Discussions about 2023 general elections have now become a cliché among the populace, this is because the upcoming elections are not far to anyone who God has ordained will stay alive to witness it.
In the next three years, the polls might take place in February as such is the norms in Nigerian electoral process. So, this is the right time for President Muhammadu Buhari to rehash the electoral bill and sign it into law, in order to pave way for INEC to start early preparations ahead of time.
Recall that the 8th assembly under the leadership of Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, former Senate President, had passed electoral amendment bill into law in 2018. At that time, the president refused to assent, relying on ‘timing’ as reason for his discountenance. He averred that; “any real or apparent change to the rules close to the elections may provide an opportunity for disruption and confusion…”
Honestly, to be fair to him the bill was passed close to the 2019 general elections, which would be difficult, if not impossible, for INEC to implement within the established time frame.
Nevertheless, with the president’s declaration, one would assume that the Electoral Act would come into effect straightaway after the elections turbulence. Up till date, over one year after, the bill remained pending with no hope in sight that he will revisit it any time soon. And that put my mind into believing that his justification for rejection was just a finesse to divert the people’s attention away from the hidden agenda.
It is common knowledge that elections in Nigeria have never been perfect since the return of democracy in 1999. Beside its imperfections, more often than not, right from the campaign period, the country’s mood became more like belligerent that often resulted to loss of lives. However, with the coming of Buhari administration, my hunch was he would purge the electoral system, but regrettably, the one held under him has proved to be bad, if not worse, when compared with the prior one that held in 2015.
In precise delineation, the 2019 general elections were marred by irregularities, intimidations, voter inducement, and above all, violence, particularly during the governorship polls in some states.
To take the Kano state gubernatorial election as an example, especially the contentious Gama Ward of Nasarawa local government, where the opposition candidate led with a margin of over 26,000 votes. But instead of the electoral umpire to do the needful by announcing the winner, they came up with an innovation by declaring the polls ‘inconclusive’ and ordered a re-run.
Meanwhile, the consequences of that supplementary election has turned into serious violence as reported by several media outlets. This is in addition to the report of International and local observers that have revealed how thugs were used to perpetrate voters intimidation across the polling units.
More so, the situation in Kogi state during the gubernatorial by-election, was akin to what happened in Kano. In reality, it is not overstatement if the Kogi event is described as worse than any election overseen by the INEC. In the so-called election, hoodlums were seen intimidating voters and vandalising electoral materials unrestrained despite the presence of 30,000 police personnel that were deployed to maintain law and order.
Putting these relative incidences together into consideration, and if the government declines to take proactive measures in time, the 2023 general elections will be the harbinger that the country would dwell into pandemonium. To use the words of former INEC boss, Professor Attahiru Jega,who when delivering lectures, gave a hint about the next coming general polls and forewarned that; “the prediction on the disintegration of Nigeria by CIA will come to pass.” Jega made the remark in Abuja at a conference on ’20 years of democracy’.
It is pertinent to note that President Buhari had earlier set up a committee led by former Senate President Ken Nnamani to review the electoral law, and the report has since been submitted to the federal government. Before the Nnamani committee, there was a similar work carried out by Justice Muhammad Uwais, former Chief Justice of Nigeria. The Uwais committee was inaugurated by late President Umaru Yar’Adua to also review the electoral system. As usual, after the completion of the assignment, the committee submitted the compiled report to the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
With all the robust recommendations made by preeminent compatriots, the federal government is reluctant to implement any of them so as to improve the system and to avoid the future re-occurrence of bloodletting in the course of the politics.
Albeit, the current 9th assembly has come up with their own version of electoral bill which already scaled a second reading. But in common sense, the bill was sponsored in bad faith to circumvent the genuine reform from taking place, since there are other panoptic recommendations at government ‘s disposal. What Senate supposed to do for now, is to emphasise the retrogression of former reports rather than wasting time on purported bill, that lacks requisite competence for the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.
Therefore, the president’s crave for history to be kind to him after his tenure will only come to fruition in the event he honestly reforms the electoral system that would ensure the safety of lives and property during future polls.
History would remember Jonathan as the hero of democracy for being the first incumbent president that conceded victory, and as well as who lived up to his word; “any ambition I have at any time is not worth the blood of Nigerians.”
At least, even if for nothing, but for orchestration of these historical episode in Nigerian politics, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan ought to be considered for nomination for the award of Nobel Peaceeace prize.
Al-Mustapha writes from Bauchi