Noah Dallaji canvasses for a free and credible elections                                                                             

 Ahead of the 2023 general elections, it has become imperative for Nigerians of all hues to come together and be decisive on the need to ensure we conduct a peaceful, free, fair and credible election. This is my humble conviction and irreducible expectation from all patriots who desire the finest ideals of democracy founded on peaceful choice and well established on sound credibility. Without question, there are fears in the land particularly that of possible violence which could mar the exercise but the good news is that such pockets of aberrant behavior would still not be strong enough to tarnish the outcome. Yet, it is a matter of concern and everything should be done to curtail any form of violence during the elections.   

Let me duly recognize and appreciate the efforts so far made by various individuals, bodies and organizations including the institutions and agencies of government saddled with the task of ensuring peaceful and transparent elections. From the noble political will exhibited by signing the new electoral laws by President Muhammadu Buhari to the innovative stewardship of the INEC leadership to the major views and observations by leaders of thought and indeed the painstaking work of the General Abdulsalami Abubakar-led-National Peace Committee, the Police, civil society, candidates of the political parties and allied stakeholders, we are all concerned to have a good election.

However, as it has been well established over time, a critical aspect of all elections anywhere is the process. This is important and must be properly taken into consideration. Thus the integrity of elections has a lot to do with the process, taking into account what transpired before, during and after elections, all of which affect the transparency and credibility of such elections. These are the issues before all participants in the 2023 general elections beginning from the presidential and national assembly stanza which comes up on the 25th of February. Even with the pointed remarks by President Buhari that all eyes are on the Police during the recent inauguration of newly procured NPF operational assets in Abuja, the leadership of the Police is aware that so much is expected of its various formations ahead of the election where they have such critical role to play in ensuring a free and fair election especially by ensuring that the voters and political parties and their agents act in compliance with electoral guidelines.

Interestingly, the Police leadership has been forthcoming in repeated assurances that we are going to have a peaceful election and that they will play their part so honorably. Similar assurance also came from the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Lucky Irabor, who said recently that the military will work closely with the leading agency for electioneering issues towards the success of the 2023 general election. “We are working closely with the police which is the leading agency for electioneering issues. But we equally believe that the operational activities we are conducting will contribute to providing the ambience for peaceful conduct of that exercise”, he stated. Yet, we need to also appeal to the leadership and members of the various political parties to exercise restraint in their actions during and after the elections by being patriotic enough to vote and give peace a chance.

For the resort to any unlawful means to express themselves over any issues during and after the elections should be avoided at all costs because of the implication on our collective sanity as a people. Thus no one should take the law into his/her hands but allow due process to prevail. Of course, the overall success of the election would invariably revolve around the electoral umpire, the INEC. But it is also heart-warming that the Professor Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC has so far done a good job by painstakingly rolling out the modalities and processes that will guide the conduct of the 2023 general election.  All perceived areas of pitfalls have been ironed out and still unrelenting in guarding against any possible technical lapses and otherwise. Thus from the field ad hoc workers to the officials and supervisors, we expect a thorough dignified conduct as examples of credible stewardship that could only show that we are poised for a watershed in our electoral process in the country.

For once the process is right and seen as such, then the outcome is predictable as a well conducted exercise and thus acceptable to all. This is the most important challenge before the INEC and it is believed that the body is aware of this and will live up to expectation of the Nigerian people and international community alike. We must all be careful in whatever we do and no matter our intrinsic interest in this crucial election so that we can all be proud of the outcome, that the results truly represent our expectations. What is important is the need to have a free and fair election that truly tallies with the wishes of the electorate who actually cast their votes according to their wishes.

More than ever, this year’s election poses an unusual competition for power but at the end of the day, we can only have one president at a time and the 2023 election would not be different. So what this presupposes is the need for all compatriots to act in unison as patriots to ensure that we conduct perhaps the best election in the anal of our political history and let the best candidate win. We must all ensure we protect the sanctity of our constitution by ensuring that democracy prevails no matter the challenges. History beckons and we must seize the moment to be part of that history of a free, fair and credible election in 2023.

Dallaji, President, African Children Talent Discovery Foundation, writes from Abuja

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