As the elections arrive, Nigerians need to give them the seriousness they deserve. It is very important that the best possible leadership emerges from these elections for our collective future. There have never been general elections with so many booby traps as these. At the same time, the stakes are so high that botched elections or electing incompetent candidates might signal a final nosedive for Nigeria. PREMIUM TIMES proposes the following guide to citizens.
The elections are taking place in a period of intense suffering, anger and frustration of citizens. The cost of living crisis and the spike in the prices of food, in particular, have made life very difficult for many Nigerians. As if these were not enough, months of fuel scarcity have added to the crises through sharp increases in fuel costs and the emergence of long queues at filling stations. It was in this context that the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele decided to embark on the naira redesign policy, through which they essentially confiscated the money that Nigerians had and refused to swap the old naira notes with the new ones. This is at a time in which most people have little or no disposable income, with the government currency seizure compounding the problem. While this is the mood in which the elections will be holding, citizens must make efforts to remain calm in spite of their frustration and anger.
President Buhari and Mr Emefiele have tried to justify the currency confiscation programme with the argument that many key political actors have stolen massive amounts of money, which they sought to use in buying votes, as such the policy and the suffering it has engendered will ultimately do a lot of good in improving electoral integrity and combatting corruption in Nigeria. This newspaper has always been unequivocal in its advocacy for advancing the struggle against corruption. We have also pointed out repeatedly that this government has failed in its promise to combat corruption. We see no signs that it has changed its ways, as it stands at the departure gate.
The bitter irony of the situation is that the intense cash crunch in the country and the desperation of citizens for money at this time would make it easier for politicians to buy votes on the cheap. Let’s be clear, politicians are well placed to mop up the limited cash allowed in circulation. The intense struggle that has developed between President Buhari and state governors, the president’s decision to disregard the directives of the Supreme Court on the matter, rumours about postponement of the elections and the imposition of an interim government, have all heightened citizens’ concerns about the future of Nigeria’s democracy. At this time, democrats and citizens must stand firm in supporting the Constitution and the conduct of the elections as scheduled.
This would be no easy task. The organisation of credible elections needs cash. A lot of INEC election logistics, such as the procurement of vehicles, are done in cash. The huge number of ad hoc staff necessary for successful election duties require money to go to their call up stations at this time that it is virtually impossible to get cash from banks. Political parties and candidates would also need cash to deploy agents to the 176,846 polling units in the country. A party that decides to deploy polling agents to all the units at N5,000 per unit would need N880,230,000 to do so. The Central Bank appears set to tell them to do bank transfers to these agents, which would be great in an environment in which things works. The reality that we all know is that there is a high rate of transaction failures in electronic cash transfers and even if these are successful, then getting the cash to travel will be next to impossible at this time. This CBN/Federal Government policy move is therefore not designed to improve electoral integrity. It is a mischievous policy to throw spanners into the works of election logistics. Citizens need to put pressure on government that immediate efforts are made to allow INEC and citizens have access to cash immediately.
We are not surprised that many Nigerians have read the tea leaves and are suspicious that the policy design was drawn up to scuttle the elections. Nigerians must act smartly. We must resist the provocations that are leading many into violent acts. We must keep the peace. We must all make the resolve to come out and vote.
In exercising our franchise, we must be conscious that as voters, we willingly elected the most incompetent Federal Government in our country’s history in 2015 and 2019. The outcome is that eight years later, the nation, its economy and politics are much worse than they were in 2015. The next government will find a bankrupt economy and deeply divided country. It is therefore important that voters think deeply and ensure they vote for the candidate they consider to have the best competence and integrity to leads us out of the present rot. In addition, voters must learn to navigate the dangerous speech booby traps emerging every minute in the social and traditional media. Citizens need to be conscious of the excessive levels of manipulation aimed at diverting citizens from the real issues of these elections – electing leaders with competence and integrity. We must resist the temptation of falling into the snare of playing the divisive game of hate and dangerous speech.
Finally, there are the risks associated with electoral outcomes that may open possibilities for further danger if false claims are made about the results. Thanks to the efforts of INEC and the Electoral Act 2022, the elections would very likely be transparent and therefore credible. BVAS would ensure that only those eligible to vote participate and additional “votes” cannot be added subsequently.
Recalling the 2019 debates, there cannot be fabricated votes subtracted or added by any INEC server. At the end of voting in each polling unit, the results will be counted in the presence of voters and written into the poster EC 60E, which will then be posted on the wall. It is this result that will be captured through a scan and sent through BVAS directly to the INEC viewing portal that all citizens and voters would be able to see live. This transparency means everyone will be seeing the results as they come in and citizens, candidates and parties can crosscheck that the results on the portal reflect what was compiled at the polling unit. Citizens should therefore all participate in confirming that the portal results replicate what was counted at the polling unit. The best of luck to all of us as we go to our polling units to carry out our civic responsibility.
Very importantly, citizens and voters should be mindful of the shenanigans of officers of the security agencies, especially the police, who have been urged to conduct themselves creditably as non-partisan partakers in the electoral process. It is quite unfortunate that they have a history of not always aligning with forces that seek to preserve the integrity of some past elections, but which undermined a number of them through various subversive acts, including the thumb-printing of ballot papers, and enabling of election day violence, etc. Thugs and other actors or sponsors of violence, who might want to destabilise the electoral process, would need to be quickly contained and arrested with the necessary efficacy. Hence, the Inspector-General of Police needs to be seen as walking his talk this season, of ultimately facilitating a regime of secure, free and fair elections administration across the country.
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