President Buhari has vowed that he will bequeath to Nigerians, a free and fair election that will ensure peaceful transmission of power from his regime to the next regime. This seems to be a pay back to Nigerians for the favour Buhari received from his predecessor, President Goodluck Jonathan, who not only organised an acceptable election that saw the emergence of Buhari as President, but called Buhari to congratulate him on his victory even before the entire results were out. This, Jonathan did, to forestall the outbreak of violence from his admirers and supporters who may not accept the outcome of the election that led to the defeat of a sitting President of Nigeria the first time in history. Buhari had contested the presidential election three times before 2015 presidential election. He even officially retired from active politics in 2011 when he lost the presidential election to the same President Jonathan. President Buhari never conceded defeat to any of his opponents for the three times he lost the presidential election. He challenged his loss in the courts and lost all.

Goodluck Jonathan accepted his defeat in good fate and refused to challenge the outcome in court. He lived up to his philosophy that no politician’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. This must have been a turning point for Buhari, who advocated mass action to protest Obasanjo’s victory over him in 2003. His threat of violence whenever he lost election led to some shedding of blood by some of his supporters to protest the loss. He seemed to have learned some lessons from Jonathan’s historic attitude. Jonathan even rose to become one of his reliable foreign envoys in Nigeria’s mediation efforts in some troubled West African countries that have witnessed democratic setbacks through military coups and intervention. Jonathan rose from being a political pariah in 2015 when he lost the election to a highly respected international statesman that has become the toast of the world community because of the display of sportsmanship in his loss to Buhari as a sitting African President. The meteoric rise to stardom by Jonathan must have had a salutary effect on Buhari hence his vow to deliver a free and fair election to Nigerians.

Free, fair and periodic election is the main pillar of democracy. It is on the foundation of free and fair election that democracy is built. When we define democracy as the government of the people, we are referring to free and fair election as the main weapon with which the people constitute the government. When the Constitution declares that sovereignty belongs to the people, it’s by the instrumentality of free and fair election that such sovereignty is acquired. When we say it’s the people that employ the politicians, it’s free and fair election that bestows such power on the people. When we say we want a peaceful transfer of power from one leader or party to the other, we are talking about free and fair election. Without free and fair election, it’s safe to conclude that there’s no democracy. The surest determination of a free and fair election is the assurance that all votes will be counted and all votes count.  

The imperative of a free and fair election in 2023 cannot be over emphasised when one considers our current situation. Our country is racing speedily towards extreme poverty, misery and state collapse. More than 133.3million citizens do not have access to good sanitation, basic nutrition, quality healthcare, basic education and employment. They are said to be suffering from multi-dimensional poverty. More than 54% of Nigerian youths are unemployed. The inflation rate is more than 22%. The naira exchanges now for N750.00 per a dollar. Fuel scarcity is rife, as citizens buy fuel at N500.00 per litre in black market. Power supply is epileptic as national grid collapse is regular. Infact mortality is still the highest in the world. Insecurity is legendary as kidnapping, terrorism and banditry have not abated. Men use their wives and daughters as ransom to placate the terrorists to avoid them being killed or humiliated.

Inter agency rivalry has worsened considerably as the Central Bank Governor was recently a target of arrest by the DSS that prompted his approaching the court to protect his fundamental human right. Even the security agencies are not spared from these rivalries as the Inspector-General of Police has been on a running battle with the Police Service Commission over Police recruitment, promotion and discipline without an end in sight. Ibrahim Magu, former EFCC Chairman was publicly arrested on the road and brought before a panel of inquiry for corruption allegation because of perceived rivalry between him and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and the DSS which never wanted him appointed in the first place. He was unceremoniously removed from the office of Acting Chairman of EFCC on the pretense that he had questions to answer on his stewardship of the Commission. Till date, nothing has been heard of the result of the findings of the panel of inquiry which cost the Federal Government tax payer’s money to investigate. Magu had since returned back to his police job and has even been promoted. Apart from using the instrumentality of the allegation of corruption to remove Magu, there seems not to be any other objective of his traducers. So we have a problem of a sick nation run by a dishonest and incompetent leadership who are willing to sacrifice national interest for self and selfish interests.

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This is on the background of the fact that our country is one of the most blessed countries in the world. It has about 923,000 km`2 of arable land of which only about 2.5% is cultivated. It has about 850 km of coastal line, enough to make us a maritime superpower. We have solid and liquid minerals in oil and pure gold enough to make us one of the richest countries on earth. We have our rich cattle economy that can produce enough milk for our consumption and export. We have clement whether that can guarantee that we work all year round without being interrupted by violent tornadoes and hurricanes. But the evil leaders that have been leading us have turned our land that ought to be flowing with milk and honey to be flowing with tears and blood.

Nigerians appear to be fed up with these crop of leaders who have been around since 1992 and want a new beginning. They understand that the only power they have is free and fair election. The awareness of the need for a change is so endemic that most Nigerians don’t seem to be bothered anymore with premodial sentiments of ethnicity and religion. For them, bringing a new government is all about survival. This is why free and fair election in 2023 is imperative. The main reason the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be careful with free and fair election in 2023 is that the window of opportunity to peacefully change our government is fast closing up. Degradation and deprivation are prevalent in the land. Banditry, insurgency, terrorism, kidnapping and other anti-social behaviour are more or less functions of the social pressures for crime created by these deprivations. Free and fair election will create a new hope and lease of life to the traumatised souls of Nigerians.

The collection of PVCs is the guarantee to vote by the citizens. Without PVC the citizen cannot vote. There was an obvious surge of willing voters, especially the youths, at the prospect of a new set of leaders emerging in 2023 with the entrance of new set of politicians with character, competence and capacity in relatively not very known and not very popular political platforms. Their entrance instantly raised the profile of such parties and catapulted them to limelight. You can imagine the frustration in the faces of these youths when they couldn’t access their PVCs. Some compromised and corrupt INEC Officials demand bribes before giving out the PVCs to their owners; some other INEC officers simply close offices earlier than allowed while some others simply refuse to give citizens of certain ethnic stock their PVCs to deplete their numbers in states other than their ancestral homes. All these monkey tricks can cause breakdown of law and order as they attract fierce resistance from the ordinary citizens of Nigeria who do not want to be disenfranchised. INEC must do everything within its powers to ensure that every registered citizen collects his PVC as any attempt to refuse them will amount to voter suppression which may lead to an uproar and unwanted threat to our peace and tranquility.

Fuel scarcity is another threat to free and fair election. With vehicular movement hindered, the sensitive and non-sensitive materials for the election cannot be adequately and promptly delivered to their destinations on time. In addition, voters and commuters will not be able to easily move from one location to the other. It’s regrettable that despite the trillions of Naira paid for oil subsidy by the APC government, we are now experiencing acute fuel scarcity. A lot of pundits believe that this is indicative of suspicion of sabotage against the 2023 general election. It’s already causing breakdown of law and order as riots and protests are already hitting some places in Nigeria. The authorities must address this issue speedily. No Nigerian will tolerate any issue that will prevent the emergence of a new Nigeria.

Redesigning of the naira has also been fingered as another possible threat to 2023 election. Some citizens believe that the redesigning of the naira is targeted towards discouraging vote buying, others claim that it was targeted towards suppressing their votes. Tinubu has accused Buhari’s government of trying to use all these measures to scuttle the 2023 election and suppress his votes. Whichever side of the divide one is sympathetic to, the government should embark on measures to restore normalcy in the system and provide a level playing field to every citizen. This election is too important and too emotional to be left to chance. It’s imperative on all Nigerians to rise up and contribute to the emergence of a new Nigeria through new leadership. Collect your PVC, vote wisely, defend your vote and usher in a new Nigeria.