With the alarming rate of killings and abductions of indigenes by terrorists in communities across the country, the 2023 general election may not meet the minimum integrity standards expected of a worthy democracy if human security is not guaranteed, Louis Achi reports
Former military Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd) was not known to share a seer’s proclivity of predicting the future throughout his military career and thereafter. But nevertheless, he recently peered into the future of the nation’s electoral contests, especially the forthcoming 2023 general election, and delivered a worrying verdict.
Taking yesterday’s governorship election in Ekiti State as a jump-off point, Abdulsalami who also heads the National Peace Committee (NPC), stated that next year’s general election may not be the best. The NPC is a non-governmental initiative conceptualised in 2014 in response to emerging threats occasioned by the 2015 general election.
The body is an elite initiative made up of eminent elder statesmen who undertake efforts to support free, fair and credible elections as well as intervene in critical issues of national concern through high-level mediated and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
Abdulsalami warned that the 2023 election may not produce the results many Nigerians would be expecting. He further lambasted the leadership of political parties over the apparent compromise of the process of conducting free and fair primary elections for the selection of candidates ahead of the 2023 polls.
His words: “We are aware that the 2023 election may not be the best – as can be attested to by the monetisation of the process, the acrimonious conduct of the recent party primaries, and the elevation of the ‘delegate position’ over and above the welfare of ordinary Nigerians.”
He charged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies to be neutral and provide a level-playing field for all contestants in the June 18 governorship election in Ekiti State.
Abdulsalami mentioned security agencies but failed to provide critical elucidation on the state of insecurity in the nation leading into a make-or-mar general election in 2023.
It is no secret that terrorists and sundry criminals are taunting the Nigerian state and the government appears helpless. One of the most dangerous dimensions to the infamy playing out is that indigenous communities, churches, mosques, schools, trains and highways are being mercilessly targeted by foreign invaders. If this scenario extends to the 2023 general election, then the exercise will largely be a futile electoral project.
The recent massacre of Owo church members during worship in nearby Ondo State, hardly sends a reassuring message to the Ekiti electorate. The fact that beyond the foggy links to ISWAP, the federal government has not cracked the infamy and roped in the culprits, has heightened the general uncertainty leading into this off-cycle election.
It could be recalled that last year, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, told the Senate Committee on Army precisely on Tuesday, May 4, 2021, that a total of N1,008.84 trillion was released to the Army between January 2019 and April 2021.
Ahmed, who was summoned based on complaints by the Nigerian Army that it had outstanding N50 billion with the ministry which was part of the budgetary provision to fight terrorism, had told the federal lawmakers that the Army got more than budgetary provision during the period under review.
Reacting to the foregoing, Kabir Adamu, a security risk management and intelligence specialist believes the Nigerian Army has so far failed in its mandate despite the funds being released to it. He argued that Nigeria has witnessed increasing cases of banditry, terrorism and kidnapping.
His words: “What was the mandate given to them? Is it not to contain insurgency? Unfortunately, they have not justified it. If their mandate was also to curb banditry, they have not been able to do that.”
Adamu’s position was however countered by Col. Hassan Stan-Labo (rtd.), a security specialist, who said that the over N1trillion was not enough, describing it as a drop in the ocean. Stan-Labo who described the defence sector as a capital-intensive venture, stressed that the sector’s neglect in the past years had created a vacuum which made the funding by the Ministry of Finance insufficient.
According to him, “The defence sector has been neglected for too long by being starved of adequate fund and well-equipped inventory. This got this long because as a nation, we are not security-conscious. Even under this dispensation, you can see that there is no seriousness.”
Clearly, with rising attacks against security agencies and their facilities scaling up in the South-east, terrorists and criminal turmoil in the North and outright killings in the South-West and total infiltration of its forests by foreign terrorists, many strongly believe the nation’s fate is hanging over the precipice. This has led to increasing agitations for break-up of the country. Today, even respected statesmen are morphing into activists.
Despite considerable efforts being deployed to cage raging insecurity in the nation, policy obfuscation, opaque military spending and procurements, debatable inter-agency cooperation, indecisive leadership and huge trust deficit, has portrayed the government as not being on top of its game.
Clearly, an atmosphere of spiralling of insecurity ahead of or during the 2023 general election would have a hugely negative impact on voter turnout and the integrity of the polls. Voters would not risk their lives to go to polling units when the possibility of being killed or injured is high.
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