By Afolabi Aribigbola
The long anticipated and hotly contested 2023 general elections in Nigeria especially the Presidential poll have come and gone. However, while some are jubilating and savouring their success at the elections, it has left a sour taste in the mouths of some Nigerians causing some disquiet.
This has culminated in some candidates contesting the outcome of the 2023 elections in courts. While some others outrightly rejected it as a sham and charade, describing it as the worst elections in the country.
The more vociferous opponents of the results of the presidential election even went further to suggest and insinuate that the elected President should not be sworn in come May 29, 2023 as the usual practice. Whatever, the divide one belongs; the fact is that the 2023 elections have been successfully prosecuted with losers and winners as customary with elections globally.
Unfortunately, no results of presidential elections have not been a subject of contestations in court since 1999 when the country was returned to civil rule, except the 2015 results in which the then President not only conceded defeat but congratulated the winner prior to official declaration by INEC. Indeed, the bitter campaign, acrimony and crisis associated with the Presidential election have again thrown up or escalated Nigeria’s fault lines of ethnicity, religion and sectional allegiances which have polarized the country over the years.
This is particularly the case with the leading opposition parties in which some came out openly that the President-elect will not be sworn on May 29, 2023. Consequently, the social media space was awashed with damaging positions, thoughts and suggestions amidst the seeming crisis associated with the elections and its outcome. This has made it incumbent on us to again review the roots of the challenges confronting the country that reared their ugly heads during the elections with a view to seeking solutions to the hydra headed problems of electioneering in the country.
It was a sad commentary that the 2023 elections became do-or-die affairs. It reached its dangerous crescendo when the General Overseer of a church raised prayer that May 29 shall not hold using the name of our very revered Jesus Christ to pray. Besides, the fact that some individuals touted the idea of Interim government, some argued that the elected President should not be sworn-in until the court’s final adjudication on petitions submitted to the tribunal. Of course, these individuals have the right to express their minds, objections and misgivings about things they considered unacceptable to them. However, most of these positions were coloured by primordial sentiments, ethnicity and sectionalism. It also clearly revealed the disunity and gaps existing in the country exposing further the fault lines threatening the peace and corporate existence of the country.
Of course, one area where the manifest fault lines in the country became wide is ethnicity, resulting in clashes between members of some major ethnic groups in the country. Beside the election that revealed ethnic segregation and allegiance in the support received by the major Presidential candidates, open support and defense of election outcomes particularly that of the President from notable Nigerians have also followed such retrogressive primordial retrogressive cleavage. For instance, most people from the South East have been more vociferous in showing their support for the candidate of Labour Party culminating in a notable Writer Chimamanda Adichie of Igbo extraction to write to the US President to reject the outcome of the Presidential election in the country, followed by a counter letter by someone from the Yoruba land.
Religion that was not really a major issue in selecting Presidential candidate became a serious issue during the selection of the Presidential candidate of APC and a serious campaign to further widen the gap among Nigerians reflecting again the reality that the bond among the people of the country is yet to be properly cemented. While a segment vehemently opposed the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC Presidential candidate, the candidate of the Labour Party used religion as a campaign instrument to cajole the Christian population to take back their country. Besides, being a major trader of international repute, he is a property owner that have been part of the group that have been plundering the resources of country over the years. He was a State Governor for eight years. Again, I found the action detestable since Nigeria does not belong to the Christians or any group only for that matter. The use of religion as a campaign tool has further widened the fault lines in the country, a dangerous phenomenon that must be nipped in the bud if the country is to move forward.
All these intrigues and political maneuverings using the instrumentality of religion and ethnicity that have been the bane of development of the country that these tendencies could engender crisis that will continue to retard the growth and prosperity of the country. Since a country or society such as Nigeria cannot move forward without addressing these fault lines that have been widened or increased by the recent general electrons in the country, the need to find solution to them becomes imperative, otherwise, the country will continue to drift without definite direction. The reality and incontrovertible truth is that if the country must survive as a nation, the people especially the leaders must seek ways and means to surmount the growing problems of ethnicity, sectionalism and resort to the use of religion to divide the country by the ruling elite.
Of course, these three issues have become the dominant factors controlling all other aspects of life of the people of the country. Yes, ethnic origin is important because afterall if one was not born into one of the more than 350 ethnic groups in the country, he or she cannot lay claim to being a Nigerian. However, beyond this pedestal reference, its role should be drastically reduced in the national life of the country. This presupposes the use of merits and ability in appointing and choosing people to occupy positions. A situation where quota system is used in admission but jettisoned when it comes to appointment cannot promote oneness and sustainability among the people of the country. The issue of religion in Nigeria has been promoted beyond individual affairs to become a state one, and has become a dominant tool to rule the life of the people. Politicians have capitalized on this to deployit as a potent campaign instrument.
To reverse this negative unacceptable trend, concerted efforts must be made to deemphasize the use of religion by Nigerians especially the leaders that have used it over the years to cajole their followers to win elections. This must be discouraged and stopped. Religious leaders should not allow themselves to be used to further the narrow interest of politicians as recently experienced where campaign were undertaken in religion centres. Religion should be separated from politics and make individual business. Also effort must also be made to reduce the influence affinity and sectional or regional allegiance in state affairs.
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