Emerging Threats Against 2023 Elections: Will it Hold or Not?

Emerging Threats Against 2023 Elections: Will it Hold or Not?

The Electoral umpire says it is ready for the elections from its painstaking preparations. The threats to the election are those of misinformation and disinformation to discredit the processes and machines, like BVAS, that will be deployed. The major political parties are busy with their campaigns and have covered many grounds. They beam such campaigns

The Electoral umpire says it is ready for the elections from its painstaking preparations. The threats to the election are those of misinformation and disinformation to discredit the processes and machines, like BVAS, that will be deployed. The major political parties are busy with their campaigns and have covered many grounds. They beam such campaigns live on national televisions to Nigerians at home. There are security threats here and there with bandits extending their frontiers to Nasarawa state, a hitherto peaceful environment.

It would seem things are getting out of hands but this seems to be a road traveled before. The latest threats to a successful election have emerged from the CBN Naira policy: good and bad. The policy has triggered criticism and protests across the country. The protests are being likened those of October 20 2021 EndSars protests. It started like a child’s play in far away Edo state ten days earlier but developed into a conflagration in Lagos. But it became widespread nationally. Now, there have been upheavals from Edo state, to Oyo State and Ogun state. A mild one held in central Lagos about a week ago. It is being triggered by general hardship in the country brought to fore by Naira and fuel scarcity.

While the scarcity of new Naira notes persists, scarcity of fuel that has lingered for up to three months and yet to abate. The price of fuel spirals on a daily basis but there’s less Naira in peoples’ pockets. A lot of Nigerians groan in pains. Yet, the first set of elections are due in 17 days. But they are being dogged by conspiracy theories including that of interim administration. Addressing market and community leaders in Kaduna on Tuesday, Governor El-Rufai said there’s a plot for the election not to hold so as to birth an interim government. How will this be achieved constitutionally? He didn’t expatiate. But that suggestion appears to have gained some traction from unusual sources of members of the ruling APC.

Apprehensive that Kaduna could catch the bug of the protests as ongoing in the south west region, Governor El-Rufai urged addressed residents to ignore calls for protests in the interest of public security. The governor spoke against the background of what he said was the uncovering of a plan for a mass protest in the state against the February 10 Naira swap deadline. Three states – Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara – are in Court and have urged the Supreme Court to suspend the policy immediately.

Dragging Judiciary into the Fray
The judiciary, which should be the last bus stop on many irresolvable disputes has been drawn into the fray. A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Tuesday issued an interim injunction stopping the Federal Government from extending the deadline for the phaseout of the old naira notes, while some others are in Court to compel government to extend the deadline.

Kaduna state is one of the three states that have taken President Buhari and the federal government to the Supreme Court seeking to extend the deadline for the old Naira notes to remain in circulation while also liberalising the limit placed on daily withdrawal. The other two states are Kogi and Zamfara. As this script was being concluded, the Supreme Court has granted an order that allows the circulation of the old notes beyond February 10, pending the determination of the substantive suit before it.

President Buhari Unfazed, Unmoved
But President Buhari appears unperturbed. He seems to have been totally sold on the new Naira policy and its efficacies on the myriad of problems facing the country. More importantly, he sees it as an extension of his war on corruption at another level. Determined to bequeath a legacy of superintending a free and fair election, the President supports the policy especially as he doesn’t want the elections to be rigged through excessive use of money.

The policy and its timing have jolted the political class into discordant tunes with some politicians calling out the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele. Mr. Dele Alake, Special Adviser Media, Communication and Strategy to Asiwaju Tinubu and a member of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, on a national television programme on Tuesday declared the CBN governor as public enemy number one. He further accused him of working in cahoots with the opposition PDP. The PDP and Labour Party appear to be in support of the CBN policy.

The Fuel Crisis and Its Abatement

Though, the Managing Director of NNPCL Mele Kyari has given assurances that enough fuel would be made available from next week and up to and beyond the election period, it will be at a gargantuan cost to the nation. Fuel scarcity is another threat to the 2023 election. It has hampered movement and may pose a challenge to the INEC on its logistics before and on the day of election. According to the NNPCL boss, the scarcity problem is economic and not political. He explains: “data is that this product will land in this country at N295 to the litre. That means you have to sell it at N113 to the marketing companies so that we will be able to maintain the current subsidy regime that we’re running,” Kyari said.

“It means you have N185 per litre of subsidy on every product that comes into this country. At the average that we’ve done of 63 million litres January to date, and you convert it to 365 days, that means you need N4.27 trillion for you to meet the subsidy requirements for this country.” The appropriation law provides for N3.36 trillion for subsidy January-to-June this year.

Smuggling of fuel remains a profitable business despite all that is being done to stem it. According to him, a fuel truck from Lagos delivering to a filling station in Maiduguri can earn a margin of N270,000 as opposed to N40 million or N50 million when sold across the border to neighbouring countries adding that fuel supply had increased from 63 million litres per day to over 70 million litres.

INEC’s Last Minute Diplomatic Shuttles

Piqued by the threats that these problems could pose to the reputation of INEC, the Chairman has proactively embarked on diplomatic shuttles to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele as well as the MD NNPCL and the National Security Adviser. The CBN Governor assured INEC of total cooperation devoid of any encumbrances that could affect its ability to pay for services required for the smooth conduct of the 2023 General Election.

Emefiele made the pledge during a courtesy visit by INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, National Commissioners and other top management staff to the CBN headquarters in Abuja on Tuesday. He told the INEC team that whatever amount is required for their operations for the elections would be made available.

On their part, the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor and Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba assured INEC and Nigerians that adequate security will be provided throughout the country during the 2023 General Election

The Security Chiefs made the pledge at a meeting with the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and National Commissioners in Abuja on Tuesday. Professor Yakubu welcomed the assurances by the security chiefs, and affirmed INEC’s readiness to conduct the polls.

The question is are the assurances enough? Some members of the ruling party APC are already mooting the idea of a postponement of the election by another four weeks. If that proposal is acceded to, it won’t be the first time in Nigeria. Elections have been postponed about thrice in the past. The last time was in 2015 when due to Boko Haram occupation of certain Local Governments in the South East, elections were postponed by four weeks. The constitution allows for that and the window to allow for that still exists within the remaining time frame. Will they be able to convince the Buhari government to request for an extension? Time will tell.

President Buhari Calls Council of States Meeting to Resolve the Imbroglio
An emergency meeting of the Council of State, convened by President Muhammadu Buhari will hold on Friday to discuss national crises including petrol and naira scarcity, insecurity and others, ahead of the general elections.
The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is expected to provide an update on the new currency redesign policy scheduled to take place at the Council Chambers, Presidential Villa, Abuja, while the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu as well as the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba, will brief the council on the preparation for the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections as well as March 11 governorship and state houses of assembly polls.

It is only after this meeting on Friday that Nigerians will know whether the elections will hold despite the threats or not. But, many Nigerians are fatigued from the policies of the Buhari government and cannot wait to see its back. It is believed that a democratic change of government would bring some relief.

Ayo Aluko-Olokun

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