By LaBode Obanor
Stunned, stupefied, breathless, and anger overcame many Nigerians after the February 25th general election. In complete slack-jaw disbelief, the people wailed as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) called the election for a divisive polarizing Ashiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
In the days and weeks leading to the election, Nigerians had high hopes and expectations for change and progress in the country. They were excited to exercise their right to vote and make a difference. Many young voters were excited to participate in the process for the first time. Even apathetic voters in the past for once saw a glimmer of hope. Despite allegations of corruption against some of the contestants, they nonetheless were pumped as they deliver their campaign speeches in artistic aplomb.
The day of the election arrived, and people flooded the polling stations with enthusiasm and optimism. It was a record turnout the most ever recorded in Nigeria’s history. According to INEC, 93 million people had registered and are eligible to participate in the election.
Despite delays, logistical failures, and problems with voting materials, Nigerians stood in long queues under the hot sun and in some places, into the night eager to cast their vote and have their voices heard.
However, as the day went on, reports of violence and vote disruptions by gunmen and diehard party and tribal loyalists began to emerge. People were warned against voting for a particular candidate or party. Brazen voter intimidation and threats of violence against voters who fail to comply. In some areas, there were reports of ethnic and tribal solidarity for a candidate of the same tongue or region, widespread inability of INEC officials at the polling station to upload snapshots of election results into the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) which INEC promised will be pivotal in a free, fair and transparent election.
This led to Pervasive rancor and pandemonium as election officials were accused of deliberately jamming the system and preventing the real-time upload of election outcomes.
Many thought INEC’s failure to upload election results will lead to the cancellation of some voting wards or states, however to the dismay of voters INEC was determined on announcing results despite the deviation from election laws pertinent in section 60(5) of the 2022 Electoral Act which states that “..the presiding officer shall transfer the results including total number of accredited voters and the result of the ballot in a manner as prescribed by the commission”. In this case, the BVAS. Which INEC introduced to ensure a credible election. And the law also states that “where there is a technological device failure in any unit, the election in that unit shall be canceled and another election shall be scheduled within 24 hours”.
After days of manually collating bogus results, completely discarding the BVAS, in the wee hours of the fourth day after the election, Mr. Mahmood Yakubu, INEC Chairman announced a winner.
To the astonishment of many, the incumbent party had won the election. The people were left in disbelief, as they had seen firsthand the irregularities and corruption that had taken place during the election. Disillusionment set in as people realized that their votes did not count, and the political system was rigged against them. Yet again.
The main opposition parties PDP and LP vowed to challenge the result while calling for calm and they have been told to seek redress in court.
Never in the history of Nigeria have so many lost faith in the government, in the election, and in the promise that there will be a better Nigeria. The hope for a better future dwindled after INEC, the election umpire intentionally fails to follow its own rules and the law. Notwithstanding the objections and agitations that the announcement be suspended pending a review of device failure and alleged voting fraud, the people’s cries fell on deaf ears as INEC went ahead and declared a winner.
Two weeks have passed since the election and it is unmistakable that Nigerians felt deflated and disillusioned and their frustration has turned into apathy. Many Nigerians I spoke to have stopped caring about politics altogether and vowed never to vote again. And some even concluded that they are doubtful that Nigeria will ever resurrect from its current social political and economic inferno. They believed that their votes did not matter and that the government would do whatever it pleased. Leaving their hope for progress a distant dream.
Although it is without a doubt that many Nigerians feel lethargic and drained, others are asking, have the people learned a harsh lesson? Have they realized that democracy was not just about casting a ballot, but about holding those in power accountable and ensuring that the system was fair and just? And most importantly people must realize that the behavior we exhibit in our immediate lives and sphere of influence every day, the real work of dealing with our fellow citizens, the tolerance of non-tribe and those who speak differently from us, disagreeing with our neighbors and finding compromises with which we can all live together whether we are Fulanis, Igalas or Kanuris.
Knowing that we all have a shared pain and are suffering under the weight of bad leadership then and only then would we have a thriving citizenry and a better democracy that we all can be proud of.
Let the lesson of this election not be that which exhausts us or crushes our spirit but one that revives us in a rallying cry to save our beleaguered nation.
This is an unfortunate experience for Nigerians and they were very hopeful that the INEC will conduct an excellent perfect job only to watch with dismay that their confidence thrown out to the dogs. Massive rigging and ballots found in the bush announcement of wrong old guy as president Coincidentally the president elect is a playmate of chief justice in Nigeria