(an answer to a question on who-will-you-vote-for)
By Sylvester Udemezue
The Law Centre (TLC) is a platform, moderated by distinguished learned AIK MALIK, SAN, and devoted to discussing and promoting law, law education, law practice, law reforms, law enforcement, law teaching, the law profession, administration of justice, the judicature and nothing else. It then happened, that in the early morning of 24 February 2023 (the eve of the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly Elections in Nigeria), during a general discussion on sundry LEGAL issues, with Mr Femi FALANA, SAN, Prof Dakas SAN, Chief OCJ Okocha, SAN, Chief Ferdinand Orbih, SAN, AIK MALIK, SAN, Olajide Abiodun (MoR), Fernandez Marcus Obiene, Esq, Jide Salami, Esq, and very many other legal juggernauts graciously participating/contributing, something else (an issue flowing from the issues) came up and resulting in my bosom buddy, learned colleague and intellectual-collaboration companion, Jide Salami, Esq raising a sudden question for me, saying “Who will you vote for…”, in answer to which the learned silk Aik Malik, SAN, raised a response even before I could say anything. In the learned silk’s usual friendly and jocularly style, he contended that “Under the Electoral Act, this is an unlawful question,” with which Chief Orbih, SAN concurred by saying “correct”.
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Well, while other discussions continued (indeed still continuing) I got so filled with awe at the question by my buddy that I began self-asking, should I still answer Mr Salami’s question or should I just adopt the learned silk’s reaction as my response, to let the sleeping dog lie? Please, recall the way Macbeth had begun speaking to himself when he felt tied to a stake. That’s not to say I too felt tied to a stake , under the present scenario, by Mr Salami’s question, but that I actually spoke to myself exactly as Macbeth once did. But you’d recall also that Mr Macbeth had murdered sleep, and accordingly (and justifiably so) never slept again, unlike in my case. Anyway, after a brief thought, I concluded (albeit without writing anything to that effect, on TLC) that who and who I would vote for on 25 February 2023 was a decision to be revealed only during the elections, on the secret-ballot paper, and thereafter to be submitted to the secret-ballot box; it’s not a matter for discussion on TLC. This could be what the learned silk had in mind in his response to Mr Salami, even though I did not bother to request any further expatiation to the learned silk’s apt extrapolation, although the learned silk had earlier prayed for me thus, that “I wish you well always. Best of luck to your candidate tomorrow, oga Udems”, which actually had laid the foundation for Mr Jide Salami ‘s question afore-quoted. So, I made up my mind to answer Mr Salami’s question in another way (especially considering that he later wrote, “I withdraw this question…”) by rather keying into the Learned Silk’s prayer that my candidate should win. This immediately raised the question as to who really is my candidate before and during the 2023 elections, the one whose victory in this election would leave me the happiest, the most satisfied and the most elated. It was not long before I concluded with certainty that my candidate is President Muhammadu Buhari. How, you may ask! Okay, check these out. President Buhari has obviously worked hard and spoken hard (I shall I’ve shown below) to make the 2023 elections free, credible, peaceful, hitch-free and successful in producing a winner whose victory reflects the will of the majority of the electorate; whose victory represents the exact outcome of the votes cast, so that after all is said and done, Nigerians can say with considerable amount of certainty that we voted in an atmosphere devoid of manipulation and electoral malpractices and our votes really counted. These are Buhari’s plans, I believe, and if all these desires and plans come to pass as planned and as promised, my candidate Buhari would have won, and would indeed have become the actual, true and ultimate winner of the 2023 elections, being the hero of the elections and the man of the match who goes away with the golden booth. Below are TEN of the many reasons my candidate before the during the 2023 election is Mr President Buhari, although (regarding the candidates whose names are on the ballot) whoever among them wins in a free and fair election is my candidate.
1️⃣. Introduction of BVAS to check usual fraudulent practices during voter accreditation, actual voting, vote-count and collation and transmission of results;
2️⃣. Introduction of Electronic Transmission of election results, and the INEC Election Result Viewing Portal, aimed to frustrate people with evil plans to snatch or stuff ballot boxes or to otherwise alter election results. Explaining the BVAS and the IReV technologies, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said
“The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System [BVAS] and INEC Election Result Viewing Portal are two technological innovations celebrated for enhancing the transparency of election results and boosting public trust in electoral outcomes in recent elections. INEC asserts that these technologies are addressing the 10 most pervasive weaknesses in Nigeria’s election result management process, which include falsification of votes at polling units, falsification of number of accredited voters, collation of false results, mutilation of results and computational errors, swapping of results sheets, forging of results sheets, snatching and destruction of results sheets, obtaining declaration and return involuntarily, making declaration and return while result collation is still in progress and poor record-keeping. Both tools perform mutually reinforcing and critical functions in elections. The BVAS is a technological device used to identify and accredit voters’ fingerprints and facial recognition before voting. The device is also used for capturing images of the polling unit result sheet (Form EC8A) and uploading the image of the result sheet online. IReV is an online portal where polling unit-level results are uploaded directly from the polling unit, transmitted and published for the public. At the front end of the online portal, members of the public can create personal accounts with which they can gain access to all uploaded results stored as PDF files. This accessibility of polling unit-level results increases transparency and public trust in the process”.
[“Inspiring confidence in BVAS, electronic transmission of election results; Punch; 21 October 2022].
3️⃣. Introduction of Naira Redesign, Daily Cash Withdrawal Limit and Swap policies to checkmate politicians planning to engage in Vote Buying, Voter Inducement and manipulation for the purpose of securing victory through the back door. Buhari wants a winner to emerge through a transparent process devoid of manipulation of unsuspecting gullible Nigerians. In a piece titled “CBN’s Naira Redesign, Daily Cash Withdrawal Limit And Swap Policies: Any Benefits For Nigeria And Nigerians?” (Sylvester Udemezue; ThenigeriaLawyer; 19 February 2023], I observed:
“Then (this must be restated as a major benefit) one could notice that the usual practice of corrupt and unscrupulous politicians throwing cash around anyhow during elections and political campaigns, appears to have gone down even with the 2023 elections barely days away. During past elections in Nigeria, voter inducement in the name of TraderMoni and other forms of criminal Vote Buying and spraying and sharing of huge amount of cash to unsuspecting and gullible Nigerians with a view to controlling and swaying their choice during the elections by deceiving them with money, would have BY NOW reached their peak. On the contrary, one could notice that preparations towards the 2023 Elections appear slightly different. Not that the ugly practice of sharing cash for votes, has been wiped out, but that the volume has been considerably deflated. It’s therefore good news that 2023 Elections might turn out to be the first elections in Nigeria where money and material things played the least role in determining who wins the elections. It’s a huge good news attributable to the Naira Redesign and Daily Cash Withdrawal Limit policies of the CBN”.
4️⃣. Nation-wide Clampdown on louts, vagabonds and hired thugs across Nigeria, aimed to send a message to them that the 2023 elections wouldn’t be business as usual. See for example: “Army arrests 116 suspects in ongoing Lagos operation” [The Guardian; 31 January 2023]. The report had it that “The Nigerian Army raided the Oshodi area of Lagos on Monday as part of the ongoing Exercise Still Water started in October 2022….The military arm confirmed the arrest of 116 persons, including a number of suspects that were planning to go for attacks….Commander 9 Brigade, Brigadier General Isang Akpaumotia, said the areas covered included Railside, Brown Street, Araromi and others in Oshodi….Akpomutia disclosed troops of Exercise Still Water were conducting similar raids in the Festac and Mile 2 areas of the state….The Assistant Director, Army Public Relations, 9 Brigade, Major A.K. Bello, said the exercise seeks to curb criminalities in Lagos.” See also “2023 Elections: Security agencies commence ‘Show of Force’ in Akwa Ibom State” [21 February 2023; Daily Post] “The Security forces involved in the operation were the Nigeria Police, the 2 Brigade Nigerian Army, Immigration, Federal Road Safety Corp, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, and the Civil Defence. The exercise is meant to be carried out across the local government areas of the state, especially the volatile areas where election thuggery, arson and other forms of electoral malpractices hold sway.Addressing the officers and men of the force at the Mopol base along Idoro road Uyo, the state capital, the Commissioner of Police, CP Olatoye Durosinmi said the essence of the exercise was to reassure the electorates of their readiness in providing security for them before, during and after the forthcoming elections in the state. He said, ‘We want to use this opportunity to tell the hoodlums that we are ready for them; it’s either they relocate or become law abiding citizens as we are ready to take them headlong should they attempt to threaten the security in the state'”_
*5️⃣. Arrest of Illegal entrants into Nigeria and Insistence of the Buhari Government that Foreigners Won’t Vote In the 2023 Elections.
See: (A) *”Immigration Arrests 516 Illegal Immigrants With PVCs, NIMC In Kaduna”* [Daily Post; 2 February 2023]. “The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) has arrested 516 illegal immigrants in Kaduna State with some of them having permanent voter cards and national identity cards…The illegal immigrants were from Niger Republic, Chad, Cameroon, Togo and Senegal…The state comptroller, Liman Sani Kila, while parading the illegal immigrants at the command’s headquarters said those arrested were undergoing profiling and would be deported. Kila explained that in the last year’s mop up operations, the command retrieved 1,000 PVCs from illegal immigrants arrested within Kaduna Zone.” (B) “Immigration Seizes 6,216 Nigeria’s Voter, ID Cards from Foreigners” [ThisDayLive; 8 February 2023]. (C). “2023: Immigration Service vows to disallow foreigners from voting in border communities” [Daily Post: 6 October 2022]. (D). “Foreigners arrested with PVCs, Nigerian national ID cards in Ondo” [21 February 2023]. (E). THE comptroller general of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Isa Jere, has stated that the agency will be on high alert to spot and detain foreigners attempting to vote in the upcoming elections in 2023. Jere made this statement today in Abuja at an election retreat for NIS Zonal Coordinators and Command Comptrollers adding that the Service, would make sure that only eligible Nigerians cast votes. He added that the NIS had successfully seized voter and national identification cards in the possession of foreign nationals, who had then been swiftly returned. [We are at alert to prevent foreigners from voting in 2023 elections – NIS: Naija Times; 8 February 2023]
6️⃣. Declaration of neutrality by President Buhari ahead of the 2023 elections. On 23 February 2023, Mr President Buhari declared:
…we have worked so hard to ensure that we pass on a legacy of free, fair, credible, safe, and peaceful elections. We will continue to act with neutrality and allow the rule of law to take precedence over political expediency. There should be no riots or acts of violence after the announcement of the election results. All grievances, personal or institutional, should be channelled to the relevant Courts.” See
2023: No Riots, Violence After Election RESULTS – BUHARI WARNS, INSISTS HE HAS NO CANDIDATE [BarristerNG; 23 February 2023] . Earlier, Mr President Buhari had directed all Nigerians of voting age to go out during the elections to “vote for any candidate of your choice irrespective of political party affiliation. There is no going back on the Naira Redesign policy. The idea behind it is that I would not allow any politician to mobilize resources to buy votes or to manipulate voters during these elections. And I will not allow any politician to mobilize thugs in any part of the country for the purpose of intimidating voters and Nigerians”. On December 7, 2022, President had advised Nigerians to voter any candidate of their choice. “Vote candidates of your choice, Buhari advises Nigerians” [Punch; 7 December 2022]. Again, it’s reported by Daily Post on 6 February 2023, that “2023 election: Vote candidates of your choice without fear – Buhari tells Nigerians”. See also “Vote candidate of your choice, naira policy created to crush money politics: Buhari” [PMNews]
7️⃣. Buhari’s insistence that Security Agencies Must Be Politically Neutral in the 2023 ELECTIONS. See: “2023: Remain Politically Neutral, Buhari Charges Police” [Channels TV; 31 October 2022]. 2023: President Buhari Urges Armed Forces To Remain Neutral [Voice of Nigeria; 5 December 2022[. See also: “Elections: The Whole World Is Watching You, Buhari Tells Security Agencies” [Daily Trust;. 13 February 2023]. The report quoted President Buhari as saying, to the security agencies:
“You should, however, be reminded of my high expectations of your leadership, particularly, in relation to the provision of requisite security that will engender not just stable security space ahead of the general election, but guarantee the credibility of the exercise.In this task, I call on the IGP and indeed, all law enforcement agencies that will be complementing the police in the election security process to note that the eyes of the nation and the global community will be on you all. .”
8️⃣. Mr President Buhari provided adequate security and made adequate safety arrangements to ensure that all political parties and their candidates conducted their campaigns peacefully and successfully in all parts of Nigeria. Thank you, President Buhari for providing a level-playing ground to all parties for their campaigns.
9️⃣. Buhari’s Promise of free and fair elections in 2023 excites me.
(A)We’ll ensure free, fair elections in Nigeria in 2023 – Buhari” [Premium Times: 10 December 2021]. his remark at a Virtual Summit for Democracy organised by President Joe Biden of the United States, President Buhari said necessary mechanisms will be strengthened to ensure that Nigeria witnesses another peaceful transfer of power..
(B). Then, on December 31, 2022, as reported by Sahara Reporters, “We Will Meet Anyone Planning To Rig 2023 Elections With Full Force Of Law – Buhari Promises Nigerians”._ In his New Year message to Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari had assured Nigerians that his government would ensure that the activities of election riggers were met with the full force of the law, adding that the amended electoral act he signed into law was evidence to convince Nigerians of his determination to ensure free, fair and credible elections in the 2023 general elections.
(C). Buhari has already set up a transition Council, ready to leave office on 29 May 2023. See: “Buhari Constitutes Presidential Transition Council, Signs Executive Order 14” [ThisDayLive; 9 February 2023].
🔟. Buhari resisted advice, pressure; and temptation to set up an interim government. As far back as 18 April 2022, as reported by Premium Times, Channels TV, Arise, Guardian, Vanguard, ThisDayLive, Punch, Chief Afe Babalola SAN, had proposed that the 2023 elections should be suspended while an interim government should be installed. _Afe Babalola wants 2023 elections suspended, recommends interim Govt” [Premium Times]. 2023: Suspend general elections, appoint interim govt – Afe Babalola to Buhari” [Daily Post; 19 April 2022]. Then on 15 February 2023, “Resist interim govt temptation, Afenifere tells Buhari” [Punch]. “2023: Southern, Middle Belt Leaders Reject Interim Government” [4 February 2023; ThisDayLive]. “Interim Government: A call for anarchy, By Reuben Abati”_ [Premium Times: 7 February 2023]. Happily, see “Buhari will hand over power to elected successor, not interim govt – Garba Shehu” [17 February 2023; Daily Post]. And “NigeriaDecides2023: Buhari not planning ‘interim government’, still supporting Tinubu – Presidency” [Premium Times; 17 February 2023].
1️⃣1️⃣. Closure of all tertiary institutions in Nigeria, to enable students and the youth to have full opportunity to participate in the elections. However, the youth must know that their schools were not closed for them to allow themselves to be misused during the elections. To this end, I wrote on 22 February 2023:
“NIGERIAN YOUTHS, YOU MUST ENSURE YOU CONDUCT YOURSELVES PEACEFULLY, HONORABLY AND RESPONSIBLY DURING THE ELECTIONS: As the closure of all tertiary institutions in Nigeria would most likely increase the participation of youths in the next elections, I respectfully urge Nigerian youth to fiercely resist any temptation to be hired and used as louts and thugs for the purpose of thwarting the wishes of the masses in the elections. You’re not lazy! You’re the leaders of Nigeria’s tomorrow. Prove to manipulative, exploitative, egoistic, corrupt politicians, that your lot/place is peace and responsibility, and not violence, destruction, malpractice, thuggery and brigandage. Prove to them that you are decent, noble, able and capable. Prove to the world that you can help to stop all forms of election rigging, vote-buying, election violence and all forms of malpractices. Accordingly, in the 2023 elections, you (the youth) have a duty to stand gallantly and fearlessly to ensure that (a) the elections are peaceful and violence-free; and that (b) the people’s votes count and are counted. The youth must be prepared to exhibit doggedness, uprightness and exceptional courage to stand for what is right. VOTE AND DEFEND YOUR VOTES THROUGH NON-VIOLENCE. No one should manipulate the youth. Let everyone vote for his choice without fear of manipulation, molestation of other forms of victimization, suppression or oppression. Your schools were not closed for you to go and get manipulated or otherwise support or get involved in violence, or election malpractices. Noooo. See: “Closure Of Tertiary Education Institutions For 2023 Elections Is Constitutional, Necessary, Reasonable And Auspicious; Plus Matters Incidental”_ [BarristerNG; 22 February 2023],
GENERAL ADVICE TO ALL AND SUNDRY TO ENSURE THAT MY CANDIDATE, PRESIDENT BUHARI SUCCEEDS:
(1). May President Buhari fulfil all his promises to ensure neutrality and non-interference as well as work and stand for free and fair elections in 2023 . Amen.
(2). All Nigerians have a duty to join hands with President Buhari towards making the 2023 elections successful, peaceful, hitch-free and credible, free and fair. It’s our collective responsibility.
(3). Those plotting to disrupt the elections in any part of the country must immediately perish such thought. The election must go on in all parts of the country. You would gain nothing by disrupting elections and forcing your own people to not vote. It does not make any sense at all. So, sheath your swords, suspend your plans and allow elections to go on. Who knows, it’s possible that this election might help Nigeria and Nigerians to enthrone a leadership that does not encourage or lead to agitations in parts of the country. After all, it’s inequity, oppressive, clannish, nepotistic, myopic, parochial, and exclusionary governance that fuels agitations. If a good governance is in place carrying along all parts of Nigeria and treating all Nigerians as fellow Nigerians , equal and equally loved, there would be no reasons for agitations. So, calm down, guys. All shall be well with Nigeria.
(4). May we never again elect or experience leaders whose poor leadership style lead to or encourage agitations in parts of Nigeria. Amen. Hear Jubril S. Okutepa, SAN: “Nigeria does not need tribal leaders or tribal warlords. Nigeria needs patriotic and committed Nigerian as a leader that leads by examples for others to follow…. We need leaders whose actions and decisions will not encourage agitations for separation and balkanisation of Nigeria” [ThenigeriaLawyer: 2 October 2021]. Re-echoinng this, COL DANGIWA UMAR had this to say:
‘One of the swiftest ways of destroying a kingdom is to give preference of one particular tribe over another or show favor to one group of people rather than another. And to draw near those who should be kept away and keep away those who should be drawn near” Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio’_ [See: _*”_Open Letter From Dangiwa Umar (retd) To President Muhammadu Buhari”; Sahara Reporters; 31 May 2020]. Any leader who would not strictly comply with Chapter 2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,1999 in his or her leadership of Nigeria, I pray that he/she be frustrated and never succeed in leading Nigeria. Amen
See: *”Warning Alert to Political Leaders: Compliance with the Federal Character Provisions of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria is not Dependent on Voting Patterns during Elections”* [Sylvester Udemezue; MARCH 18, 2019; BarristerNG]
(5). Everyone of voting age who has his or her PVC must move the his or her polling boot on the election day, to cast his or her vote for any candidate of his/her choice. But that is not all ; you must after voting, stay back there to defend your votes so as to ensure no rigging, no manipulation and no malpractice. See: (A). “ELECTIONS: The Awful Punishment, Retribution That Would Befall Nigerians Who Refuse to Vote…(a passionate plea by Sylvester Udemezue)” [ThenigeriaLawyer: 15 February 2019]. (B). “… Why All Eligible Nigerians Must Go Out and Cast Their Votes for Candidates of Their Choosing (By Sylvester Udemezue)”_ [ThenigeriaLawyer; 23 February 2019]. (C). Then, in a article titled “Closure Of Tertiary Education Institutions For 2023 Elections Is Constitutional, Necessary, Reasonable And Auspicious; Plus Matters Incidental” [BarristerNG; 22 February 2023], I wrote, about the need to ensure we all vote:
‘YOU MUST ENSURE YOU VOTE: Voting is essential because it pushes a country’s democracy to function in a fair and equal way. The whole point of a democracy is to ensure that everyone has their chance to elect a candidate and vote for policies that represent and benefit their communities. Accordingly, you just have to ensure that you vote. That is the only way we move forward. This, perhaps is why John Lewis said, “The vote is precious. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society, and we must use it”. It’s not enough to just complain about bad governance. It’s not enough to just want good governance in your country, Nigeria. You have to go and install good governance by voting. Besides, when you vote, your values are put into action and your voices are heard. Your voice is a reminder that you matter because you really do, which is why you deserve to be heard. There’s no such thing as a vote that doesn’t matter. It all matters. The power to make a difference lies in voting. Casting a ballot isn’t just something you do for yourself — it’s for our collective future of your country and generations yet unborn. Further, please note that someone and some people advocated and struggled for your schools to be shut down to enable you to participate in electing your next set of leaders. Those of you who have their PVCs must therefore ensure that you vote in these elections. Finally, as Billie Eilish once said, “We all [the young, the old, female and male, all Nigerians of voting age] have to vote like our lives and the whole world depend on it, because they do. The only way to be certain of the future is to make it ourselves.”’
Sylvester Udemezue (Udems)
(24 February 2023)