#NigeriaDecides: Your Vote Counts And Can Give Nigeria The Very Best
The campaigns are over as it is now the eve of the highly-anticipated 2023 presidential election. Since Nigeria’s return to democracy 24 years ago, this will be the seventh time the electorate will be trooping out to elect a new president. What is even more interesting is that this is the second time a new president will be elected through the ballot, meaning that there is no incumbency factor for those desiring a breath of fresh air to contend with. The presidential race due for tomorrow, February 25, has proven to be too close to call. For the first time in years, Nigerians are being treated to an election this is not a two-horse race. The emergence of a third-force (or even a fourth-force) candidate has created a plurality of options before the electorate.
The same Saturday, there will also be the election of 468 National Assembly members, barring the Enugu East senatorial seat which will not be contested due to the gruesome murder of the Labour Party candidate. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has avowed its commitment to midwife Nigeria’s most credible poll ever. Law enforcement agencies and the military are so ready that they have threatened troublemakers with a bloody nose and maximum force. The question begging for answers then is this: are Nigerians ready to troop out en masse and enthrone the right leadership for the country? With over a century, since the first general election was conducted, the country and its people have come a long way since 1922 when Nigerians got to elect members of the Legislative Council under the Clifford Constitution.
That’s the crux of the matter as far as this festival of democracy goes and Nigerians had better been well-appraised of their leverage. This is one time when they assume the position of the employer of those who eventually run their lives and make policy decisions that greatly impact them. It doesn’t matter that this employer is just one out of the tens of million of others who will be deciding who emerges as President. Although the majority will always have their way in a democracy, the value of one vote cannot be underestimated. While the people may not know this, the politicians do, particularly as it is the simple majority rule that applies.
Nigeria’s presidential system of government is patterned after that of the United States where Thomas Jefferson was in 1800, elected President by one vote in the House of Representatives after a tie in the Electoral College. 24 years down the line, Andrew Jackson won the presidential popular vote but lost by one vote in the House of Representatives to John Quincy Adams after a similar deadlock in the Electoral College. How about what happened recently in the November 2017 election in the State of Virginia? After repeated recounts of the 23,217 ballots for the House of Delegates 94th District, the difference between what the Democratic challenger, Shelly Simonds polled and the incumbent Republican, David Yancey was just a vote.
Now if one vote can be this telling, imagine the righteous anger that greeted the dumping of thousands of permanent voter cards (PVCs) in a forest in Nnewi North, Anambra State. This is brutal voter suppression by insecure politicians, acting in cohort with rogue INEC officials. Owners of this vital voting instrument must have been told by INEC officials that the PVCs are not yet ready for collection. Who knows how many other instances where similar heartless voter suppression has been carried out? The hunters who discovered the sacks of the dumped PVCs and took them to a local radio station for announcement and collection are heroes of democracy deserving of honour.
Let their patriotic act and the fact that politicians can go this far to suppress votes in areas where they are not popular motivate Nigerians to participate in this general election. It’s a testament to the fact that the regular means by which politicians rig elections have really been checkmated by technological innovations introduced by INEC as allowed by the Electoral Act 2022. Given how closely contested the 2023 presidential race is proving to be, it won’t be surprising that the deciding margin may be quite minuscule. This is all the more reason no eligible voter should be indoors when they should be at the polling station.
Thankfully, the enthusiasm of the citizens towards this election is high and palpable since the time of the Continuous Voter Registration. Nigerians seem to have grown out of the political apathy that has always left them with the short end of the stick. They are now bent on taking delivery of their own destiny. With the closure of the window for the collection of PVCs ahead of this election, the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu disclosed in Abuja on Thursday that a total of 87,209,007 voter cards have been collected by Nigerians.
As impressive as this number is, Naija News expects that this overwhelming interest in the polls is driven by the need to enthrone the right leadership for the country. The spike in the number of registered voters and the urge to vote should not be to satisfy primordial sentiments and affiliations. There is no denying the fact that the stakes are high in terms of ethnicity, religion and inclusion. However, love for country should tower above every other consideration. This is more so given that voting for those who don’t fit the bill returns with consequences. As the American author and priest, Todd Wagner, succinctly puts it in a 2014 piece, people have the right to choose what they want but lack the right to dictate the consequences.
Given that the consequence of bad electoral choices affects everyone, enlightened Nigerians cannot afford to stay away from the polls and allow compromised elements and vote sellers to determine who stays in power for the next four to eight years. Interestingly, this election cycle will be witnessing a wave of newly registered voters given that 12.29 million Nigerians successfully completed their registrations as new voters in the last Continuous Voter Registration (CVR). It is our expectation that these new voters secured their PVCs and will allow reason to determine who gets their ballot rather than being guided by ethnic or religious affiliations.
The candidate who succeeded in evading debates and live television interviews can still be assessed via speeches, carriage and comportment on the campaign trails. From these public engagements, the electorate can understand how fit and sound they are for the most important job in the country. The destinies of over 200 million Nigerians should not be handed to a candidate for any other reason than the fact they are the best for the job. Nigerians can’t keep voting for the wrong people and expect that their country will, by some stroke of luck, measure up with progressive societies.
This newspaper calls on the state to give confidence to those areas where residents have been threatened against participating in the elections. We call on the security agencies to ensure that the elections are conducted in a peaceful atmosphere while seeing to it that their operatives stick to their rules of engagement and the standard operating procedures. Nobody should die or be maimed because Nigeria is electing her President and 468 members of the National Assembly.
Naija News expects that the latest peace accord signed by the presidential candidates will keep them and their supporters in check. These candidates must be on their best behaviour, bearing in mind the global attention to this election, evidenced by the high number of election observers in this election and messages from world leaders, including the President of the United States. In the final analysis, INEC must ensure that the elections are free, fair and credible so that there would be no need for anyone to make trouble. The Commission should leverage critical learnings from off-season elections previously conducted to give Nigerians the promised best-ever election!