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Countdown To 2023 Polls
Published Feb 23, 2023 IN Features, Politics,
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ALL too soon, Nigerians, easily one of the most resilient people on planet Earth, appear set for the 2023 general polls for the election of their political leaders at the state and national levels. At the state level, the polls are for the election of state governors and state lawmakers, while at the national level, the electorate will poll to decide their president and the members of bicameral National Assembly (the Senate and the House of Representatives).

Despite the fact that not all of Nigeria’s states (will respect to state governors) fall within the current cycle of elections, voters in all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, and the 774 local government areas are expected to poll in the cycle of staggered polls which kick off with the vital presidential module.

The 2023 cycle of general elections, which are the eighth in the segment of cyclic general national polls since the return to civil rule in the country after the 1999 (held by the administration of Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar); the 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019 and now the 2023 (the one in view and currency), have some peculiarities to them. They include the following:

(a) Unprecedented Deployment of Technology

The set of polls, under the 2023 cycle of gen­eral elections, appears set to set a record in national democratic evolution by the massive deployment of appropriate technology in their conduct. For the first time in Nigeria’s national history, technology (by way of BVAS – the bimodal tech­nology that captures the finger print and faces of voters for the purpose of accreditation) will play a significant role in the conduct – especially accredi­tation – of voters at the polling units. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the midwife of the polls, says BVAS (which it experiment­ed with in last year’s governorship poll in Osun state), will be deployed in all units during the polls, as well as deploying the relevant technology for the electronic transmission of election results to every collation unit. INEC says the deployment of BVAS and the resort to the electronic module of result transmission will help weed out, or, at worse, reduce, the perceived opaqueness in the process and enhance credibility. Whether this expectation, as espoused by INEC, of enhanced transparency will turn out to be realistic will only be known after the polls have been done with, given persisting controversies around the Osun guber poll which it (INEC) used as a guinea pig for the technology.

Whatever the outcome, the resort to BVAS and electronic transmission module by INEC depicts the desire of the commission to enhance the transpar­ency of the conduct of its activities relating to parties candidates and elections.

(b) Same-Faith Ticket Again

The 2023 polls also have the unique feature of being the third attempt by Nigerian politicians, parties and candidates to market the same-faith ticket and the philosophy behind it. This trend (of same faith ticket) – began in 1979 when Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Owelle of Onitsha, ran on the same ticket with Prof Audu Og­beh – both being professed practicing Christians, on the ticket of the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP). They lost in the poll which was won, in still controversial circumstances, by Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), whose main rival, Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), later challenged the outcome at the Supreme Court. The court, in ruling, held that the NPN won but in reaching its decision on the vexed issue of what constituted 12 2/3 of Nigeria’s 19 states (Nigeria comprised 19 states then), ordered that its controversial ruling must not be cited as an authority. You see wahala?

The trend of the same faith ticket resurrected in 1993, when, in the presidential poll of that year, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) fielded both muslims – Basorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe against the National Republican convention (NRC) which fielded Alhaji Tofa and Sylvester Ugo.

Again, in spite of the field reports stoically point­ing to an unprecedented SDP victory, the flagbear­ers were never officially declared winners after the military junta of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida annulled the poll – considered the most transparent in Nigeria’s national history – for still hazy reasons.

The resurgence of the same-faith ticket in the All Progressives Congress (APC) flagbearers – Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Ibrahim Shettima – and the furore it has generated in the polity and Christendom depict us as a nation, a people, still struggling to deal with primordial elements of their political culture, including religion.

The outcome of the presidential poll will, aside all else, determine how much Nigerians are at home with the idea of same-faith ticket.

(c) Departure from two Horse Race Syndrome

In a way, the 2023 elections also depict a breakaway from our national experience with two major parties’ syndrome. In the First Republic, it was between the Action Group (AG) and the NCNC (National Congress of Nigeria and Cameroun) with the latter winning the national elections. In 1979, it was between the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). After the long military interregnum and the eventual restitution of civil rule, it was between the SDP (Social Democratic Party) and the National Republican Convention (NRC), both decreed into existence by the military. Since 1999, the contest has been between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) which featured renowned Economist, Chief Olu Falae, as its presidential flagbearer. Following its loss in the election, the ANPP (the remnants of it), together with the reformed Alliance for Democracy (AD) and other fringe parties formed the All Progressives Congress (APC) which, in 2015, wrested presidential power from the PDP. Ever since, the contests had always been between both major parties (APC and PDP), with APGA (the All Progressive Grand Alliance), a distant fringe operator in solitary Anambra State.

However, the 2023 presidential and other polls appear set to create a new reality of a truly multi-party polity. This is because, unlike before, the APC and PDP are now contending with the Labour Party (LP), which is fielding former Anambra State gover­nor, Peter Obi, and the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) which has former Kano State Governor, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwanso as flagbearer. The field potency of the new ones - LP and NNPP, but particularly the LP – has made the outcome of the presidential elec­tion one that can go to the wire, and, therefore, totally unpredictable.

(d) Tally of Registrants

With a registration tally of more than 93 million potential voters, the 2023 polls, have set a record in not only the number of perspective voters but also the degree of enthusiasm they have generated and sustained. Aside of the unprecedented tally of regis­trants, INEC has said that a little over 40 per cent (4 in every 10) of the registrants are youths who appear to have woken from slumber and appear set to occupy a befitting place in the polity of the country.

(e) Unprecedented unpredictable social situ­ation

The 2023 set of general polls, by their timing, have equally earned the infamy of holding at a period of adverse socio-economic situation in the country, with a prostrate economy, mounting insecurity, hyperin­flation, petrol scarcity and controversies over the introduction of new Naira notes, the scarcity of which has sentenced Nigerians to permanency of presence at banks and ATM and POS galleries, as core features. How all of these will feature in the voters’ decision and hence the outcome of the elections, will only come to light after INEC announces the outcomes.

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