By Suleiman Umaru and Lateef Adegbite
Ahead of the Saturday, February 25, 2023, Presidential and National Assembly elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, under the close watch of Mahmahmood Yakubu, a Professor, appears to have sent a message to Nigerians that the Commission is ready for the elections.
As a prelude to the conduct of the elections, the electoral umpire has moved the sensitive materials kept at the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Marina, Lagos,the nation’s Commercial centre, amid tight security to its branches in the 36 states of the Federation and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
The sensitive election materials were said to have been distributed to the states and FCT RECs, who in turn have delivered the materials to the Local Government Areas, LGA and the FCT in their respective states. Note that there are 774 LGAs across the country.
The INEC ,Chairman had said that 87,209,007, registered voters had collected their Permanent Voters Card, PVCs, out of the over 94 million voters that had registered to participate during the elections. He noted that 6,259,229, PVCs are yet to be collected at the various INEC offices nationwide, meaning that such persons will not vote during the elections.
Given a breakdown of state by state, including the FCT, PVC collections, Prof.Yakubu disclosed that the south west state of Lagos , leads the park with 6,214,970 and closely followed by the north western states of Kano, with 5,594,193 PVCs and Kaduna with 4,164,473.
He had revealed that a total number of 1,642,385, polling units and collation center agents of political parties will participate in the elections. Many believe that but for the cancellation of the fake 240 polling units, across the country that have no voters, the number could have be more than that. He may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when he said that the Commission has recovered from the recent attacks on its facilities in some of the states.
In preparation for the 2023, general elections, which is under the close watch of the International Community, the INEC, Chairman who is not mincing words as regards to the Commission’s commitment to raising the bar of the standard set in the previous elections in the conduct of elections was said to have urged the RECs, ‘’to work towards addressing the reoccurring logistics issues in the conduct of elections in Nigeria and ensure that the 2023, elections must be different from the previous elections in terms of preparation and readiness’’.
Porof. Yakubu, the INEC, Chairman, has every reason to read the riot act to the RECs, to see that the 2023, general elections will be different from the previous election because of the huge amount that will be spent in the conduct of the elections. There are indications that the Commission will spend N355 billion for the elections but the National Assembly was said to have approved N305 billion for it. The Commission had said that the N50 billion approved by the Lawmakers in its 2023 budgetary allocations will also be pumped into the elections.
Given the high level of insecurity in the country and to ensure a free, fair and transparent , 2023, general elections, Usman Aliyu Baba, Inspector General of Police, IGP, who has been charged by President Muhammadu Buhari and the Heads of other security agencies, to mobilise their officers and men, ‘’to create a conducive environment to ensure that Nigerians are able to exercise their Franchise and vote for Candidates of their choice had saidthat 310,973, police personnel will be deployed to provide security during the Saturday , February 25, 2023 and March 31, 2023 , elections. He was said to have further revealed that the Directorate of State Security, DSS, would complement the Force efforts with an additional 93,133 personnel, bring the total number of security agencies personnel that will cover the elections to 404,106.
Onyema Nwachukwu, a Brigadier General and Nigerian Army spokesman, had said that the Army on its part will do everything within its powers ‘’to support the lead security agency, the NPF, for the successful conduct of a free, fair and peaceful elections in the country’’.
Farouk Yahaya, a Lt. Gen. and Chief of Army Staff, CoAS, was said to have earlier produced and circulated what had been described in security circles as ‘’Codes of conduct and Rules of Engagement for Operation Safe conduct’’ to Formations and units’’ to provide guidance and ensure that troops operate within the provisions of the Codes and Rules’’.
Lt. Gen. Yahaya , led Nigerian Army was said to have provided 37 phone lines to call in the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT, and an additional four lines , which includes 08070153860, 08034276240,0816430425 and 09159793968, for the public’’ to call and report any security breach during the elections’’ for immediate response.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, under the Leadership of Abdulazizi Bawa, was said to have also deployed its men to cover the elections,, with a revelation that ‘’intelligence at its disposal has shown that some politicians are planning to buy votes in kind rather than with cash’’ to rig the electionS.
Bawa, the EFCC, Chairman, who could not hide his feelings has made Nigerians to understand that ‘’vote –buying is a serious issue that will affect the future of Nigeria if the wrong Candidate is voted into power, stating that ‘’it must be stopped by all Nigerians’’.
He noted that ‘’once Nigerians are united to ensure that the people that ‘’we are voting for various elective positions are electable people and that ‘’ the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the most powerful office in this country and a’’ person of proven integrity and ethical standard must be voted to occupy the office’’, Nigerians will vote wisely. Aware of the problem of vote buying during elections in Nigeria, the INEC helmsman is optimistic that’’ the vices will be dealt with ‘’, warning that voters are not allowed to go to the voting cubicle with their phones.
With the importance attached to the 2023, elections, the Police Service Commission, PSC, acting Chairperson, Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, was said to have approved the participation of over 360 of its Staff ‘’to monitor the conduct of police officers on election duties in the 36 states of the Federation and FCT. That much was confirmed by Ikechukwu Ani, the Commission spokesperson, in a Statement issued.
The Commission , Ani , further stated , appointed national , zonal and state Coordinators for the elections, warning that ‘’it will sanction any officer involved in any form of misconduct , during , or immediately after the elections’’. The Commission may have taken a cue to the Army, as it disclosed that some ‘’dedicated phone lines have been made available to the general public ‘’to report misconduct or unexemplary behavior of police officers on duty to the Commission.
Even Brigadier General Dogara Ahmed, Director General, National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, aad said that it has deployed 200,000 Corps members as adhoc staff for the 2023, general elections. The Army Brigadier General disclosed that the Corps members, represent more than 75% of the Commission’s adhoc staff.
Prf. Yakubu, may have sent a signal to the International Community that the Nigeria 2023, elections will be the best ever to be conducted as the Commission was said to have accredited some 46, 913, international and Domestic Observers, but with a warning not’’ to interfere in the electoral process or shw partisanship’’ that will be engaged in the conduct of the 2023, general elections.
Anthony Blinken, the North American country of the United States, US, Secretary of State, who may have been watching closely elections in Nigeria, had said that ‘’the people of Nigeria have a chance to make their voice heard and to choose their future’’. The US Secretary of State had made it clear to those that cares to listen that that the US, strongly supports free, fair and peaceful elections as enshrined in the Nigerian 1999, Constitution, stating that ‘’ the country, does not support any individual Candidate for any office ‘’. He noted that that the Nigerian elections matter to the International community’’.
It is not surprising why INEC officials , are not taking chances as it had had blocked all the loopholes that may be used by the desperate politicians to rig the elections. In Lagos state, where Musiliu Akinsanya, popular, MC, Oluomo, Chairman of Lagos Parks and Garages, who had been used by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state and Presidential Candidate of the ruling APC, to rig elections in the state, wings may have been broken.
The trio of Gbadebo Rhodes –Vivour, Funsho Doherty,and Wole Oluwo, governorship Candidates of the Labour Party, LP, African Dwmocratic Congress, ADC, and The Boot Party, BP, who may have been privy to what the Lagos Parks and Garage Chairman, has been doing for Tinubu, to maintain his political empire and the ruling APC, in the state, had dragged INEC, to Court to stop engaging the services or further dealing with Oluomo , the Lagos Parks and Garages Chief or any of its representatives in the distribution of election materials or adhoc staff for the forthcoming polls in Lagos state. They had their way, which is, a big blow to the APC. This may have put fears on the APC Chieftains in the state that Peter Obi, of the LP, Flag bearer, may beat Tinubu , in Lagos state, going by the people acceptance of the party.
But Hanatu Musawa, Deputy spokesperson and Deputy Director, Public Affairs, APC, Presidential Campaign Council, PCC and Ladan Salihu, a Chieftain of the Opposition , PDP, are certain that Obi, will never beat Tinubu or Atiku, in Lagos , in the Saturday, February 25, 2023, Presidential polls, which political analysts believe will be keenly contested by the three rival Candidates.
Fred Oyetayo, a 29-year-old Nigerian Tech Entrepreneur, who had relocated from Nigeria to Britain,in sarch of greener pastures , had said that Nigerian Youths are set ‘’to shape the outcome of the 2023 polls’’. The young technical Entrepreneur, had ‘’blamed past and current Leadership, for the country’s myriad of problems, from a disastrous economy to the biggest security crisis in years’’.
He noted that ’’millions of energetic, creative and successful young Nigerians are itching to advance but cannot do so under a bad Leadership’’. The INEC Chairman may have given the Nigerian Youths hope when he said that there will be no ‘’mago mago’’ in the conduct of the elections, stressing that the Commission which is satisfied with the performance of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, based on its use after the conduct of a mock accreditation exercise recently is optimistic that the facility will do better this time around.
. He did not stop there. He had said that ‘’backup technicians for the BVAS, have also been deployed for the elections to forestall any hiccup.
Additional Reports By Elizabeth Chukwuma