Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari in Owerri instructed the Nigerian Police to develop operational plans that will ensure a credible outcome in the 2023 general election while remaining apolitical, firm and true to democratic values.
Declaring the conference and three-day retreat for senior police officers open, the president urged police to consider current and evolving homeland security threats as they could impact peaceful and successful elections .
The President observed that elections are local and it is only when the votes truly count that the faith of citizens in the democratic process can be demonstrated and the legitimacy of government ensured.
According to him, this can best be ensured by well-monitored electoral and security operations that are impartial, firm and professional.
“I therefore instruct the Inspector General of Police to uphold his standards of leadership that will ensure a level playing field and secure public space for citizens to freely exercise their right to vote, and for the outcome of the elections to be a true reflection of the choices of the people,” he said.
Undoubtedly, the success and failure of the 2023 general elections depends on the conduct of security agencies, especially the police.
Indeed, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has always been one step ahead in the design of means and technologies to improve the credibility of the electoral process.
We are thinking of the introduction of the card reader, the BVAS machine and the electronic transfer of votes. These helped to eliminate violence, ballot box snatching, multiple and indiscriminate fingerprinting of ballot papers, thereby enhancing the credibility and integrity of the election outcome.
Although these innovations are not infallible, they have greatly improved the acceptability of electoral results and reflect the wishes of the electorate.
Unfortunately, regardless of INEC’s good intentions, politicians are still looking for ways to circumvent the system.
One of the main albatrosses of the electoral system is that the people are not allowed to choose who governs them at all levels because elections are usually hijacked by moneybags and godfathers who impose their candidate at all levels .
This has led to incompetence in governance due to the vacuity of many elected officials. Nigeria cannot just continue on this inglorious path.
It is gratifying to note that President Buhari is committed to leaving behind a legacy of free, fair and credible elections. From the off-cycle elections so far in Ekiti, Osun and Anambra states, many Nigerians are beginning to believe in the President’s promise.
However, a new trend that was seen in the Ekiti and Osun elections was the issue of vote buying. This undermined the integrity of the recent elections.
In the considered opinion of this newspaper, vote buying is rampant due to the inability of security agencies to arrest and prosecute vote peddlers. This must stop.
To counter the vote-buying trend, the police must do their job and arrest the vote-buyers, no matter who is involved.
Indeed, the general impression is that the police usually take sides in elections with the government in power. This has been the practice in previous elections in the country. It shouldn’t be. They often look the other way if the ruling party engages in vote buying or other electoral malfeasance. This is largely due to the fact that the federal government funds the police force. This unfortunate development aligns with the popular maxim that whoever pays the piper dictates the melody.
We recall that the Inspector General of Police, Alkali Baba, assured the President and Nigerians that the Force would use the outcome of the conference to refine its electoral security strategy and action plans to stabilize the security and political landscape in the county.
He promised that the strategy would boost citizens’ confidence in the electoral process and produce a credible electoral result in the 2023 general election.
Therefore, with the new charge of the President of Police to uphold the will of the people in elections, we expect nothing less than professionalism and neutrality from the police.
This newspaper’s opinion is in line with the president’s position that the 2023 general election should reflect the wishes of the people. Elections must not only be free, fair and credible, they must be seen to be so. This is the essence of democracy.