Nigeria’s Democracy Deepens as Citizens Elect New Leaders
Nigerians will go to the polls on Saturday, February 25, 2023 to elect a new President and members of the National Assembly. It is the first vote cast in the scheduled general election which will be followed on Saturday, March 11, 2023, with the election of State Governors in Thirty of Nigeria’s Thirty- Six States. The March 11 exercise will also enable the electorates to choose their representatives to the Thirty Six States Houses of Assembly. The 2023 general election will be the seventh in the unbroken chain of regular elections since Nigeria returned to civilian rule on May 29, 1999.
The 2023 polls provides an opportunity to look at Nigeria’s political development in the last 24 years, the attendant challenges and the resolve of the Nigerian electorate to continue the match on the path to a fulfilling democratic experience.
In 1999, there were three political parties, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, the All Peoples Party, APP and the Alliance for Democracy, AD. Since then, there have been regular elections in Nigeria as scheduled in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, and in 2019.
The 2015 general election was a watershed in the country’s democracy, when incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, who ran as a candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, defeated former President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP. The election was described as a landmark moment in Africa’s path to enduring democracy because of the role of Nigeria in the continents political growth and development.
The incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan, in total acceptance of the results of that election and respect for the will of the people, congratulated Mohammadu Buhari, his opponent in the polls and affirmed that his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian. That remained one election which did not witness any legal tussle between the out-going and the incoming leader.
Twenty-four years after blazing the democratic trail, Nigeria has continued to witness improvements in its electoral system.
In keeping with the norms of democracy across the world, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has ensured regular review of the voter register, monitoring the primaries of political parties, conducted voter education, delimitation of constituencies and providing the necessary legal framework required for successful elections subsequently.
The road leading to the election of Saturday February 25 was dotted by the introduction of a number of innovations that would make political elections credible and less cumbersome. First, there was the 2022 Electoral Act, which provided hope for the elimination of any anti-democratic practices in the period leading to and during elections. The deployment of technology used in the management of elections in Nigeria has been INEC’s trump card in ensuring that the elections are free and fair, ensuring that the results of such elections are a true representation of the wish of the electorates.
In 2015, INEC introduced the Permanent Voter Card, PVC a permanent voters ID that gives eligible Nigerians the right to exercise their voting rights. It was also in 2015, that the Electronic Card Reader was introduced to identify finger prints of voters. This has further been spiced up with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, for the timely transmission of results of the election from the polling units. In addition, the INEC Election Result Viewing Portal, IReV is going to be used towards ensuring credible, free and fair elections in the country.
The Eighteen political parties and their candidates have been touring the nukes and corners of the country to sell their manifestos to the electorate since the ban on electioneering campaign was lifted last year
President Muhammadu Buhari, had confirmed in a nationwide broadcast that the new monetary policy, introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has contributed immensely to reducing incidences of vote buying.
The President also gave assurance that his government will do everything possible to ensure a free, fair and credible election and to this end, he has instructed all security agencies in the country especially those that will be directly involved in the electoral process to ensure neutrality during the polls.
Already, notable international global and regional organization including the African Union, the European Union, The United State International Aids, Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS have booked their places as keen observers during the polls and this is complemented by Non-Governmental organizations in the country which are bent on defending democracy in Nigeria. This is because of the position of Nigeria in African affairs including the fact that being the 5th largest democracy in the world, whatever happens in Nigeria has a way of determining what course the rest of Africa would follow
Therefore, it behoves on Nigeria’s friends and development partners across the world to support the country to succeed in the conduct of the 2023 general election. This is because of the benefit a successful election in Nigeria would provide the international community across board.