By Omoniyi Salaudeen
The issue of national security would ever remain a talking point until the people’s aspiration for a peaceful and stable polity is achieved without fear or anxiety.
For obvious reasons, the pervasive atmosphere of uncertainty has continued to take its negative toll on virtually all sectors, including politics.
But for the rising spate of violence across the states of the federation, political excitement among the state actors would have possibly reached a crescendo by now that President Muhammadu Buhari has barely two years to the end of his second tenure.
Thus, as prospective aspirants are busy oiling their political machines through nocturnal meetings, underground campaigns, as well as grassroots mobilization, they have had to exercise some restraints in line with the mood of the nation.
Beyond that, a lot of stakeholders are also becoming increasingly skeptical about the possibility of achieving a free, fair and credible election in 2023 amidst the worsening security situation in the country.
By the timeline set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the presidential election is expected to hold on February 18, 2023.
According to available reports, an estimated 626 persons were said to have been killed across Nigeria in the six months period between the start of the 2019 election campaign and the commencement of the general and supplementary elections. With the current trend of insecurity in the different geo-political zones of the country, there is, therefore, a general apprehension that things could get worse before the next election.
Some prominent leaders of thought, who spoke with Sunday Sun, expressed fear that the people’s desire for a smooth change of leadership in the 2023 general elections could be marred by violence and other forms of criminalities, if left unattended to by the Buhari administration.
An elder statesmen and former governor of the old Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, speaking with Sunday Sun in a telephone interview, amplified the worrisome security situation, saying “I don’t think we can sustain this kind of insecurity for more than a few months.
“As it is now, election may be difficult to conduct in this kind of atmosphere of insecurity. We need to pray and appeal to the conscience of everybody to think about Nigeria. The thing is that you don’t know the value of what you have until you lose it. Nigeria is a gem of a country and we should not lose it. I expect change to come long before 2023. God can bring about a change in many ways in life. We expect substantial changes that can make for free and fair election.”
While making a renewed call for president of Igbo extraction in 2023, he added: “The Southeast zone is due to bring up a president. If we want Nigeria to continue, there must be a president from the Southeast zone. They have the power to fix Nigeria. They are everywhere in Nigeria, they have invested everywhere in Nigeria, they are committed to Nigeria. If Nigeria is a human being, it should be selfish enough to want a Southeast person to come and take over Nigeria.”
Also speaking in the same breadth, a former Minister of Transport and BoT member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ebenezer Babatope, described the security situation in the country as grave and baffling.
He warned that President Buhari would lead the country to chaos and anarchy, if the INEC is not prevailed upon to conduct a free, fair and credible election.
He said: “The current security situation is grave and baffling. Many of us are afraid to go home now. And when we go home, we pray to God to save us from Hausa/Fulani marauders.
“However, I don’t pray for a situation that will make us not to conduct election. We have to compel the INEC to give us free and fair election. That is the only thing that can save us from this problem. President Buhari is spending his last time in office; he must give Nigeria credible election. If he doesn’t do so, he himself must be preparing to handle over to anarchy and chaos.
“I pray we should have election in 2023 because it is only a government that is guided by democratic principles that can rescue the country from what is happening now.”
Also, Buba Galadima, an estranged associate of President Buhari, simply dismissed the aspiration for a change of leadership and warned of the looming danger ahead.
“It is going to be extremely dangerous for every living Nigerian because these people who have not performed will try to divide us further and install their own puppet, who will close their back,” he said.
Similarly, renowned labour activist, Frank Kokori, in his outburst said that with or without election, Nigeria would continue to be governed by inept leadership.
He declared: “The security situation in the country is abnormal. It can even lead to anarchy. Nigeria is already a sick country with bad leadership. But regardless of the situation, politicians will still go for the next elections. You will be living in an illusion if you think they will not participate in the election. They will go to the election and winners will emerge. In advanced democracies, election boycott is a serious matter. But here in Africa, it means nothing to the people in authority.
“If you don’t know, presidential aspirants, those who want to be governors and those who want to be senators have been strategizing, doing serious underground campaigning. Whether people die or they don’t die, they don’t care because those who want to contest elections move around with an army of security.
“So, expectedly, there will be violence and people will die, but election results will be announced. In the end what you will get is the same kind of failed leadership. The leadership knows that they are leading a bunch of people who don’t know their rights, people who can’t hold their resistance for a long time. The major concern of every Nigerian is to take care of his immediate nuclear family. They don’t care about other people. We don’t have strong institutions.”
Similarly, the Secretary of the Ijaw Elders Forum, Mr. Efiye Bribena, also said in a cynical tone: “The damage that has been done to this country by this administration is enormous. With the spate of violence across the country at this time, you can only imagine the kind of election we would have in 2023. It is likely going to be an election marred with violence.
“The big question is: can Nigeria survive till 2023 when elections are expected to hold? If it survives, the likelihood of enthroning a popular government is very slim. It is almost impossible because there is nothing to suggest that they are working towards conducting a credible electoral election.
“There may even be no election in many places that are prone to violence, but the authorities don’t care. All they want is to hold on to power. Don’t forget that in 2019 general elections, we had supposedly high turnover of results from the North eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Gombe. So, don’t be surprised that in places where we have violence, election results would be churned out.
“They don’t care about the quality of election that we have in the country; otherwise, they will be more concerned about the security situation in the country. This government is not serious about management of security situation in the country. We have got to a situation where we’ve all lost our sense of humanity.” The Spokesperson for the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), Sulaiman Abdul-Azeez, summed up the whole apprehension, saying “the buildup to 2023 is not looking healthy at all.”