With the rising tension in the land, some Nigerians have reached the conclusion that the 2023 general election may not hold if the situation is allowed to deteriorate further. They cite the burning of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) offices and police facilities in some parts of the country as factors that would work against the smooth conduct of elections in the affected zones of the country.
Besides, the actions of Boko Haram insurgents in the North East and North Central, bandits in the North West and the killer herders in the North Central and South West, Nigeria does not seem safe enough for the conduct of a national election in 2023 if nothing is done now by the state actors to remedy the escalating situation. The worrisome aspect is that the police are yet to come to terms with the identity of those engaged in the burning of INEC offices and police facilities across the country. Resorting to calling them hoodlums and unknown gunmen beggars the question.
The chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu recently expressed serious concern over the continued burning of INEC offices across the country, which has invariably led to the destruction of buildings and vital election materials and equipment. The latest fire attack of INEC office in Enugu and other states may have also warranted Festus Okoye, INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of Publicity and Voter Education to call for urgent security measures to arrest the ugly situation. According to him, “The latest destruction of the Commission’s physical infrastructure and electoral facilities in Enugu State calls for an immediate review of the measures necessary to secure INEC’s assets across the states.” As at the time of writing this article, not less than 21 offices of the electoral umpire have been attacked across the country in Akwa Ibom, Abia, Anambra, and Imo. In the same vein, some INEC offices in Borno, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Kano, Ondo, Plateau and Rivers states and Abuja had witnessed unexplained fire incidents between February 2019 and May 2021.
While eleven INEC offices were burnt by hoodlums or unknown gunmen, eight others were reportedly razed by mystery fire. Nigerians and many stakeholders in the polity are disturbed that the violent attacks on INEC facilities may be a ploy by some people to ensure that the 2023 poll will not hold. With the attacks escalating, the capacity of INEC to even prepare and conduct a free and fair poll would have been weakened. That is why the spokesman of INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, has expressed worry that the umpire’s capacity to adequately conduct future elections in the country will be seriously hampered if the continued attacks on its facilities persist.
There is no doubt that the ongoing attacks on INEC offices and police formations in some parts of the country will surely lead to anarchy if left unchecked forthwith. The attacks on police stations and killing of policemen across the country will leave the citizens of the affected areas unprotected. Besides the burning of INEC and police offices, another issue that will tear the country apart is the government’s unwillingness to restructure the country and the high premium placed on cattle over and above human beings.
It is sad that the government does not see the legality of the Asaba declaration on open grazing but it sees the legality in the killing of farmers and the raping of female farmers by killer herdsmen. The lawyers must surely speak on this illegality. The greatest undoing of our country is having leaders who are not seriously committed to making the country great before other nations. We have been saddled with leaders who read tribe into every move and good intentions to move the country forward. Nigeria has been saddled with politicians who have refused to speak truth to power because of what they think they are benefitting from as well as their future political ambition. It is unfortunate that some political appointees are busy telling their employers what will be pleasant to their ears instead of the truth of the matter.
A man whose house is on fire and he is busy pursuing rat will know better too late. And by the time he wakes up from his deep slumber, both his house and the rat would have gone. To these types of leaders, let them think first of securing the country and its people first before the coming election. Without a peaceful country, there is no way INEC can hold any election in 2023.
The burning of INEC offices and police facilities across the country may be a warning to them that the people will not tolerate any electoral outcome that negates their votes. I do not think that Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson had Nigeria in mind when they wrote their brilliant book, Why Nations Fail. But most of the analyses on why nations fail as written in the book can equally apply to out faltering nation.
In Why Nations Fail, the authors made comparisons between rich and poor countries which may help our leaders to urgently address the basic needs of Nigerians. And I crave your indulgence to quote them elaborately. According to them, “We live in an unequal world. The differences among nations are similar to those between the two parts of Nogales, just on a larger scale. In rich countries, individuals are healthier, live longer, and are much better educated. They also have access to a range of amenities and options in life, from vacations to career paths, that people in poor countries can only dream of.”
The authors further explained that “People in rich countries also drive on roads without potholes, and enjoy toilets, electricity, and running water in their houses. They also typically have governments that do not arbitrarily arrest and harass them; on the contrary, the governments provide services, including education, health care, roads, and law and order. Notable, too, is the fact that the citizens vote in elections and have some voice in the political direction their countries take.”
With all our human and material resources nature endowed us with, Nigeria cannot fall into the poor countries Acemoglu and Robinson had in mind. But because of poor and ineffectual leadership Nigeria fits into their categorization of poor countries. How many Nigerians drive on well paved roads without craters, have good toilet facilities, enjoy steady electricity and have running water in their houses?
These are luxuries that elude millions of our countrymen. Many of our countrymen and women do not have food to eat. That is why we have become the poverty capital of the world and the third most terrorized country in the world on account of overwhelming insecurity. Although, many Nigerians are allowed to vote during elections, do their votes usually count? Do millions of Nigerians have some voice in the political direction of their country? The answer is never in the affirmative.
Otherwise how can the appointees of government dismiss with a wave of their hands the ban on open grazing by 17 governors of Southern Nigeria based on elusive illegality? How can the government that came to power on the mantra of “change” dismiss the several calls by our elder statesmen, patriots and opinion moulders on restructuring? Let me quote again from the book under reference why nations fail. According to the authors, “Nations fail today because their extractive economic institutions do not create the incentives needed for people to save, invest and innovate. Extractive political institutions support these economic institutions by cementing the power of those who benefit from the extraction. Extractive economic and political institutions, though their details vary under different circumstances, are always at the root of this failure.”
This is true of Nigeria’s extractive economy represented by our oil and gas and illegally exploited solid minerals. Our oil economy has only benefitted the rich, those in power and their friends through bogus subsidy payments leaving millions of Nigerians in endemic poverty.