By Owei Lakemfa
AFTER the presidential election on Saturday, February 25, 2023, the rains came down in Abuja. No, they were not pitiful tears even when Nigeria, an otherwise prosperous country has been reduced to a beggarly state. Rather, they were rains cleansing the country, starting with a thorough wash of the county’s seat of government to prepare the people for new occupants after the out-going caretakers had thoroughly desecrated the land.
Things have so degenerated and gross incompetence so rife that Nigerians have to buy their own country’s currency at premium price just to be able to pay for something as basic as a loaf of bread. Patience had worn thin and before the elections, it seemed the country was in danger of slipping down the slope.
Nigerians are doubtlessly the winners of the elections as they are a major indicator that the exit of the Buhari regime has become an irreversible process.
The ultimate loser is President Muhammadu Buhari who apparently is not trusted by any of the leading political parties. To me, it is humiliating that a retired General, former Military Head of State and incumbent President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces had to violate the electoral rules by displaying publicly before the cameras, his marked ballot paper to show who he voted for. This violation of the secrecy of the voting system, is a display of the integrity-deficit between him and his party. It is like the trust between him and the leading lights of a party he once presided over as the supreme overlord had been torn into shreds. He now has to convince the doubting ‘Thomases’ that he has not betrayed either the party or its presidential candidate. If the ruling party which feels he has de-marketed it does not appear to trust the President, does he think the opposition would trust him? If the mass of those who just a few years ago deified ‘Sai Baba’ now see him as clay-footed, is it not time he makes an honest assessment of himself and his place in history? It is like a man who used to sleep quite comfortably on a cozy bed, struggling to avoid being pushed to the cold floor. After these elections, it appears the Buhari presidency has become lame dock and many would begin to distance themselves from it.
The presidential election came at a high cost with some paying with their lives, and quite a number, may have to live with the scars. There is the iconic photograph of the lady, Efidi Bina Jennifer, who was on Dipolubi Street, Surulere, Lagos to cast her vote when thugs stabbed her twice in the face. She was taken for treatment but returned to cast her vote with the upper and lower parts of her left eye in plasters, her face dripping blood and her T-shirt soaked in blood. The thugs might have thought they were victorious over the ballot box, but she showed that the human will can withstand bayonets. She demonstrated that evil can only win if the victims succumb.
There were cases of electoral officials arriving very late and voters refusing to disperse even as late as 3am Sunday. Anti-democratic forces threw all they had into the mix, including snatching ballot papers, arson, stabbing, thuggery, banditry and terrorism, yet Nigerians stood their ground.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, might not have followed through on its promise to immediately upload election results on its portal as they are sorted, counted and collated across the country. However, it was not a source for concern; technology has moved in such pace that verifiable results are propping up from various sources.
These elections have also transformed the country from a two-party system, to a tripod with the Labour Party emerging as an uncontested third leg. However, it would be a different matter whether this genetic engineering would survive or is sustainable.
It is not so much an issue of who wins the elections at various levels, but the insistence of the electorate that their votes must count. A new momentum has been unleashed in the country; the sustenance is more important than individual victories.
Last week’s elections raise once again fundamental challenges in the electoral system. Yes, most cases of electoral violations were possible due to the absence of governance, security failures, intimidation of voters, impunity, untamed desperation and the transformation of elections into mini wars. But there are also issues of our refusal to develop the electoral process we started about seven decades ago. If we have a credible national identity card system, we do not need the long processes of voter registration, verification, issuance of voters cards, use of card readers and BVAS. There would also be no issue of underage voting.
There is no reason why in a country where a person can sit in his car and transfer millions of Naira from one account to another, that same person cannot from the safety of his bedroom cast his vote electronically. If we were to aim at such inexpensive system of elections, the cases of attacks by thugs, snatching ballot boxes, shutting the borders, locking down the country, turning the armed forces out on the streets and virtually declaring a state of emergency each time elections are held, will be greatly reduced.
There is also the fact that we are forced to run a unitary system where one man, because he is the President, would dictate to the rest of us and seek to control not just the legislature but also the judiciary and our lives.
If we were to abide by the Constitution that Nigeria is a federation, we may not need more than three items on the Exclusive List; perhaps monetary and foreign affairs while all others would be on the concurrent list. Were we to run such a system, there would be far less contention vying for political office, including the presidency. If we run a country where the federating units control their resources and pay agreed taxes to the common purse, the country would become more productive and prosperous and we would be saved from the present system of parasitism. That would be the true meaning of moving from consumption to production. That would create a country where no part will feel marginalised. This would be true restructuring not the monkey business presented as restructuring.
Nigeria has a long way to go, but with this election and the momentum it has created, we can begin to build the foundations of a great country based on peoples democracy.
After the presidential election, came the rains, after the rains, the sun will rise and we can make hay while the sun shines. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
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