Nigerians went to the polls on Saturday, February 23, 2019 to elect a new President and members of the Senate and House of Representatives respectively. In essence, the elections were to constitute the executive and legislative arms of government at the federal level. The elections, however, were held after an earlier postponement, by one week, by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), mainly because of logistic challenges.
The expectation after the one-week postponement was that elections would be better than the 2015 experience, where all the anticipated loopholes would have been plugged. INEC had assured Nigerians that the sensitive and non-sensitive materials had been fully distributed and both INEC staff and ad hoc staff were ready to conduct the elections timeously and in observance of best practices. The Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Adamu, had reassured Nigerians that all plans and contingencies had been put in place and all Nigerians were to go about the exercise of their civic duties without fear of molestation. And those who travelled the week earlier but came back disappointed were prevailed upon to go back and vote.
The key feature emanating from the polls was that the turnout was low compared to the 2015 general elections. In many instances, Nigerians waited patiently in the sun to cast their votes and many further waited to hear the announcement of the results at their polling units. There were still reports of late arrival of materials and electoral officials to conduct the elections, insufficient quantity of election materials and card readers that malfunctioned. Further reports were of waves of violence including ballot box snatching and burning, intimidation of voters by thugs and armed men and other voter suppression tactics. Vote-buying and the manifest influence of money were also noticeable at the polls.
Despite the obvious shortcomings in the February 23rd Presidential and National Assembly elections, the ruling party has again won another election, providing it yet another opportunity to make or mar its agenda of development, which during the campaign for the election, it enunciated as its “next level”. The ‘next level’ is really nothing more than a disaggregation of the 2015 manifesto to specific details comprising restructuring of the polity, war against corruption and national orientation, agriculture and food security, transportation, power supply, mineral and steel development, education, health, industrialisation, human rights, national security and defence, politics and governance, women and gender issues among others.
It is to be noted that the president has demonstrated passion for security, the war against corruption and the economy. The victory of his party has provided him yet another opportunity to take these issues away from mere rhetoric to action. Politics is over, it is time for serious governance. In all seriousness, for the president and his party, it is time to turn things around, improve the lot of the citizens and redeem their image through an inclusive government – that can generate enthusiasm in nation building again.