Due to growing fears that the 2023 general election might be rigged, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has enjoined the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure that technology is transparently deployed during the exercise. The bishops, who commended the introduction of technology to enhance the credibility of the poll, however, warned that it should not be used to rig the election. According to them, more than ever before, Nigerians are yearning for credible elections that will bring forth good leaders that will pilot the affairs of the country.
The bishops issued the timely warning at the end of their second plenary meeting for 2022 held at Sacred Heart Pastoral/Retreat Centre, Orlu, Imo State. While praising President Muhammadu Buhari for signing into law the 2022 Electoral Bill, the bishops advised that nothing should be allowed to thwart the 2023 election.
Also, the European Union (EU) recently warned Nigerian politicians against meddling in the conduct of the 2023 election. The Head of the EU delegation to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ambassador Samuela Isopi, who gave the warning at a forum in Abuja, noted that the 2023 election is pivotal to nurturing the nation’s democracy. Having a credible poll in Nigeria, the envoy contends, is bound to inspire other democracies on the continent.
The concerns over the integrity of the 2023 poll must not be dismissed. INEC should see them as pointers that it must put its house in order prior to the commencement of the exercise. Nigerians expect that the conduct of the 2023 poll will be a great improvement on the recent off season polls in Ekiti and Osun states. Before then, our previous elections had been characterised by electoral infractions such as ballot snatching, falsification of results, mutilation of the voter register, the buying and selling of votes as well as violence and intimidation of opponents. These had cast doubts on the credibility of the elections and impacted negatively on the image and reputation of the country.
However, with the conscious deployment of appropriate technologies, such as the card readers, the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), INEC Result Viewing Portal (IreV) and electronic transmission of results, there is hope that the forthcoming poll will reflect the wishes of Nigerian people. This is the minimum Nigerians expect from the electoral umpire and it must not fail. INEC should aim at a better outing in 2023. Nigerians do not want anything short of a credible and transparent poll. Doing so will align with the pledge by the President, Muhammadu Buhari of bequeathing to Nigerians a legacy of credible democracy, characterised by free and fair elections. INEC chairman has equally expressed the commitment of the commission to deliver a free, fair and credible election.
Let INEC begin to train its officials and ad hoc staff early enough to avoid logistical errors. The government should deploy adequate security before, during and after the elections. The only way to sustain our democracy, guarantee good governance and the continued existence of the country is to ensure that the exercise is free and fair.
Politicians and their supporters equally need to play the game according to the rules. We urge Nigerians not to allow themselves be used to rig the elections.
The recent advice by the National Peace Committee to Nigerians on the 2023 poll is very instructive. According to it, “the NPC reminds all Nigerians that the 2023 general election is more than an election. It is an opportunity to serve Nigeria, defend Nigeria and uphold her unity and progress. Nigerians should avoid the spread of fake news, and uphold the principles of tolerance, respect, civility and decency in all public and private conversations and engagements about the elections and the progress of Nigeria.”
The 2023 poll is very crucial for the survival of the country and our democracy. Therefore, no stone should be left unturned to ensure that the exercise is credible. INEC should not give in to any plan to scuttle the election. Rather, it must be ready and willing to thwart whatever plans the politicians may put in place to compromise the poll.