In less than a few days, Nigerians will line up behind the ballot boxes to cast their votes in a very crucial election – the Presidential election and the first election among the series of elections in the 2023 General Election. The presidential election is the deciding factor of the future of a country fraught with so many challenges and a very bleak future.
Battered with insecurity, corruption, dwindling economic fortunes, deepened religious and ethnic divisions, and negative economic indices, the 2023 presidential election (February 25, 2023) is the only hope of changing the leadership of the country and bringing aboard a new trustworthy, competent, result-oriented, pragmatic, and corrupt-free democratic leader who is unfettered with ethnic and religious bias. A leader who can assemble a formidable team of experienced economic experts, security experts, and other professionals with the requisite experience to start turning around and redirecting the fortunes of a country that is fast plummeting into economic oblivion.
The incumbent Buhari Administration (2015-2023), which will end on May 2023, is adjudged the worst political regime in the history of the country’s political dispensation that began in May 1999. From 2015 till date, in the life of this present administration, Nigeria has witnessed negative economic growth, poor leadership, economic hardships, and other unfavorable issues.
Nigeria is plagued with a myriad of misfortunes; including killings and kidnappings from bandits, Boko Haram terrorists, Fulani herdsmen, and other non-state actors in different regions of the country, high inflation, high currency exchange rate, very poor revenue, high unemployment, the highest number of out-of-school children, the highest poverty rate in the world, high mortality-rate, a poor manufacturing sector, over-dependence on goods importation, an energy crisis, and an almost comatose agricultural sector threatened by destruction of farmlands, kidnapping and killing of farmers.
As the election date draws near, Nigeria is witnessing increased activities from different political parties and actors. Political campaigns, visits, and rallies are gaining momentum, and so are some unfavorable and undemocratic activities rising in parts of the country and threatening the peaceful conduct of the election.
As with other electoral cycles in the past, this current electoral season is fraught with increased worrisome verbal attacks by some candidates and spokespersons of different political parties and support groups. More worrisome is the increasing physical attacks and killings across the country. Some unknown persons and ‘assumed supporters’ of some political parties have degenerated to the abysmal level of attacking and maiming political opponents seen as threats to the political ambition and victory of their preferred candidates.
On November 9, 2022, the convoy of Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was attacked by hoodlums on his way to a campaign ground in Borno State of Northern Nigeria, resulting in the death of one person and 100 persons sustaining injuries.
In a similar vein, the convoy of Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, LP, was attacked on Monday, January 23, 2023, in Kastina, another Northern state of Nigeria, while on his way to the airport after a campaign event at the Muhammad Dikko Stadium in katsina; this comes after an earlier attack by hoodlums the same day at the Labour Party campaign venue where several cars belonging to the party and its supporters who came to the campaign ground were destroyed.
Christopher Elehu, the Labour Party candidate for the Imo State House of Assembly, was assassinated in his residence on Friday, December 16, 2022, and his building was set ablaze. Earlier on November 28, 2022, the Labour Party woman leader of Kaura Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Victoria Chimex, was assassinated in her residence in the Kaura Local Government, while Suleiman Tambaya, the Labour Party candidate for Lere Federal House of Representatives narrowly escaped assassination when assassins stormed his residence in Gure village of the Lere Local Council in Kaduna State; unfortunately, two people lost their lives in the attack.
Recently on February 11, 2023, the supporters of Peter Obi were attacked by rogues wielding guns and other dangerous weapons when the Party held its presidential campaign rally in Lagos State. Many observers believe that the APC supporters were behind the attack because Lagos State is believed to be one of the traditional strongholds of the APC presidential candidate.
The effect of the insecurity in the coming elections was reechoed on February 13, 2023, when the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, announced that elections will not hold in 240 polling units spread across 28 states and the Federal Capital Territory, following the wave of insecurity in some parts of the country.
In a related development, vote-buying has been a perennial and pervasive menace characterizing past elections in Nigeria. The introduction of the highly celebrated electronic voter accreditation machine, BVAS (Bimodal Voter Accreditation System,) for the 2023 general election has elicited hopes and trust that the elections will be a free, fair, credible, and serious improvement to previous elections. The BVAS machines, as believed, will end the culture of ballot box snatching, over-voting, over-thumb-printing of voting paper than the number of accredited voters, and other forms of election rigging.
However, some political actors who feel threatened by the new voting system and who are used to the old ways of rigging elections are working round the clock to devise other means of getting an undue advantage. There are ongoing cases of voter card stealing, torching of electoral materials and offices of the electoral body INEC, and inducing Nigerian electorates with cash and other gift items.
A few weeks ago, Sahara TV published a viral video of Bola Ahmad Tinubu and Kashim Shetima, the presidential and vice presidential candidates of the ruling party, All Progressive Congress (APC), doling out cash during a presidential campaign. Earlier in June 2022, the same presidential candidate of the APC, in a campaign event at Ekiti State in South West of Nigeria, told the supporters at the event in the Yoruba language, “vote to collect money, whoever does not vote APC cannot collect money. If you don’t vote for APC, you will not collect money.”
In a similar vein, the daughter of the APC presidential candidates gave 10 million naira to the party’s state coordinator in Kano State. In a viral video, Baffa Danagundi, the coordinator of the party’s Northwest support group, said that Tinubu’s daughter personally brought 10 million naira cash to him as an appreciation for the outcome of the party’s rally in Kano state. Baffa further said that he collected 1 million from the money and shared the rest among the party’s supporters in the state. Many Nigerians condemn the act as a form of buying the support of electorates.
Recall that during the November 2021 gubernatorial election in Anambra state, vote-buying occurred in many polling units and increased from the initial 3,000 to 10,000 naira in a cash competition between the three leading parties at the election. A notable incident occurred at a polling unit – Ukwulu ward 1(Polling Unit 004), where Mrs. Eunice Onuekwusi, a 60-year-old widow and petty trader of the Ukwulu community, openly and vehemently rejected 5,000 naira from the agent of a political party. The video of the incident went viral and attracted massive commendation for the woman and condemnation for the party alleged to be All Progressive Congress, APC.