E very election cycle in Nigeria comes with its challenges. This has remained the case ever, owing to vested groups interest of politicians and their sponsors at a time like this. The buildup to the 2023 elections may have kicked off on February 25, 2022 with the signing of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law. This law repeals the Electoral Act No.6, 2010 and thereby provided a level playing field, together with the introduction of technological devices to transmit seamlessly the results of elections electronically.
The sale of expression forms for a whopping one hundred million naira (#100m) each for the presidential candidates of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and seventy million naira (#70m) for the opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), have raised the stake of 2023 general elections higher than ever, and may have closed the door against smaller political parties, so to say. The surprising thing is that within 48hours that the sale of the forms were announced by the leading political parties, politicians hurriedly rushed in and today, many of them have obtained the forms, APC and PDP candidates in particular.
Beyond the quest for power, politicians indeed enjoy this game because of the inherent gains, otherwise the payment for expression fees would not have been that easy, as it appeares. It is true that an election by its nature, whether local, states and federal, does not come cheap. But the issue is that, it has become absolutely impossible for those who do not have money to participate and seek for an elective office no matter how bright and beautiful such individual is. Again, the women and the youths who have been clamouring all these years for inclusion and are ready to stand for elections, apparently may have had their chances foreclosed completely because of the heavy financial outlay required to obtain the forms only, before the whole hog of the electoral process that involves campaigns and funding, every inch all the way.
In all these, the question is: What is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) saying about the costs of expression forms of political parties and the limit of campaigns expenses? Much as we know, the INEC appears very comfortable with this development since it has not said anything, otherwise, if it had sanctioned any political party on the grounds of financial recklessness, the excesses of some politicians and their parties would have been curbed drastically for good. The expensive nature of our elections before, and now, to a great extent is responsible for the gross violation of the whole process, almost everywhere.
This development unfortunately does not allow the will of the people to prevail at the end of the day. Again, the desperation of the politicians also makes mockery of the whole exercise given the number of court cases that trail each electoral cycle, surprisingly despite the humongous amount of money involved. The imperative effect is that, the coast will always be clear for the money-bags and those that have dipped their hands in our common patrimony only, since morality and what the people really want all the time does not count, unfortunately.
Looking at the Nigerian society today, there is this feeling in the air that the political class have held the society hostage for too long and are poised to continue in that trajectory. The belief therefore is that the 2023 general elections may be the ”Mother of All Elections”, due to the awareness creation and the happenings in the country that have kept the government and the people on their toes. For example, Nigerians on daily basis are being sensitized by both the Civil Society groups and the Churches in particular.
Citizens have been urged to register and arm themselves with their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and wait for the impending general elections that are fast approaching. The situation in the country today demands for everyone to get involved in the electoral process.
That is the only way the imbalance in the system can be addressed for the common good. We call on INEC to rise to the occasion and ensure that the mistakes of the past whereby desperate politicians are allowed to have their way are corrected. The situation in the country calls for vigilance by the electoral umpire, by ensuring that those who have genuine intentions and have what it takes to move the country forward are not short changed because their pockets are not deep enough. We insist that INEC should step out and show Nigerians the way by frustrating those who think that leadership in the present-day Nigeria can be bought with money. There should be clear departure from the old order even as we urge parties to stop playing politics with the generality of Nigeria. The country appears overwhelmed and should be saved from this political quagmire by the Independent National Electoral Commission. This should be a top priority!