By Sunday Ani

The Convener of Big Tent, a support group for Obi-Datti Campaign Organisation, and Leader, NCFront, Professor Pat Utomi, has charged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to do everything possible to redeem its image before the world by ensuring that politicians do not jeopardize the credibility of the 2023 general elections.

He noted that INEC could redeem by explaining the effect of politicians buying up the citizens’ voters cards, as well as explaining how the deserted areas like Borno State and several corridors of the insurgency had become the areas of created votes. He also said INEC could achieve that by explaining the issue of underage voting and evidence that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) system is hack-proof.

Utomi, who made the call on Monday at a press conference in Lagos, also charged the electoral body to ensure the return of civility to public life by ensuring that politicians focus on a rational public conversation around issues and building elite consensus on such issues as security and the economy.

He decried the current hardship in the country where Nigerians queue endlessly and fight at petrol stations and Bank Automated Teller Machines (ATM) due to fuel scarcity and currency change processes, respectively, coupled with the gripping poverty which has been weaponised by the traditional political parties for vote buying and voter suppression. “The season of discontent in Nigeria seems so grim and dark. Add to this is corruption that cries to high heavens for the wrath of God, insecurity that is so threatening and inflation that has literally wiped out the income of those who desperately need it.

“It is clear that the future of Nigeria and the oath from this existential crisis that is rocking the soil of our country has to include INEC passing the confidence test, the return of civility to public life, politicians focusing on a rational public conversation around the issues and building elite consensus on issues, especially those around security and the economy,” he stated.

Utomi equally stressed that voting, monitoring and protecting the votes were often where elections were lost in the past because traditional Nigerians politicians had always shown greater commitment to frustrating the will of the people through the investments they make in subverting the results through buying the agents of other political parties, bribing voting agency officials to falsify the vote outcome, and other decency-defying acts that result in thwarting the true outcome of the election.

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“We call on INEC to ensure that this does not happen, by giving more time for the uploading of the party agents, and ensuring that their staff are not compromised. We are also calling for an army of citizen’s observers to man the vote-casting exercise,” he added.

Sounding philosophical, Utomi noted that in times past when Nigeria was at a sorry pass, God intervened in what a foreign journalist, Karl Meier, described his book as a coup from heaven, insisting that today Nigeria is at such a stage where a divine coup is most likely.

He expressed fear that today’s democracy is threatened by voter suppression, which is evident in the discriminatory release of voters’ cards, and the tearing up of posters, billboards and communication materials of opponents.

“It is this lack of civility and violence in politics that is significantly responsible for our best and brightest choosing to avoid politics, usually abandoning the arena for the more mediocre, with grave consequences for the quality of governance we have experienced as a country. I want to invite our friends and partners abroad to consider ostracising all political actors associated directly with poisoning the atmosphere of election campaigns,” he stressed.

Utomi also revealed that Big Tent would start door to door and neighbour-to-neighbour campaign strategy for Labour Party from tomorrow, even as he called on all men of goodwill who want a new Nigeria, and who would show Nigeria the difference between idiots, tribesmen and citizens, to rise up to the occasion and show that a new Nigeria is possible.

“It should be no surprise that we have greater policy clarity. We have spent our time thinking of how to make living better for the people, instead of insulting our rivals as the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) spokespersons seem to be doing; a process that keeps diminishing the presidency and increasing the trust deficit and acceptability of their candidates,” he noted.