Hope Rises, by Dakuku Peterside
As we look forward to Election Day in 2023, a few polls this year increasingly point to the nature and manner of the general election. The last of these off-season state elections (Anambra, Ekiti and Osun) was held last Saturday – the Osun State Governor’s Election. The course and outcome of last Saturday’s elections in Osun offer important lessons for 2023.
Some may think otherwise, but we disagree. The South West Yorubas are arguably Nigeria’s most politically sophisticated nationality. They often define their interest by election and vote for it. Osun’s election provides a barometer to gauge the political mood and the electorate’s appetite for radical socio-political change in the country. Osun may well be the microcosm of the macro dynamism of the Nigerian political space.
Some focus on the candidates and the different party platforms, while others worry about the growing influence of the “third force”, represented by the Labor parties and the Accord parties. Others worry about the impact of intra-party squabbles, the strength of the mandate, etc.
Yet others are watching carefully how the results may be affected by the role of institutions such as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies, the media and, of course, independent election observers and NGO.
In terms of the use and deployment of technology, for example, there has been a dramatic improvement in the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) to all wards for the election. Although there were some mechanical hurdles, the BVAS significantly improved voter accreditation time and an atmosphere of peace around the voting areas.
This, along with the huge turnout, sent a strong message that our voters are immersing themselves in democratic culture.
A human element that has been the bane of elections in Nigeria is rigging. The deployment of BVAS technology and the electronic transmission of election results, coupled with voter vigilance to ensure their vote counts, has made election rigging a little more complicated than in the past. The era of politicians sitting at home and writing election results independent of the actual election results on the ground is seemingly over.
However, vote buying is an aspect of rigging that has appeared in all off-season elections. Osun politicians were more innovative in vote buying than their Ekiti counterparts. Perhaps the presence of anti-corruption agencies may have reduced the bazaar vote buying that it was in Ekiti to a modest level in Osun. It is alleged that political operatives from the APC and PDP bought votes at prices ranging from 2,000 to 10,000 naira per vote. It is good that the security agents have arrested some culprits, and it is essential to pursue these criminals and to make a scapegoat of them.
The victory of the opposition party, on the eve of next year’s general elections, is an indicator of the complex nature of the electorate, of greater awareness among the average Nigerian voter and of the changing dynamics of election management influenced primarily by the use of technology and social media. media. A review of some of the main lessons of this election suffices.
First, the effective use of technology in the electoral process has mitigated some human factors that create unnecessary bottlenecks in our elections. BVAS technology worked effectively to accredit voters, and the electronic transfer of results helped INEC start in time to upload real-time election results. Nigerians are happy that the malfunction rate of the technology was insignificant and did little to hamper the electoral process. This effective use of technology in Osun’s election shows that INEC means business. If it works in Osun, it should work in other parts of Nigeria.
The second lesson is that rigging is becoming unpopular and could gradually become Nigerian election history. All in all, it is evident that the vote matters in today’s Nigeria. The call for voters to get their PVC is on point, and people would be more likely to vote now, knowing their choices matter.
We hope this will make the leaders who emerge from this process accountable to the electorate. This marks the beginning of true democracy in Nigeria – the supremacy and power of the people through the ballot.
However, the progress made in the fight against rigging may be undermined by the financial incentive policy. This anomaly seemed stubbornly present even during the Osun elections, and we must do something urgently to put a drastic end to it. We must eliminate the voting market.
Democracy is not for sale, and people should never be encouraged to sacrifice their future on a pittance of N2000-N10,000. Voters must vote according to their beliefs and their understanding of the qualities of the leaders they want. However, the counter-narrative is that there is no guarantee that voters who raised money voted according to any particular pattern. A proper secret ballot in a safe and secure environment takes away that luxury and gives the voter the ability to act on their conscience.
The third lesson is that social media is essential, but grassroots voter mobilization remains the main battlefront in politics. Social media likes and positive comments will not replace actual participation with voting. All people on social networks who solicit a candidate of their choice must “follow the word”. They should start by getting their PVCs, mobilizing people in their network to get PVCs, and voting during the actual election.
We also cannot underestimate the power of the political structure. The weak structures of the Labor Party and the Accord Party may have contributed to their poor performance, although there is also the counter-narrative that while the election was all about structures, the APC n wouldn’t have lost.
Yet fringe parties must develop and deploy political structures, networks and systems to challenge the big two. It may take some time to give the expected result. Social media is an operational platform to educate, engage and mobilize your supporters to champion the party ideology and candidates’ qualities and skills to the mass electorate.
Social media as a tool for mass mobilization is its most powerful and potent use for political purposes. Converting social media users into voters is where the job is. Therefore, new parties and smaller parties should be careful not to properly confuse the two – social media engagement and voting exercise. The election result in Osun should not deter non-mainstream parties from pushing for a new order.
The fourth lesson is that when all institutions work effectively to organize a free and fair election, it allows for a peaceful election without rancor or chaos. States experiencing hotbeds of election violence need to study Osun’s elections, put them into local context and milieu, and develop a plan to eradicate election violence from our political lexicon.
As Nigeria’s voice and call for political and socio-economic change reach a crescendo, the battle line is being drawn between the new children of the political bloc and the old ones who have maintained orthodoxy. Young people seem to be drawn to the new and whimsical political reality that is leading some of them to reshape and fully own politics as leaders of today and tomorrow.
Most older people are skeptical of the “new freedom songs” sung by these young people. They are present enough to know that reality differs from the utopian nature of mass political movements that want to change existing political platforms and power structures.
Despite this raging conflict, and we are set to see more of it in the coming days leading up to the 2023 general election, we are sure next year’s election could be the ‘mother of all elections’ in Nigeria. If technology and human factors enable a free and fair election, as evidenced by Osun’s election, that would be the growing hope for democracy and the dream of a better country. We have to get it right in 2023.
Dakuku Peterside is an expert in politics and leadership.
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