It speaks volumes that despite assurances from President Muhammadu Buhari and the Service Chiefs that there is no cause for alarm over security threats to the 2023 elections, Nigerians are still worried about the spate of insecurity in the country. The fear is that election may not hold in some sections of the country.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), even has similar apprehension, given its recent disclosure that 242 polling units with 142,261 registered voters in 10 Councils of Katsina State were under serious security threat and may be affected in the elections. Many parts of the country are under same threats.
Ordinarily, there shouldn’t be much to worry about, considering the assurances by the government. The President, has after all, directed the armed forces to put an end to the security challenges in the country by December and smoke out terrorists from their hideouts.
Also, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed has sworn that the 2023 general election is not under threat whatsoever, and that the current state of insecurity in the land would soon be a thing of the past. These should have served as sufficient guarantees for the citizens to go about their civic responsibilities without any fears.
But the apprehension persists. And you can understand why Nigerians are not taken in by the assurances from their leaders. Leadership is a sacred trust that comes with responsibilities. It entails openness, transparency, accountability and trust.
To paraphrase the iconic Igbo leader, late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu in his book, “Because I am involved”, good leaders must be embodiment and at all times, exemplify the ideas of the nation. They keep alive the flames of the collective national aspirations and are trusted friends of the people and protectors of the disadvantaged and oppressed. Such leaders are imbued with the right judgement both of people and situations. Above all, they must be accountable to the people and are subjected to the collective will of the people.
Bill Newman in his “10 Laws of Leadership”, adds, that a leader must have a vision and the vision must be fulfilled by goals that work toward the achievement of the vision.
Nigeria has not been lucky with leaders of such qualities in recent times. If anything, rather, between the leaders and the led, there is trust deficit. Over time, the people have been fed with propaganda and false promises by successive leaders to the point that they take any pronouncements by the government with a large measure of doubts. The present administration is not an exception. While asking for votes in 2015, President Buhari had promised to tackle insecurity, corruption and revamp the economy. But seven-and-half years down the line, Nigerians are in deeper mess with all manner of criminals on the prowl and hardship telling on the people.
Recall also that at the turn of the millennium, the leaders at the time had brandished Year 2000 as a period of great possibilities. Such catchphrases as ‘year of free and qualitative health care, free education for all, security for the whole country’ and other scintillating jargons were bandied about and Nigerians caught the bug. But by 2022 – clearly 22 years after, the better life promised them, has become a nightmare. The cost of living has soared beyond their reach, insecurity has been all time high, the health sector has become piteous to the point of Nigerians seeking treatment for minor ailments abroad.
All sectors of the national life have gone the axiomatic south. At the last count, Nigeria is ranked alongside Iraq and Afghanistan as the world’s most terrorised nations. Since 2018, it has remained the Poverty Capital of the World. Nigerians know that things are not working the way they should.
So, when the citizens express fears about their safety over the 2023 polls, they have valid points. Statistics on ground, even makes the situation scarier. A recent report by THISDAY Newspapers, credited to Concerned civil society actors conversant with the undertaking of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Electoral Security (ICCES), indicated that INEC may be under constraint to conduct the elections in over 686 communities due to the activities of armed non-state actors. Among the revelations was that the affected communities and wards cut across 90 local government areas (LGAs) and 18 states of the country. Of the 686 affected communities, 618 were identified in the north alone, while the South had 68.
336 affected communities were identified in the North-west out of which 200 were in Zamfara State alone. In the North-east, 168 communities were identified, with Borno having about 79 wards where elections may not hold. 114 wards, mainly located in Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau, are affected, in the North-central. 55 communities were identified as trouble spots in Abia, Anambra and Imo States. In the South-west, the findings claimed that at least 10 communities are identified in Ondo State, especially in Owo LGA, Ose LGA and their environs.
Abuja, the capital city, is not spared the scare. On Tuesday, July 5, the Kuje Correctional Centre, a shouting distance from the seat of power, was invaded by terrorists, with lives lost and about 64 Boko Haram commanders freed. The same day, an advance team of the President’s convoy to Katsina was ambushed and some security personnel injured. Earlier, some worshippers at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Owo, were killed and others wounded when they were attacked by gunmen. Just a few days ago, remaining victims of the March 28, Abuja-Kaduna-bound train attack, were released by their abductors, after huge ransom must have been paid. Faces behind these attacks remain unknown, till date.
Terrorists and insurgents still hold sway in the North East, bandits in the North West, farmer-herder clashes in the North Central, separatist agitation in the South East and sundry criminals in the South West and South-South.
On June 25, 2022, a fundamentalist group in Birnin Gwari council of Kaduna state issued strong warning against any form of political campaigning in the area.
Some days ago, INEC offices in Ogun and Ondo were razed by arsonists. Similar dastardly activities had taken place in Imo, Enugu, Anambra and other parts of the country. In Imo, INEC registration officials were attacked in Ihitte-Ubom council of the state.
These are facts that cannot be swept under the rug. There is therefore, much to be done by the government to assure the people of their safety in filing out to vote. It goes beyond propaganda or self-adulation. It rather requires real action, for the election not to be compromised.