Yesterday, the normal hustle and bustle of weekend life was absent in Abuja. Politicians and other residents must have relocated to their states of origin in preparation for today’s polls that is seen as a titanic battle.
Already, 17 out of the 28 governors are completing their two-term tenures in office, while 11 of them are in the rings for re-election. It is a battle of wits as those engaged in re-election bids are now being assessed based on their performances in the last four years, while those completing their terms in office are engaged in campaigning for their candidates.
Today’s Governorship and National House of Assembly polls, being conducted in 28 out of the 36 states, are coming on the trail of heavily criticised Presidential and National Assembly election results of 25th February, 2023. The clouds of uncertainty hovering over our nation’s skies are not reflective of the weakness of democracy, but sustained efforts championed by nebulous forces to game the electoral system.
When those mandated with the sacred responsibility of protecting democracy abandon their role; impending chaos becomes the dread of citizens. Nearly 24 years after the resumption of this unbroken democracy, this popular form of government as defined by Abraham Lincoln as a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” has come under attacks by those who feel that allowing the triumph of the majority is akin to eclipsing their relevance in power.
After over two decades of the Nigerian military’s exit from power, citizens’ confidence in democracy is increasingly becoming despondent as self-seeking politicians have taken advantage of our national fault lines to enthrone religion and ethnicity in a bid to weaken national resolve against bad governance.
Anyone familiar with what has happened since May 1999 can truly affirm that our democratic system has either been commercialised or subjected to renunciation by politicians who are the greatest beneficiaries of democracy. The level of toxicity in Nigeria’s politics corroborates the fear that our strange form of democracy is not for the collective interest, but for the selective interest of a group that has seized the political space.
More fearful is the notion among politicians that democracy is now the new staircase for quick wealth acquisition and empowerment of loyalists. When politicians are elected or selected through fraudulent means into offices, they swiftly resort to cronyism and appointment of men Friday to serve their interest. In the end, some of these politicians end up appointing cronies whose vision never wanders away from corruption that impoverishes citizens.
Today’s polls are crucial as the outcome will determine if voters are wary of the tyranny of the few whose rulership is characterised by self-centeredness . The process and outcome of today’s polls is set to reflect the determination of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct credible polls devoid of alleged malpractices in the past polls.
It is patent falsehood that Nigerians are not in support of a change in the manner they are governed; the truth is that selfishness, which has become a second nature to most Nigerian politicians, makes it easy to recruit poor citizens to work against the anti-democratic forces. With the help of undemocratic elements, politicians, once elected or forcefully thrown into the power loop, surround themselves with self-seeking characters.
The mere presence of the law does not guarantee its adherence. When those who should enforce laws are the same breaking the laws; then, we are headed for a reign of lawlessness. When residences of officers of the laws are ransacked by security forces, on the orders of people in power, then, we need not look any further for the true enemies of democracy.
This is so, because those opposed to democracy spare no effort in compromising the electoral process that upholds the sacredness of the ballot box from which the popular form of government draws its legitimacy. Opponents of democracy are concerned, not with the process of electing leadership in accordance with the rules of the ballot; they ceaselessly work to ensure they or their cronies are elected, no matter the cost.
Some of these departing governors are gravely concerned with the uninspiring legacies they are leaving behind. The option of securing an anointed candidate to cover up their tracks is now the only option. In providing insurance for an untroubled future free from prosecution over the past misdeeds, a lapdog successor is now an imperative option that must be. Sadly, history has shown that getting cronies as successors often turns out awry as they in the long run turn out wet blankets for fear-stricken outgoing state executives.
The desperation to cover up shady deals eventually turns out a prologue to all forms of unpleasantness and other subtle attempts to sway public opinion, including open and shameless distribution of food items and other relief materials denied citizens in the past in a bid to assuage hunger-personified electorates for votes. For democracy to work, the people must stand up for their rights and resist all forms of intimidation to swing the votes.
Democracy has become what it is in Nigeria on the sad reality that those whom democracy should work for have been recruited by corrupt politicians to compromise the electoral process and desecrate the inviolability of the ballot box that gives legitimacy to democratic governments.
Nearly 24 years after the resumption of this unbroken civil rule in 1999, those opposed to the growth of democracy are not about to sleep; they are not sparing any effort to weaken the capacity of democracy to resolve our local and national challenges, especially in tackling insecurity and providing solutions to crippling economic problems. When citizens are divided in a government of the ballot; tyrannical forces are emboldened to work against democracy.
In the last one year or so, Nigerian politicians have become experts in embracing Machiavellian tactics in achieving electoral victory. As the English writer, John Lyly, poignantly points out, “All’s fair in love and war.” Our politicians, who survive in the misfortunes of the majority, see elections as war by other means. To them, no cost is too high to secure victory at the poll.
The flurry of criticisms trailing the February 25th polls is set to reverberate across the country as governorship and State Houses of Assembly candidates attempt to undo one another for victory in the days ahead. The recipe to averting a looming debacle that could push the country down the slippery slope of violence is for the INEC to stand up and defend the integrity of the ballot box by ensuring the credibility of today’s polls.
Nigeria’s democracy suffers from mounting recklessness by politicians who don’t give a damn if their activities push the country down the abyss of irreversible chaos and eventual disintegration. Those whose democratic credentials are suspect and their records of damned performance in public office must not be allowed to impose their choice on unwilling electorates who bear the brunt of their bad governance.
With yesterday’s order of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Professor Mahmood Yalubu-led INEC to electronically transmit results of today’s polls, in accordance with its regulations and guidelines as contained in the Electoral Act 2022, the commission must adhere strictly to the order. Any delayed poll result not electronically transmitted from the polling units after the close of the election must be questioned.
If democracy must play its role as the popular form of government, power dealers must not be allowed to tarnish the sanctity of the polls through collaboration of some rogue elements working with INEC. The impartiality of the Commission must not be questioned in protecting the popular will of the people. We must not have a repeat of the 2019 polls when results from metropolitan LGAs were delayed to give room for alleged manipulation and other forms of malpractices.
Unlike in the past elections, parties must stand and ensure that votes count. Those who insist in shortchanging the electoral process through subverting the system should not be allowed to succeed. There are no worse thieves than politicians who perpetrate electoral heist to defeat the essence of our democracy. The electorate and INEC should not allow the past to cast long shadows on the outcome of today’s polls.