All eyes will be on Nigeria on Saturday, 25th February, when the people go to the polls to elect a new President and 469 members of the country’s National Assembly, and two weeks later they will return to the ballot to elect new governors and members of the 36 State Houses of Assembly.
It will be the seventh general elections, since the country returned to democratic rule in 1999 after the military government of General Abdulsalami Abubakar inaugurated Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a former Military Head of State and winner of the 1999 presidential election as the new civilian President.
The return to democratic rule held out so much hope for Nigerians, who had spent decades fighting for the restoration of democracy, which was truncated in December 1983, by a band of military commanders led by General Muhammadu Buhari. That struggle hit a turning-point in 1993, when the election of the late businessman, Moshood Abiola, as President, was annulled by the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida, setting off widespread protests and further repression of democratic elements by the military. It was therefore, a thing of joy when the military finally gave in and withdrew from the political scene in 1999.
However, democratic governance has not been able to meet the expectations of the people. It has not guaranteed economic prosperity, open governance, fiscal discipline, widening of the democratic space, devolution of powers and development and entrenchment of ethno-religious tolerance. Rather than being responsive to the needs of the citizens, political office wielders had devised their own methods and had entrenched gross abuse of office and power. Official corruption, financial profligacy, ethnocentrism and nepotism took centre stage. The result is that the nation has become divided more than it ever was, deeper in both external and internal debts, been overrun by terrorists, kidnappers and deadly separatists. Its institutions have been violated and degraded, the real sectors have suffered tremendously, its environments destabilised and polluted and its population impoverished. Skilled professionals and young people cannot find fulfilling future in the country and have been emigrating in droves to Europe, Asia and America.
Political developments in the country since the embargo on political activities was lifted in 2022, indicate a high awareness among Nigerian voters to make a statement with the 25th February Presidential election. Consciousness has been heightened among voters across the regions. The people more than ever before since the return to democracy are determined to make their votes count in the coming elections.
Gladly, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has improved on its facilities and procedures for conducting elections and has promised that elections would not only be free, open and credible, results would be released instantly and Nigerians would be in possession of the results even before they move from the polling units to collation centres.
But reports from some parts of the country have heightened anxiety about safety and freedom of voters during the elections. In Rivers State, for instance, executive highhandedness has made some political parties and their candidates not able to campaign freely to solicit votes. There are threats of violence and there were actual cases of attacks on political candidates during campaigns and destruction of campaign facilities. In the South East, a separatist organisation had called for a sit-at-home, which could be violently enforced to prevent people from participating in the elections. The activities of insurgents, bandits, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups in the North are also threatening to derail turnout for the polls.
The good thing about these signals is that they have presented early warnings. So, the security agencies, the citizenry, INEC, political parties and all stakeholders in the election have to be alert. Nigeria must get it right this time, if they must secure a prosperous future for their country.
It is pertinent to echo the voice of Barack Obama, a former American President on the Nigerian elections. “For elections to be credible, they must be free, fair and peaceful. All Nigerians must be able to cast their votes without intimidation or fear. Violence has no place in democratic elections. Nigerians should peacefully express their views and reject the voice of those who call for violence. Successful elections and democratic progress would help Nigerians meet the urgent challenges they face today.”
- COMMUNIQUE ON THE 2023 WOMEN WATER SUMMIT/WORLD WATER DAY CELEBRATION HELD ON MARCH 23, 2023 AT THE CATHOLIC PASTORAL CENTRE IGWURUTA RIVERS STATE
- CODE ENDS ONE-DAY SOUTH-SOUTH STAKEHOLDERS TOWN-HALL MEETING
- A-Ibom YPP guber candidate urges Police to probe alleged killings of three persons in Ibiono Ibom
- Anybody who wins is my candidate – Gov Emmanuel
- Five political thugs nabbed in Akwa Ibom
- Akwa Ibom Police Command deploys 11,000 for guber, HoA polls
- UPLAND/RIVERINE POLITICAL DICHOTOMY: CAN THE IJAWS RECLAIM THEIR TRADITIONAL DOMINANCE IN RIVERS STATE?
- CIEPD CALLS ON INEC TO RESPECT THE ELECTORAL ACT