With less than 90 days to the 2023 polls, Nigerians, as should be expected, are looking up to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the conduct of a credible, hitch-free election in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s pledge to leave a legacy of credible polls.
Nevertheless, it appears some politicians have an entirely different take as they continue to act in ways and manners that have the tendency to jeopardize the desire of most Nigerians for credible polls.
Arguably, one of such politicians is the majority leader of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Ado Doguwa. Recently, a video recording of the lawmaker threatening to deal ruthlessly with voters who did not vote for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) started making the rounds in the nation’s media space.
“It is either you vote for APC or we deal with you mercilessly,” Doguwa said while campaigning in a viral video. In the video, the lawmaker who is serving his fifth term as a member of Nigeria’s lower chamber of the National Assembly repeated the threat while addressing a crowd.
Coming from a lawmaker who is also a ranking member of the National Assembly with his eyes fixed on the speakership position if he gets elected in the coming polls, the threat should worry all well-meaning Nigerians.
In the considered opinion of this newspaper, the resort to hate speech, insults and threat by some politicians pose serious impediments to the conduct of free and fair credible polls. It is disappointing, in our view, that while the country is facing severe life-threatening challenges arising from growing economic crisis and deplorable state of security with kidnapping for ransom and other high profile criminal activities making life brutish for most Nigerians, some politicians have their minds set on other matters of a selfish hue.
Under this precarious situation, the nation cannot afford to have some desperate politicians who, driven by their inordinate ambition for power, aggravate the situation and further set the country on a path of apprehension.
It is a given that democracy thrives on the ability of persons to freely, without let or hindrance, make a choice. Under no circumstances should such decisions be influenced or engineered by threats, as that will defeat the essence of choosing leaders through the ballot box.
Nigerian voters, wherever they may be, must be free to make a choice as it pertains to who governs them. No politician has the right to coerce people into voting for him or his political party.
We are worried that hours after the video of Doguwa surfaced online, the security operatives have not deemed it fit to invite him for questioning. More worrisome is the fact that the threat is coming on the heels of a similar one made by the Kano APC chairman, Abdullahi Abbas, who boasted that the APC will win the forthcoming elections by hook or crook.
“People are saying that I should stop saying the APC will capture Kano by hook or crook. I want to tell this gathering that the APC will capture Kano by hook or crook,” Abbas, a Kano prince, has said.
Although Abbas later recanted by claiming that his statement was misconstrued, there is no contesting the fact that both his statement and that of Doguwa portends danger for the polls. It is clear that Doguwa’s threat is informed by the fact that Kano is one of the states with the largest number of registered voters and hence is seen largely as a must-win by most politicians and their political parties.
According to the voter register released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in October, Kano has 5,927,565 registered voters, making the state sought after by political parties and their candidates.
However, the lawmaker must be told in an unmistaken term that he cannot use vile and undemocratic means to secure the support of the electorate. He has a responsibility to support and not work against the collective drive for credible polls, which is achievable when people freely vote for candidates of their choice. It is imperative that stakeholders exercise restraint and not engage in acts capable of causing rancor, divisiveness and violence before, during and after the polls.
We are compelled to remind Doguwa that the electoral act which the National Assembly passed and President Muhammadu Buhari signed it into law, abhors violence and acts that could potentially threaten the elections.
Specifically, section 128(d) of the 2022 Electoral Act, clearly protects the rights of candidates to campaign without the threat of violence.
For Doguwa, we make bold to remind him that only candidates and political parties bereft of progressive ideas that are objective, balanced and seek to promote national unity, resort to threat. We enjoined the DSS and the police to invite Doguwa for questioning and make him commit to a violence-free election.