Beyond the charade of February 25 presidential poll

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By Emeka Alex Duru


February 25, 2023 may have gone. But it counts among the dates with significances in Nigeria’s history. Others are October 1, 1960, the Independence Day; January 15, 1966, the day Nigeria witnessed its first military coup; June 12, 1993 the day Nigerians filed out for what had been considered the freest election in the country but the outcome was truncated.

February 25, 2023 has entered that league. It was a day of Nigeria’s presidential election; the day that the hopes by Nigerians for enthroning enduring democratic culture were dashed by Prof Mahmood Yakubu and his Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). President Muhammadu Buhari, is also complicit. Before the fateful date, the President and the INEC Chairman, had fooled Nigerians, promising them free and fair elections. Buhari had pranced about, telling the world that he was working towards instituting a legacy of credible electoral democracy in the land. At every forum, he kept advertising the pledge.

From his end, Yakubu swaggered and beat his chest that the days of election manipulation were over. He had particularly flaunted the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV), as safeguards against rigging. But when it mattered most, it became glaring that neither the President, nor the INEC chair was prepared to keep to those promises. They rather showed that they were accomplices in compromising the poll. Yakubu was nowhere to be seen, while Buhari mocked Nigerians by brandishing his ballot paper, showing that he voted for the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu.

The outcome was expected and quite demoralizing. It is thus not surprising that millions of Nigerians who had queued to vote, especially the youths, many of who had not voted before then, are still in shock. Many have vowed not to participate in March 18 rescheduled governorship and state assembly elections. It is that bad! But you may not entirely blame them for their extreme position. They are hurt. Like a virgin raped by someone she had trusted and looked up to as a mentor, they are disappointed and scared. For them, all the hopes of a better system have melted in the air. Nigeria has done a fatal blow on them and their psyche.

It is all about the crass indiscretion of Yakubu and Buhari. They have murdered sleep in the country and may no longer sleep comfortably. Yakubu’s case is more piteous. Here is a relatively younger intellectual, a historian and scholar of repute given the opportunity to further etch his name in history but he ended up sacrificing such over fleeting cravings.  By this odious outing, he has boldly written his name in the hall of infamy. The INEC chairman has unwittingly trampled on his dazzling academic credentials and years of accomplishments. He has thrown honour to the dogs and has willfully lumped himself among characters that had opportunity to reposition the country but fluffed such over frivolous interests. History has never been fair to such fellows.

But while the issues of the February 25 presidential election are being addressed in relevant quarters, the state elections matter. Ideally, it is the developments at the states that should bother the citizens the most. Among the three tiers of the government – the federal, state and local government, it is the last two that have direct impacts on the people. Every politics is local. In democracy, it is usually at the state level that more actions take place. The federal government is far from the people and can in a way be seen as ‘no man’s land’ but the state belongs to the people. At the end of the day, every Nigerian has a state of origin, by birth or adoption. So, what happens at that level is of great importance to the people and their development.

Over time, due to the long years of military administration and its unitary tendencies, Nigerians have formed the attitude of looking up to the centre for even such basic responsibilities that ordinarily have to do with the councils. Consequently, state governors and other officials at the local level have exploited that oversight among Nigerians to indulge in laziness and frittering the resources around them.

That is the reason why Nigerians should not allow apathy and disillusionment affect their participation in the governorship election. This is an opportunity for them to return those that have good accounts of their stewardship and throw out those that are not performing. Not going out to vote on March 18 because of the charade of February 25 presidential poll, is an endorsement for continuation of bad governance. It was not for nothing that Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher observed that; “The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”

The state elections mean a lot to Nigerians. The great feats of the nation’s past leaders, especially in the First and Second Republics, were attained at the state and regional levels. It was not with federal powers that Sir Ahmadu Bello, built the groundnut pyramids and carried out the agriculture revolution in the Northern Region. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, gave the Western Region the push in infrastructure development with the men and materials in the zone. Within its short period of existence, Dennis Osadebay, transformed the Mid-West by looking inwards.

In the East, it took the audacity and foresight of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and the late Premier of the Region, Dr. Michael Iheonukara (M.I) Okpara to lift the area from near ground zero, such that by 1964, it was described as the fastest growing economy in the world by Harvard Reviews. The surge in development was a product of conscious planning, anchored on visionary leadership and clear-cut agenda for service.

The good story continued in the Second Republic, with Sam Mbakwe in Imo State and Lateef Jakande (Lagos State), among other instances. Such can still be replicated in the states. The personnel and resources abound and are waiting to be tapped and appropriately deployed. It only requires Nigerians to look beyond the travesty of February 25, and vote in men and women of good conscience to pilot the affairs at the state level.

*DURU is the Editor, TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos