#NigeriaDecides2023… Who Fits The Cap
“Please come out and cast your vote… vote… vote…” The message came tumbling.
“Vote… Vote… Vote…”
“Why should I?” Was the response of Tunde Olaiya, a resident of Okokomaiko, in Lagos.
In spite of the campaigns, lectures and almost daily dosage of political interviews on television, radio and newspapers, which he swallowed, Olaiya was not convinced he should vote.
Like Olaiya, many citizens have continued to wonder whether voting is a right that empowers or a right to be ignored? The feelings of many towards voting and its efficacy vary depending on factors such as, political awareness, experiences with past elections and level of trust in the political system.
Nigeria’s First Republic lasted for less than six years, as a result of betrayal of trust by political leaders of the time. There was high-wired corruption and maladministration, which made the military to intervene in the politics of the new nation. This first coup of January 1966 was to later plunge the country into a series of crises, coups and counter-coups, with military rulers dominating the political landscape for much of the country’s history.
Analysts say, over the years, the essence of voting has been lost as political leaders have turned political jobbers, and government offices are now avenue for legitimising stealing or what the late music icon, the weird one, who had death in his pouch, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, referred to as a place for ‘Authority Stealing.’
They are, however, of the opinion that though the country may have had a complicated relationship with democracy over the years, as its textbook meaning is different from reality, leaving citizens numb to the point of questioning their fundamental human rights when it comes to casting their vote, it is still positively viewed around the world, as a system of government that allows for the participation and representation of the people or what many consider as “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
In an ideal democracy, individuals are able to exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to vote and the freedom of speech, association, and assembly. The principles of democracy are often seen as essential to protecting human rights, promoting social justice and ensuring good governance.
Shapers of Nigeria Democratic History
Nigeria has a rich history of political struggle and activism. It remains one of the few countries where constitutional dialogues, conferences and diplomacy helped to achieve independence.
The younger generation of Nigerians may not know the role played by past heroes such as Herbert Macaulay, Chief (Dr.) Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello; Sir Tafawa Balewa, the coal miners, the Egba and Aba, Eket and Opobo women, but they famously led a rebellion against tyranny. There are still many unrecognised Nigerians, who, one way or the other helped to institutionalise voting in Nigeria.
Herbert Macaulay: He remains in history as the father of Nigerian nationalism. He was a prominent figure in the struggle for independence from colonial rule. He founded the Nigerian National Democratic Party in 1923, which became a major political force in the country. He was also the leader of National Council for Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC), which later metamorphosed into National Coalition of Nigerian Citizens.
Nnamdi Azikiwe: He was one of the most prominent Nigerian nationalists and a key figure in the struggle for independence. The founder of West African Pilot and a host of newspapers, which were used as powerful tools for political activism and mobilisation. Azikiwe, popularly called Zik of Africa, was the first Nigerian Governor General of the country and ceremonial President in 1963, when Nigeria became a republic.
Obafemi Awolowo: He was a leading figure in the struggle for independence and the first Premier of the Western Region of Nigeria. Awolowo was a strong advocate for federalism and played a key role in the drafting of Nigeria’s first Constitution. The late Awo, as he was called, introduced free education to Western region, when he was premier in 1955.
Ahmadu Bello: He was equally a leading figure in the fight for independence. He was first premier of Northern Nigeria and to his credit were the strings of achievements that the region recorded in the 60s. He was the founder of Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and would have been the country’s prime minister, but he conceded the role to his deputy, Tafawa Balewa, because he was more comfortable as premier of Northern Nigeria.
Tafawa Balewa: He was another leading figure in the struggle for independence. Balewa was a key negotiator in the independence struggle and played a crucial role in the alliance that ushered in Nigeria as an independent nation in 1960 and republic in 1963. Popularly called the ‘Golden Voice’, he was Nigeria’s first prime minister.
Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti: She was a ‘feminist’ and human rights activist who fought for the independence of Nigeria from colonial rule. Ransome-Kuti was a leader of the Women’s International Democratic Federation and was the first woman to drive a car in Nigeria.
Aminu Kano: He was a socialist and political activist, who fought for the rights of ordinary Nigerians. Kano was a founding member of the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) and played a key role in the struggle for independence.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in fact, recorded a 93.3 per cent Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) collection rate ahead of yesterday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections.
Again in recognition of their social duties, Multichoice partnered with INEC to bring awareness about the collection of PVCs
On the official twitter handle of INEC the electoral body gave a summation of registered voters which reads “summary of the Registered Voters ahead of the #NigeriaDecides2023 election;
✓ Number of Collected PVCs = 87,209,007
✓ Number of Uncollected PVCs = 6,259,229 collected.”
Stating that, 93,3% of the 93,469,008 registered voters had collected their PVCs.
The rate of PVC collection peaked in comparison to the 86.3 per cent recorded in 2019 and 81.2 per cent in 2015.
With 10 million more registered voters than in 2019, including many who are very young, a big change is expected from earlier polls when the results start coming out.
If anything, Nigerians still believe in the power of their votes to effect change in their country. They have continued to participate actively in the electoral process, despite the challenges.
Why Nigerians are voting in large number
Yesterday, Nigerians came out in large numbers to vote for a new leader. Though many Nigerians are of opinion that the electoral process is always marred by irregularities, including vote buying, ballot box snatching, and manipulation of election results, this year saw a remarkable difference.
Currently, the country faces a host of serious challenges: Insecurity, a struggling economy, massive debt, deep poverty and a corrupt political class – and this moment is genuinely seen as a potential turning point, with hopes that a fair and credible poll may alter the country’s trajectory for the better, allowing its youthful, creative and entrepreneurial energy to be harnessed for the good of all. Alternatively, it could lead Nigeria towards a very difficult future.
They saw the election as a potential turning point for Africa’s most populous country. Already, there in insecurity, with violent crime that was once restricted to more marginal areas now reaching into major urban centres, and the economy, as most people are considerably worse off now than they were in 2015 when the outgoing president, Muhammadu Buhari, started the first of his two terms. Corruption is also an issue for voters. The new government is surely going to be a litmus test for democracy.
Two main parties that have dominated Nigerian politics for decades – the ruling All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic party – have been challenged by two other credible parties, Labour Party and New Nigerian Peoples Party, joined the race.
With democracy in retreat across the continent, some analysts say a good election in Nigeria would revitalise the hopes of democratic reformers in other countries, with many of the issues resonating elsewhere.
Since the #EndSARS saga of October 2020, there has been a growing youth movement in Nigeria that is pushing for greater political participation and engagement.
Nigeria also has a vibrant civil society, with many active non-governmental organisations (NGOs), media organisations, and human rights groups that are advocating for democratic reforms and holding the government accountable.
As the international community awaits the outcome of the 2023 general elections, which is expected to produce a new President for the country, as well as members of the National Assembly, the question is, will the 10th National Assembly going to be a rubber stamp? Or will the newly elected executives be like others?
More than anything, what has happened is a representation of a new kind of politics, reaching out beyond Nigeria’s sectarian and ethnic divides with the promise of dynamic, clean and efficient governance. Everyone recognises that the next decade is vital for the country, which is forecast to become the third-most populous in the world, behind India and China, by 2045. The cap will only fit a person who is ready to give Nigerians the country of their dream.