OPINION – Is this the Buhari legacy of credible elections?

But few months into the administration, it became obvious that the head of state had no clear-cut programme and policies at fixing the country. He rather alienated himself from the people

By Emeka Alex Duru

The Gospel of John, Chapter 1, verses 19 to 34, recounts an interesting encounter between John the Baptist and Jewish leaders, who sought to know if he was the expected Messiah. John was honest enough to confess that he was not but merely a forerunner sent to prepare the way. “He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie”, he confessed.

John the Baptist was forthright. He knew his mission and limitations. That is not so with President Muhammadu Buhari. He appropriates the image of a Messiah, without the capacity of a messenger. He claims being on top of any situation but hardly at even the periphery. When it comes to creating soundbites and stimulating patriotic sentiments, he has it but not the will to translate them to actions.

With the charade that passed for the presidential election on Saturday, 25, 2023, the Buhari administration has again, thrown down Nigeria in respect and repute.

The President promised free and fair elections with the passage of the new Electoral Act and kept repeating so multiple times. At virtually every forum, he made it a duty to announce his resolve to bequeath to the country a legacy of transparent election and credible democracy.

Following his step, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof Mahmood Yakubu pranced about, pledging free and fair elections. But when it mattered most, it became glaring that neither the President, nor the INEC chair was prepared to keep to those promises. All the pronouncements on deploying a fail-safe system anchored on electronic transmission of results and Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) were broken. Many Nigerians who thronged out to vote on Saturday could not do so because of BVAS failure and other infractions. Some that voted, alleged the results falsified.

The BVAS bait was one that many Nigerians fell for. It was carefully packaged and presented as one which would take care of obvious electoral glitches in the country. Nigerians were assured that with it, the days of vote rigging and other incidences of poll manipulations were over. The vigour with which Yakubu pushed the BVAS and the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV), made the technology assume the status of buy-one-cure-all-malady drug. The impression of seriousness which Buhari expressed in emphasising his resolve to institute error-free election, also made the voters believe that the government was serious about the exercise. But from what happened on Saturday, the citizens, who trusted on their leaders and were convinced by their avowals, have been handed the wrong end of the stick. INEC seemed to have worked from an answer. That is what Buhari’s pledge of credible electoral process has come to be.

You may not entirely blame the President and the INEC chairman for playing on the country. We trusted too much and went to bed, believing that those entrusted with the task of conducting free and fair elections, would do their work. That was perhaps, where we all got it wrong. Everybody was carried away by the enthusiasm of getting over the ugly history of election manipulation. Consequently, the basic checks on the antecedents of those charged with leading the country to a new era, were ignored.

The constant remarks by the national Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adamu Abdullahi and the presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu that BVAS was not workable in the country, were red lights that should not have been ignored. These are masters of the game, who believe that any route to acquisition of power should be pursued as along as the goal is attained.

Equally, Buhari’s history of not living up to his declarations, was a major flaw that Nigerians should not have overlooked. He is a man given to great words but short in execution.

Recall his appeal to Nigerians on January 1, 1984 when he and other military officers overthrew the civilian government of President Shehu Shagari. The National Party of Nigeria (NPN) – controlled Shagari government, at that time, had failed Nigerians in many respects. Apart from not delivering the axiomatic democracy dividends to the people, it had literally elevated corruption to the status of national philosophy.

It was in such despondent situation that the military guys struck and were hailed. Buhari who was made the head of state, admonished Nigerians, “This generation of Nigerians and indeed future generations have no other country than Nigeria. We shall remain here and salvage it together.” The plea touched the people and became for them, a mantra for patriotism and rebuilding the nation.

But few months into the administration, it became obvious that the head of state had no clear-cut programme and policies at fixing the country. He rather alienated himself from the people. The economy sunk deeper, inflation rose higher and basic food items, scarcer. The ill-advised currency change, which seemed targeted at some people, further put pressure on the system.

Buhari’s coming as a president in 2015 did not show any significant change. He ran on the agenda of fighting corruption, tackling insecurity and refloating the economy. On these three parameters, his administration has failed woefully. With scandalous corruption perception index, parlous economy and pervasive insecurity, Nigeria under Buhari, has been literally reduced to a laughing stock.

You can then understand the determination by voters to seize the opportunity of the February 25 election to put in place a new class of leadership that would start the process of fixing the obvious broken pieces of the national fabric. The youth who were particularly at the vanguard of agitation for change, had considered the election consequential in giving them hope for a better future. But with the mismanagement of the polls by INEC, their expectations have been put on hold.

Buhari, Yakubu, Tinubu and other accomplices may have had their way and are celebrating the electoral heist, while many Nigerians are ruing. But to every Nigerian, whether the winners or losers at the polls, we are all losers. One thing is certain; history will record President Buhari and Prof Yakubu as the greatest losers in this misadventure.

The basic principles of democracy, expressed in freedom to vote and be voted for, were massively trampled upon. Transparency was heavily blocked. Whatever that had remained of hope of deepening democracy in the land, was frittered on Saturday. In its place is the culture of might is right or as Bola Tinubu would counsel, snatch power and run with it. That is Buhari’s legacy of credible democracy.

* DURU is the Editor, TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos. (08054103327, nwaukpala@yahoo.com)

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