Elections 2023, Bruised Political Parties and Crushed Nigerians

During the run-up to the 18 March elections, there were palpable concerns on whether there would be a domino effect of the party that won at the presidential and National Assembly, NASS levels on 25 February also triumphing at the subnational stage.

To the contrary, after the 18 March voting exercise for the recruitment of governors and members of the House of Representatives, it was quite welcoming and encouraging that each of the four (4) main political parties, All Progressives Congress, APC, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and Labour Party, LP as well as New Nigerian Peoples Party, NNPP, left their imprints countrywide without any of them dominating the political space.

Indeed, it is fortuitous that at the conclusion of the 25 February elections, the APC and PDP had won twelve (12) states apiece, just as LP won 11 states plus the FCT which comprises of the thirty-five (35) of the thirty-six (36) states in the country and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.

The New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP also succeeded in winning one state-kano which is the most populous in the northern Nigeria, bringing the total number of territories to thirty-seven (37) when the FCT is added.

As things are currently shaping up, it would appear as if there has not really been any crushing defeat suffered by any of the four (4) main political parties during the sub nation electoral contest as each of the main political parties-LP and NNPP have control of at least a state.

Except the NNPP whose members are concentrated in Kano, the big parties have only suffered bruises as their supporters’ bases are evenly spread across the country.

Conversely, Nigerians have been victims of 2023 elections as they have been crushed since not less than twenty one (21), and by some accounts thirty (30) people have been reported as having been killed in the course of the 18 March elections.

That is just as a few millions of the masses have also been crushed by hunger and starvation because they are not only buying foreign currencies with the naira, but as a negative fall out of the naira redesign policy, they are now compelled to use local naira currency to purchase the new naira notes from those privileged to have it at a premium of up to 30%.

If anything, amongst the political parties, it is the LP that has suffered a reversal of fortune from the commanding heights that it had attained during the 25 February political assizes which inspired the framing of the title of my column last week in form of a question: “Election 2023 as Giant Killer, End of Incumbency?”

In that piece, I extolled Mr. Obi and LP for the feat of stirring up the youths who were hitherto dormant politically, but whose 37 million strong voting power of the 93.4 million registered voters by INEC took our country by storm during the 25th February elections and forced a change.

But the 18th March subnational election that witnessed a tamed involvement of the Obi-Dients saw the rise of NNPP in north, particularly in Kano state where it has won the gubernatorial elections and in the south-east where LP is poised to expand from just producing legislators in most of the south east eastern states, south-south, FCT and Kaduna state, it’s candidate for governorship position in Abia state, Mr. Alex Otti has won the gubernatorial contest. So, the LP has ended up producing at least one governor.

As it may be recalled, its major hope for producing the governor of Lagos state was dashed by multiple factors including ethnic/identity politics and violence.

As an equally insurgent party, NNPP won the gubernatorial election in kano state. So, LP must also have been nursing the ambition of controlling at least a state in Igbo land which it eventually achieved via a sheer doggedness of Dr Alex Otti, a consummate banker. But it’s hope to win in the governorship election in Enugu state was not called in its favour as it missed it by a hair’s breadth.

The reduced impact of LP/Obi-Dients in the 18 March election by not winning the gubernatorial elections in the states where it won overwhelmingly during the presidential and National Assembly contests may in part be attributable to the mixed messaging from Mr. Obi who is the indisputable leader of the party and its prime motivator.

The assertion above is derived from the fact that during the run up to the elections at the sub-national level, at first, he stated that the Obi-Dients are not in partnership with any of the main parties.

That decision was obviously informed by the deluge of leading political parties scrambling to benefit from the positive value intrinsic in the name of LP that was enjoying tremendous goodwill of voters and LP presidential flag bearer Mr. Obi whose positive image was soaring into the sky at rockstar popularity level. In his wisdom, Mr. Obi had also subsequently stated that not everyone flying the flag of LP should be voted for. Rather he instructed as it were that Obi-Dients should vote only for competent candidates.

With such confusing utterances or directives, Mr. Obi literally threw the contestants on the LP ticket, perhaps with the exception of Mr. Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivor contesting for the governorship of Lagos state and Alex Otti in Abia under the bus.

Simply put, Mr. Obi reversed himself as some parties started claiming alliance with the LP and the good fortune rubbed off on them and the party’s candidates not endorsed by him got sidelined by Obi-Dients who aligned with politicians of the old order that they had vowed they were on a mission to unseat.

It is needless reiterating that the confusion enabled vote buying to become an option as Obi-Dients became susceptible to being free agents ready to swing the votes in favor of the highest bidder for their votes during the 18 March election exercise which is rather unfortunate.

In the light of the above, it has been concluded by some analysts that it is Mr. Obi who unwittingly flung the door open for vote buying by parties desperate to harness the votes of Obi-Dients who are currently enjoying the positive reputation of being disruptors of old order.

Apparently, the LP candidates that did not receive Mr. Obi’s endorsement were just used to fill in the blank spaces in INEC’s records after it was made public by the electoral umpire and amplified in the media that LP was short of candidates vying for elective offices compared to APC, PDP, NNPP and even SDP.

In the bid to close the gap, the so called third force party must have lowered its standards by engaging in anything goes hence political dredges were featured in LP’s platform.

Even when every Tom, Dick and Harry were hastily accepted to fill up the slots in order for LP to fulfill all righteousness, as it were, it is not surprising that there were still numerous seats across Nigeria of which the LP did not field candidates. In fact, there was also a dearth of agents to represent LP according to INEC.

The aforementioned situation arose simply because the LP only became significant and of national reckoning after Mr. Obi got on board and became its presidential standard bearer barely nine (9) months ago.

But does disowning LP political office seeking candidates who helped Obi win big in the 25 February contest not smack of the Machiavellian principle of the end justifies the means in the sense that those denied validation by Obi and LP during the state governorship and house of assembly elections on 18 March may be considering themselves as having been used and dumped?

Before the advent of Mr. Obi and Obi-Dients, no real politician subscribed to LP, particularly after the exit of Comrades Segun Mimiko and Adams Oshiomole who had become governors of Ondo and Edo states respectively leveraging the platform of LP.

Even those that failed to win in the primaries of the major parties like APC and PDP hardly pivoted to LP, since it had no prospect and lacked structure. Rather, they moved to SDP and other fringe parties that had appeared to be more robust than LP.

But from the look of things, LP hitherto an underdog that became the most sought-after bride following a fairy tale outing on 25 February does not appear to have replicated its superlative performance of clinching 11 states plus the FCT during the 25 February elections.

As such it may be on a retreat which is quite the opposite of NNPP which won overwhelmingly the votes of Kano people during the 25 February presidential and National Assembly elections and repeated the victory during the 18 March elections at the sub national level by producing the governor-elect of kano state proving that, indeed it is the dominant political party in the state.

Conversely, despite LP’s superlative performance barely three weeks ago, it is not likely to produce a state governor.

So, was the 25th February election victory by LP a flash in the pan? Whatever the case may be, the feat of LP winning equal number of states clinched by the erstwhile political giants such as the current ruling and main opposition parties, APC and PDP respectively is manifestly one of the wonders of election 2023.

That is because it is rather unprecedented that the three leading parties respectively came first in twelve states apiece out of the 36 states in the country plus the FCT.

Never has the strongholds of major parties been so evenly shared in our country since 1979 when roughly half a dozen political parties-NPN, UPN, UPGA, GNPP, PRP, NPP representing the multiple ethnic groups, regions and religious leanings ruled the roost in Nigerian political space as the political landscape of our country is currently looking.

The present political landscape of Nigeria tends to be echoing or exhibiting same character as events in 1979. The assertion is premised on the springing forth of regional parties that have become entrenched in ethnic enclaves after the 25 February and 18 March elections. These realities came into greater relief after the Saturday 18th March elections.

While the Igbo party APGA that can be said to be a kind of reincarnation of UPGA is regaining its foothold in the east as it is poised to expand from Anambra to Abia, NNPP that can be likened to PRP is also consolidating its hold in Kano and likely Yobe and Jigawa states where it is having strong presence. As I have been observing in past articles, the Yorubas have shifted from being the champions of regional or ethnic based parties as reflected by UPN led by the late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo, whom the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu tagged ‘‘the best President Nigeria never had,’’ into a nationally focused group. That was largely due to the transition of the narrow scope of the UPN which was essentially a Yoruba ethnic focused political vehicle into the ACN led by former Lagos state governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu now president-elect which eventually morphed into the current ruling party, APC.

Fortuitously, the initiative of getting ACN to join forces with other ethnic focused parties to form APC which is an initiative midwifed between 2013 – 2015 by Asiwaju Tinubu has paid off.

Basically, unlike Pa Awolowo, whose focus was regional hence he could not win the presidency, and the likes of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe who was nationalistic in his politics and became the first president and also Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa who was also a nationalist and thus became prime minister of Nigeria, Tinubu by becoming nationalistic via the collapse of ACN and other parties to form the mega party, ACN has followed a pattern similar to Azikiwe and Balewa to clinch the presidency of Nigeria in 2023.

But even with the Yoruba ethnic group, (erstwhile champions of political party with ethic focus) becoming more nationalistic, it has not stopped the growth of regional parties in the current political dispensation.

For instance, in the south-eastern states where LP (a party with national outlook) received votes in excess of 80% during the 25 February presidential and National Assembly elections as it won in all the five (5) states, there appear to be a reversal of fortune after the 18 March election with PDP and APGA as opposed to LP appearing to be in the lead to produce the next governor of Abia state and a couple of other states where gubernatorial elections results have been suspended due to disputes.

In Anambra state where there were palpable fears that Peter Obi who is the LP presidential candidate and a former governor of the state whose party prevailed during the 25 February elections was accused of plotting to impeach the incumbent governor Prof Chukwuma Soludo by ensuring that candidates of his LP win majority of the house of Assembly seats than Soludo’s APGA.

But that did not happen as available interim results from IReV also indicate that APGA may sweep most of the state’s house of assembly seats. So, Governor Soludo appears not to be under the threat of being impeached by LP as had been feared if Obi-Dients were to dominate Anambra state house of assembly.

Somehow, APGA may once again be ruling the roost in the east as it had been doing since the party was founded at the dawn of the new political era in 1999 by Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the late Biafran war leader before NPN and later PDP took over before Imo and Ebonyi states which have currently fallen under the control of the ruling APC by virtue of a controversial Supreme Court ruling in favor of Chief Hope Uzodinma as governor of Imo and by defection of the governor of Ebonyi state, Mr. Dave Umahi.

The narrative in Edo state is not in any shape or form distinct from what has unfolded in Anambra state. The 25 February Presidential and National Assembly victory of Obi-Dients in Edo state and particularly the successful clinching of the senatorial seat by Comrade Adams Oshiomole who is also a former governor of the state and one time benefactor of the current governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, had also sent shivers down the spines of the incumbent.

The trepidation was owed to the anticipated consequences of the APC producing the majority of members of the house of assembly which could have been leveraged to impeach him.

Again, going by the current results uploaded into lReV, the threat seems to have been neutralized by the resurgence of PDP during the 18 March subnational elections in Edo state.

The results so far released indicate that the ruling party in the state performed far much better than it did during 25th February presidential and NASS elections which was swept by Obi-Dients leaving the PDP that ruled in the state in the lurch. Currently more than sufficient PDP lawmakers appear to have been elected during the 18 March exercise.

The disruptive, but positive impact that the Obi-Dients made during the 25th February elections had encouraged me to wonder whether the power of incumbency had been dealt a deadly blow such that it had receded. But that line of thought has turned out to be a hasty presumption about the power of incumbency and the assumption that Obi-Dients are giant killers.

The new reality is that the power of incumbency has become even more potent and lethal factor in the political of Nigerian as state apparatus and resources in terms of the use or abuse of security agencies and financial power to self-perpetuate by second term governors or outgoing governors imposing surrogates have become more rife.

As such, survival of the fittest is currently the rule rather than the exception, just as might is right is the new mantra by Nigerian political actors relying more on self-help than depending on rule of law.

In fact, the rule of law as we used to know it has been either altered or completely thrown to the dogs. And jungle tactics that had receded has bounced back more furiously with anarchy reigning supreme in Nigerian political arena.

Of the 28 state governorship positions in contention, all the ones seeking re-elections succeeded except in Zamfara state where the incumbent governor Bello Mutawele could not win his re-election bid and in Adamawa where incumbent PDP governor, Ahmadu Fintiri is locked in a deadlock with APC’s senator, Aisha Dahiru also known as Binani.

Those trying to replace themselves with surrogates largely succeeded except in Kano state where NNPP is replacing the incumbent APC governor, Umaru Ganduje and in Sokoto state where APC candidate is succeeding the PDP governor, Aminu Tambuwal and in Benue state where Samuel Ortom of PDP did not succeed in replacing himself with a surrogate as well as in Abia state where incumbent governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu failed to get his surrogate to take over from him because the LP candidate, Dr Alex Otti triumphed at the polls.

Without pretense, all gloves were literally taken off their hands by political animals and bareknuckle fights ensued after INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, unfazed by the complaints of party agents about the non-reliance on data from BVAS in the collation of election results for the presidential and National Assembly race, advised those that disagreed with the election results of the 25 February elections that he called on 1st March in favor of the ruling APC to go to court. Since politicians have no confidence in the courts, more so because they are the ones that have been compromising the judicial system, they have been engaging in self-help with catastrophic consequences on the polity as evidenced by the twenty-one (21) and perhaps thirty (30) fatalities recorded as fall outs of the elections.

As I had predicted in my last piece: “INEC Chairman’s Failure To Keep Promises, A Treat Or Trick?” politicians that were bruised after the conduct of the 25 February elections fought back like wounded lions during the 18 March elections exercise.

It is generally agreed by a broad spectrum of Nigerians that the 25 February exercise was initially smoothly organized with BVAS accreditation. But it degenerated into a fiasco when the input of voters’ data into BVAS was not uploaded into IReV as promised by INEC.

Instead, results written on Form EC8A mutilated and correction fluid ridden, were relied upon by INEC for calling the results. That was to the consternation of politicians who thereafter vowed to take their proverbial pound of flesh by unleashing terror on the electorate during the second balloting at the sub national level.

Unscrupulous political actors practically returned to their old ways of brigandage -ballot box snatching and stuffing, hijacking of forms for writing results and kidnapping of INEC officials and compelling them to write and announce results under duress simply because they did not want to be fooled by INEC twice.

And it is rather unfortunate that while Nigerians that got killed and maimed have been crushed, political parties and their candidates have only been bruised by the outcome of 25th February elections.

That is why they got brutal during the 28th March exercise leaving in their trail the tragic death of Nigerians who are no more alive, while the individual political patrons and parties that some of the dead were fighting for are alive and savoring their stolen mandates procured violently.

I am of the conviction that the chairman of the electoral body, INEC on hindsight must have realized by now that he could have handled better the situation that led to loss of faith in the sanctity of the BVAS by a critical mass of Nigerians reflected by the low turnout of voters during the 28 March round of balloting.

But as the saying goes, the hand of time cannot be taken back as the outcome of 25th February elections is undeniably the trigger for the return of politics in Nigeria to the dark ages of the rule of the jungle.

How can such horrific political violence be happening in Nigeria in 2023 when we all thought that the era of bloody politics had been consigned to the dustbin of history after the 2011 orgy of political violence that consumed innocent youths?

After former president Goodluck Jonathan prevented a repeat of such experience in 2015 following his loss of the presidency to the opposition APC during which he famously stated that his political interest is not worth the blood of Nigerians, political office contestations in our clime had become less fractious due largely to introduction of technology.

Sadly, political violence is likely to be the legacy that INEC under the current leadership of Prof Yakubu as the chairman, but also the rank and file of the organization which has resurrected the ghost of violence and foisted it on our country.

How can one defend a situation where politicians are saying that if the maker of the law is the master breaker of the same law, who can counsel them not to take the laws into their hands as they have done during 18 March elections?

As we all know, the verdict above is dominating the news and as we all also know very well, current news is history in motion.

So, INEC chairman and his board members/national commissioners are writing their history right now and it is a very unsavory and unpalatable one.

Over all what election 2023 has laid bare is that not enough critical thinking went into organizing the event which is supposed to be so epochal and consequential that it should not have been treated with such levity.

For instance, the election is setting our country back by about N355 billion naira that was appropriated for INEC to conduct the election. That is just the direct cost of tax payers’ money allocated to INEC.

When the down time of locking down the country on election days twice are factored in, the cost burden on an economy which is tottering on the brinks of collapse would be much higher. And we all know our country is groaning under the crushing weight of an Olympian size debt in excess of N77 trillion. As such, an expenditure of over N355 billion just to conduct an election can be said to be profligacy on steroid.

Frankly, the folly of staking such a colossal sum on conducting elections is comparable to the ruinous policy of channeling a whopping N6 trillion naira into subsidizing petrol pump price in the 2022 budget of the federal government.

If the authorities had been more prudent, they would not have done a yeoman’s job of conducting the elections in a period of two (2) days with three weeks in between. They could have been more pragmatic and prudent by holding all the elections in only one day. It is a position that some members of civil society organizations have also been pointing out.

Clearly, there is no reason the election exercise could not have been conducted in one day only so that the cost-both financially and human catastrophe-could have been halved or significantly less.

What is wrong with voters being given five (5) ballot papers to thump print in one fell swoop instead of thump printing three (3) for national elections in one day and two (2) ballots on another day?

Why spread the elections between national and sub national levels at colossal financial cost and logistical nightmare instead of consolidating the balloting for the five (5) elective offices into one single event? If all the elections were held on the same day, there could have truly been a political rebirth in Nigeria.

Apparently, the INEC board of commissioners were not engaging in critical thinking or being mindful of the precarious financial situation of our country hence they were not cost conscious.

Similarly, the presidency and NASS that should have interrogated the rationale for the recommendations by INEC board were perhaps acting in unison by concurring with each other instead of engaging in scrutiny of each other’s decisions which is part of the principle of checks and balances that constitute the bulwark of democracy.

Staggering the elections into two events enabled the political actors that had been shocked by the power of BVAS during the first round of balloting, to regroup for the second round with brutality in order to self-perpetuate by unleashing mayhem on the electorate while destroying or seizing election materials.

Imagine if the surplus funds that was applied in the conduct of the staggered 2023 election were invested in boosting education through student loans that would raise the number of skilled workforce for improved national productivity levels and migration of the surplus into the diaspora to boost inflow of income from Nigerians in the diaspora in the manner that India and the Philippines currently benefit.

The saved funds could also provide housing for all that would generate employment for those in the construction industry and also boost national productivity as well as develop alternative sources of electricity power supply such as relying more on solar power and wind energy by taking advantage of the abundance of sunlight in our country through investments in solar panels production which is no longer as complex as rocket science. These are productive as opposed to consumption activities which conducting elections is actually all about.

A significant harm inflicted on our country by election 2023 is that it has made our country suffer an avoidable jeopardy. The unvarnished truth is that the opportunity costs of the policies and programs of government that could have helped our country develop into a socioeconomic and political powerhouse in Africa and indeed the world which is huge has been lost.

It is disheartening that our country that has the potential to progress from third (3rd) world to first world like it’s former peer Singapore did a couple of decades ago has remained in socioeconomic and political stagnation.

The expected leap frogging is yet to happen simply because of the loss of the humongous sums of scarce financial resources such as the one pumped into the conduct of the 2023 elections and also the incredulous sums appropriated as petrol subsidy in the past eight (8) years which by some estimate is in excess of fifteen (15) billion United States (US) dollars.

There is no doubt that a sizable chunk of the N355 billion allocated to INEC was applied in the acquisition of the BVAS and other technological devices that were touted as the magic pill that would cure all the electoral ills in our country.

Obviously, the promoters of BVAS information technology driven election process must have forgotten that for technology to work, human input is required. In a country where impunity is the norm rather than the exception, and those who breach the rules or the laws of the land often go unpunished so long as they have the right connections, the integrity of BVAS was bound to be compromised by those seeking political power by hook or crook.

That is why to the chagrin of the electorate, the ghosts of the electoral woes of the past are now on parade and setting back democracy in our country to pre-2015 levels.

Arising from the scenario above, the leveraging of technology for the conduct of elections which was supposed to be a panacea to the ills that have dogged our electioneering process is now a farce. That is because voter fraud that had progressed negatively from the days of ‘Wettie’ in the western region which is an era wherein political opponents doused each other with petrol before proceeding to set victims on fire, is now officially back alive and kicking in our country’s political space.

In fact, the political thuggery and brigandage of the hue and dimensions witnessed during 18th March elections was supposed to have been dead and buried after the 2011 murder of innocent NYSC members who had served as temporary INEC staff during the election exercise.

For context, it is worth recalling that upon the return of multi democracy in 1999 up to 2011 there was an increase in violence during politics via the assassination of opponents in cold blood.

Political violence such as the murder of Engr. Funsho Williams in Lagos seventeen years ago and the killing of Chief Bola Ige in his bedroom in Ibadan 22 years ago as well as the shooting to death of Chief Aminasoari Kala Dikibo 19 years ago on his way from Port Harcourt to Asaba, readily come to mind. Some twenty years ago, there was also the blood cuddling murder in Abuja of another political heavy weight, Chief Harry Marshall from Port Harcourt, Rivers state.

How can we also forget the 2011 brutal killing of some NYSC members in the north (earlier mentioned) as a reprisal action against the unfavorable outcome of the election that perpetuated president Goodluck Jonathan in office after the sudden passage of President Umaru Yar’Adua of blessed memory.

Of course, it is only high-profile murders that have been listed here, while the murder of some unsung heroes of democracy abounds all over our country, including in the northern region, such as Kano where the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner was reportedly burnt to death along with his family in 2015 when his house was allegedly set on fire by aggrieved political elements.

The dastardly acts enumerated above are sad reminders of our political evolution from the nascent stages of our democracy characterized by violence to a more liberal stage whereby the principle of majority carries the vote is being observed which is what Nigerians are craving but crooked officials operating manipulatable electoral system seems to be denying them the pleasure.

It was expected that by now free, fair and transparent election could be achieved leveraging technology as reflected by BVAS and IReV facilitated by the reformed Electoral Act 2022.

Against the backdrop of the highlighted mayhem that had in the past been invoked on society by politicians and their thugs, it was very relieving that political violence in the polity had ebbed as a result of the reforms in the process of conducting elections initiated by late President Yar’Adua in 2007 and pursued to its logical conclusion by former president, Jonathan from 2010 to 2015 who succeeded Yar’Adua.

In fact, it is such a positive irony that it is the electoral reform introduced by Jonathan that led to the triumph of the outgoing ruling APC and incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 over then ruling PDP which then president, Goodluck Jonathan was leading.

Commendably, the reforms had conferred some measure of integrity as a result of the introduction of technology into the electoral process via the deployment of Smart Card Readers, SCR and Temporary Voters Card, TVC by INEC.

In 2019, although Permanent Voters Card, PVC and Bimodal Voters Accreditation System, BVAS which are higher levels of technological innovations had been adopted by INEC under the leadership of Prof Yakubu, there was not much improvement in the electoral process as President Buhari was as at that time focused on his getting re-elected instead of pursuing reforms.

So, Mr. President was not keen on assenting to what became Electoral Act 2022 which had actually been in the pipeline since 2017. When he eventually signed off on the bill for it to become an act of parliament in 2022, Nigerians were full of expectations.

That is why the number of registered voters soared from the 2019 figure of 84 million to over 93.4 million registered with 87 million collecting their PVC for 2023 elections.

But the bubble of the enthusiastic registrants who were very keen to vote was burst by the INEC which disappointed them by not living up to expectations in the reckoning of a broad spectrum of Nigerians, especially the youths who obviously did not actively participate in the second exercise held on 18th February hence a very low turnout was recorded compared to 25th February outing.

The poor turnout of voters is perhaps owed to multiple factors such as deliberate voters suppression by state and non-state actors, the fear of members of the electorate being killed and maimed by the same purveyors of violence or voter apathy stemming from the belief that it had been proven based on the experience from the 25 February voting exercise that contrary to the entreaties and exhortations by INEC that convinced youths to get into the political fray, votes do not really count in Nigeria.

So, in the light of the above, it is rather unfortunate that the much-vaunted Electoral Act 2022 as the magic wand that would consign electoral malpractices to the dustbin of history has been the biggest disappointment and the main culprit for the reversal of the electoral fortunes that Nigeria had garnered since 2015.

In terms of violence, as stated earlier, according to European Union, EU observer mission’s report, twenty-one (21) people lost their lives and other unofficial sources reckon that the death toll from 18th March elections is in the region of 30. Only three weeks ago, the National Assembly elections held on 25th February did not witness as much blood-letting.

Also, in 2015 and 2019, such alarming number of deaths arising from the conduct of general elections did not occur. Without doubt, what triggered the orgy of violence during 18th March elections is the loss of confidence in INEC.

Is it not remarkable that it is not the threat of terrorism in the northern region or unknown gunmen in the south eastern region which had been touted as the biggest threats to election 2023, that have eventually marred, if not ruined it?

And it is a sad narrative for democracy in Nigeria as the government of the people, by the people and for the people suffers what can simply be referred to as a relapse as jungle justice in politics has once again taken center stage in the way and manner politics is practiced in our beloved country.

Is there a path to healing or exorcising the nation of the demons of electoral malfeasance which haunts a country once there is negligence and denigration of the ethos of democracy by not playing by the rules? I would think so.

As an optimist, I imagine that there could be an efficacious solution if we retrace our steps to figure out how and why our country seems to have returned to its vomit with a view to further reforming our electoral system by tightening the loose ends.

For instance, it would help if it is expressly stated in the Electoral Act that results that do not emanate from the BVAS and IReV would not be admitted. There is also need for clarity on the status of the FCT regarding whether the two third (2/3) majority votes policy which is nebulous applies to it specially or it is covered by what obtains for states.

By the same token, recommending severe sanctions against elections offenders including INEC officials who up till date have remained unpunished for all the election related atrocities that they have allegedly been committing should be prioritized by incoming executive and legislative arms of government.

Those who breach election laws should be made to be accountable for the crime committed against democracy and our country. It is about time we stopped leaving punishments for election crimes to the United Kingdom, UK and the United States of America, USA that threaten election criminals with visa ban.

Although the offer is in good faith, visa as punishment for subverting the will of the people is a mere slap in the wrist and a wicked conspiracy by both the presidency and NASS against the masses of Nigeria who are ultimately the victims of electoral fraud.

With the benefit of hindsight, one is curious to know if the failure of the 9th NASS to pass the law establishing a special court for election offenders that could have put most of them in jail for criminal breach of the Electoral Act 2022 was deliberate or borne out of exigencies.

Also, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN has just devalued the naira further by moving the exchange rate of our local currency, the naira to the dollar from N462 to N551. It means that to purchase the dollar, Nigerians would need more naira. The CBN has also just adjusted upwards its Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) which determines the interest rates that banks charge customers.

The MPR that has just been increased from seventeen and half [17.5%]to eighteen [18%] percent by our country’s apex financial institution and lender of last resort, indicates that banks would soon be notifying customers that the interest charges for loans disbursed to them has increased to about 25%.

Are the decisions of the CBN in isolation or pointer to an exit plan or conspiracy of the outgoing administration leaving long suffering Nigerians in deeper misery?

As we are all well aware, plans are afoot to end the obnoxious and funds guzzling petrol pump price subsidy on 1st of June which is one day after the exit of the outgoing government and an action that is overdue. It is also a day after the inauguration of the incoming administration.

But up till now, there is no framework or plan on how the effect of the subsidy on the masses would be mitigated through policies and programs that would bring human face to the end of petrol subsidy regime which Nigerians actually desire.

My concern is that without a robust fallback position or buffer to ameliorate the anticipated pains that the change would initially foist on Nigerians, especially if the plan is slammed on the masses or forced down their throats like the ill-fated naira redesign policy, there may be a revolution of the sort witnessed in the Magreb region of western and central north Africa whereby in 2010, a Tunisian, faced with acute hunger and other deprivations occasioned by corrupt government and economic stagnation gave up hope in life by setting himself ablaze thereby triggering a revolution across the Arab world, particularly in Africa that is infamously known as: Arab Spring.

Is the announcement by the CBN that bank interest and foreign exchange rates have been increased and plans by the federal government to end petrol subsidy regime by 1st June foreboding news of a further crush of the masses by hardship that is lying ahead of them?

For how long would our teeming and hapless compatriots who are already under heavy strain and too impoverished by government policies that are not critically thought through continue to be victims of maladministration?

It is an urgent question to which the president-elect Asiwaju Bola Tinubu must provide viable and actionable answers as he prepares to mount the saddle of leadership in Aso Rock Villa on 29th May, all things being equal.