It will be a long time before the dust settles on the February 25, 2023 presidential election. Very long. So many competing variables were involved in the competition. For one thing, many political careers were at stake, some even headed for an uncertain winter in mid-life. Despite all this, not many people would have predicted the ugly events that followed the conduct of the elections, an exercise that got off to a good start across the country and is progressing well for the most part. The 2023 federal election should not be accompanied by much drama and arguments, not with the tidy, automated and uncompromising precision of the technology that had been promised for the election. In fact, the election was meant to be a showcase of sorts, a testament to how far technology has gone to imprison the evil spirit that had troubled Nigeria’s electoral process for so long. The expectation was high and the promise quite convincing. Well, that old evil spirit, determined not to let go, reappeared. Very sad. So sad.
Nigerians – and there are many – bitter over the conduct of the presidential election, even more so over the handling of the critical outcome uploaded at the end of the exercise, definitely have reason to believe they’ve entered the field with a spoiled shinty were sent. The feeling of disgust and put-on can easily be understood. The cocktail of complaints and disapproval from voters and partisans in several states will take quite a long time to be fully assembled and presented. Whether the destination will be the court or elsewhere, time will tell. For the time being, the air remains soft and the mood of many lazy.
So immersed in outrage at the conduct of the presidential election, particularly the numerous blatant violations of procedural rules, many will probably find it a bad joke to be asked to stop and thank God for the election experience. In truth, however, there is ample reason for this, and not only because one is admonished to give thanks to God in all circumstances.
It may not have occurred to many who are offended by the perverse and brazen act of the elements, which have taken various steps to thwart the will of the people, to pose a critical question: what if it were on February 25, 2023 there would be no social media? Think about it. What if there wasn’t an Android phone and dynamic social networking platform that now allows people to share images and information in real-time?
There are many graphic repetitions of the ugly incidents. Among the notable are: the nationally identifiable voice of a state governor who repulsively threatens his state’s local government election coordinators that they will either “give back what we gave them” if they don’t carry out the illegal act he has asked them to take over . Either the (wrong) thing was done, which the beast governor repeated on record, or he would see to it that “they didn’t leave the state alive.”
Characteristically, he warned his potential victims that no one should joke with him. Every single detail of the governor’s gruff voice and the cadence of his threats as he pressured election officials escorted by security guards was duly captured and shared as he carried out his acts of desperation. What if there were no social media?
Then there was the full picture of a certified thug in Lagos, clearly recorded, who, apparently under influence, declared, as elements of his trade are known, that any Igbo person who might dare should step out to vote at that particular polling station . Of course, the lad, the official slugger of the estate, had no fear or reluctance to come in to take over and disrupt the voting in the voting unit to prove himself to his paymasters. Unfortunately, when he threatened hell and brimstone to voters who would not vote where and how he wanted, not only was a security agent on site, but was seen reassuring him and asking him not to be further offended. Such a spectacle speaks volumes about the sad reality of Nigeria. A police officer standing by while a thug threatens to kill and maim innocent citizens for no other reason than their ethnic identity, which the thug suspects is not bowing to his political preference. What if there was no social media to share the picture or Android phone record and forward?
There have been many other detailed recordings of election scenes from around the country, governors and their recruited loyalists damaging voter expression of will, hired thugs brandishing guns and attacking innocent voters with no other aim than to let the people go unchecked bother to express their preference according to the dictates of democracy. In some other video footage, election officials were caught “dutifully” distorting already-entered ballot papers, cleaning up numbers with Tipex, and superimposing new incorrect numbers. In another case, police officers were captured fighting with voters who insisted on getting their votes, while the police officers assisted thugs in scattering the ballots. Police! Our friend.
Without social media, these gory images and reports of violations and an open ambush of the electoral process would not have been known. This is clearly the way it used to be, the way they won elections.
Andrew Weinreich, founder of Six Degrees, often credited as the father of social networking, and various other inventors in the information technology field could never have imagined the far-reaching implications of their invention in an environment like Nigeria. Despite all the problems that continue to plague the country’s political process, or better yet, the politicians’ determination to undermine the will of the people, social media has become an indispensable weapon against the depravity and overt criminal propensity Individual to fight in elections.
Whatever the machinations of rogue politicians, it is not a little encouraging that the struggle for free and fair elections has become essentially between them and technology. There is no question that the technology will prevail in the long term.
Although the election officials in the February 25 presidential election didn’t look like anyone’s knights in shining armor, they did demonstrate their commitment to technology during the election process. How, after devoting so many resources to technology for the electoral process, and with so much support from the public and civil society, everyone ended up with rotten eggs in their faces will be known in due course.
For the millions of young people who have shown an extraordinary determination to turn out in the elections this time around, it is important that no one be discouraged. Rogue politicians have always believed in one strategy: to wear down every decent citizen and stay behind to continue plundering the system. Thanks to social media, the world has seen the tragedy and is haunting society being afflicted by unscrupulous elements, some of whom answer tiles as poorly filled as governors and excellencies. There is no difference between such elements and the clubs. Now the world knows them for who they are. And they will definitely lose.