Saturday, June 22, 2024

Four biggest losers of 2023 Nigerian general elections

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By Michael Owhoko, Ph.D
Real losers of 2023 Nigerian general elections are not the electorate who were deprived of their rights
to freely choose candidates of their choice nor the first-timer youth who were disappointed by the
Nigerian state nor the candidates who lost or won as declared by the Independent National Electoral
Commission (INEC).
The biggest losers are President Muhammadu Buhari, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu,
President-elect, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Nigeria as a political entity. Except for Bola Tinubu
who carries the burden of legitimacy arising from flawed process and total miniature votes garnered,
the others will live with scar and collective guilt slammed on the country by ethical deficit in delivery
process of the elections.
With general disenchantment over the conduct of the 2023 Nigerian general elections by over 145,000
national and foreign observers deployed across the country, INEC failed to leave a split opinion on its
capacity to conduct a free, fair and credible elections, a development that will hunt Mahood Yakubu,
Mohammed Buhari and Nigeria for a long time to come. The exercise was not only a horrendous
phenomenon on the psyche of Nigerians but a fleeting nightmare.
A consensus negative opinion on the flawed elections by European Union, African Union, Economic
Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Commonwealth, The International Republican Institute
(IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI), Joint Election Observation Mission (IEOM), four former African
presidents, and Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), is an affirmation of global skepticism about
Nigeria’s reputation. They all concluded that the electoral process lacked transparency, which
encouraged manipulations and undermined voters’ confidence.
This trust deficit was also highlighted by Chatham House when it declared that INEC had learnt nothing
from its past failures. Specifically, it said, “The INEC’s performance and controversies over these results
mean that the electoral reforms and lessons declared to have been learned were not fully applied and,
as an electoral body, it was significantly less prepared than it claimed.”
As a consequence of these opinions, President Buhari might have missed the opportunity to etch his
name in gold over his failure to provide a secured and enabling environment for free, fair and credible
elections. As Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, he failed to optimally use his offices, including
effective deployment of the police, army, DSS, and other security agencies to protect voters during the
Nigerians were mortified by horrendous images of election violations, and no rationalization could
justify such criminal acts. An election where about 27 persons were killed nationwide over violence,
ballot snatching, thuggery, voters’ suppression, ethnic bigotry, use of tribal gods and deities, even in the
presence of security operatives in some instances, can only be a national shame.
Besides, whatever is left of Buhari’s legacy might have been further weakened by the naira redesign and
currency swap policy which brought untold hardship to citizens during period of the elections. Perhaps,
the intention of the policy was to eliminate monetary inducement and vote buying, unfortunately,

Buhari and the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, were outwitted by politicians through use of
extra-constitutional and procedural means to contrive and achieve sinister objectives.
For the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, there might be no second opportunity to redeem his
character. With a budget of over N305 billion and other sundry support, he had no reasons to have
failed. Yakubu gave assurances in both local and international events, including Chatham House, of his
Commission’s preparedness, pledging that with use of technology, including Bimodal Voter
Accreditation System (BVAS), results would be transmitted in real-time to INEC Result Viewing Portal
These assertions receded into irrelevance when INEC failed to comply with the Electoral Act and its own
guidelines. The Electoral Act, 2022, requires INEC to upload the elections of polling units in its portal as
stipulated in Section 60 (5) and Clause 38 of the INEC Regulations and Guidelines.
Specifically, Clause 38 of the INEC Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections, 2022 states:
“Upon completion of all the Polling Unit voting and results, procedures, the Presiding Officer shall:-(i)
Electronically transmit or transfer the result of the Polling Unit direct to the collation system as
prescribed by the commission. (ii) Use BVAS to upload a scan of ES8A to INEC Result Viewing Portal
(IReV), as prescribed by the commission. (iii) Take the BVAS and the original copy of each of the forms in
tamper-evident envelope to the Registration Area/Ward Collation Officer, in the company of security
agents. The polling agents may accompany the Presiding Officer to the RA/Ward Collation Centre.”
With non-compliance and deviation from these regulatory provisions, INEC opened the electoral process
to manipulations, resulting in lack of justice and fulfilment for voters.
These violations have exposed existential gaps in the capacity of Mahmood Yakubu to deliver on a
significant national assignment. This might cast aspersion on his reputation and capabilities. Indeed,
this election is a minus for his profile, as no government or any serious organisation may want to
bequeath him with such responsibilities in future.
Unfortunately, the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, is a product of INEC’s flawed process, and this has
triggered legitimacy challenge that is further fueled by lean number of votes secured at the election
relative to total votes cast. Tinubu polled 8.87 million (the least by any presidential candidate since
1999), representing 36.61 per cent of total votes, and 10.08 per cent of all eligible voters. Out of
approximately 93 million registered voters, only about 25 million, representing 28.63 percent, actually
turned out to vote.
Implicitly, Bola Tinubu was not only elected by minority voters when viewed against 25 million persons
that voted, and in a country of over 200 million people, skepticism resulting from INEC’s multiple
irregularities are unhelpful to his presidency. Perhaps, this accounts for the absence of national pomp
and celebration that would have heralded his victory.
Without prejudice to outcome of current litigation, going forward, Bola Tinubu should activate his social
capital to open up channels across to influential groups and personalities in the country, including his
political rivals aimed at legitimizing his presidency, and achieving unity through formation of all-inclusive

INEC’s performance has also rubbed off on Nigeria’s image as a corrupt country. Through the foreign
observers, perception of the international community about Nigeria as a corrupt country might have
worsen on account of their opinions over lack of transparency and operational failures that
characterized INEC’s performance.
In the 2022 Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Nigeria was ranked 150
out of 180 countries, and also placed as second most corrupt country in West Africa. By INEC’s standard
and performance, it has unwittingly further confirmed Nigeria as a corrupt country, and deepened
global negative impressions.
Nigeria lost the opportunity to demonstrate before the world of its preparedness to be a leading light in
Africa and world affairs, using the elections as spring board to exhibit its leadership potentials and
capacity. Hopes for these attainments have, however, been frustrated and shattered by INEC.
Besides, with world’s attention on Nigeria as connoted by presence of foreign observers, Nigeria should
have used the elections as public relations tool to strengthen the country’s image through conduct of
free, fair and credible election under a transparent atmosphere. This would have left foreign observers
rattled as to Nigeria’s new values and ethical orientation.
It was an event Nigeria should have used to shore-up its dwindling reputation. It is more effective than
image-laundering programme where huge amount of money in foreign currencies is budgeted for public
relations and reputation management. With good image, Nigerians’ dignity and respect would be
restored, and largely put an end to discrimination at border posts in foreign countries.
This experience should serve as a lesson on the need to be transparent in conduct of future elections.
Former American President, Jimmy Carter, who was in Nigeria in the past to observe elections vowed
never to observe elections in Nigeria again after his ugly experience of brazen violation of electoral
process. He was upset with the impunity with which politicians used thuggery to deprive electorate from
freely voting for candidates of their choice.
It is hoped that Nigeria will not allow a repeat of this ugly experience. It is time to make political offices
unattractive to discourage desperation which is the underpinning motive for all these electoral
atrocities. The electoral body should be reformed and repositioned with people of integrity as drivers
aimed at restoring electoral integrity.
Dr. Mike Owhoko, Lagos-based journalist and author, can be reached at

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