A former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has identified politicians and voters as the biggest threats to the success of the February 25 and March 11 general elections.
He said while politicians have the mindset to achieve victory at all costs, win elections and see electoral contests as a “do-or-die” affair, the electorate, even if they register, hardly make efforts to vote.
According to him, it had been generally acknowledged both at home and in the diaspora that the 2023 general elections were the most consequential elections to be held.
Jega, a former President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, stated this while delivering a keynote address during the one-day public sensitization with the theme, ‘Towards a free, fair, and credible 2023 general elections’, organised by the Abuja National Mosque Da’awah and Welfare Foundation.
He said, “To my mind, the most worrisome challenges going into the 2023 general elections are the attitude and disposition of the so-called political class (politicians and political party bureaucracy or aristocracy); and the attitude and disposition of the electorate, the eligible voting citizens, as they engage with the electoral process.
“The so-called political class, as active partisans and as candidates/contestants in elections, are the category of stakeholders with perhaps the least noticeable improvements in the ways in which they engage with the electoral process since 1999.
“Their mindset is to achieve victory at all cost; to win elections deploying ‘all means necessary’; seeing electoral contests as a “do-or-die” affair. As they have done since 1999, they have continued to do, and are likely to do in 2023.
“As their impunity has remained unchecked, so have their criminal and fraudulent predispositions increased. This may constitute the major challenge to the 2023 general elections.”
Jega, a former Vice Chancellor of the Bayero University, Kano, explained that the attitude and disposition of the electorate, including citizens who qualify to register and to vote, was also a major concern.
“Increasingly, even if they register to vote, they hardly make the effort to vote, as declining voter turnout statistics of general as well as off-season elections indicate. This may be because of what is called a crisis of rising expectations; and/or inadequacy, or lack of sensitization, political and voter education.
He noted that sensitization, public enlightenment and voter education are absolutely necessary not just close to elections, but throughout the four-year electoral cycle. This is even more significant in a country such as Nigeria, with significant numbers of illiterate populations, he said.
“For, in our own kind of situation, it is not enough for people to register to vote, and go to polling units on election day to vote: they must know how to vote and not waste their votes”, he said.