DIRISU YAKUBU writes on the much talked about general election, which is now a handful of weeks away, and the fear of insecurity that poses a threat citizens’ high expectation
In its over two decades of experimentation with democracy, Nigeria again has a date with history as millions of her citizens take off a day to exercise their civic responsibility of electing a new president on February 25th this year. Like in the past, a good number of Nigerians living within and abroad see the election as an opportunity to reposition the country which continues to be in the news for the wrong reasons.
Unlike previous elections held from 1999 to 2019, the 2023 elections offer a ray of hope to the hopeless. For the first time, election results will be transmitted in real time electronically, making it impossible for any returning officer to be cajoled to manipulate figures in favour of moneybags. The Bimodal Verification Accreditation System simply known as BVAS, which replaces the card readers of old, is expected to impact positively on the character of the elections. All these speak to the determination of the Independent National Electoral Commission to deliver credible elections to Nigerians, as promised not only by its Chairman, Professor Mahmud Yakubu, Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali, but the President himself, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Speaking on the uniqueness of the 2023 elections recently at an event in Abuja, Yakubu, represented by the Chairman, Board of Electoral Institute, Abdullahi Zuru, said, “We are aware that there is a new Electoral Legal Framework that will guide the 2023 election as a result of the enactment of the Electoral Act 2022, which prompted the review of the INEC Regulations and Guidelines for Conduct of elections 2022.
“Sections 47(2), 60(1, 2 & 5), 62(1), 64(4a & 4b) and 64(5) of the Electoral Act 2022, which confers INEC with the power to use any technological device to transmit or transfer election results electronically are instructive in this regard.
“Emboldened by these legal protections, the commission introduced new innovative technologies and procedures and made commitments to the Nigeria People that (a) Continuous Verification, Accreditation and Voting will be conducted at the polling units using BVAS, and (b) Real-Time Polling Unit-level results will be uploaded on to the INEC Results Viewing (IReV) Portal using the same BVAS,” he noted.
Despite the optimism that technological innovation is expected to play in this year’s exercise, a dark cloud hovers around the polity in the form of insecurity.
The INEC boss at the same event was quoted to have said, “We all appreciate the fact that election security is vital to democratic consolidation through provision of an enabling environment for the conduct of free, fair, credible, and inclusive elections and thus strengthening the electoral process.
“Consequently, in preparations for the 2023 general elections, the commission is not leaving anything to chance in ensuring that intensive and extensive security is provided for election personnel, materials, and processes.
“This is particularly significant to the commission given the current insecurity challenges in various parts of the country and the fact that members of the National Youth Service Corps constitute the core of the polling unit election officials,” adding however that “if the insecurity is not monitored and dealt with decisively, it could ultimately culminate in the cancellation and/or postponement of elections in sufficient constituencies to hinder declaration of elections results and precipitate constitutional crisis. This must not be allowed to happen and shall not be allowed to happen.”
If that is not worrisome enough, INEC has in its own independent report, published on its website, noted that about 50 attacks have been launched on its facilities from 2019 till date. The 50 attacks, according to INEC, occurred in 15 out of the nation’s 36 states, a development that has left many Nigerians wondering if the commission will be ready for the exercise in line with its electioneering timetable.
In a tell-it-all conversation with Saturday PUNCH, former Commissioner of Police in charge of the Federal Capital Territory, Lawrence Alobi, noted that the irreducible minimum expected of the outgoing administration is to do everything possible to deliver credible elections. To do this, the ex-police boss called for intensive training of security agents on election security, even as he called on sister agencies to assist the Nigeria Police in manning polling units across the federation during the exercise.
He said, “The wish of INEC and every patriotic Nigerian is that the elections should hold in a peaceful and violent-free environment where people can exercise their franchise without any form of intimidation. Elections are all about democracy and good governance. When elections are peaceful, the electorate will be responsible when casting their votes and they are likely to be politically knowledgeable to elect leaders of their choice. When elections are not done in a credible manner, democracy is threatened.
“President Muhammadu Buhari should know that this is a challenge he must address to bequeath a lasting legacy to Nigeria. He has promised Nigeria, the United Nations and the rest of the international community that he will conduct credible and transparent elections. He can do this only if he has the political will.”
According to the retired former police officer, the political will entails that “all security agencies should be mobilised and trained on election security management. There should be collaboration among the security agencies with the police as the lead agency. They (security agencies) should be neutral in their responsibility and say no to violence, vote-buying and election rigging.”
While calling for a replication of the 1993 presidential election won by the late billionaire businessman, Moshood Abiola, Alobi charged citizens to collaborate with security agencies in the maintenance of law and order before, during and after the elections.