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Factors That Shaped The 2023 Presidential Elections…



Why Nigerians Must Vote For Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu/Kashim Shettima Ticket On Saturday

By Bola Bolawole

[email protected] 0807 552 5533

Those who vote decide nothing; those who count the votes decide everything- Josef Vissarionovich Stalin, USSR dictator (18 December, 1878 – 5 March, 1953).

He who comes to equity must come with clean hands. He who seeks equity must do equity.

Stalin made his statement quoted above decades ago but it is as fresh as if it was made this morning; not only in respect of the ongoing 2023 elections but with every election we have ever had. We have changed the name of the election umpire multiple times; that has changed nothing. Even when we affix “Independent” onto the name, it has not made the body any less dependent on the vices and powers-that-be that control elections here. The June 12, 1993 elections that dared to be different, where the voters dared to decide, had the decision annulled by those who superintend those who counted the votes. We have improved on technology while neglecting those who will manage the technology only to gnash our teeth in anguish in the end. Every election umpire has promised a free and fair election; they have regaled us with their faultless and fool-proof preparations and we have gone to bed happy and satisfied that, this time around, they would get it right. Fa-fa-fa foul!

Politicians have signed peace accords; they have pledged to play by the rule but ere the ink dries on the agreement paper, they have always, usually, retreated to the inner recesses of their closets to plot how to rig the election. As a journalist, I have seen a lot! As in war, truth is the first casualty in politics, especially during election time. Politicians deliberately; in fact, as a rule, weave and slam big lies on opponents. When a politician stands on the rooftop to scream that his opponents are perfecting plans to rig an election, note that he has just perfected his own rigging plans and is only trying to divert attention from himself! Quote me: Hardly will you find a Nigerian politician who prepares for an election without perfecting a rigging plan to boot. They all rig – or attempt to rig – elections. They and their supporters rig elections where they have the means and capabilities. The only difference is that the capabilities and capacities to rig differ. Money plays a big role. Strong structures are also helpful. Where you are stronger than your opponents on ground, there you have a better chance to get away with blue murder. So, I am not deceived when one politician accuses another of election-rigging; he has only been bettered and or outsmarted, not that he, too, did not rig or try to rig!

ALSO READ: BREAKING: INEC Declares Tinubu Winner Of 2023 Presidential Election

How, then, can we get rid of election-rigging in Nigeria? Our focus now must be not on machines (which have failed us again and again and which will still fail us repeatedly) but on the human elements. Let us listen to Stalin. Those who count the votes should now be the focus. We thought we could use machines to circumvent them; on the contrary, they are the ones who have always succeeded in circumventing the machines we procure at humongous amounts. Machines will always be machines, no matter how perfect they are. Even if they are robots, human beings are the ones that will still operate them and give them commands. Until we as human beings decide to do the right thing, nothing will work; even at that, politicians will still try to gain undue advantage over one another. We have seen that in operation again and again even in an advanced democracy like the United States; only that it may not be as blatant and naked as we have them here. So, never mind the self-righteous pontifications of foreign election monitors; rigging takes place even in their own elections!

Let the politicians come to equity with clean hands – all of them without an exception – unlike in the present situation where one covers his own lapses but draws attention to the lapses of others. I was amazed to see video evidence of child-voting in the South-east; an aberration that, supposedly, was the exclusive preserve of the North has now spread to the South-east!

This view may be unpopular but I think we were too much in a hurry to adopt universal adult suffrage, a milestone which took other democracies centuries to attain one step after another. Property, education, gender, citizenship and age were some of the criteria that qualified people to vote in elections before universal adult suffrage became the norm. Here, we have hordes of people who do not even understand what is at stake; yet, we line the uninformed up every election cycle to vote. Vote for what? What decisions can they make? Certainly, such decisions cannot be informed. Until only those who are capable of making informed decisions and who have a mind of their own are those qualified to participate in elections in Nigeria, we shall not get out of the woods.

So, we must start by educating our people; that should be non-negotiable. If we make educational qualification a prerequisite for voter eligibility, our leaders will be forced to pay adequate attention to the education of their people. If we also introduce some element of property or tax qualification, that will also compel our leaders to pay adequate attention to providing gainful employment to our teeming unemployed youths.

By the time you are reading this, the full results of the elections may have been declared; bad losers may have rejected it; they may then proceed to heat up the polity, threaten to unhinge this longest-running democratic cycle and let all hell loose. That would be understandable if it is unfortunate, hare-brained, and self-defeatist. The Third Force that has performed so admirably and so unexpectedly in many quarters will shoot itself in the leg if it misreads and or misjudges the situation; if it does, it will irreparably damage the Movement that has propelled it thus far and many will respond by scattering away from it. But I will not be surprised if desperation and frustration push the Third Force to tip over.

For one, this is their best-ever effort, best-ever opportunity to snatch the prize. As the economists would say, ceteris paribus, other things being equal; all the lines fell in nice places for the Third Force in this election; yet, they still fell short of winning the coveted prize. When will they have another of such opportunities again? If their opponents are not fools, this scare should drive them to the drawing board. Besides, as it appears the Third Force may win some states even as they have done in the National Assembly, whether they will make a difference from the other members of the ruinous, rapacious and oppressive ruling class will soon be made known to their supporters. Dreams die quickly and passions fade! Read Ghanaian novelist, Ayi Kwei Armah’s “The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born”

As I close, let me list out the factors that influenced the just-concluded presidential election. One: the terrible performance of President Muhammadu Buhari, whose eight years in office have been dismal. Even when it was apparent to many that Buhari’s administration had been hijacked from Day One by elements called cabals, many still held accountable the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is widely seen as having made it possible for Buhari to become president. Two: To make matters worse, the Buhari administration orchestrated Naira and fuel scarcity weeks to the election, causing suffering on a magnitude never before experienced in this country. The suffering still continues as we speak. APC leaders unprecedentedly had to break ranks with the president as they described the two insufferable policies as a deliberate attempt by the sitting government to incite and turn voters against their party and presidential candidate. Three: The #ENDSARSNOW Movement played a prominent role in this election. They may not have fully avenged their defeat and alleged brutal massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate but they have succeeded in inflicting enough embarrassment, punishment and damage on their perceived opponents. Four: Muslim/Muslim ticket: The Christian community may not have had their way because, surprisingly and most embarrassingly, they fought the right battle in the wrong and pig-headed manner; they, nonetheless, took their pound of flesh. Fifth: All the old foes that Tinubu thrashed on his road to stardom waited for him as sentinel at the doorpost of his own success – Obasanjo, Adebanjo, Yoruba nation protagonists, estranged godsons, Lagos for Lagosians Movement, to mention but a few. Sixth: Tinubu’s Frankenstein monsters of Area Boys and Girls who have become a daily menace to Lagosians turned many Lagosians against APC/Tinubu. Seventh: How do you explain that whereas the APC is said to have over two million registered members in Lagos – even if it was only a million – yet, it recorded only a little over half-a-million votes in the presidential election? This is worse than voter apathy. There is rebellion in the air!

So, it was not Obi or the Igbo per se that trounced Tinubu in Lagos; rather, it was largely the Yoruba themselves that chose to provide the whip with which their stubborn son was chastised in the open. The fault lines were there in 2015; it grew wider in 2019 and now it has become a crater. In 2015 and 2019, they ignored the fault lines and survived; will they this time around?

Last word: The declaration of Tinubu as president-elect early this morning by INEC will most likely dampen the morale of his opponents while serving as tonic and elixer for his supporters. Together with bandwagon effects that usually accompany presidential elections here, we may expect the APC win to play the role of a game-changer in subsequent elections; especially so if the opposition parties continue to dissipate their energy crying over spilled milk rather than taking the positives from the election and forging ahead. Congratulations, President-elect Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu!

* Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.


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