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It is a thing of joy observing various landmark reforms and revolutions which have come to characterize the electoral processes in Nigeria to the extent that the electorates are perceived as occupying the expected strategic position of influence in deciding on the decision of who governs them.
There is now every reason to justify the then clamour for electoral reforms in the country many of which culminated in the amendments to Electoral Act leading to the introduction of electronic systems and deployment of electronic means in the our voting, collation and rendition of election results
It is note worthy that Nigeria and Nigerians have successfully overcome many of the hitherto encumbrances which have made it near impossible for the electorates to not only have their say but more importantly, for them to have their way also.
If perhaps any person was in doubt as to what mileage that the country had gained in reclaiming lost grounds in demonstrating the triumph of the peoples’ power in election matters, the better place is to reflect on the results of the primary elections of the various political parties where many of the political gladiators failed to secure tickets which could have qualified them to seek re-election.
However, it has taken the outcome of the just concluded Osun Governorship election for the ordinary Nigerians to take to the streets in celebration of the regain of their voting powers on the account of a rejuvenated and reinvigorated system which have made room for the electorates not only to vote in a free and fair election but more importantly for their votes to count amid less tension and minimal violence.
The transparency, impartiality, neutrality and fairness which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) displayed at the Osun governorship election which resulted in the conclusiveness of the election at the first ballot with minimal controversies on the eventual outcome of the election where an incumbent governor was out punched by an opposition candidate is the most credible manner of demonstrating the efficacy of our electoral reforms.
According to the result which was announced by the Chief Returning Officer Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos as early as 7am of Sunday, July 17, 2022 for an election that was held less than 24 hours before then, the incumbent governor of the State of Osun, Alhaji Adegboyega Oyetola won in 13 local government areas of the state with a total vote of 375,027 while his main opponent Senator Ademola Adeleke had control over 17 of the 30 LGAs translating to a total votes of 403,371.
Except for the reported killing of one of the returning officers of the Peoples Democratic Party, Hon Jide Jooba, the Osun State governorship election can be considered very successful and relatively peaceful to the extent that it could serve as an incentive for an orderly conduct of future elections with the 2023 general election standing as the bigger picture.
Although there were reports of inducements on the part of contestants, vote buying, compromise on the part of some select security agencies, we make bold to declare that the outcome of the Osun election serves as a disincentive to those who plan to commit electoral fraud of any sort with the intent of thwarting the will of the electorates.
Except anything goes wrong mid way which we do not pray for, it stands to be challenged that the forth coming 2023 general election in the country will generate the most interest, turnout, indulgence and participation going by the current outpour of emotions, empathy and fraternization of most strata of the population.
It may have been late in coming but the fact is now more evident that majority of Nigerians, having been traumatized by avalanche of oddities which have suddenly come to characterize the Nigerian political and governance landscape are now more than ever before willing to participate in the processes leading to the election of their leaders with particular emphasis on who becomes the next president of the country at the exit of President Muhammadu Buhari in May of 2023.
Consequently, we strongly challenge the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to urgently engage and indeed deploy its arsenals as to aim towards the near perfection of its processes, procedures and mandates in its organization and supervision of the forth coming general election considering that the name of the incumbent president; Buhari will not be on the ballot
We say this mindful of what transpired in the recently held governorship election in Osun State which has helped in ensuring that issues mischievously used to characterize elections in Nigeria have gloriously been made to belong to the past with new narrations been fast forwarded to define our culture and to determine our future.
It can now be said and correctly too that the successful conduct as well as the outcome of the State of Osun governorship election are as important as they will serve INEC as the last trial platform before the 2023 general election to which most Nigerians are hoping to use as the crucial turning point needed in navigating and negotiating a new beginning where the electorate decides who governs them.
Much as INEC tried to modify its systems and strategies towards allowing the vote of the electorate to count, the recently concluded Osun State governorship election points to the fact that it is still possible for INEC to work the talk considering the bare face deployment of ‘alternative ‘ means of winning election such as vote buying, intimidation of voters, the unending use of political thugs, the docility of some of the security agencies many of who are accomplices in the commission of the electoral offences.
“We passionately urge the National Assembly to urgently conclude work on the proposed Bill for the establishment of Electoral Offences Commission and Electoral Offences Tribunal ahead of the 2023 general election if only to complement the progress thus far made by INEC to the extent that the political gladiators will begin to understand the simple logic that there are consequences for every of their electoral misdemeanor”.
It is heartwarming to observe the reduction in violent crimes in the country since the gradual deployment of electronic voting devices starting from the Edo, Anambra, Ekiti and now Osun states hence the nudging of INEC, the various political parties, Civil Society Organisations and indeed the media to step up activities towards mobilizing the critical mass of voters to participate in the 2023 general election against the backdrop of the obvious apathy towards participation in choosing our leaders.
As INEC aims at ending its continuous voter registration exercise July 31, we urge the electoral umpire to ensure for the efficient deployment, retooling and upgrading of its Biometric Voter Identification gadgets as to accommodate the expected upsurge in the number of voters in 2023 general election. Osun governorship election had 332 registration areas, 3,763 polling units and 1,955,657 registered voters but only 827,218 actually voted. The 2023 general election must be a tremendous improvement on the turnout and successes recorded in the Osun exercise in all ramifications.
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