No genuinely great country which has reached goliathan heights in deftly combining democracy and development has been hoisted to such heights by high-handedness in the halls of power.
No country which has covered great distances on the road of development leaving other clay-footed countries to play catchup has ever done so in the shoes of dictators.
What marks genuinely great countries is the virility of the institutions they have in place and the ability of those institutions to conduct like a bewitching orchestra the processes which go into ensuring their citizens participate in shaping their lives.
While great countries understand this and invest time and tears into building great institutions and adamantine processes, those countries destined for the mire of immiseration continue to be tinder in the hands of tinpot dictators whose greatest nightmares are strong institutions. When they feel pressed as a result of their follies, they do not hesitate to ignite the tinder.
Nigerians unanimously continue to groan and grumble as the guillotine that everything about the governance in the last seven years has been continues to greedily guzzle their heads, but how many of them effectively participate in politics in the country? How many Nigerians take their civic responsibilities seriously, voting at elections being on top of pile? More specifically, how many Nigerians queued up to vote the current administration into power in 2015 and again validated it in 2019?
With the 2023 general elections calling so loudly how many Nigerians will be ready to take the pains to get a bad tooth out of the mouth of a mighty country? When Nigeria finally broke loose of the chains of brutal military dictatorships in 1999 with a historic return to democracy, it immediately became evident that going forward, elections as provided for in the constitution, and not intrusion, was going to spell Nigeria`s path to stability and development. There have since been six general elections conducted in the country within that time and Nigerians have had the opportunity to see the teething problems of their democracy painted on a giant canvass by a riot of colours. In that time, in electoral battlefields, Nigerians have seen the red of blood and danger, the blues of freedom and the yellow of hope. In that time, it has been a broad spectrum of colours, and riotously so.
And INEC? In that time, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has treaded on water many times, walked into the eye of the storm, reinvented itself only to rinse and repeat the exasperating ritual over and over again. It has been exhausting.
While it is true that in a country of winners adept at triumphalism, and sore losers, the position of umpire is not exactly an enviable one, INEC has not exactly covered itself in glory. There have been instances of verified collusion by INEC with the forces that would thwart the choices Nigerians make for themselves and there have been other odious occasions not inked by integrity issues but by sheer incompetence especially inspired by the suspect reluctance to allow technology do for the Commission and Nigerians what their staff cannot necessarily do for them.
Then there have been the many tweaks to the Electoral Act, with many twigs taken away and many others brought in all to tumultuous debates about the future of elections in Nigeria. The rancorous debates about direct primaries and when political appointees should resign in view of elections point to the 2023.It does not require soothsaying to see how much work is going on behind the scenes.
In 2019, Nigerians who had exchanged salt and wrapper and grains for their votes in 1999, upgraded to collecting 5,000 naira. With the way things are going that amount will not even be enough come 2023.May that day come when electoral pearls are no longer cast before swine in Nigeria come instead.
In 2023, the entire idea of ‘one man, one vote and one voice,” will pivot around the fulcrum of the Permanent Voter Card (PVC) as having it would entitle Nigerians to vote upon accreditation in a country whose citizens have been forced by some shocking governance to harshly come to grips with the necessity of taking their civic responsibilities seriously. Because the wolves prowl and have always prowled.
In a country stacked full with suspicion, INEC has not been spared suspicion and disinformation alongside credible allegations. There have been strong allegations of underage voter registration, of double registration deliberately overlooked and of voter registers with rows and rows of dead voters. Is it out of the electoral process that the ghosts turning Nigeria into a ghost country come?
In 2015, historic elections changed the country`s political trajectory casting the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party which had been in power for sixteen years into the political wilderness and shoving the opposition All Progressives Congress into the corridors of power. The rest they say is history.
Recently INEC Chiarman Mr. Mahmood Yakubu said that 45 per cent of all PVCs in the country were invalid. The statement was recently clarified to indicate that he only meant 45 per cent of new PVC registration. Whichever the case, there is the nagging worry that won’t just go away that many Nigerians will be disenfranchised when the polls open next year. There are also genuine concerns about multiple registration and incomplete data supplied during registration.
INEC has been doing its bit to sensitize Nigerians on why they must register, collect their voter cards and troop out to vote on election day. It is a responsibility Nigerians must take seriously and not leave to those who do not mean well for the country.
Genuine power is hardly ever given on a platter. It is always taken. It can and should be taken civilly. In a democracy, free and fair elections serve as the spoon with which power is scooped from the skillet of politics. To allow apathy to forge the handle of that spoon would be too costly a mistake.