Ahead 2023 polls, vital problems to solve
WITH barely nine days before first Decision Day in Nigeria’s forthcoming general elections, the stakes cannot be higher.
Indeed, the die is cast on all crucial parameters. From security scares to logistics concerns, even predictable eleventh-hour mobilisations by parties and their candidates, expectations are fever-pitched with all eyes on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), within and outside Nigeria.
PERHAPS, this is why Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, scored the bull’s eye by charging Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), during a recent in-house assessment session, to key into his commission’s commitment to ensure that the elections are different from all previous exercises in terms of preparations and result.
But the burden is not on INEC alone because while Yakubu’s lips can easily be read, his charge to RECs is not only timely, it also goes to other agencies and interest groups with any role to play in the polls at both governmental and non-governmental levels if the elections will be insulated from banana peels that traditionally slip elections into infamies in Nigeria.
THIS is why, perhaps, anyone yet to come to terms with the dynamics fueling present anxiety among Nigerians is living in a fool’s paradise because the signs are there for all to see.
Given the time available, it is too late to give room for error margins. Hence, at this time, setting new goals for INEC or any other stakeholder agency, such as security agencies, national and international monitoring missions or observers would not help realise the mandate. Rather, the litmus test now is whether INEC and others are good to go. Now, is time for test-running facilities, manpower and machinery to avoid firefighting or stop-gaps at critical times not far away.
THE recent mock accreditation exercise conducted by INEC in selected states nationwide, for instance, among many test cases are crucial because they should serve as benchmarks of preparedness or otherwise.
But even these have generated other worries because, apart from reports of hitches in some places, INEC’s failure to release official results to enable informed appraisal by relevant stakeholders causes eyebrows to rise.
Rather than stopping at just telling Nigerians of Central Bank Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele’s promise to release funds for INEC, the commission should be perfecting strategies of insulating the electoral process from ongoing cash swap shocks.
Similarly, it’s late in day for security agencies to still be talking of deployment of officers and men in plain clothes or undercover duties.
Now is time for muster drills of those already posted to election duty with regard to evaluating their on-the-spot preparedness or responsiveness should emergency arise in and around polling stations, voting booths or collation centres.
Any agency hobbling below this mark by now may come unstuck if its operatives come face-to-face with sophisticated politicians and their win-at-all-cost black market strategies, including vote buying, Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) racketeering, thuggery, ballot box snatching, among others.
ANOTHER hurdle awaiting INEC is testing their kits and the effectiveness of the mechanisms they have put in place for inter-agencies collaboration to remove or reduce rancour and acrimony among the election functionaries because, officials crossing paths in the field can mar the polls.
This factor cannot be over-emphasised as cases of open hostility along this line have in no small measures whittled the credibility of previous polls as agencies accuse each other of double-dealing or partisanship.
At this time, it’s also late for parties and candidates to talk of educating or sensitising the electorate on their symbols and logos as they appear on ballot papers.
It’s time for reality checks on what their followers and other voters had learnt during campaign rallies.
This will surely weigh into reducing, this time around, the phenomenon of void votes that usually come as a result of improper thumb-printing of ballot papers that has become regular feature in elections in the country.
Parties should also, by now, be availing voters with final update on candidates, from the presidential to gubernatorial and legislative flag bearers.
NIGERIANS, especially those who registered and obtained their PVCs, should also know that it’s too late to give room for lapses that may put them in panic mode in the two set of polls, barring need for runoffs.
Rather, it’s time to keep their PVCs at conspicuous places where they may easily be found and picked-up on February 25 and March 11 or any other day or days as may be necessary.
Qualified voters with PVCs should ensure that their cards are not compromised as that could lead to rejection by the Bimodal Voting and Accreditation System (BIVAS).
People should also not disenfranchise themselves by scheduling travels that can hinder them from being near where they registered to vote.
Anyone who knowingly or unknowingly inconveniences himself or herself on this count should blame nobody or complain of whatever outcome the exercise produces.
WHERE these necessities are adequately addressed, the gauntlet goes to governments and interest groups at all levels, from national to state and community, even parties and candidates, to ensure that not only is the machinery for peace and unity rolled out amid current cantankerous exchanges by vigorously campaigning politicians, but also to keep oiling them to deliver peace in our various localities, before, during and after the elections.
Towards this, security agents and members of communities should have identified and marked out flashpoints of violence and individuals whose stock in trade is causing crisis in society with a view to nip every potential for violence in the bud, because corollaries of slipping on this duty is anyone’s guess.
The condemnable incident that happened during a Labour Party’s campaign in Lagos on Saturday, February 11, is a sable reminder.
ONE more hurdle to cross is the need to rid the polity of scaremongering.
Yes, everybody has their constitutional right of free speech but this does not extend to heating up society by baseless allegations and conspiracy theories.
This is why National Light not only commends invitation of one-time Minister of Aviation, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, by Department of State Service (DSS) on Monday, but also recommends proper investigation of his allegations and ultimate prosecution if lacking merit.
Among other things, it will send danger signals to others still lurking around with their own red herrings. Indeed, all hands must be on deck if Nigeria will not only get it right but raise the bar in the year’s elections.
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