Despite 61 years of independence and counting, Nigeria remains an under-developed democracy. Elections are uncertain because there is no clearly established trajectory of irreversible progress.
This is why, after the 2015 elections which were adjudged generally free and acceptable, the immediate next general elections of 2019 took our democracy “back to Egypt”. The military and gun-toting hoodlums freely helped themselves to the results of the elections, especially at the collation centres.
Many of the “winners” of the 2019 elections were akin to beneficiaries from the proceeds of crime.
The Osun governorship election of September 2018 had set the tone for what later happened at the general elections the following year. Vote- buying, the criminality of uniformed personnel at the collation centres and the suspicious activities of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, cast a dark shadow on the final result.
Since the Osun and the subsequent general elections, the INEC appears to have turned a new leaf, moving further away from the overweening influence of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and other political buccaneers. The Commission ruggedly fronted the protracted effort to get President Muhammadu Buhari to sign a new amendment of the Electoral Act to enable the transmission of results from polling units to the Commission’s national data base. It also evolved technology-based system for the authentication and accreditation of voters.
This new system was deployed in the Anambra and Ekiti governorship elections. Though the numbers were minuscule compared to those obtained in earlier elections where human interference ruled the day, they produced generally acceptable outcomes.
However, vote-buying, an odious carry-over from the 2018 Osun election, bedevilled the Ekiti governorship election. What steps have INEC devised to minimise or even eradicate vote-buying especially at polling stations?
In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Eneke the bird declared that since men have learnt to shoot without missing it has also learnt to fly without perching. INEC, in collaboration with the media and election observer groups, must continue to document the new criminal devices by political parties and their candidates to “win” elections at the expense of the people’s sacred right to choose their leaders.
For as long as the enemies of our democracy are allowed to hamper the people’s right to choose, we will continue to produce incompetent, corrupt and anti-people governments. Our democracy will remain a travesty.
We must go into tomorrow’s Osun governorship election strongly aware of the fact that it is a test-run for the crucial general elections of 2023. A lot depends on the INEC’s oft-avowed determination to make the people’s choice count.
We call on all stakeholders – INEC, political parties, candidates, supporters, the electorate, security agencies, media and election monitors – to ensure a peaceful, free, fair and credible Osun governorship election.