Nigeria and imperative for credible 2023 polls
A News Analysis by Bashir Rabe Mani, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Nigerians will be heading to the polls on February 25 and March 11, 2023 to elect a new president, members of national and state assemblies and governors. It will be another seamless transition from one democratically elected government to another since 1999 when Nigerians shed off the cankerworm of military dictatorship.
Democracy no doubt remains the most acceptable form of government globally, and as Nigerians get set for the elections, issues of credible elections, neutrality of security agencies, issue-based campaigns and a level playing field for political parties and voters to exercise their rights have remained paramount.
This has attracted the interest of patriotic Nigerians who have taken it upon themselves to ensure that the elections were not only seamless, but open, credible and acceptable.
One of such groups is The Compatriots, a forum of some patriotic eminent Nigerians with passion for good governance.
At its maiden press briefing in Abuja, Chairman of the Compatriots, Obong Victor Attah, a former governor of Akwa Ibom, expressed concern over the state of the nation, saying Nigerians should unite to overcome current challenges of insecurity, collapsed economy and educational system, tribal, religious, regional and class issues, and strive to build a new nation.
Attah said elections provide the platform for Nigerians to make informed choices by electing leaders who will effectively tackle the challenges facing the country.
Prince Tom Iseghohi, Secretary and Operating Officer of the Compatriots said the group would support fundamental social and political reforms to strengthen the Nigerian project.
”These include the promotion of core values of equity, justice and fairness for every citizen, realization of the full potentialities of every Nigerian, protection of the rights of every Nigerian wherever he or she decides to reside, and primacy of peaceful coexistence between and among Nigerian communities.
”The group will also inspire a proper sense of nationhood and common nationality.
“It promises to mobilise the best intellectual resources in addressing the key challenges that are hindering the development of Nigeria as a strong and viable political and economic community and promote a network of concerned Nigerians towards assisting in the improvement of governance at all levels as well as in the provision of social services.”
As its contributions to a robust political environment ahead of the elections, the Compatriots had engaged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), held parley with presidential candidates and raised awareness of Nigerians on the imperative for seamless elections devoid of violence.
At its meeting with INEC, the Compatriots made a presentation entitled: ‘Let Join Hands to Re-Invent Nigeria’.
At the meeting, the chairman among other things, commended INEC for its firm commitment to the conduct of free and fair polls during the general elections.
Attah said: “It is clear by your actions that we believe that sovereignty belongs to the people and their inalienable rights to sovereignty can only be protected by properly conducted elections that are free, fair, legitimate and reflect the will of the people.”
He urged INEC to take deliberate steps to demonstrate unquestionable transparency during the polls
Similarly, in its parley with the presidential candidates, the group said that the engagement was to ensure the conduct of credible polls, so as to bequeath a “new and better Nigeria for every Nigerian”.
The parley involved presidential candidates of the PRP, LP, SDP, PDP and APC, among others.
A communique issued at the end of the meeting with the presidential candidates said the interface was to contribute to the growth of democracy in Nigeria.
”INEC’s integrity and competence should be protected by all the stakeholders and Nigerians.
”It is necessary, however, to insist on the utilisation of capacities that represent independent audit of its systems and processes from now until the elections.
”Candidates and their supporters should recognise that all Nigerians look forward to these elections as being the ones that will produce a leadership that will make a difference between further decline and sustainable greatness.
”Nigerians expect a decent contest, a credible election and a peaceful transition to great leadership from all three arms of government.”
The Compatriots, therefore, admonished candidates who lose the elections to either accept defeat or seek redress in court, but ”must avoid throwing the country into crises over the elections.”
They emphasised that Nigerians who registered for the elections should be availed of opportunities to vote.
”This include allowing those who are legally registered to collect their PVCs and improving the security environment so that it does not disenfranchise voters on election days.”
The Compatriots also admonished the Judiciary to play its part in the entrenchment of democratic ideals and culture in the country.
”The judiciary has vital role in improving the quality of our democratic process, and these elections will provide it with an opportunity to exercise its responsibility with the highest level of integrity and impartiality,” the group said.
The Compatriots are also concerned about the current hardship in the country and how it may affect the elections.
It therefore urged that ”government should take steps to relieve the citizens of the severe difficulties under which they live at the moment.
”This will greatly improve the atmosphere under which the elections will be held.”
To engender mass participation of voters in the elections, the group said schools should be closed to allow students who registered for the elections to cast their votes.
It also admonished politicians to promote responsible campaigns devoid of violence.
“Students in tertiary institutions represent a critical segment in the entrenchment of our democracy, as such the government should give them opportunities to vote in the elections.
”Politicians should recognise that the elections are about the citizens’ right to freely exercise choices and not just about the ambitions of the contestants.
”Nigerians are worried about negative campaigns which include damaging rhetoric and actions which strip contestants, one of whom we expect to be elected President soon, of dignity and respect.
”More Nigerians should be given opportunities to see contestants discuss issues and contest ideas and strategies in the most mature manner as was witnessed at this meeting.
”For the new government to enjoy legitimacy and general support from the citizens, among other things, there must be an emphasis on ensuring credible elections,” the Compatriots emphasised.
It is clear that the Compatriots are fully committed to ensuring the conduct of credible elections in the world’s most populous black nation, as Nigerians head out to the polls on February 25 and March 11, 2023. (NAN Feature) (www.nannews.ng)
**If used, kindly credit to writer and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)**
Edited by Maharazu Ahmed