The 2023 presidential election is barely a week away, the seventh consecutive election since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999.
The election, which will bring about a change of government, from what has been obtainable in the country for the past eight years has made the nation a spectrum in 2023. This is because the world is watching to see how the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari would keep to his re-echoed promise of a free and fair election.
As the nation mops up plans to ensure the electoral process is void of encumbrances, it behoves us to spotlight the threats that face citizens ahead of the elections.
Nigerians face a very high level of security threats ahead of the 2023 election. Virtually every part of the country has been affected. From banditry, terrorist activities, herder-farmer conflicts, and secessionist agitations to conflicts generated from land and grazing rights, the country has been heavily impacted by insecurity.
Recently, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that elections will not be held in 240 polling units because voters were not willing to go to those polling units due to insecurity. This doesn’t only threaten the conduct of the polls, it also threatens the credibility of the polls.
While citizens struggle with the thought of who will guarantee their safety, the onus rests on security agents to arise and decisively act to ensure that the election is conducted in a peaceful atmosphere.
Scarcity of the naira notes
Another potential threat is the scarcity of cash caused by the naira redesign policy introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Many Nigerians are struggling to withdraw cash from Automated Teller Machines and inside banking halls. This struggle has plunged the nation into untold hardship, as most of them can’t have access to money for daily sustenance. Besides, INEC had earlier said that the CBN cashless policy may hamper the ability of the commission to conduct the elections.
Complaining that the new naira notes have not been made available to them, Resident Electoral Commissioner for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Alhaji Yahaya Bello said they need cash to coordinate security and logistics. He said that if nothing was done to address the cash crunch caused by the policies, INEC in the FCT and across the country would find it difficult to deploy staff and materials for the election as most of the services required cash to obtain.
While it is true that the naira redesign was introduced to reduce corruption and restrict the flow of money during the upcoming elections, we must also understand that politicians will still get involved in vote buying in the 2023 presidential elections. If you will recall the party primaries of the APC and PDP in 2022 created one of the worst foreign exchange crises as the demand for US dollars overshot supply. If these politicians didn’t use much of the naira during the primaries, what makes us believe they won’t return to what was used in the past?
Also, the Centre for Democracy and Development noted that during the off-cycle gubernatorial elections in Osun and Ekiti, candidates boasted about matching dollar for dollar and Naira for Naira to prospective voters with a vote trading for as much as N20,000 (approximately $47).”
Snatching and Destruction of Election materials
This has become a trend in every election cycle in Nigeria. This was identified by INEC as one of the potential threats to the upcoming presidential election. Election materials were snatched and burnt in 2011, 2015, and 2019 elections, what plans has the electoral umpire put in place to ensure that this trend does not happen again? Nigerians have been charged to come out to vote in mass, but the question remains, how secure will their votes be?
Misinformation is a big threat to Nigeria’s democracy and the upcoming presidential election. This is because information disorder has a large capacity to mislead the electorates. The volume of misinformation available on social media is one of the reasons why some electorates don’t know to who to entrust their votes.
A recent report by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) warns that information disorder, if not tamed, could mar the coming election. The centre, which urged all voters, social media, citizen journalists, and mainstream media executives to always fact-check information before sharing, noted that curbing fake news will help us reap the dividends of continued democracy.
As we head to the polls, citizens and politicians alike must note that elections are an exercise of their civic right not an avenue for violence.
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