2023 elections: Expectations and concerns
The optimism expressed the other day by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba on the coming general elections in the country is reassuring. And given the charged atmosphere that the election is engendering, Nigerians certainly need that reassurance. The police, as well as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and indeed other stakeholders need to work hard to give vent to that hope. The insecurity picture and uncertainties looming in the air are real and ominous; they pose a challenge to smooth conduct of the 2023 elections.
As expectations and concerns trail the elections, the IGP Baba reportedly said that the elections would be hitch-free. Speaking at the United Nations Chief of Police Summit (UNCOPS) held in the U.S. recently, the IGP stated that the on-going training and capacity building of members of the Police tactical units across the six-political zones of the country is an indication that the elections in 2023 would not be marred by terrorist threats, violence or intimidation.
While the IGP’s optimism is noteworthy, the general elections must be held as scheduled. Nothing should derail the conduct of the elections given that political leaders have not shown that they genuinely have the interest of the people at heart. This is probably why most Nigerians are casting so much hope in the electoral process to bring about the much-vaunted change in the country’s political leadership. Nigerians yearn for a new political order where the work culture and serviceable public ethics would guarantee hard work, honesty, diligence, meritocracy and human flourishing. Also members of the international community are looking up to Nigeria to conduct a free and fair election free from the reign of fear, terror, killings, kidnappings, terrorist attacks and other unimaginable vices that have seized the entire country.
It is equally cheering that INEC continues to assure all that the elections will hold in different parts of the country despite security challenges and their impact on the electoral process and INEC facilities. So far the electoral body has released the guidelines and the time table for the elections. It has resolved to apply the new electoral laws scrupulously including the new electronic transmission of results no matter whose ox is gored. INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu continues to maintain that the provisions of the new electoral act will enhance the capacity and ability of the commission to better manage the electoral process.
It is not difficult to appreciate the skepticism of Nigerians over the 2023 elections. First, the continuous voters’ registration exercise ended with many Nigerians unable to register even though the initial deadline was extended. Even now, many voters previously captured are yet to receive the cards. More importantly, the heightened insecurity and terrorist attacks across the country especially in Northern Nigeria threaten free conduct of the elections and it is feared that the conflict may escalate.
There is no doubt that those trying to destabilise Nigeria or trying to elongate the tenure of the current Buhari administration may attempt to foist a state of helplessness on the country.
Another concern is on the safety and well being of INEC officials, both the regular and the ad hoc, as they are vulnerable to attacks by bandits and terrorists who have already caused much damage to INEC facilities particularly in the South East parts of the country. It is important therefore that the police keep a close eye on this possibility to buttress the assurances of the IGP.
Beyond rhetorical assurances, INEC should do everything within its capacity to preserve not only its integrity but also to sustain the existing democratic process in the country by conducting hitch-free and credible elections to the satisfaction of Nigerians and the international community. The commission must urge President Muhammadu Buhari to fulfill his constitutional responsibility of protecting lives and property in order to stave off insecurity and thus pave the way for the elections to take place as scheduled.
Importantly too, INEC must live up its name as an “independent” electoral body. It should allow the will of the people to prevail in the conduct of the 2023 elections. Democracy becomes a sham when the electoral body conducting the periodic election shows even a hint of partiality. In the country’s representative democracy, power belongs to the people. Sovereignty resides with people. The American founding fathers aptly put it when they stated that “Governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Therefore, government simply means government with consent derived from the people. This consent flows from the radical equal rights of all men. If we are all equal and if sovereignty resides with the people then the will of the people should be allowed to prevail in the 2023 general elections.
The Federal Government is legally and morally bound to do everything possible to enable INEC discharge freely and fairly its constitutional obligations to Nigeria and its people as provided for in the third schedule, Part1, Section15(a-i) of the Constitution. To be sure, the insecurity challenge in Nigeria is not insurmountable if the Federal Government adopts the right approach at the right time. After almost eight years of democracy that has produced very little dividends, Nigerians from all walks of life earnestly yearn for political leaders in 2023 that will reverse the huge moral bankruptcy and negative scores associated with the current leaders.
Delivering a lecture recently, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, stated that he had not been given any counter instruction to dislodge any terrorists and trouble makers who might disrupt the elections, meaning that there will be no internal sabotage or compromise that might abort 2023 elections. Therefore, no excuses are acceptable for not holding the elections as scheduled for Nigeria and Nigerians, come 2023. A periodic election as and when due is in consonant with democratic culture. Therefore, any act of omission or commission on the part of INEC or the Federal Government that denies the electorate the right to vote for political change at periodic elections is a threat to the security and welfare of the people.