This file photo taken on February 06, at Mairi village outskirts of Maiduguri capital of northeast Borno State, shows young girls fleeing from Boko Haram Islamists walking past burnt livestock. / AFP / STRINGER
Despite the frenetic state of the election primaries, the sporadic violence erupting in many parts of the country and the resultant feeling of insecurity being expressed by most Nigerians have lent credence to the thinking that elections may not hold in 2023. Indeed, with the horrendous massacre in Owo, Ondo State last week, it seems a deliberate country-wide distribution of insecurity is in the works to destabilise and heat up the polity. If this is the evil machinations at work, well-meaning Nigerians must come together to ensure that the plans fail.
They must do so by making adequate preparation to exercise their civic responsibility of registering for their voters’ cards and voting, and also insist that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) follows through with the general elections. This is one way of dispelling whatever fears INEC has concerning the general elections.
Earlier in the year, the electoral body was reported to have expressed doubts about the conduct of free and fair elections in 2023 because of insecurity in many parts of the country. Speaking through its Commissioner for Information and Voter Education (IVEC), Festus Okoye, INEC specifically noted that the mandatory Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise cannot be held in 811 locations out of 2,673 areas of the country where this needs to be done.
Pundits who bought this idea have taken solace in a constitutional provision claiming that in the case of widespread insecurity or war, the sitting President may continue in office to address the situation. But is this truly the provision in the Constitution? Section 135 (3), which is often conveniently cited in this regard, states: “If the Federation is at war in which the territory of Nigeria is physically involved and the President considers that it is not practicable to hold elections, the National Assembly may, by resolution extend the period of four years mentioned in subsection (2) of this section from time to time; but no such extension shall exceed a period of six months at any one time.”
As has been explained in earlier editorials, neither the “Nigeria at war” thesis, nor the phony interpretation of the Constitution is tenable as argument against the conduct of the 2023 general elections. Notwithstanding the pockets of violence in many parts of the country, Nigeria is technically not at war, and certainly not in a ‘state of war’ with another country. Besides, the misgivings of INEC over insecurity and the conduct of elections are not founded on the facts of previous elections. As the 2019 elections demonstrated, it is possible to conduct elections in conflict-torn states. Except INEC wants to invalidate its claims of 2019, the Boko Haram-ravaged Bornu State in Northeastern Nigeria reportedly had the highest percentage of 41.18 of voters’ turnout in the country. INEC’s collating officer Prof. Saminu Ibrahim announced that 919, 786 valid votes were cast while 35, 419 were rejected votes. There were allegedly 2.3 million registered voters in the state in 2019. Elections similarly held in other insurgency-affected parts of the country and results were declared.
As the election year draws near, Nigerians should anticipate the evil intentions of mischievous politicians and others who make a living from violent disruption of the country. They should be circumspective of mercenaries who capitalise on tensed political situations to foment trouble. These mischief makers are everywhere, and they come under the guise of ethnic nationalists, religious crusaders and pseudo-rights groups to frustrate the security architecture as they have always done. Thus, it is expected that the tension of the Abacha years will be revisited on Nigerians.
Indeed, since the inception of this administration – an administration that built its existence and relevance on effecting change and combatting insecurity – the Federal Government has been approving huge budgets on defence and security, but with virtually nothing to show. Under the watch of this administration, all manner of well-orchestrated violence ranging from alien occupation of Nigerians’ land and religious terrorism, through kidnapping to greed-driven banditry – have had a free ride in the country. So conveniently have these happenings contradicted the rhetoric of success affirmed by the Nigerian security agencies, that a chieftain of the Northern Elders Forum, once described the situation as a “cataclysmic collapse of security.”
Why is it that the symbolic gesture of the Federal Government does not relay any urgency, or commitment, not even pretensions of doing anything emanating from sound thinking in order to address insecurity? Is it the case that there is a manifest and deliberate lack of political will? Are Nigerians witnessing contrived inaction to create an avalanche of impunity that will eventually bury this country? Or is it a case of systematic subjugation bordering on executive treachery?
Even if President Muhammadu Buhari’s perceived insularity have left much room for odious speculations, Nigerians and the world should hold him to task for his charge to the security chiefs. Nigerians want to believe the president when he recently directed security agencies to rescue all those in captivity across the country and advance the acquisition of intelligence. We want to believe that the president’s order to security chief is not just another routine assertion playing to the gallery because this is not the first time that President Buhari would give orders and nothing was done. Just as President Goodluck Jonathan was told at the height of the Boko Haram insurgency in the north east, President Buhari should man up and own this war. Except he is a party against the country, he must show commitment by positive action and convincing personal statements that he decries the state of insecurity in the country.
It has been stated authoritatively by a section of the ruling elite that they know the perpetrators of this carnage enveloping this country; that they also know where and how to get them. But do they have the political will to act? If truly that is the case, is it not the height of cruelty, selfishness and insensitivity to rationalise and politically window-dress this orchestrated violence against innocent Nigerians? It is unjustifiable, it is unacceptable.
If Nigeria is worthy of being salvaged from the self-inflicted anomie it is heading, her leaders must be truthful about the state of insecurity in the country and the perpetrators of violence. What is happening is an existential threat to Nigerians by a gang of mischief makers. There is an unprecedented level of impunity and an orgy of violence never witnessed before in this country. The orgy of violence is well-designed to suggest an invasion of our national space and territorial integrity, and the ruling elite must treat it that way.
Again, Nigerians must rise up against these enemies of progress by civic action. Any calculated attempt to prolong the administration or prevent elections in 2023 must not be allowed to happen. Well-meaning Nigerians must come together to thwart this evil intention of unscrupulous politicians. The outside world is keeping an eye on Nigeria and watching closely. No nation can accommodate the consequence of the political impasse that will befall Nigeria from the inaction of the ruling elite.
This is the time for the civil society organisations to congregate and cause the different levels of government in the federation to mend the mess they have caused by their inaction.