Nigerians are voting today, February 25, to exercise their right to vote. They are voting to choose the 10th National Assembly, which will run the government for the next four years, as well as senators and members of the House of Representatives. They are also voting to choose a new President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The journey to the general elections in 2023 has been long. The Electoral Act 2022, the widespread registration for Permanent Voter Cards (PVC), and INEC’s seismic pivot to technology-driven elections utilizing the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System were all momentous steps along the way (BVAS).
The stakes are higher this year than they have ever been in a poll before. The fact that there are a record 93.5 million registered voters, 48 million young people making up the majority of the electorate, an intense electioneering campaign, and political fervor that has swept the nation of Nigeria are all signs that the 2023 general election is of paramount importance to Nigerians.
The explanations are plausible. For Nigerians, the last eight years have been a painful ordeal. The effects of two recessions, escalating insecurity, religious intolerance, racial jingoism, and a lack of effective administration are still felt by citizens, among other oppressive realities.
The socio-political landscape was shattered along multiple faultlines, dividing the nation’s cohesiveness. The gap between the rich and the poor has never been wider, and unemployment is at an all-time high. Naturally, the nation fell into the pit of poverty, where 133 million Nigerians now reside. Because to the austerity, the nation has the unflattering moniker of “poor capital of the world.”
Nigerians have fled in large numbers to other nations in pursuit of better lands due to these hardships. The migratory syndrome (also known as Japa), which began a few years ago, peaked last year and is still going strong.
The country has experienced the largest brain drain in recent memory. A record number of medical professionals as well as an unimaginable number of Computer experts left Nigeria, weakening the nation in vital industries.
More than anything, the difficulties Nigerians experienced highlighted the necessity of a fundamental change in leadership style and direction as well as a thorough revamp of the nation’s government.
Elections, and only elections, provide us the chance to change the course of our society.
There is no place for sentiment in choosing the best candidate because the situation is so serious. So, it goes without saying that we must exercise good judgment when casting our votes.
The outside world has high standards for us. Leaders from throughout the world, including American President Joe Biden, have urged us to do it right and get it right. Our country will be the center of attention for the next 48 hours.
A murky background of violence has been present, including the murder of Labour Party senatorial candidate Oyibo Chukwu in Enugu just 48 hours before the vote and the arrests of people in Lagos, Rivers, and Gombe with unusually large amounts of cash that were intended for vote buying less than 24 hours before the vote.
Today, we must stand together against any anti-election activities that can taint this crucial election.
It goes without saying that despite our differences in race, gender, and political party preferences, we share a fundamental desire: we long for effective leadership. The renowned resiliency of the populace frequently referred to as “the Nigerian spirit,” helped the nation withstand the hardships of the previous four years.
We may now put a positive cap on it by voting sensibly in a setting free from violence and vulnerable to post-election crises.
It must be noted that if we fail to hold a peaceful, free, fair, and legitimate election, our yearning for change could become meaningless and a mirage.
The 18 registered political parties unanimously agreed to accept the results of the elections or seek redress through legal channels when they signed a peace agreement on Wednesday. Following that, a few of the main candidates made a statement to their supporters urging them to abstain from acts of violence and other behavior that would endanger the election.
The election is actually in our best interests.
We cannot help but draw the conclusion that Nigeria is a united nation based on the makeup of the presidential contenders, their running partner, and their wide range of diverse followers. But, we are simmering with a rage born of dissatisfaction. Yet we must keep in mind that in a democracy, elections are still the only acceptable and legitimate way to voice our complaints.
Nigerians are now at that turning point. We must not let the chance slip by. The Electoral Act requires that each of us use our right to vote. To make our votes count, we must be committed. That includes making sure we do not prevent other people from exercising their rights.
A Road Not Taken, a renowned poem by Robert Frost, discussed missed possibilities. Nigerian voters had frequently traveled the same path in the past. We ended ourselves at political Golgotha and down the rabbit hole of terrible leadership and poor administration when we followed the route of vote-buying, ballot-box snatching, and ethnic and religious intolerance, to name a few. We do not have the luxury of taking that path once more. At the polling place, we have the chance to cast our votes for actual change, motivated by a sincere desire for a higher standard of life and social welfare.
Everybody has a responsibility. The 48 million young people registered to vote to have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the election process by refusing to act as destabilizing agents.
Security organizations must fulfill their obligations. The impartiality demanded of INEC as the electoral arbiter must be upheld by its workers.
As the largest democracy in Africa, it is our duty to lead by example for the other African nations that will be holding elections later this year.
We must always keep in mind that democracy is established on the basis of fair elections. Nigerians must respect the results of the election as a result. Democracy is, after all, a system in which both the majority and the minority have influence, even during elections.