By Zainab Suleiman Okino
It does not matter what the naysayers say and the doubts are.By the time the presidential election is concluded this weekend, Nigeria would have written its name in gold, for overcoming all odds, in the most consequential election in recent time. In the past, the coast would have been clear and winner waiting to be “crowned”, few days to D-Day. Not this election. Here is an election that provides no clear proof of its outcome; because it is too close to call.
We have seen pundits and pollsters dishing out opinions as polls results. Understandably, there has been no consensus among them; nor is their verdict sacrosanct. This is unprecedent. It is the first of its kind. In this election, we have candidates whose popularity cuts across religious sentiments and ethnic affiliations. It gladdens the heart to see Northern governors stand up against the president over Tinubu’s candidacy and policies seen as detracting from their party’s efforts, regardless of what the self-serving motives are.
Meanwhile, there is nothing like a walkover because the leading candidates are running neck to necks so, no one can predict with certainty. In the last ten years, security has been a major concern nationwide, and more so when a general election is approaching. Despite its intensity in the last few years, from all indications, it is incapable of stopping the election from holding; another proof of Nigeria’s resilience in the face of series of tragedies.
The economy has been in turmoil. The new government policy on the redesign of the naira and currency swap has further complicated the shape of the economy. In the last one month prior to this week’s election, money has been in short supply due to the unavailability of the new naira notes. People simply lack cash to do basic transactions.
However, with all the attendant negative impacts of this policy, and the critical roles that money plays in our elections;and despite the politically motivated protests over the naira issue, all is now set for the election. By the time the election is conducted successfully, we will begin to count the blessings of the naira scarcity such as saving for a rainy day and avoiding unnecessary consumables.
As highly politicized as the policy is, lack of liquidity in the system has reduced kidnap for ransom. The highways are not very busy and relatively safe as testified to by those who have traveled lately. Cost of living, which has been increasing, is now relatively stable, because there is not much money to chase available goods. In all these, we hope Nigeria wins.
The 14th Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II played the statesman recently when he declared support for the Central Bank’s cashless policy. Sanusi who was deposed by Governor Ganduje under the administration of President Buhari, found succour in Governor Nasir El-Rufai, his friend. Because he does not suffer fools easily, he supported his conviction than his friend, Gov El-Rufai. He said the policy is hurting politicians and election riggers, but for as long as the policy will reduce rigging, it is okay. “Nigerians should welcome this new policy as it will give them a chance to vote whom they like, not those who can hire thugs or buy votes during elections”, Sanusi said.
Indeed, if we can survive the associated hardships, and look on to the possible outcome of an election not influenced and won with money, it would be worth it.
Everyone seems aligned to the policy, or at least, the principles behind it. Like most Nigerians, I abhor its shoddy implementation and timing, which have led to suffering and lack of access to one’s money. But the policy has levelled everybody; we are all united in misery, and in “a no money” situation. Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, told Channels in an interview recently that his wife too could not get money to buy food items. These are issues that the CBN should resolve, but all these do not detract from the principles behind the cashless policy, especially if it can turn around the economy.
Citizen consciousness and massive youth mobilisation will stand this election out, more than ever before. Young people are no longer onlookers in the recruitment of leaders through election. Social media, and support for Peter Obi and other young candidates in the race have created robust engagements and environment for participation. Voters have since realised that complaints are not enough, if actions are not initiated. The fact that votes will count according to INEC is encouraging too.
For the first time since our democratic experiment began, there is nothing like a comfort zone for any political party or politician. Every politician now knows that he has to canvas for votes, cajole the people and solicit for support, for the obvious reason that money will play no role and rigging is near impossible. They cannot afford to take the masses or group of people for granted anymore. The days of telling the electorate to go to hell, are over for good. Changing election result midway to collation centres is now a futile effort.
Since 1999, rigging and thuggery have been drawbacks for the credibility of our election. The expected near-rig-free election is made possible by BVAS and IReV, two important technological devices introduced by INEC to achieve credible election. Politicians have accepted it, despite their initial apprehension. If the new electoral law is able to engender a free, credible and transparent election, it will go down in history as one of the biggest legacies of the Buhari administration.
Apart from money not being available for the election, the days of ballot box matching is over. People can now vote based on their conviction. In the coming election, anti-party activities are reigning without challenge. Governors are working against their own parties as 5-G governors seem to be doing. Governor Ortom has added a new twist to it; he said he is ready to sacrifice his senatorial ambition under the PDP, to have Peter Obi of the Labour Party elected. Not even President Muhammadu Buhari is immune to accusations of anti-party activities, having been accused of working against the APC with the Naira redesign and the CBN policy.
However, despite all these accusations and counter-accusations, anti-party or not, elections are still going to hold without anybody losing his or her position. Surely, this election is not your run-of-the-mill type; not the typical Nigerian election either, where results are known before the contest begins. Welcome to a defining moment in Nigeria’s election cycle, welcome to the 2023 election unusual.
Zainab Suleiman Okino chairs the Editorial Board of Blueprint newspaper. She is a fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (FNGE). She can be reached via; firstname.lastname@example.org