Advisories for 2023 Elections

femi Akintunde-Johnson

The journey of a thousand miles, however arduous, usually starts with a few tentative steps. The long-standing anticipation of what has promised to be the most pivotal, game-changing of general elections since the creation of this nation is just merely a week away. For close to four years we have huffed and puffed about a unique power transition process which offers a plethora of professional or technocratic politicians without a hint of military background to remind us of our inglorious past. Since the middle of last year when the major presidential candidates emerged, Nigerians have witnessed a series of actions, gaffes, disclosures, allegations, fumblings, and some moments of brilliance and flurry of “incredible” promises and changes. It has been a busy eight months.

  However, the focus of this article is much less outlandish. It simply asks us to observe certain etiquettes and public behavior that will augur well in frustrating the designs of “fifth columnists” and traders of chaos and anarchy. If we do not want cancellations of polls, either in isolated cases, or generally, we must exercise wisdom, clarity of mind and one-tunnel purpose in seeing to the delivery of a “free, fair and credible” election on 25 February and 11 March, 2023…by the grace of God, and the transparent impartiality and administrative nous of our Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

  The most powerful idea that should populate our minds should be a keenly contested race with a breathtaking climax that leaves all comers panting in exhaustion of a great, fervent and untainted suffrage. Even when we are unhappy with the results, we should be satisfied with the process and the conduct of the elections. Therefore, it is important that with less than a week to the end of campaigns, we should revisit the credentials, posturings, promises, positions and manifestos of all current political contenders within our purview – and not just presidential candidates. Let us also interrogate the supposed accomplishments of sitting governors and legislators, and the counter submissions of fresh candidates…no stone (read politician) should be left unturned.

  In the process of engaging the already charged political moments, and ‘deities’, it is advisable to differentiate between arguments and discussions. The notion of argument is inherently negative, especially in Nigeria where we engage in all sorts of diatribes on social media and networks with the primary aim of only waiting for the opposer to land, so that you can upload your counter argument. The essence  is not to convince or persuade, but to eviscerate and humiliate the opposer into submission, with all sorts of rhetorical gimmicks – including innuendos, lampoons, blatant abuses, and veiled threats and curses. If you must engage, do not go that route. Let us discuss…a notion that gives itself to mutual respect and healthy conversation. You may not persuade your “opponents” to vote for your preference, but you are not likely to end up as sworn enemies infected by Nigerian politics. 

  In all your arguments, discussions and personal campaigns, whether online or offline, when the legal closure of all campaigns are announced (23 February for national, and 9 March for state elections), it is advisable that you also resist the urge to continue. If you desire a government and leadership that obey and respect the rule of law and hope to foster strong institutions, then you ought to follow by example – just as you expect politicians to lead by example.

  While on the trail of leading by example, let us also show moderation and common sense in the way we “market” our candidates and preferred parties, and how we “demarket” others. See, your lovely but loudly branded t-shirts, caps and other garments do not sway committed or uncommitted voters – there are many other factors that can achieve that. Do not therefore endanger your own well being by wearing and strutting across town in politically branded clothings which, admittedly, is your fundamental human right – yet wisdom dictates that even if you believe where you are is a safe zone for your preferred party, there is a possibility of a minority clutch of ultras, irresponsible enough to be outraged by your “effrontery”, deciding they need to “put you in your place”. See, you do not need an army of miscreants to start a mayhem. Be careful not to light a needless dynamite fuse.

  A corollary of that is mocking supporters of opposing parties while frolicking towards a “mega rally” in a mass of joyous co-travellers – especially on routes that are considered a “no man’s land”. Be circumspect – for your return journey may not be as warm and wholesome for your people could have scattered into different directions, leaving only a few of you marooned in the “lion’s den” – isolated and easily manhandled, if not worse.

  Similarly, when your party or preferred candidates invite you to rallies located in areas you perceive as opposition enclaves, and where prior to the day of the rallies, the atmosphere is heavy with threats and possible attacks, do your best to not make real their sick wishes – stay away. Campaigns are essentially fun spots and opportunities for picnic outings where supporters celebrate their leaders, and conversely, leaders show off the size of their supportership. Rallies are not persuasion points, neither are there any polling booths there. Stay alive to partake in the actual elections.

  Your permanent voter’s card (PVC) is your ticket to a great show or a flop that will run for four years, depending on how you use it. We all know it is important…more now than before. If, as you read this article, you have not collected your PVCs, and you are a fresh registrant, we advise that you still maintain peace, purpose and patience. Do not concoct conspiracy theories, though you are aggrieved, understandably, by what seems an effort to disenfranchise you. Keep your eyes on the ball – seek means and peaceful protestations to make your case clear and noted. Your focus is a redress, and getting your PVCs. Muddying the waters or threatening the process in one corner of the country would not profit you, or the system – and will likely not have any significant effect on the outcome of the election. Be heard, be firm, be tenacious – but do not attempt to sabotage the process.

  For example, if you know that you have registered twice, whatever the circumstances leading to the need to re-register, and you were not aware that you simply could have asked to transfer your polling units to your new residence…whatever the reason that made you register twice, it is impossible for INEC to reissue you another card. You have simply invalidated your right to vote. Of course, there are enough reasons to query why INEC and its system could fail in preventing double registration. Ideally, any biometric system should have  a fault-proof mode that can detect multiple registration attempts and therefore refuse to allow the input of the same name, date of birth, and such personal details earlier registered. A good system would tell a would-be offender, ignorant or not, that he or she is about to commit a crime, and should thereafter do the needful: request for transfer. However, it is not so for now; therefore, let the offender stop abusing INEC, heating up the polity – and confess his error or foolhardiness. Hopefully, the error could be corrected during another voter registration update. It is too late to cry now.

(To Continue)

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