While the condition for winning the election is clear, how much confidence do voters have in the electoral umpire/referee – the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)?
●9th January 2023
Lionel Messi is a global sporting icon and one of football’s greats; many even argue that he’s Greatest of All Time (GOAT)). Yet, before winning the 2022 Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) world cup in Qatar, his claim to greatness was contested by those who have followed his career all through the years, especially rival fans. He began playing for the Senior Argentina national football team in August 2005 at the age of 18. It was not until 2021 that Messi won his major trophy with Argentina – the Copa America. Even that did not satisfy his critics. The icing on the cake came in the world cup of 2022, when he lifted it with the Argentina team after defeating France in a penalty shootout. However, a lot of Messi’s critics are of the opinion that he was helped by FIFA to win the world cup because the governing body of world football made exemptions for due to his being diagnosed with Growth Hormone Deficiency (GHD) in 1999. However, this exemption was based on the Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) rule of 2004. Despite it being obvious that the matches leading up to the world cup final with France were fairly refereed, and despite the fact that Argentina almost lost the final to France like they did to Germany in 2014.
The general elections in Nigeria in 2023 is also full of expectations. The major front runners – Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Peter Obi of Labour Party (LP), and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNP) – have entered the presidential contestation with varying levels of strengths and expectations. While Atiku Abubakar has run for the presidency several times in the past, it is the first time for Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Peter Obi, and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. The question then becomes: who gets to have the ultimate prize of becoming the next president of Nigeria?
The supporters of these candidates will lay claim to the presidency for various reasons – the monetary wealth of their preferred candidate; his popularity and wide acceptance, experience running for the presidency and party incumbency factor for the candidate of the ruling party. Hence, supporters of these candidates expect their candidate to win the presidential election. Yet, they have to do so after following the due process.
Remember that Messi’s Argentina national team won the world cup after qualifying from their group stage with 6 points, beating Australia in the second round, sending Netherlands away in the quarter final, defeating Croatia in the semifinal before the intensely fought final with France. The parameters for winning the world cup were set and clear. At no point in the course of officiating between Argentina and other teams were there reports of outrageous officiating to the extent of compromising the integrity of such games, so as to give the Argentine team, particularly Messi, some advantages. Similarly, the one that will win the Nigerian presidential election has had to be elected in a party primary. In the general elections, the candidate must receive at least 25% of votes cast in at least 24 of the 36 states. Despite this route to the presidency, and the many promises of conducting a free, fair and credible elections by INEC, there are some who believe that one or two candidates have been anointed to become the next president – either because they have the wealth to buy their way through, and/or are connected to the powers that be, who can compromise the system to get them elected.
Here comes the challenge – while the condition for winning the election is clear, how much confidence do voters have in the electoral umpire/referee – the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The accusations of world cup rigging for Messi and Argentina, and the subsequent petition to have the final replayed were dismissed because the games that led to the Argentine team and Messi winning the world cup were seen to be fair and largely devoid of malpractice by the referees who were in charge of such matches. If the same can be said of INEC in the run-up to the 2023 elections, accusations of rigging will be minimal, and where they appear, will be dismissed.
Given how much INEC is putting into preparations for the elections, and how much transparency they are ready to allow, any candidate that loses the elections should simply take it in his stride and move on, barring any distortions of the process by politicians (which is not uncommon in Nigeria). Even at that, there is the possibility for recourse to the courts if any losing side finds they have been cheated.
In summary, there may not be any shouts of rigging if the process surrounding the conduct of the 2023 elections is clear, and if the politicians do not circumvent the process to suit their selfish desires.