By Bayo Fasunwon
T he apprehension that preceded the 2019 elections in Nigeria was enough to donate high blood pressure to the keen local and international followers of the events on the social media. The propaganda of fear and blood had predicted a ‘free and fear election’. However, the Presidential election came, held, and like the waters of the sea, passed by. Behold many local and international observers acknowledged, save for some skirmishes, that it was indeed a free and fair election. Nevertheless, about thirty souls kicked the bucket in a gruesome manner during the elections. Upon their blood, many politicians laid the foundation of their victories. It is sad that despites several awareness and political education, some still took the unorthodox and avoidable path to death. Those for whom they died have either won or lost, but are alive to feed their loved ones. However, those who died have left behind families to mourn and suffer the aftermath of their death, often without the compassionate aid of them for whom they died. Will their souls rest in peace?
The results of this election brought to fore many issues that would be in the front burner of discourse for years to come. The first of which is the prevalent apathy towards elections in Nigeria. INEC had registered about seventy million voters prior to the elections. Seventy million Nigerians were supposed to decide on behalf of 200 million people, but less than thirty million elected to carry out their civic duty. The highest turnout of voters in Nigeria’s history of elections was 2011. Since then, the figures had nosedived. Many Nigerians have become irresponsive in their election duties but are restless in their condemnation of government. INEC and political parties need to engage in researches to unearth the immediate and remote causes of general apathy towards voting in Nigeria. There may be need to sensitize Nigerians on the possible repercussions of truancy during elections in Nigeria. Furthermore, there may be the need to review the electioneering process and make it more attractive and compelling for voters to participate without fear and discomfort.
An in-depth analysis of the February 23 election results also revealed certain characteristics of the Nigerian voter. The official results revealed that about 25 of the members of the legislative arm of government lost their bid to return to the hallowed chambers. The Senators and Representatives who were rejected at the polls cut across party lines, so it seemed that the peoples’ choice was not made on party basis. The people seemed to have become politically rejuvenated to follow the activities of those who made laws for them, and have found many of them wanting. The biggest casualty is the Senate President, Bukola Saraki who was rejected by voters who bought into the “O to ge” movement. However, prior to the elections the Senate under the leadership of Dr. Bukola Saraki had been enmeshed in many ugly situations that had ‘unhallowed” the Chamber. There had been issues on budget padding; the Senate President and some members have been arraigned before the Court on criminal charges; brawls have taken place on the floor of the house; our distinguished lawmakers have earned degrees in wall scaling; the programs of the executive arm of government have often been delayed or out rightly cancelled; reckless speeches have been allowed on the floor of Senate, and insane rape of the electorates through defections have been celebrated. The legislative arm of government had been more frequent in the news during these four years than the Executive. Unfortunately, these lawmakers had little to show in their constituencies for whom they portend to speak. However, Nigerians have spoken. They have, by their votes decided to change the men and leadership of the legislative houses. The APC, going by the election declared by INEC can boast of majority of the members. However, a stump should not fall a man in two places, so the APC should be wary of putting the wrong set of people (those who do not support the visions of the party) in sensitive positions in the bicameral legislator. They should refrain from going to meetings with the President when key decisions are to be taken in the house. They should also unanimously choose the leaders of the house in such a way and manner that would strengthen the party, the houses, and the nation as a whole. To the new members of the houses, we expect them to act in a manner that would lift the nation out of the conundrum of underdevelopment and enact bills that would make life and living less difficult. They should also remember that the electorates are watching, lest they also dance to the “O to ge e”, orchestra.
From the election results, it was also quite intriguing and frustrating that the youths could not amongst themselves (despite being the largest eligible voters) muster up to one hundred thousand votes for the youthful candidates who stood for election. The most promising of the youthful aspirants, Omoyele Sowore was ecstatic about winning only his polling units. The implication of this remains that the youths are far from being convinced that they are ready to take up the gauntlet and govern this nation. All the not too young to rule, and take it back were nothing but a waste of time, space and energy of Nigerians. It is unfortunate that the youths betrayed their own cause. On the other hand, this may out rightly be a signal to the youthful generation that they cannot successfully aspire to lead this country from the top. It is quite probable that these youthful aspirants could have garnered enough votes to be relevant in the nation’s politics if they had gunned for lesser positions than that of the President. In Ondo state, a youthful aspirant got enough votes to defeat other popular aspirants for the position of member of the House of Representatives. His case was a revelation given the fact, he neither belonged to the ruling APC or the strong opposition PDP party. The various youth led political parties as at now do not have enough formidable political structures, personnel, and finance to give the older parties a run for their money. To this end, it is advised that the young political aspirants should, for now, restrict their political aspirations to the grassroots and expend more energy towards political education, sensitization, and conviction of their fellow youths on their vision for a better Nigeria.
However, despite the good sides of this election, it is still sad to note that the security apparatus in certain parts of the country have not lived up to expectation. While it is commendable that the shoot at ballot snatchers fiat was not implemented, yet there were reports of lackadaisical attitudes of security operatives towards vivid infractions at various polling units. In some cases, security operatives were reported to have contributed to the mayhem in certain polling areas. It is expected that security agents should live above board and be non-partisan in democratic electioneering activities. These allegations should be investigated and those found culpable must be brought to book. Furthermore, the security operatives should provide adequate covers for the INEC officials and workers. It is saddening to hear that Resident Electoral Commissioners are held at gunpoint to announce falsified results; youth corpers are threatened with death to falsify or thumb print ballots, and a female official was shot dead in the course of serving the nation. These absurd occurrences could have been nailed in the bud if security personnel were alive and committed to their duties.
Given these observations about these elections, INEC still has a lot in its hand to deliver a more credible election come March 9, 2019. State elections are much more volatile than Federal elections. It is always a do or die affair. Security operatives must be quite alert and ready to their jobs well. In addition, INEC must ensure that election materials get to the right destinations and in their right numbers too. The card readers must be functional and all logistics must be put in place. It would not be out of place to increase and equip the security personnel to Lagos, Rivers, Kaduna, Sokoto and flash points recorded in the Presidential elections.
There may be need to sensitize Nigerians on the possible repercussions of truancy during elections in Nigeria. Furthermore, there may be the need to review the electioneering process and make it more attractive and compelling for voters to participate without fear and discomfort.
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