Nigerian voters will be stepping out on February 25 and March 11 this year to elect a new President, governors and national and state legislators in what has become the most crucial general election in the last 24 years of the return of the country to democratic rule. It will be the seventh time since the electorate have trooped out to the polls in the new democratic dispensation. But it is the first time that electoral awareness had reached a feverish point.
The need for the people to fully and actively participate in the process to choose who run their affairs, has never been as seriously expressed as it has been in the months leading to the election. Harsh economic and social realities in the country and the failure of previous and current governments to improve living conditions, curb official corruption and profligacy and run accountable and transparent governance have combined to rouse a consciousness among the people who have taken upon themselves the task and challenge to mobilize people to vote in the 2023 elections.
For too long, it would appear that the people had left politics and governance for politicians. And like it is said, politics is too important a matter to be left in the hands of politicians. So, youths, women, civil society groups, faith-based organisations, workers and even politicians have made a clear statement that the coming elections would no longer be business as usual. They have stepped up their campaigns to ensure that every citizen of voting age registered to vote, collected their permanent voters’ card and make use of it on voting days.
Gladly, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has come up with what it has called a foolproof system of balloting that will ensure that every vote counted. The BVAS system it introduced has been tested to show that accreditation of voters can be done without errors. The electronic transmission of votes, which would not allow for manipulation of votes at collation centres has also been verified and tested. In all, Nigeria seems set to conduct its first digital election, whose results and process can be verified by anyone anywhere in the world. We hope that INEC’s magic will not fail on election days.
It is now left for the security services, the human components of the election processes, the judiciary, party supporters and candidates to cooperate and contribute to the success of the elections. The rulings coming out of the Osun Election Tribunal show that human factors tried to undermine the BVAS programme in the Osun election. INEC must see to it that this is taken care of.
If the elections eventually turn out transparent, free and credible, candidates and their supporters must take the courage to accept the outcomes because it will mean that by the outcome, power would have returned to the people, who would use it in succeeding elections to check the excesses of government and political office holders.
The police and other security agencies must ensure that adequate security is maintained during the elections and the days leading up to them. Very recent violent political activities in some states indicate that some politicians still want things done the old odd way of undermining the political process. This must be checked. Every Nigerian citizen and voter must remain vigilant. Nigerians cannot afford to continue to be ruled by unpopular unelected politicians who came to power through dubious electoral processes. The 2023 elections must put a stop to it. And this will only be done if the people turn out en masse to vote their choices.
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