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Ordinarily, and in the spirit of development, one would have expected the country to build on the successes recorded in the 2015 elections conducted by Professor Atahiru Jega’s INEC. a silencer each time people grumble over government’s failures or excesses. Even common people who know next to nothing on the workings of modern politics, you hear them ask, with some sense of authority and seeming hope in the turnaround that they were sure would come through the possession and judicious use of the PVC to vote in the candidates who would put smiles on their faces: “Have you collected your PVC?” Nigerians, given their combined honours of gullibility and naivety were resuming and closing at the different Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) offices and designated centres either to register or to pick up their PVCs – again, an instrument which they have been made to believe would put paid to all the disappointments they have been receiving from past and present governments. When it comes to things like this, things that are presented with some ray of hope, Nigerians will give the best of cooperation and obedience. But that is the way to go under the circumstance. Apart from being a show or an act of patriotism and obedience to constituted authorities, it will give them the ample chance to perform their civic obligation and decide who was suitable to rule them in the coming dispensation.
However, a few cynics, especially those who have not seen any satisfactory reason why they should align with any political party let alone have the mind of voting, could not be swayed. Such persons simply do not have faith in party politics system let alone the electoral process, both of which they see as major factors behind the confusion and troubles in the political arena in Nigeria. Even when some agencies of government began to threaten that the card would serve several other useful purposes besides using it for voting, these cynics simply remained adamant. Further still, when it was considered as means of identification of one being a Nigerian citizen along with the known ones, namely: drivers’ licence, National Identification Number (NIN), international passport, and perhaps, recognised office Identity (ID) Cards, still they could not be convinced otherwise. This is because of the fact that they probably have studied and understood the Nigerian system. Now that the 2023 general election had come and gone and the much talked about PVC could not give Nigerians the result that they expected such that a cross section of them, even across ethnic, political and religious divides are grumbling allowed at the results released by INEC, how else should democracy be approached in Nigeria? In other words, now that the PVCs could not perform the expected magic of helping Nigerians to install credible leadership for another four years in its democratic experiment, what now should be the next approach to this all-important democratic process of electioneering?
Some of the questions at the lips of most Nigerians are: Did Professor Yakubu Mahmood’s INEC really respect the opinions of Nigerians as expressed through their PVCs? Did their votes really count? If it did, why are there so much disagreements and complaints on the results so much so that some women of Adamawa state for instance, had to take to the streets nude to show their displeasure with some results of the elections of that state? Why are we having notable Nigerians lending their voices to condemn in clear terms the results declared by INEC especially on the presidential poll? Whereas it is usual and perhaps normal for political opponents to raise issues on outcome of elections, this time around, even non-politicians, ordinary Nigerians, great and small are ventilating their angers against Professor Yakubu’s electoral processes that produced the set of people as winners at different levels (presidential, governorship, senatorial, house of representatives and state houses of assembly) that a cross section of Nigerians don’t seem to be comfortable with. While the matters arising from the election results are being looked into, there is the need to begin to think of an alternative to the PVC, as instrument for recruiting people to different leadership positions in this country. In other words, the time has come for a paradigm shift from this usual voting process and promise in the country. This may be an unpopular point of view, but for heaven’s sake we can’t keep doing the same thing the same way and expect a different result. Of a surety Nigerians want a different result! They want good governance that will indeed deliver to them the sure dividends of democracy. They want a government that will feel their pulses, attend to their basic needs of Medicare, food, water, security, and also provide a future for their wards. Furthermore, Nigerians want a country with high degree of equality across ethnic divides, a country where ethnicity and religion would stop infiltrating or rudely interrupting the body politic. They need a country where its farmers will no longer be exposed to the hazards of their crops being destroyed by cattle, a country where the justice system is respected as the hope of the common man, etc. Unfortunately, the PVC has not been able to proffer solutions to these myriads of socio-political and cultural challenges of the country. As things are at the moment, the nation’s youths are simply groping in the dark, having no direction to a meaningful future. Yet, we claim and echo it everywhere that the youths are the leaders of tomorrow. Indeed, the present state of our political life does not convince anyone that there is any attempt towards sustainable development, and where this is the case, it portends a very bleak future. It has been said times and again that it was high time the present crop of aged, sickly-looking and clueless political gladiators left the stage for fresh bloods. But they have blatantly refused to quit the scene due mainly to their selfish interests. Perhaps other measures, apart from the use of the PVC through the ballot box may need to be adopted to force these greedy set of political money bags from the scene. The upper house of the federal legislature should henceforth cease from it being reduced to a retirement base for worn out politicians who no longer have anything to contribute toward nation building.
People have suggested independent candidacy as alternative to party politics. This suggestion is ostensibly coming from the background of the belief that the bulk of the problems and confusions in the nation’s democratic experiment derived from the partisan nature of the nation’s politics. For the avoidance of doubts, Independent Candidacy (IC) is an electoral method where contestants to elective positions do not emerge from any political party but simply register as individuals on their own rights. People have condemned it, saying that the country’s democracy was not ripe for it yet. But I think the term ‘ripe’ here is a relative concept. Growth or maturity which expresses the concept of ripeness or otherwise, are gradual processes, but not until one begins from somewhere. In their paper titled: Rebranding the Electoral Process in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic (1999-2019): Constraints and Prospects of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Caleb Ajagba and Osita Agbu, submits that, Nigeria continued to dominate both national and international political discourses as a model of democracy for the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa immediately after the successful conduct of the 2015 general elections that saw for the first time peaceful conduct of elections and transition from one civilian administration to the other and which brought the opposition party to power without violence or bloodshed. They contend further that, following the conclusion and outcome of the 2019 general elections, that the perception of Nigeria changed from being a beacon of hope for democratic Africa to being an amazement to political scholars and commentators who find it difficult to unravel how she failed to consolidate on the gains of the 2015 general elections and to emerge stronger as a democratic nation. Ordinarily, and in the spirit of development, one would have expected the country to build on the successes recorded in the 2015 elections conducted by Professor Atahiru Jega’s INEC. The electoral process of voting through the use of ballot cards and an electoral body deemed to be independent has been with us for a while. Now that the process, with both the PVC, and the INEC with its new technology called Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS), as they could not deliver credible results in the just concluded general election in Africa’s most populous country, there can be no better time to begin to shop for alternative approach than now. Tentatively, there has to be a forceful ejection of old hands for the new ones. This can be done by fixing an age limit for prospective contestants to elective positions in subsequent elections. Unless this is done, we may just be scratching on the surface the problems such as the ones now being experienced.
Smart Mokuye sent this piece from Ilesa in Osun state. He can be reached via email@example.com or 08061645953