Buhari’s word of honour on credible poll

Unlike when he threatened that Baboon and the dog would soak in their own blood, President Muhammadu Buhari is now pledging to deliver a credible election next year. The question on the lips of many Nigerians is, what has changed?

It has been established that partisanship trumps objectivity in Nigerian political discourse and space. This conviction has been engraved in the mind of the citizenry, whose high hopes for election outcomes have always been dampened owing to the way in which elected officers pass the leadership baton to their successors in defiance of the people’s wishes.

However, there seems to be a shift in the narrative ahead of the all-important 2023 election following President Muhammadu Buhari’s seeming resolve to relinquish the hell-bent desire of interference and give the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the free hand to conduct a free, fair and credible poll.

Irrespective of his commitment to the electoral processes through the watershed Electoral Act, 2022 that was dilly-dallied as well as countless pledges to oversee the 2023 election and ensure it is devoid of manipulations, the electorates are still looking incredulously as their confidences have, over time, been diminished in votes used to usher in a new government.

Obviously, the numerous promises, whether speculated to be a ruse or deliberately intended to bequeath a legacy like his predecessor, former president Goodluck Jonathan, who declared that his 2015 second term ambition bid was not worth the blood of any Nigerian, may have inspired public trust in the electoral process and rekindled hope and interests of citizens on how the change of guard will pan out.

Although there are doubts on his present stance to conduct a credible election because of the President’s party affiliation and earlier statement that led to frightening outburst in 2012, he is now being perceived to be an unbiased umpire as Nigerians anticipate he will allow a level playing field at the polls considering the outcomes of several off-cycle elections under his watch.

In the past few years, Buhari has repeatedly maintained his position to Nigerians and the global community to ensure the citizenry are not robbed of the opportunity to freely elect their leaders.

Recently, the president, while addressing world leaders at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, informed them that this will be the last time he would be addressing the diplomatic community as a president, pointing out that by 2023, Nigeria will have a new president to represent the country at the high-level meetings.

He vowed to entrench a process of free, fair, transparent and credible elections through which Nigerians elect leaders of their choice as the country prepares for a general election by February 2023.

“Indeed, we are now preparing for general elections in Nigeria next February. At the 78th UNGA, there will be a new face at this podium speaking for Nigeria.

“Ours is a vast country strengthened by its diversity and its common values of hard work, enduring faith, and a sense of community. We have invested heavily to strengthen our framework for free and fair elections. I thank our partners for all the support that they have provided for our elections.

“As President, I have set the goal that one of the enduring legacies I will like to leave is to entrench a process of free, fair and transparent credible elections through which Nigerians elect their choice,” Buhari said.

In November, the president, while delivering his opening remark at the 2022 2nd Ordinary Session of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS), Parliament in Abuja, reportedly restated his commitment to stay neutral in the election.

His words, “As you are aware, there will be multiple political activities in some ECOWAS Member States, including Nigeria, where general elections are due to hold in February and March 2022.

“Let me seize this opportunity to reiterate my commitment to free, fair and transparent elections and smooth transitions. This is one legacy that I want my administration to bequeath, not only to Nigeria but to the region as a whole.

“At the regional level, Sierra Leone and Liberia are also preparing for elections. As in the past, Nigeria is ready to stand by any country in the region that is committed to organizing free and fair elections,” Buhari said.

In his 2022 Democracy Day speech, the president said, “Fellow Nigerians, this is my last Democracy Day speech as your President. By June 12, 2023, exactly one year from today, you will already have a new President. I remain committed and determined to ensure that the new President is elected through a peaceful and transparent process.”

Read also: Buhari seeks US support for Nigeria’s $10b energy plans

Also, in December 2019, Buhari promised to leave a legacy of credible elections in the country and to deploy law enforcement agencies to ensure that public officers do not utilise resources from office to exploit other citizens.

He made the declaration when Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), led presidential aides among others to present a birthday card to the president on his 77th birthday at the Presidential Villa.

“I promise Nigerians to work very hard on free and fair election. All those that are going to succeed in the National Assembly and the presidency, they better work very hard because I will make sure, using the law enforcement agencies, that elections are free and fair, that nobody uses his office or his resources to force himself on his constituency,” he said.

With all these reassurances to rule out the possibility of compromising the seventh successive general election in Nigeria’s 23 years of unbroken civil rule, will the president’s allegiance be to Nigerians or his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC)? Will it be a repeat of 2015 where there was a smooth transition following the emergence of the opposition as the winner?

“First, his allegiance is to himself, then, secondly, to his fake APC contraption. But never to Nigeria as he has never cared nor loved Nigeria.

“You must watch Buhari and his way with language. His avowing it so many times, is how they leave those in the south confused and deceived. They speak in public avowing something, but mean something else.

“The real truth will be revealed in the beginning of February. Watch the body and policy languages then,” Tony Abolo, a communication expert, opined.

Speaking recently at the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) 4th quarter 2022 meeting in Abuja, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, who is the Co-Chairman of NIREC, said that president Buhari’s firm promise to deliver a credible election next year should serve enough reason for Nigerians to feel free to exercise their civic duties and vote for a candidate of their choice.

“The other day the president visited Sokoto Palace and said openly of his commitment to peaceful, credible election in Nigeria, he directed the military and other security forces to ensure peaceful, free and fair election. If the president had said so, will anybody go and do otherwise. If he said so, I have no reason not to believe him,” the Sultan of Sokoto said.

But, Daniel Okoh, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Co-Chairman of NIREC, during his address, said there were still doubts being expressed by people about Nigeria’s capacity and political will to conduct free, fair, credible and peaceful 2023 elections.

“Politics of corruption, intimidation, exclusion and violence are now regarded by some elements in the society as necessary weapons of political victory in our country. This ugly trend robs the Nigerian voters of the opportunity to freely choose their leaders.

“As we navigate the process to the 2023 general elections, the world is watching to see if there will be a relatively peaceful transition, or a repeat of the familiar ugly past always filled with pre-and post-electoral violence,” Okoh said.

For Leo Atakpu, deputy director of Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), a non-governmental organization, such statements are needed from the president so as to increase the citizens’ confidence in the process.

Atakpu, while commending the president for his commitment to smooth transition, emphasized that “the position of the president is a powerful one and if you are making such statements that do not give the indication of transparency or credibility of the process, then the people will begin to hold you to account.

“He has been making such statements because at the moment he is the president and needs to give clear direction on the election but we also have an electoral body which should and must be independent and they have also been assuring that the election will be credible and transparent.

“The victory was won by the people when they were reviewing the Electoral Act that led to the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the electronic transmission of election results. This will help to take away all the challenges and will stop some avenues which people use in falsification of results because the results will be transmitted from the various Polling Units, where people cast their votes, to the INEC platform. It will show transparency.

“INEC has also been assuring this will be one of the best elections, and we hope the process will be credible but, all over the world, there is no election that is perfect. So, it is important that the president assures the people. It is needed from him because he is the one at the saddle.

“We have a former president that did same and stated even though he is the president the position does not worth the blood of any Nigerian. Such assurances are welcomed and needed from those who sit in that position.

“So, he is telling us that he has no stake; INEC has been given money to run the election. He has directed the military and security agencies not to undermine the process but ensure it is peaceful,” Atakpu said.

Nowinta Igbotako, a human rights activist, in his opinion, expressed confidence on the instrument that will be deployed for the poll, saying that there will be no interference by the president in the outcome of the election because of the considerable attention of Nigerians on the election.

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