On Saturday March 18, we are returning to the polling units for another round of election, this time, to pick our governors and state Assembly members. It is another important election, one closer to the people.
Truth is that the electoral umpire, Independent Electoral Commission, INEC has continued to undermine our desire and push for good governance by playing into the hands of politicians. In the last 24 years, politicians have been putting themselves in power using our names and because of that, they have come to see themselves as too powerful to be questioned; too powerful to work for the good of the people. Frustrated and depressed, the people began to look for a way out.
All eyes were on Nigeria as the most populous country in Africa went to the poll Saturday February 25, to elect a new president. The expectations were not realized, the people’s wish were not respected and desolation has descended on the country.
Since 1999 when the country returned to democratic rule, it has succeeded in transiting power from North to South, the ruling party to opposition but this has not yet translated into democratic dividend for the electorate. Rather than represent the interest of the people, the leadership of the two main political parties in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress have done more self-service than service to the people who purportedly gave them the mandate to rule.
The reign of corruption and impunity exhibited by the political class witnessed the downturn of the country’s economy and manifestations of a failed state where bandits reign supreme and public institutions have become decadent. The resultant unemployment as the once oil giant became a nation borrowing from all ends including pensioners’ funds raised a multitude of resentful youths adding to a swelling of unhappy adult citizenry. Consequently there erupted clamouring for a more disciplined country where public officers would be accountable and public institutions functional. This resonated in an earth quaking youth uprising code named EndSARS in 2020, a well-organized national protest that surprised all and forced the Buhari administration and others into recognizing that the silent underutilized and uncared for Nigerian youth can indeed lead. Their main kick was against police brutality with an eye on changing anomalies in the overall system.
Though silenced with the barrel of the gun following the mauling down of youths staging a peaceful protest at the Lekki Toll Gate, that desire for a better Nigeria did not die but was quietly breeding lying in wait for opportunity to rise again. Failure of the PDP and APC to respect calls for internal democracy within the party leading to the open display of impunity in which concerned Nigerians watched in dismay as both parties traded the presidential tickets to the highest bidders in dollar, reinvigorated the sleeping fire for change.
The resignation of Mr Peter Obi, one of the PDP contenders on March 24m 2022 and his subsequent picking of the Labour Party presidential ticket eventually gave the anger and hunger for change a face and thus the Obidient Movement was born advancing as a third force in the Nigerian political landscape.
Traditional politicians and some analysts did not give the movement any hope of survival insisting that political parties must have structures and heavyweights to succeed. They dubbed the Obidient Movement a social media phenomenon that will soon whittle out but events have proved them wrong for from a social media platform it grew into an international body embodying the hopes of young Nigerians and some older ones pushing for a better Nigeria. It became a movement of collective responsibility different from the traditional political parties hijacked by a few funders. So strong did they become that a plan by Diaspora Obidients to plough money into the campaign was thwarted by the federal government.
To strengthen their resolve to vote out the old regime, youths were charged to register to vote and Nigeria witnessed an unprecedented rush by youths to get registered. According to INEC, youths are registered to vote in Saturday’s presidential election and 48 million of the 93.5 million registered voters will be casting their votes tomorrow and 40 per cent of those who registered in the 2022 voters registration exercise are students.
What happened next? After multiple assurances that with the new BVAS technology votes must count, INEC played an underhand game. It undermined its process. INEC created series of confusion at polling centers, delaying voting, missing result sheets and finally failing to upload election results from polling units as demanded by the New Electoral Act that it midwifed and is driving. The commission even issued fake passwords for the BVAS to its unsuspecting polling officers leaving them to face the wrath of angry Nigerians. More damage came from fingered result sheets as INEC tried to install a candidate the majority of the Nigerian population which outcome has thrown the country into confusion with both international observers and media condemning the process as flawed.
So disappointed are Nigerians that some of the youth drawn to vote because they were convinced that the era of election was over, have sworn to keep off the polling units. At least two persons have died from depression over INEC failure. As the ‘Peoples President’ Peter Obi says, it is time to correct the ills on the route to governance. INEC must sit up and shape up. For no reason should we experience the huge failures and lapses experienced on February 25. All the electoral rules must be obeyed. INEC officials should forget about dollars in the hands of unscrupulous Nigerians and just do their work. We are aware that some officials train, collect allowances and plant others in their stead. Serious supervision will fish out these culprits to avert a lurking danger.
Some parties have vowed to crush anyone found trying to disrupt the wheel of change sweeping through the country and we do not want bloodshed. Mamood Yakubu must get it right this second time because there is so much anger in the land. The people are taking back their power. Change is here.
By Yvonne Yomie, Port Harcourt