Random musing on 2023 poll

Let’s clap with one hand and reserve the other until after February 25

Many Nigerians are optimistic that the general election this time around will be credible. They are quick to point to the new Electoral Act 2022 that has made provision for the use of Bimodal Voter Registration System (BVAS) and electronic transmission of results from the polling units. They easily point to the fact that there will no longer be ballot stuffing or ballot box snatching. A lot of hope is being raised. But it is too early to roll out the drums.

There are many factors that show that the election is not just about BVAS and electronic transmission of results. As the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is working assiduously to deliver credible poll, some desperate politicians are also busy plotting how to win by all means and at all cost. Again, not all Nigerians also see the INEC as non-partisan in the exercise. The Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, the other day warned the Commission not to play games on Nigerians. The warning came after INEC denied that it said the election could be postponed or cancelled on account of insecurity.

The group said that INEC was flying a kite to test the reaction of Nigerians. Many observers have also wondered at the speed with which the Commission denied a statement credited to a very high officer, Abdullahi Zuru, chairman, Board of Electoral Institute. The man represented Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman, at an event last Monday, and said: “If the insecurity is not monitored and dealt with decisively, it could ultimately culminate in the cancellation and/or postponement of elections in sufficient constituencies to hinder declaration of election results and precipitate constitutional crisis.”

This unexpectedly sparked outrage in the polity. Some observers interpreted it to mean that the INEC could just hide under insecurity to declare the election inconclusive, particularly if the person that won is not the “preferred” candidate. The uproar that followed Zuru’s “satanic verse” aroused Yakubu to convene a meeting of all the political parties to reassure them that Zuru must have woken up from the wrong side of his body and so did not know what he was saying. So, that wrong step may have given an indication that despite the Electoral Act and all the great provisions therein, there could also be human elements to worry about, as in ‘Ama ndi ana eze.”

G-5 in a quandary

When they first declared their stand against the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), insisting that Iyorchia Ayu should step down as chairman since a Northerner emerged as the presidential candidate, they scored the bull’s eye and won many sympathisers. They said they were fighting against injustice. Many people cheered them on. Then they began to adopt the mannerism of a cult group as it were by meeting at odd hours and donning all manner of “aso ebi” (uniforms), sometimes like cow boys.

They began to globe-trot, all in the name of strategizing. In some of the junketing outside the shores of Nigeria, they posed for selfies and photo shoots which they uploaded on the social media. All these were to ensure that “as it de pepper them, it de sweet us; as it de sweet us, it de pepper them.” Most times, it was Governor Wike that speaks for the group.

Since May last year when the party had its presidential primary that set off the crisis, the five governors- Samuel Ortom of Benue State; Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State; Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, and Wike have met uncountable number of times for God-knows-what.

At various times, they were said to have met with some other presidential candidates of other parties with the aim of striking a deal. In all of these acrobatics, the media has been fed with truth, half truth and outright lies. Before the dawn of 2023, the media was awash with the story that the group was going to announce their adopted presidential candidate first week of the New Year. Apprehension ruled the air and permutations were rife.

Today, 15 days into the New Year, not even “fim” has been heard from the camp in that regard. Observers are saying that the group may have seen the impracticability of emptying themselves into another party when four of them have elections to prosecute on the PDP platform. Except Wike who is not contesting for any position again, Ortom, Ugwuanyi and Ikpeazu are standing election to the Senate, while Makinde is seeking re-election as governor.

So, declaring for either Labour Party or the All Progressives Congress (APC) could jeopardise their ambitions. It would seem that the group has read the situation and is now stuck. And there is nothing showing that they will laugh last as many more Nigerians are seeing their lingering disaffection as the way of politicians.

This thing called ‘structure’

Structure, perhaps, seems to be the word that has featured more prominently than any other since the preparations toward the 2023 general election began. We now often hear people say, “you don’t have structure,” “it is a structure of corruption,” “the people are the structure.” This structure or no structure thing became popularised when Peter Obi joined the Labour Party as its presidential candidate. Indeed, the party before then was an unknown quantity, just exiting by name.

So, when Obi started to make waves or what some termed the “Obi Momentum”, he was easily dismissed. Although those who took this route acknowledged and still acknowledging that the man has changed the flavour of politics in Nigeria, they insist that because he has no structure, he is going nowhere. They are ready to point to the fact that Labour Party does not have serving state governors, members of the National and state Assemblies that could help him mobilise votes.

They would tell you that Obi’s time is not now, perhaps, 2027. But Labour Party supporters have always insisted that it is the people that make a party and not a party that makes the people. The other day, someone explained the situation to Yours Sincerely this way: “You mean to say that if all the suffering masses of this country react to the level of their suffering by voting someone with no structure, that that candidate will not win?

Are you saying for instance, if all the students in the tertiary institutions of learning whose future has been punctuated by long strikes, and their angry parents should vote for a candidate without structure he would not win? Or if Nigerians should react to the atrocities that had been done to the country by the present government- the wanton killings, the nepotism and the ills engendered by government, that a structure-less candidate will not win?

Let me tell you, the problem is not about structure or lack of it, but it is about the ‘gullibleness’ of the Nigerian people. If we get it wrong this time around, it could lead everyone to sing Nunc Dimittis.” Nobody tells a man who is heard in hearing that war has broken out?

Much Ado about campaign crowd

The social media is awash with exchange of vitriol by supporters of presidential candidates. They bicker over inconsequential things- “oh our crowd is bigger than yours”; “oh, your crowd is rented;” “oh, ours is organic and yours is fertilizer-induced;” and such like. Most of the campaign rallies have failed to meet the standard expected of high-level and crucial election facing Nigeria. The country is at a point that the election is a make or mar. If the people get it right, Nigeria will be rescued, if otherwise, it plunges deeper into the abyss of hopelessness.

The criticality of the hour ought to have determined the seriousness attached to the campaigns. In most of the campaigns, important messages are not passed, rather they are used as platforms to lacerate the character of opponents; the campaigns are converted into dance competitions and unnecessary exhibition of arrogance. The Nigerian people want to hear how the candidates plan to heal the land of all the atrocities (banditry, unabated bloodletting by several groups, etc) that have held the country bound; what practical way to revamp the education and health sectors?

What plan to bring the country together as the unity of Nigeria is said to have been terribly dealt with in the last eight years. We are not hearing the emphasis on economy, economy and economy. There is the need to focus on the real thing. It is not everyone that attends a candidate’s campaign rally that will vote for that candidate. People attend campaign rallies for different reasons; so, we must not lose sight of the “koko” thing, which is giving Nigeria and the people a leader that will change the negative narrative.

Mohammed Nalado, former chairman, Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), said his concerns centred on the level of hate speeches and sentiments oozing out from the campaigns. He said: “These are the things that aggravate insecurity. We have to talk to ourselves to be issue-based in our campaign.”

Security agencies! Security agencies! Security agencies! How many times did I call you?

Election is a multi-stakeholder engagement, hence, the frequent meetings with the leadership of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) with all categories of the nation’s security agencies. Although it is the regular police that usually deployed on Election Day, the military is also put at alert in case of any eventuality.

Ahead of the general election, we have been seeing security apparatchiks moving into and out of meeting venues with INEC, clutching big files. It is not about endless meetings, it is about productivity. The meetings have been about how to ensure a violence-free election. Nigerians would expect the uniform members and women to be proactive this time around by foiling planned attacks either on INEC materials, ad-hoc staff, or on voters, and not to be reactive only when the damage had been done.

Insecurity has been one of the major concerns about the success of the election this time around. The security agencies must stand tall and mighty in defending the nation’s integrity this time around, and must be apolitical and loyal to democratic values. Some of them that will be deployed to the polling units must be responsible and responsive to foil vote buying and vote selling. Already, there are places across the country identified as flash points.

The security agencies must spell out the plans they have for such points or how to deal with those areas identified as insecure places. Nigerians will not tolerate any form of jangolova on the part of security agencies. A situation where the security agents decide to look the other way while electoral malfeasance is taking place will not bode for the future of Nigeria.

Read also: 2023: Nationwide survey tips Obi as Nigeria’s next president

Politicians lying in God’s name

Many Nigerian politicians neither fear man nor God. They lie with the name of God without bating their eyelids. Even some of them who are career preachers but look into the political arena once in a while, sometimes do not know the difference between when their mind is sending them on an errand and when God is doing so. We have heard such clerics claim that they were expressly told by God that they would be the president of Nigeria this or that time. But after all said and done, they go back to their beats.

When the journey for 2023 general election really started with people indicating interest to run for one office or the other, some of them began to drop the name of God. In several media interviews, they claimed that God specifically asked them to join the race and that they were going to win. Such stories abound. Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly and Chris Okotie, pastor of the Household of God Church International Ministries, have the habit of seeing that vision for themselves every election cycle.

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, former managing director of Neimeth Pharmaceutical, was so sure that he was going to emerge divinely, not only the presidential flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but that he would be elected the president in February. He trumpeted this everywhere he went until the party’s primary. The rest, they say, is history. Today, we see all categories of candidates for several positions saying emphatically that they received divine instruction to join the fray for victory.

There is nothing wrong with people aspiring to political positions but there is everything wrong in playing with the name of God. Again, the number of emergency political prophets has become alarming. They claim to see who will win the presidential election and otherwise. There is confusion all over the place. Is it not better for these prophets to intercede for their country and seek God’s face for the best candidate to emerge than to delight in causing confusion?

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