EditorialTHEWILL EDITORIAL: Time to Move Nigeria Forward

THEWILL EDITORIAL: Time to Move Nigeria Forward




The 2023 General Election is gradually coming to a close. The Governorship and State Houses of Assembly Elections, which were initially scheduled for March 11, finally took place on Saturday, March 18. The Presidential and National Assembly election had earlier been held on February 25. Apart from the rescheduled polls in one or two states, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will be wrapping up its national assignment for this year in a few weeks.

Already, the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has officially moved into Defence House, Abuja, preparatory to his inauguration on May 29 as President Muhammadu Buhari is on his way out of the Aso Rock Villa. Interestingly, the President is now operating from his Katsina country home, knowing full well that his eight-year tenure is ending in just about two months from now.

The reality on ground for everyone now is the task of moving Nigeria forward. While important lessons have been learned from the wobbling and fumbling of INEC despite all the support it received locally and internationally, the arduous task of moving the country to the next phase is the most important assignment before the president-elect and the new set of leaders at both the national and state levels.

There is no gainsaying the fact that all eyes are now on Nigeria as the international community is just waiting to see the lessons learned so far in our democratic journey. The European Union Observer Mission has been on ground in Nigeria since January and it is expected to come out with an interim report on Saturday’s polls this week, according to the EU Chief Observer, Barry Andrews, who confirmed that the final report of both the February 25 and March 18 elections would be ready within the next three months.

”We are here on the invitation of the Independent National Electoral Commission and we are here to carry out an assessment of the election process. We have been deployed here since early January and we will continue our deployment here till April and then we will produce the final report within three months after the end of the election and it will contain all our conclusions and recommendations.

“Generally, the criteria we tested against are inclusivity and credibility, being the overall process it takes in the entire media, judicial and legislative landscape; that is why we deployed for such a long period of time,” Andrews said after the polls on Saturday.

Ezenwa Nwagwu, a board member of YIAGA Africa, which deployed 1,547 observers across the 28 states where the governorship poll held, said: “Voters were harassed, electoral materials destroyed, vote-buying was higher in state elections, compared to what was applicable in the presidential election, and voters accredited without the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).”

Also, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), as well as other election monitors and observer groups had earlier given their reports of the Presidential and National Assembly elections. The reports were a damning verdict on the not-too-impressive performance of INEC in the first round of the elections, especially in the area of logistics and its failure to transmit results of the polls in real-time as it had promised.

Most disappointing to Nigerians in the conduct of the first round of elections was the failure of the BVAS to live up to its much-flaunted reputation as the real game-changer in the electoral system. Although some improvements were made in the second round of the polls, the accompanying violence, voters intimidation and fatalities recorded really took the shine off the entire exercise.

Nonetheless, we are happy that the president-elect appears good to go despite the opposition in some quarters to his emergence. He has expressed his determination to run a government based on merit and competence. Most Nigerians, who are really tired of the mediocrity and nepotism that characterised the administration of outgoing President Buhari, would definitely look forward to a progressive style going forward. While the legal battles take their normal course, we believe that the country cannot be held captive. Life must go on and very well, too.

The task of rebuilding Nigeria is much more important than lamenting the failure of the electoral umpire to deliver on its promises and live up to the expectations of Nigerians. It is very sad and painful that the gains of the electoral reforms have been rubbished by INEC’s inefficiency and lack-lustre performance as many Nigerians continue to wonder why the electoral body would choose to fumble when it mattered most.

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