Following the monumental flaws associated with the conduct of the February 25 and March 18, 2023 elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the electoral wars have as usual shifted to the electoral tribunals where it is believed that justice will be done. Nigerians, especially those affected by the flawed polls, have strong faith that the judiciary is still the last hope of the common man. They still believe that the high priests at the temple of justice will remedy the wrongs of the worst election ever conducted in the history of Nigeria.

Before going further on this aspect of the article, it is important to review the conduct of the February 25 presidential and national assembly elections as well as the March 18 governorship and state assembly polls from the point of view of an objective observer as well as a voter during the exercise. Apart from the technical glitches, which INEC admitted, the election was marred in all departments including security of voters, inability to transmit results through BVAS on real time, vote buying and falsification of election results. In some states, INEC ad hoc staff were held hostage while some political actors decided the outcome of the election. Some people were killed in the elections across the country. Thugs had a field day in Lagos and other states where election became wars that must be won at all costs. In Nigeria, election is no longer a celebration of democracy, it has been turned into a day of ethnic strife, a day of blood and violence and death simply because some political actors want to remain in power perpetually or put their puppets to succeed them.

The 2023 election was reminiscent of the 1983 election in terms of rigging, violence and other electoral malfeasance. Our poll is a setback for democracy in Africa. In an earlier article, I had described the February poll as controversial, contentious and highly flawed despite the billions of naira given to INEC to ensure a seamless election. Instead of correcting the lapses of the February 25 exercise, they were intensified in states like Lagos, Rivers, Kano and elsewhere during the March 18 poll. In Lagos, the Igbo were threatened and disenfranchised based on mere suspicion that they would not vote for the All Progressives Congress (APC). Other Nigerians who look like the Igbo including some Yoruba and people from the South-South were given the same ethnic treatment.

The ethnic slurs that characterized the poll were unnecessary and highly condemnable. The outburst of one Bayo Onanuga against the Igbo was infantile, insulting and unexpected of a person of his stature. Such inflammable rhetoric is capable of plunging the country into another civil strife. It is baffling that someone who had visited Rwanda after the massacre of the Tutsi will make the incendiary comments and ethnic profiling of the Igbo. His attack on Ndigbo is an attack on Nigeria’s sovereignty and oneness. It questions the citizenship of the Igbo in Lagos and removes the Igbo rights to reside in any part of the country and their civic right to vote and be voted for guaranteed in the 1999 Nigerian constitution. Bayo Onanuga and his co-travellers should be advised that Nigeria did not begin and end in Lagos. There is Lagos, there is Enugu, there is Abuja, there is Aba and there is Port Harcourt and other Nigerian cities where all Nigerians live and vote freely. Lagos is not as special or important as he thinks. One can live and survive without Lagos. All those boasting with Lagos today should remember that Lagos is what it is today because of oil money from mainly Eastern Nigeria and a few places in Delta and Ondo states used in developing it by Gen. Yakubu Gowon and others before the Nigerian capital moved to Abuja in the 1990s. Let’s not forget our history in a hurry.

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The economy of Lagos is good not because of these tribesmen claimants of Lagos but because of its cosmopolitan nature. It is not true that only the Yoruba that welcome other people to their region. Other regions welcome others too. Apart from Lagos, the Yoruba are all over the country and nobody has threatened them during elections or instructed them who to vote. Enough of this nonsense. It will not be tolerated again. It is either we are one country or we go our separate ways. It is as simple as that. If one Nigeria means threatening the Igbo in Lagos, let it go so that we can live apart in peace forever. The police should apprehend those who perpetrated election violence on the Igbo and other Nigerians in Lagos and Rivers states and prosecute them, including those that made ethnic profiling comments. Nobody is above the law. The voter intimidation and suppression in Lagos was unprecedented and those behind it must be tried for electoral offences. Those that committed the same electoral infractions in Kano, Enugu and Imo states should be arrested and tried immediately. The United States (US), United Kingdom (UK) and other foreign countries should impose visa ban on political actors and their aides that were responsible for the electoral violence and voter suppression in Lagos and other states. People who suppress the right of other Nigerians to participate in an election simply because of their ethnicity or religion must not be allowed to visit democratic countries like the US, UK and others either for tourism or medical attention or whatever. The evils of the 2023 polls are so huge that I have doubts that the judiciary will cleanse the Augean stable. Already the Labour Party (LP) and its presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi; the Action Alliance (AA) and its presidential candidate, Mr. Solomon Okangbuan, and Allied People’s Movement (APM) and its presidential candidate, Princess Chichi Ojei have challenged the declaration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as the winner of the 2023 presidential election, at the Court of Appeal, Abuja. In the same vein, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has also challenged Tinubu’s victory at the tribunal.

The APC victory is being challenged on grounds of substantial non-compliance with the electoral law, as well as the guidelines of the Independent National electoral commission (INEC). Another ground of appeal is that the February 25 presidential election was allegedly characterized by huge irregularities and electoral malpractices following INEC’s failure to electronically upload results immediately from its polling units to the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IREV). There are other issues in their appeal. With the contentious governorship and state assembly polls, it is likely that the judiciary is the next place to wage the electoral wars. Lawyers are getting ready for the legal fireworks. Will the judiciary live up to the expectations of Nigerians or will justice be given to the highest bidder? Will the matters drag for years that the litigants will become weary and allow the matters to be judged by God? Will the cases be easily dismissed on technicalities as we had witnessed in the past? Are we going to see another era of contentious and embarrassing rulings that defy elementary logic?

Regardless of the outcomes of the various judicial interventions in the 2023 flawed polls, we shall begin to interrogate our nationhood, whether it is desirable the way it is or not and how best to remedy the situation. If our oneness will lead to ethnic cleansing of the Rwanda dimension, let us disintegrate peacefully. If our electoral contest has become a war and the outcome not determined by the wishes of the voters, let’s try selection of our president, governors and national and state assembly members and save the billions of naira wasted on elections every four years.

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