There is palpable fear in the country in current time that Nigeria’s electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), may compromise its integrity in the 2023 elections particularly the presidential.
This is largely evident in the face of several media reports showing how some large quantities of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) dumped in gutters and other obscure places have been found by Nigerians.
It is not funny that in a country where the sitting Government at the Federal level has spent billions of Naira to put a credible electoral process in place and an electoral law that would seriously checkmate rigging, the agency charged with the responsibility of conducting credible election is publicly seen to be doing the opposite.
From reports in the media on Sunday 7th August, 2022 a concerned Nigerian taking a walk exercise along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway Roadside Walkway, videoed thousands of PVCs bearing Yoruba and Igbo Christian names dumped in the bush. The uncollected INEC-held Christian PVCs were found to have been stashed from far away INEC offices in Abuja from where they were secretly transferred to Lagos jurisdictional areas believably by hired politico-religious fanatics in collusion with INEC officials.
If we may ask, how can INEC management under the leadership of Prof. Yakubu Mahmood explain that PVCs produced with tax payers money meant for a critical national assignment as Election would find their way to obscure environment?
Similarly, few weeks ago another video trended on social media, exposing the excavation of over 20,000 PVCs with Christian names in Ohio/Akpor area of Rivers State. There was also an alleged discovery by a hunter about two weeks ago of 320 PVCs with Christian names inside an uncompleted building in Bayelsa forest.
In Igboeze North Local Government Area of Enugu State, about two months ago, INEC office was compromised and thousands of PVCs with Christian names were made away with. Similar reports also abound in Northern part of the country.
With this ugly trend increasing by the day even as the 2023 general elections are fast approaching with millions of registered Nigerians yet to be given their PVCs by INEC, we need to raise alarm on the possible derailment of the elections by INEC itself.
Just at the weekend, a group known as International College of Democracy and Human Rights Scholars in a letter to INEC, called for explanation over the unseemly aberrations capable of setting Nigeria on fire. In the same letter, the group also asked INEC to tell Nigerians the name of company which is supplying the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System and ownership of the company since it was once admitted in 2019 by Prof. Yakubu Mahmood that a Senator from Niger East Senatorial District, Mohammed Musa owes the company; Activate Technologies Limited which is responsible for supply of the machines for printing PVCs and other sensitive materials. Musa is an APC senator.
While Nigerians are waiting for Mahmood’s explanation with respect to the various stashing away and dumping of PVCs in parts of the country, he should know that the mood of Nigerians particularly the youths towards the 2023 Election especially the presidential, is quite different from the moods in the past.
We need no soothsayer to tell us that the 2023 election would make or mar Nigeria as a country given the several years of suffering in the hands of those who feel that their portion is to remain in power at all cost.
Prof. Mahmood and his INEC should put the safety of Nigeria and Nigerians first in every step they take towards the coming election. A situation where it is becoming clear that some ethnic groups or a particular religious group is being short-changed through stashing away of PVCs ostensibly due to perceived fears that such a religious group would vote for a particular presidential candidate portends greater danger than the INEC officials may have envisaged.
We need to caution that nothing should be taken for granted as the likelihood of undermining the powers of any group will be much of a risk to take. INEC should play by the rules without the least intentions of favouring any candidate(s) against the others.
Nigeria comes first before any religion or ethnic group. Those who have put themselves up as presidential candidates and their respective political parties should know that if Nigeria goes up in flame tomorrow as a result of their manipulation of INEC officials through cash inducement, they have more to lose than the common Nigerians who neither have estates, luxury cars, private jets etc.
Those who were around in the days of SAP riot during the military regime or June 12 presidential election result annulment could easily understand what we are talking about.
Therefore, INEC should avoid any action or inaction capable of stoking an unquenchable in the country.