective determination for a better, prosperous and new Nigeria we would all be proud to call our home.
We do hope that the Solemnity of Easter sheds its clear light on the messy circumstances we live through nowadays in Nigeria. The sorrowful events that speak so much of hate, prejudice, bigotry, betrayal and the eventual death of our Lord Jesus Christ didn’t put an end to the life and mission of Jesus but manifested his glory and sovereignty. Our collective ‘’Good Friday’’experiences at the moment would not end in misery and death but through them all we will rise triumphant over the snares that seek to snatch away our lives. We must be hopeful and at the same time exert lawful actions that would produce the dreams we have for Nigeria.