President Muhammadu Buhari has, again, assured Nigerians and the international community that his government would conduct a free, fair and transparent poll in 2023 and ensure peaceful transfer of power. Buhari, who made the remarks at a Virtual Summit for Democracy organised by President Joe Biden of the United States, added that necessary mechanisms will be put in place to ensure that Nigeria has another peaceful transfer of power by May 29, 2023.
He said: “As we count down to our next general election in 2023, we remain committed to putting in place and strengthening all necessary mechanisms to ensure that Nigeria will not only record another peaceful transfer of power to an elected democratic government, but will also ensure that the elections are conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner.”
The President had made similar pledge in the past in which he specifically promised to leave a legacy of credible elections in the country. His remarks are in line with the expectations of most Nigerians. Flawed elections have remained the bane of Nigeria’s democracy, leading to emergence of unpopular candidates and unending litigations by aggrieved parties. In addition, compromised election accounts for violence that trailed successive polls in the country.
We commend the president for understanding the dangers of fraudulent elections in the country’s political development and the courage to make a departure from the ugly past. However, he needs to live by his words.
A free and fair poll will surely bring out the beauty of democracy. A transparent poll will allow the electorate the freedom to fully exercise their rights in choosing their leaders. It also reduces election litigations and gives the victors ample time to really hit the ground running. More importantly, a free poll makes for a stable polity and encourages development. It minimises rancour among contestants. In a free and fair poll, losers readily accept the outcome and look up to future contests. Having a free and fair poll is the desire of most Nigerians. That is the minimum that the citizens expect from the president.
Given that the president will not be standing for election in 2023, it is expected that he would leave behind a legacy of credible elections after eight years in office. The president is a product of free and fair poll and should replicate same in 2023. He should remember that words are powerful. We take it that he understands the task he has set for himself and believes in it. The president needs to be reminded that to ensure that what he has promised comes to reality, the necessary agencies involved in elections should be made to play according to the rules. Between now and 2023, a lot needs to be done to achieve free and fair polls. The democratic institutions in the country, including the Independent National Electoral Commission, the judiciary, police and other relevant security agencies should also be at alert because they have critical roles to play in having hitch-free election.
We urge the president and the National Assembly to expedite actions in resolving the contentious issues in the Electoral Act to ensure early commencement of the processes leading to the polls.
The whole world is looking up to the president and watching his actions as the election season approaches. It will be in his best interest to ensure that the 2023 poll is free and fair. He needs to give the INEC free hand to conduct the election. The outcome of the exercise is very important for his reputation and place in history. He must resist bad advice from sycophantic and self-seeking advisers and stick to his pledge to conducta transparent election.
Conducting a free and fair poll entails drastic reduction of the climate of insecurity in the country. The police and other security agencies that have roles to play in the election should be adequately equipped and mobilised.
Let the necessary steps for election, including voter-education and registration commence in full gear. It is one thing to make a vow and another thing to keep it. We join the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) and other concerned Nigerians in urging President Buhari to make his promise on free and fair election in 2023 a possibility. Without free and fair election, Nigerian democracy will be in jeopardy.