2023 Elections: History Repeating Itself Hopelessly

Femi Akintunde-Johnson

It is arguably clear that we do not learn, as a people, from history – and we revisit our vomit every four years unfailingly. I recall an article on this column almost the same day four years ago (“2019 Elections: Reflections & Reflex Actions” published by this newspaper on Saturday, 16 March, 2019) that trailed the hiccups and fumbles witnessed by the same electoral body, led by the same helmsman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu. It is almost surreal.

  Let’s take a bet: today, as we commit to electing most of our state governors and legislators, we shall have the same actions and reactions littering the article below, and only characters’ names and states shall be different. And of course, the irreverent interjection of the new Labour Party. The rancour, the tentativeness, the errors and inconclusiveness shall re-echo, even with the almighty bimodal voter accreditation system (BiVAS).

  Then the witch cried a night before the demise of the new baby: just a few hours after the last ‘full stop’ on this piece, INEC struck – with a one-week postponement notice because of lateness in getting a court order to reconfigure BiVAS! Read on, please…:

  “It is now clear to discerning minds that we, as a nation, are a fraud! Our only excuse for stagnating largely in every area of human endeavour is the reality of our geographical size, bigoted ethnicities numbering in hundreds, and the inherent distrust that tenderises our interactions.

 More than any event in recent memory, the 2019 elections (held on February 23 and March 9) have exposed the limitations, lack of positive movement and sporadic germination of a corps of pestilential political actors with the appetite of consuming locusts.

  Our people have been so pauperized mentally and physically that despite ceaseless media campaigns, vote-buying and such self-loathing electoral indiscretions, some of our people readily submit themselves to be deployed as thugs, ballot snatchers, crowd-dispersers, vote pimps, etc. It is now not strange to see some people seeking who would pay for their votes, or the next venue where food items and other trivia would be shared.

 Even our children are no longer innocent. Many of the ad-hoc staff of INEC, who were largely recruited from the NYSC programme, were captured on videos and photographs with their hands and necks deep in the perpetration of heinous acts on behalf of derelict politicians.

 These activities, deplorable and unfortunate as they were, paled in consequence to the calibre and temperament of political actors “democratically” elected to run the affairs of this country for the next four years. How does one get inspired or motivated to believe in a greater nation and much better society, when the drivers of that hope are foisted through a vastly tainted disruptive process of transition? The nation has somehow lost its way, even before the journey had begun. Are we surprised at our low estate, and our seeming resolve not to move an inch away?

 Let us reflect on a few of the damning scenarios thrown up by these elections – perhaps, we are in too much haste to discredit what may indeed turn into a dynamic, though traumatic resurgence. 

 In the past three weeks, this column has attempted to evaluate different actions and situations surprisingly coughed out by the political class, while seeking to understand the possible elements unraveling before our eyes. Going forward, we shall attempt to highlight certain issues and situations that lure us into further existential enquiry.

Hottest Gold Bar Called ‘Inconclusive Election’

  We are perhaps well known for our love of the dramatic, and knack to find an amusing narrative in the most harrowing of human experiences. The ‘reigning’ concept in Nigeria of today is designed by Prof. Mahmood Yakubu’s electoral commission in the conduct of the 2019 governorship election, especially. Out of the 29 states where elections were held last Saturday, INEC has suspended final declaration of winners in at least six states, insisting that elections were ‘inconclusive’ in a number of polling units, and must be repeated. Rivers’ election was summarily cancelled because of widespread violence and other criminal acts, without a new date in sight.

 Most neutrals may accept the argument of INEC based on Part 4, Section 26 of the Electoral Act, to wit: “26. (1) Where a date has been appointed for the holding 

of an election, and there is reason to believe that a serious breach of the peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with on that date or it is impossible to conduct the elections as a result of natural disasters or other emergencies, the Commission may postpone the election and shall in respect of the area, or areas concerned, appoint another date for the holding of the postponed election, provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable”. This section is often cushioned with “page 17, paragraph C” of INEC’s Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections” which explores the context of marginal differences between leading scores in conflict with the weight of cancelled votes…

  Expectedly, critics of INEC, led by the main opposition party, still have their nostrils in the air. As far as they are concerned, the kite of “inconclusive election” is wildly blowing in the sky towards Osun guber re-run which many observers believed was a dubious and desperate attempt to redefine ‘free’, ‘fair’ and ‘credible’ election. Most aggrieved PDP sympathisers suspect all the six states under the clouds of “inconclusive election” are potential victims of APC’s homegrown designs to spring another Osun banger, and explode their “certain” victories at the polls. PDP was leading in all but one.

 This crisis of trust in the ability and integrity of the electoral umpire to deliver on its promise of fairness and commitment to independence may tarnish all the gains of the past four years with all the huge investments and sacrifices of materials, human and governmental resources and international goodwill

  Here is how the six states stood before the “inconclusivity”: Kano – Abdullahi Ganduje (APC – 987,819), Abba Kabir-Yusuf (PDP – 1,014,474), differential – 26,655, cancelled votes in 172 PUs – 128,572; Bauchi – APC (465,453), PDP (469,512); Benue – APC (329,022), PDP (420,576); Plateau – APC (583,255), PDP (548,326); Sokoto – APC (486,145), PDP (489,558) and Adamawa – APC (334,995), PDP (367,471).

  However, we all know that a place like Adamawa where 32,476 votes separate incumbent Jibrila Bindow of APC and Ahmadu Fintiri (PDP), there is a level of mathematical exactitude that only politics can rubbish. Registered voters affected by cancellations in 44 PUs are 40,988… Even when we accommodate the uniquely high voter turnout in Adamawa (894,481 accredited voters out of registered 1,973,083, according to the state’s Returning Officer, Prof. Andrew Haruna) a healthy 45.3%… in a free and fair ambience, that can hardly cause a seismic shift in favour of Bindow to wipe out over 32,000 lead margin of Fintiri, plus one – and at the same time expect zero vote for the PDP man… except, of course, Professor Peller is back from the grave!”

  Of course, we shall return to review the actualities of the 2023 double-decked elections. We shall see about that bet, then.

Related Articles