The Good, the Bad, the Ugly of 2023 General Elections

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly of 2023 General Elections

Preparations towards the 2023 general elections were smooth with the Independent National Electoral Commission following meticulously his 14-step programme counting down to the general elections. The INEC leadership may have won the confidence of some Nigerians because of his unassuming disposition; he is soft-spoken while delivering on a difficult assignment. It was generally believed that

Preparations towards the 2023 general elections were smooth with the Independent National Electoral Commission following meticulously his 14-step programme counting down to the general elections. The INEC leadership may have won the confidence of some Nigerians because of his unassuming disposition; he is soft-spoken while delivering on a difficult assignment. It was generally believed that the Commission under his leadership has learnt some lessons from the 2019 general elections. He marketed a new INEC, whose work would be aided by the use of technology. His novel ideas of introducing the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System machines and the online viewing of results via the IReV were major boosters of transparency and believability in the electoral process.

INEC Chair, Prof Mahmood Yakubu

Now, the elections have come but not yet totally gone because some outcomes are still inconclusive, while elections into some National Assembly seats are yet to be concluded. But many Nigerians have passed their verdict on INEC for whatever reasons: some because their candidates lost the contest; some because of INEC’s failure to deliver on its promise to upload all election results on the IReV, which it couldn’t do in the most important presidential election; and others because of the wanton violence that characterized the elections from across the country.

The 2023 general elections have left in its trail different perceptions in the minds of the people. A comprehensive assessment of the entire process might not be possible until the cases in courts have gone full circle, some getting to the Supreme Court. But there have been kudos and flaks and a perception of the good, the bad and the ugly of the 2023 elections: here is a preliminary review:

The good

Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS)

The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) has been widely acknowledged as a Game Changer in the 2023 election. It was able to eliminate ghost voters from participating in the elections. Unlike in the past when results were concocted to match up with total number of voters on the voter register, only the real voters, physically present were able to cast their votes in the election. One popular politician from the South south put it jocularly “fishes and shrimps” were disenfranchised from voting in 2023. This led to many leaders losing their units and wards unlike before now, when such results were simply written in favour of party chieftains to honour them. Largely, real votes counted.

Losers Congratulating Winners
It is a noticeable positive development for the democratic process that some losers in the election have congratulated the winners, just like President Goodluck Jonathan did in 2015. Two good examples here are: Senator Teslim Folarin the APC governorship candidate in Oyo State who has congratulated the incumbent Governor Seyi Makinde of the PDP who won the election. And Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara state has also congratulated his main challenger Mr. Dauda Lawal of the PDP. It is a different ball game at the presidential election, where the runner up and the person who came third are already in Court challenging the outcome of the election.

Gov Seyi Makinde of Oyo state

The Peoples’ Votes Counted
In the 2023 election, it is provable that the people’s votes counted more than in previous elections with several upsets recorded across the country. Victories in many states could be attributed to the wishes of the people. Unlike in previous elections when the godfathers held sway in many communities, many godfathers lost elections in their polling units and wards and may have been retired politically. It was because the people’s votes counted that many incumbents who performed below expectations were booted out.

While in Oyo state, the peoples’ votes led to the triumph of someone like Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo state despite what looked like a gang-up of many political godfathers. The 2023 election may have sounded a knell to godfatherism in Nigeria and restored power to the people, the electorate

Reduction in Vote Buying
By fair or foul means politicians like to win elections. Vote buying is a menace that attained problematic magnitude in the elections of 2019 and especially in the off-cycle elections. But the incident was drastically curtailed in the 2023 elections. There were minimal incidents of brazen trading in votes at the polling units but not that vote buying was completely absent. The CBN Naira change of certain denominations and the attendant scarcity of the new currency despite the withdrawal of the old notes reduced politicians’ dependence on vote buying as a winning strategy.

But trust the political class, they evolved fresh strategies of actualizing vote buying by printing redeemable vouchers which would be exchanged for money transfer later. What is, however, undeniable was the depression in the vote buying market. The price slumped to an average of N2,000.00, in a market that sometimes could be as high as between N5,000 and N10,000.00 and pundits had predicted that due to the competitiveness of the presidential election, a vote could cost as high as N15,000 or N20,000.00 but that wasn’t the case. The people showed courage and determination to exercise their franchise by ensuring that they voted despite the cash squeeze.

Positive Developments from Young People

Hon Lawal Musa, Yobe state

Apart from the perceived better turnout of young people to vote in the election and willing to also defend their votes, the emergence of young people, who won unique elections are very encouraging. Like ‘new kids on the block’, Hon Lawal Musa, a 25-year old citizen from Yobe state won election into the State House of Assembly, defeating Speaker of the House who has been a member of the house for the past twenty years. The winner was only 5 years old when the Speaker first won his election into the Yobe State House of Assembly.

Hon Rukayat Shittu

Another inspiring story is that of a 26-year old young lady, Rukaya Motunrayo Shittu, who has just been elected as a member of the Kwara State House of Assembly representing Owode/Onire constituency. She has been a silent grassroot mobiliser in her community but with deep understanding of what the roles of a representative in the parliament are. She won her primary election and went on to win her constituency election. She is today one of the five females elected in the Kwara State House of Assembly who will be sworn in later in the year.

The Bad
INEC’s Failing on Logistics
There were assurances from INEC that all the issues associated with logistics have been sorted out and that never would the ghost of logistics hunt the Electoral Commission again. But, the Commission fell below expectations as election materials and electoral personnel did not get to the polling areas as scheduled. In some instances, election had to be postponed to the next day.

Intimidation and Voter Suppression

New lexicons and vocabularies were introduced in the 2023 election. “If you know you won’t vote for our party don’t bother to come out on election day”. These are strange words hitherto uncommon during elections but were freely used by political thugs to intimidate voters. Such intimidation led to voter suppression, which is a strategy to influence the outcome of the election by discouraging or preventing specific groups of people from voting. A lot of this occurred after the presidential election, in places where the outcome were perceived unfavourable to a ruling party in a state.

Selective Application of Electoral Rules and Guidelines

INEC officials applied the rules discriminatorily during collation of results and in announcing whether and election was conclusive or inconclusive. While the Electoral Act empowers the INEC Returning Officers to review the results against the complaints by party agents, such a review was not done at the national collation center for the presidential election, leading to a walk-out by some agents. In some states during the governorship elections extensive reviews took place. However, there were seeming inconsistency in the application of the law leading to the declaration of an election as inconclusive. A glaring case is that of Ogun state. Also the outcome in Kaduna state. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. There are other inconclusive elections in Adamawa and Kebbi states. Abia and Enugu states almost fell victims of the same application until there was an intervention from the Headquarters of the electoral umpire.

Snatching of Ballot Boxes and BVAS Machines

To gain grounds and be declared winners, politicians resorted to different antics when results were going against the grain. They embarked on snatching of ballot boxes and BVAS machines so to render the votes in those areas ineligible or useless. These are unfair tactics that should be stopped or and the law strengthened to punish offenders.

The Ugly
Failure of IReV in the Presidential election

Contrary to what was marketed as a unique selling point of the 2023 election, the results viewing portal of the INEC failed to upload the presidential election results as they were being declared at the various polling units. This failure almost marred the credibility of the entire electoral process. It beclouded the much-vouched transparency of the electoral process and has given unintended consequences of an attempt to manipulate the outcome of the election. The failure of INEC to engage the IReV in the presidential election gave the game away. INEC dropped the ball and the politicians tried to capitalize on the observable loopholes. The politicians had three weeks to re-sharpen their skills and compromise the election. Furthermore the INEC did not communicate its challenges on the IReV to the electorate promptly, thereby yielding ground to speculations and innuendos. This is a major drawback for the electoral umpire. Though there was an improvement in the subsequent governorship election, but the harm had been done. Failure to publish the results on the IReV portal was like taking the gilt off the ginger-bread.

The violence that characterized the voting process in some states like Lagos, Rivers, Kano, and others is not a good development. Many lives were lost during the 2023 elections. There were maiming and verbal attacks. Putting the fear of death into voters is not an acceptable strategy in a democracy and should be condemned by all. All electoral offenders should be made to face the music. All INEC officials who had their hands in the pie should sanctioned and publicly shamed.

Ethnic and Religious Politics

Ethnicity took the centre stage in the 2023 political campaigns as candidates tried to outwit one another by exploring their religion to gain advantage over the other. From the presidential elections, these twin-issues became more problematic as the elections went deeper. Candidates shuttled between churches and mosques in search of votes. Their supporters preached hate and the seed planted during the campaign has now germinated and now scary. They have assumed a new level and birthed hostilities in many communities. The fear amongst right thinking members of the society is that if not stemmed, this has potential of leading to xenophobic attacks and genocide.

Lessons for All
There are lessons for all in the 2023 electoral process. But a lot of the problems revolve around the political class. They are the ones who will either make the system to work or malfunction through their acts. Intolerance by the politicians breeds desperation on their part to want to win always. But, they must remember that losing today is not the end. There are plenty of fish in the sea for them to catch with another trial; four years is just around the corner.

Ayo Aluko-Olokun

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