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The ‘Historically Disenfranchised’ Nigerians in Democracy.

Highlights of the 2023 Presidential Elections

by Frederick Akinola
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The 2023 Nigerian presidential elections can easily go down as one with the biggest hype since Nigeria’s democracy with expressions like “the most consequential elections of our time”, “Nigeria is at a tipping point”,  “If we don’t get it right this time”, “we might not have a Nigeria”.

Nigerians over the years had lost hope in the electoral process. We have always seen elections to be a season where the man with the most money and influence wins. We have always felt that our votes don’t count, so why bother? This has led to an increase in apathy over the years. On election day, people go about their daily activities. The youth will rather play football on election day than queue to vote. And who would blame us? Some of us young folk have never seen anything with the semblance of free and fair elections in our lives.

Then came the BVAS

Nigeria signed an electoral act into law, and a BVAS (Bimodal Voters Accreditation System) machine was used for by-elections which saw the displacement of the incumbent parties in those states. Polling unit results were transmitted in real-time, leaving no room for abracadabra. This lit a spark in the eye of Nigerians. So votes can count? Youths started registering to vote in their numbers. The electoral commission promised Nigerians time and again: The BVAS will be used to conduct the presidential elections. Elections will be free and fair. 

Then Came the Cash Crunch

The president of the country, Muhammadu Buhari, promised Nigerians he will leave a good legacy, promising free and fair elections. He approved the electoral act to be signed into law, and months before elections he approved a Naira swap policy on the notion that politicians had cash locked away in safe houses and those monies had to be retrieved. This he said will help to curb the menace of vote buying.

The rattled reaction of incumbent ruling-party governors seemed to authenticate the assumption,  as they sued the federal government over the policy on the premise that Nigerians were not ready for such a policy, and the timing was unrealistic. The policy is bringing suffering to our people, they lamented. And even though they were correct, people were amazed at how perpetually negligent politicians had suddenly become selfless heroes. Nigerians endured cash scarcity, hoping it was for the best. If the elections are free and fair, no problem, we can endure a few weeks. Piled atop was a looming nationwide fuel scarcity– the paradox of an oil-producing country without working refineries.

The Three popular Candidates and the powerful man from Kano

The four leading candidates had very impressive portfolios. The ruling party’s candidate was a former governor of the most populous state in the country, a former capital, and the 5th largest economy in Africa. A powerful man, a party leader. The incumbent vice-president, national assembly speaker, minister of information, and a number of state governors were all his mentees. Jagaban, he is widely called.

Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the most qualified candidate for the job. No other candidate comes close – Babatunde Fashola, Minister of works, former governor of Lagos State.

The main opposition candidate was a former vice president. He had run for president multiple times and is a very powerful man. Many believed this will be his time, as a northerner, popular both in the north and south.

Atiku Abubakar is the only candidate with the required spread. He has build bridges across this country over the last 30 years-   Dele Momodu, Founder Ovation Magazine.

Then there was another. Peter Obi. Former Governor of Anambra State. Former Vice Presidential Candidate of aforementioned Atiku Abubakar. A man from the eastern part of Nigeria. The most marginalized in national politics among the three major ethnic groups in the country. He had just defected from a powerful party and joined The Labour Party, a party with no structure and elected persons in government. He had a large hurdle ahead of him.

Peter Obi is just a Nollywood Actor, and that is what he will always be. He can never win this election! Nasir El-Rufai, Governor Kaduna State.

Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, the man from Kano, the swing state that produces the most votes in elections was also on the ballot. His key objective, as he always stated, was to win the northern states, as that is where the block votes usually come from and then try to get 5 states from the south. Many have argued, that Kwankwaso just contested to show his strength in preparation for future elections.

The Mammoth Crowds, Rallies, Show of Strength.

One thing that particularly interested me in the elections was the campaigns. It seemed like the party with the most crowd during campaigns would win elections. So political parties would go as far as hiring a crowd, spending millions of naira to get people to fill a stadium, then they’d post on Twitter Organic crowd, one more state in the bag.

Debates or No Debates.

Debates among competing electoral candidates have become a campaign centrepiece in elections worldwide. More than 60 countries have developed a debate tradition, and civil society groups have been critical in making that happen. Debates help voters make informed choices and encourage candidates to focus on policy issues, a conviction so widely held that these candidate showdowns have become mainstays of the electoral process in many places. But trust Nigeria, things will always be different.

Our Candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, will not be attending any debates – Festus Keyamo, SAN. Spokesperson APC, PCC, Minister of State, Labor and Employment.

Chatham House.

Chatham House has consistently chosen the worst of us to talk about Nigeria in their London neo-colonial house of horror, simply because they hate to see a Nigeria that rises above British imperial control -Omoyele Sowore, Presidential Candidate, AAC. 

The major candidates were all invited to speak at Chatham House. However, one man stood out among them all, doing what had never been done at the institute by any leader. Bola Ahmed Tinubu delegated questions to his teammates to answer. His supporters hailed his style as true leadership. The opposition deemed it a sign of incompetence.

Election Day Proper: A Day of Failed Promises.

Trust is the highest form of human motivation.  Millions of Nigerians believed that the electoral commission would keep its promise of free and fair elections. So they thronged out in numbers across the country. They expected real-time transmission of results, but that promise wasn’t kept. They expected security at polling units, which also heavily compromised. Election results were produced by the power of governors who ensured states were delivered for their principles. Phrases that shouldn’t be used in a proper democracy. The will of the people was truncated. The powers that be would decide. Those in whose favour the elections went, praised their candidate as a strategist, a tactician.

The Historically Disenfranchised.

In a Chappelle SNL monologue, he talked about the historically disenfranchised. And reflecting on that, got me thinking about what Nigerians have been through over the years. The lies we have been told, the people we have lost, the way our faces have been smothered by the political elite who seize power by all means and how now, we are seemingly disenfranchised because our votes don’t count.

 I watched the videos of Nigerians who voted, waiting patiently, resiliently, under the rain and sun. The videos of those whose hopes haven’t been crushed by the system’s failure, who have vowed to never stop voting, no matter what. The video of the woman who was stabbed in the face and still went back to exercise her franchise. And it made me feel hopeful, and proud to be a Nigerian. It made me reflect on the prospects of our country.

So, in that spirit, we wish the best for our country. We will give our president a chance. And we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he gives us one too.

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