Again, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Pledge A Free, Fair, Credible Polls
President Muhammadu Buhari has in every forum assured Nigerians that he will bequeath a legacy of free, free, and credible elections.
In recent years, our elections are a do-or-die affair. Our elections are characterized by thuggery, violence, and killings. While we are counting votes, we also count the number of deaths recorded.
First, to improve the credibility of our elections, the president signed the amended electoral act. This was hailed by friends and critics alike.
I must also commend the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) for coming up with innovations to improve our electoral process. The electronic transfer of votes and the BIVAS machine was game changer. In one stroke, the commission has eliminated ballot box snatching, indiscriminate thumb printing of ballot papers, and thuggery from our election.
Also, the recent off-season elections- Ekiti, Osun, and Anambra have proved that the president is indeed serious about his pledge to bequeath a legacy of free, fair, and credible elections.
There are also theories that the recent moves by the central bank of Nigeria are another strategy by the president to ensure a credible election.
No doubt, with the BIVAS machine and electronic transfer of votes, the only card some deviant politicians can play right now is vote buying. The bitter truth is that most Nigerians are hungry and will willingly sell their votes for as low as N5000. The NBS just released a report that 133 million Nigerians are extremely poor. That’s our new reality.
Besides, trying to convince a poor Nigerian not to sell his vote is a waste of time. Someone who has not seen N500 for two weeks is being offered N5000, N10,000 and you expect him to reject it? There is no guarantee that the person who will not buy his vote will perform in office. So he takes the money because he needs it to feed and survive. At that particular moment, it is all about his survival.
We all know our elections are heavily monetized and militarized. That’s how we roll in this country.
The redesign of the naira and the cashless policy of the Central Bank Of Nigeria(CBN )are seen as a blow to voting buying in the general elections. I think it’s a deliberate effort by the president to limit the influence of money in the elections. I remember the president saying recently that he won’t allow politicians to intimidate voters with money.
I also recall that during the recent police retreat in Owerri, the President told the police to remain apolitical and allow the electorates to vote for their party of choice.
Similarly, during an Army open day celebration in Sokoto, the president made a similar charge. He told the military to maintain neutrality.
We all know security agencies during elections naturally do the bidding of the government in power and look the other way when infractions are taking place. But if the commander-in-chief has told them to remain apolitical and allow the wish of the people to prevail, I think they should respect that.
If they remain neutral, it will also go a long way in improving the credibility of the elections.
There is no doubt that the president means business when he said he wants to leave a legacy of free, fair, and credible elections. The question remains, will the politicians allow him and not fight back? Politicians are also devising new means of compromising the electoral process.
I am already seeing commentaries obviously sponsored by politicians on why the new CBN cashless policy will not work. Why not let us debate why it will work? why must we see problems in every solution? The National Assembly has rejected the cashless policy.
I also think those caught in vote buying in the Ekiti and Osun elections should be prosecuted speedily. This should serve as a deterrent for those planning to buy votes in the presidential election. Let them know that it is not business as usual.
One of the major problems we have in this country is that people are not punished for bad behaviors. That’s the major reason crimes continue to fester. We need to make examples of some people. I know this is easier said than done but it is doable.
I do not doubt that the 2023 general election will be the most credible in the history of the country.