By Amuda Dan Sulaiman Fab
Mouthpiece of Northern Nigeria, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), has given pass mark to the 2023 general elections, saying the polls were successful despite unavoidable hitches.
It however said while aggrieved candidates have gone to court to seek redress, the ethnic and religious sentiments at display during the elections cannot be addressed by the courts.
In a statement by its Secretary-General, Murtala Aliyu, ACF said though there were difficulties and mishaps such as polling stations opening late, BVAS failing to upload results real time, scattered violence, vote buying and voter intimidation among others, there is nowhere in the world where perfect elections hold.
According to the statement: “History will report that the 2023 general elections that held on the 28th of February and 18th of March, 2023, were the biggest and certainly the most keenly contested elections ever to be held in Nigeria.
“The figures are tremendous: 87 million voters, 18 presidential candidates, 28 state Governors, 469 members of the National Assembly and 993 members of State Houses of Assembly.
“Voting took place in 176,000 polling stations in 8,809 wards. Some 1.5 million political party agents were accredited to bear witness to every event. Additionally, thousands of foreign and local observers were on hand to monitor and assess the credibility of the exercise.
“Thankfully, in-spite of the outcry of mostly those that did not achieve their goals, the exercise passed off fairly peacefully and the outcomes could be said to have reflected the broad aspirations of the electorate.
“True, there were difficulties and mishaps: polling stations opened late, BVAS failed to upload results real time, there were scattered violence, there were vote buying, voter intimidation, etc. And yet, while these problems are a serious source of concern and must be investigated and addressed, they have to be viewed in their right perspectives. Where in the world do they organize perfect elections?
“The size of our operations in any event are so vast and complex that isolated incidents of this nature are impossible to prevent. We are pleased to note that candidates that felt dissatisfied with the outcome of the elections including presidential candidates of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi of the Labour Party, have resolved to go to court, not the streets, to seek redress. That’s the right and honorable thing to do.
“Unfortunately, there is one particular problem thrown up by these elections that cannot possibly be addressed by the courts. It is the deployment of ethnic and religious sentiments as a driver of politics in Nigeria.
“As we have seen in Lagos and elsewhere, ethnic and religious zealots have a way of turning political and election campaigns into life and death struggles.
“They issued threats of violence and at times actually attack supporters of rival candidates with a view to intimidating and stopping them from casting their votes.
“It ought not come as any surprise that voter apathy and absenteeism were unusually high in many areas – as well as why voter turnout was very low across the country.
“In Lagos where the problem created by ethnic and religious politics has continued to fester, acrimony and bad blood between Yorubas and Igbos have become a matter of concern to the security agencies. In the wake of the ethnic crisis, Yoruba and Igbo partisans freely profile one another and accuse themselves of criminal conduct, including as cheats, bandits, kidnappers, land-grabbers, etc.
“Ironically, ethnic profiling and accusations of criminality without evidence have always been levied against hapless Northerners especially, the so called herders or economic migrants by the South and mostly supported by the press.
“They stigmatized Northerners, convicting them for offenses they know nothing about. Northerners were forced to live under the shadow of guilt and criminality without trial. Perpetrators of these injustices couldn’t have known that a day such as this would come when they will inflict injustice not on Northerners but against one another. All of which underscores the very serious consequences of politics rooted in religion and tribalism. It is a political virus.
“Nigerians must do everything within their power to eliminate this virus and go on to inoculate ourselves against reinfection in the years to come. This time, it is truly a matter of life and death. Let us as Nigerians love and care for one another. Let us focus on the what unites us and not our differences.”