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Now that INEC Chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu, has done his worst

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), chaired by Professor Mahmoud Yakubu, announced the presidential election result on Saturday, February 25 in the early hours of March 1, 2023. Many people believe that their freely expressed electoral will had been subverted by suborned officials, so rather than celebrating, a pall of silence fell over the nation. Many were speechless when they realized what had happened, while others simply made long faces because they couldn’t believe that fellow citizens could pull off such an unconscionable electoral heist. I cast my first presidential ballot for the first time in my life exactly 30 years ago, on June 12, 1993. Naturally, I did not reach voting age at that time. I already worked for Guardian Newspapers Limited as a graduate. However, I did not have the right to vote because I was a minor at the time of the 1983 elections.

That fateful day’s excitement is still fresh in my mind. Nigerians flocked to the streets in large numbers to exercise their democratic right to choose who runs the country’s business. When patriotism beckoned on Nigerians to, once more, exercise their civic duty of electing their leaders, the enthusiasm on Saturday could only be matched by the enthusiasm of 30 years earlier. Nigerians had high hopes for this election, just like they did for 1993. In an effort to assist INEC officials in any way they could, many were at their patriotic best. They provided where there was no ink pad. Despite the fact that INEC received well over N305 billion from the Federal Government and unquantifiable assistance from international development organizations to conduct the election, they provided ink, markers, and other materials.

Nigerians provided their own personal generators to ensure that there was light in areas where the election lasted into the night. When that wasn’t available, people lit the polling places with their cars’ headlights. The youthful enthusiasm was overwhelming. The fervor of the Generation Z, those bright-eyed young people born in the late 1990s and early 2000s and most of whom were voting for the first time, lit up the atmosphere. Because they were seen as confident users of new technology, this generation’s enthusiasm was fueled by INEC’s unambiguous promise that Nigeria’s elections would be the most technologically driven ever. On election days, the typical Nigerian “big man,” who would rather stay at home and watch cable television, went to the polls last Saturday. Teens who had previously planned to turn empty streets into football fields went to the polling places to cast their votes. Youths skipped the reality show Big Brother Titans in favor of standing in long lines at voting centers. In fact, they waited more than a day to vote in some Abuja neighborhoods.
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However, despite all of these sacrifices, Yakubu’s announcement was vastly different from the votes cast by the electorate and correctly recorded at the polling booths. Nigerians have once again been let down by those whose duty it is to uphold the sanctity of the ballot, just as many were deflated when the junta led by General Ibrahim Babangida threw out the election on June 12, 1993. A chalice laced with poison has been given to them. Even though Nigeria’s leaders continue to treat its citizens with the utmost contempt, I had hoped for too long that the country would eventually succeed. However, it goes without saying that this electoral heist, the worst since 1999, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Nigerian politicians are unprepared for democracy, so going to the polls every four years in the name of elections is justification for their actions. On February 25, 2023, I will cast my ballot for the last time in this country.

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Now, the winners will gloat that this is a sour grapes situation. Not at all. As the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate, Usman Dan Fodio, once stated: The truth alone can heal conscience, which is an open wound. People who have benefited from this unethical heist will counter that politics is not a game of morality. Maybe! In the same way that football is not a game of morality, neither should it have to be. But politics is a game with rules, just like football. Within those established guidelines, victory must be achieved. The exercise loses credibility when the rules of the game are willfully broken, as was the case in the presidential election on February 25. Any new government will face a crisis of legitimacy if the poll lacks credibility. Nigeria will suffer as a result.

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The Electoral Act of 2022 and the promises made by the INEC chairman, who appears to have taken Nigerians for granted, are flagrantly broken in this election. Better is in order for this nation. A report circulated in November 2022 claiming that INEC had abandoned the plan to upload real-time results from polling units. The “rumor” forced Yakubu to respond, and it appeared that he was shaken. The INEC chairman made the following remarks to a group of people who had come to seek assurance regarding the elections in 2023: I would like to take this opportunity to respond to a report in the media that the Commission has decided not to upload results at the polling unit level in real time on Election Day. Please disregard it as false information. The results at the level of polling units will be uploaded by the commission, and citizens will be able to access those results in real time. The Commission came up with this new idea. The Commission cannot reverse its course and harm itself. Therefore, this technology will remain. We will upload the results of the polling units from the polling units. These outcomes will be viewable by citizens. Who are we really serving, after all? The people! How can we prevent citizens from having access to the results of the polling units in which they participated? I therefore welcome you to the Commission. I want to reassure you that the general election in 2023 will be our best election ever. We are convinced that the outcome of the elections will be decided by the votes cast by Nigerians. Nothing less and nothing more!”

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This solemn promise was broken by Yakubu. The promise that the polling unit results would be uploaded in real time and that Nigerians would have unrestricted access motivated many voters to cast ballots on Saturday. That did not occur. Yakubu pleaded for time to finish the collation after some political parties complained at the Collation Centre, and he promised to address their concerns before announcing the results. However, he never intended to keep that promise. He also did not. It is beyond belief that a man could lie so unconstitutionally and without any qualms about it. The question that is on many people’s minds is: What comes next now that Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, chairman of INEC, has done his worst? Dissatisfied individuals have been mocked for asking for redress in court. Naturally, those who want to will. However, when I hear that warning, I laugh because it brings to mind the East African proverb: Keep in mind that the elder brother of the thief is the judge whenever the thief urges you to appear in court. It is tragic that the Supreme Court and INEC are the two institutions in Nigeria’s so-called democracy that people don’t trust.

Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu will be remembered as the person who led the worst election in Nigeria. It’s an injury you caused yourself. He had the chance to turn things around after the 2019 no-server disaster, but he decided not to. He will suffer greatly from history. However, I feel sorry for President Muhammadu Buhari, who has stated to the entire world that he wishes to leave Nigerians a legacy of credible, free, and fair elections. He has squandered that chance. After eight years of misadventure in Aso Rock, he will now travel to Daura on May 29. He will leave no legacy. Tragic indeed!

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