Have lessons been learnt? Maybe yes and no. This is because some Nigerians who are feeding fat on sharp practices see nothing wrong with electoral fraud. For them, the end justifies the means. Perhaps we do not realise that the young are watching what is happening on the political scene. When a nation leaves behind a legacy of lies, cover up, “it is my turn” and do-or-die politics, it not only destroys its soul but the fabric that holds it together as well.
Despite its huge potential, an estimated 60% youth population comprising those who are under 25 years – the youngest in Africa, a growing creative industry that attracts global audiences, academics who are breaking new grounds in research across the world and the finest clerics in global reckoning, Nigeria seems to be sliding into becoming a nation of no consequence. Perhaps the only consequence is the scandalous political elite that mentors the young in inglorious legacies – declaring losers as winners and winners as losers.
A good way to begin is the shambolic 25 February presidential election that went down in history as the worst in the nation’s 62 years of existence. The recent European Union (EU) report testifies to this fact. Unlike previous elections, Nigerians had resolved to change the status quo. In part, the passage of the “Not too young to run bill” into law and reliance on the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS). This inspired young voters who came out en masse to exercise their franchise, and to decide their future.
This was further boosted by warm assurances from the National Commissioner and Chairman of the Information and Voter Education Committee of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Festus Okoye, and INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu. With local funding at a budget of ₦355 billion to improve technology in voting, plus an international support of €39 million from the EU Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN), $50 million technical assistance from the US government, and pledges by the electoral umpire that it will deliver on credible elections, even the worst pessimist was not left in doubt that the 2023 elections would be the most free, fair, and creditable polls in Nigeria’s nationhood.
To the dismay of local and international observers, civil society organisations (CSOs), the media and the Nigerian electorate, who defied time and circumstances to vote, the presidential election did not go as promised. While the National Assembly and House of Representatives’ elections were transmitted to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IREV) without qualms, most results of the presidential election were not. Instead, funny photos were uploaded. Meanwhile, manual results were announced at the National Collation Centre, Abuja. Even when objections were raised that the results were not tallying, the INEC boss continued.
When Nigerians demanded to know what happened, the electoral body started speaking from different parts of the mouth – the long and short of the story was that they experienced some “glitches” while attempting to upload results on IREV. How and why the so-called infectious “glitch” like cancer only chose the presidential election for permanent damage and left the previous ones held on the same day remains a mystery, akin to African voodoo. In the dead of the night results were announced and the mood across the nation was: “Really, is this possible in the 21st century?” Well, a president has been sworn in and the matter is in court. Most Nigerians who are students of history are doubtful that anything good will come out of it.
Have lessons been learnt? Maybe yes and no. This is because some Nigerians who are feeding fat on sharp practices see nothing wrong with electoral fraud. For them, the end justifies the means. Perhaps we do not realise that the young are watching what is happening on the political scene. When a nation leaves behind a legacy of lies, cover up, “it is my turn” and do-or-die politics, it not only destroys its soul but the fabric that holds it together as well. It is heart-rending to imagine that academics who expel students for malpractices are the very ones to turn a blind eye to electoral malfeasance or even perpetuate it; surprisingly, when good educational policies are not implemented resulting in ASUU strikes, they end up blaming the same politicians whom they rigged into public office.
For example, in March, an ex-JAMB registrar was on trial for fresh charges of N5 billion fraud brought against him by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC). In April 2022, a witness of the anti-graft agency testified that the accused allegedly set up a radio station with N15 million diverted from JAMB. In February 2018, it was reported that a snake swallowed N36 million in the vault of the JAMB office, Makurdi, the Benue State capital.
Sadly, these acts of hubris impact negatively on the young. A clear example is the case of Mmesoma Ejikeme, who allegedly manually inflated her 2023 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) result from 249 to 362, using the score to attract a N3 million scholarship from Innoson Motors. The teen attracted huge social media accolades. In fact, the Anambra State government was set to honour her before the matter was exposed.
In a statement which berated the action, JAMB disclosed that: “Mmesoma had actually scored 249 and not the 362 she claimed.” The examination body also submitted that, “She had manipulated her UTME result to deceive the public to fraudulently obtain a scholarship and other recognitions.” Meanwhile, Nkechinyere Umeh, 16, was declared the top scorer by the board during its 2023 policy meeting, which was held in Abuja on Saturday, 24 June, with an aggregate score of 360. Ejikeme’s manipulation could pass for Yakubu’s super-story, with the latter being a prototype for the JAMB fraud.
At the heart of nation building is ensuring strong institutions, with forthright individuals driving them. South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere and most recently, John Magufuli, typify African leaders who have left heroic examples for the teaming youth across the continent. Since the future of any nation is its youth population, it behooves on African leaders to avoid scandalising the youth simply because they want power at all costs. Young girls have the likes of late Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and Dora Akunyili, as well as Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Amina Jane Mohammed to learn from.
Personages like Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Idi Amin and Mobutu Sese Seko have come and gone, yet their legacies are left in the museum of wasteful tragedy. I think that the greatest power is that of influence, and this can be achieved without political power. As such, let the old bequeath wisdom and good morals to the young, as the latter drive innovation and industry. The child who ignores good examples and finds justification in the bad attitude of some old crook ends up as a dwarf of history.
Justine John Dyikuk, a Catholic priest, is a lecturer of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Nigeria; Senior Fellow, International Religious Freedom Policy, Religious Freedom Institute (RFI), Washington DC; and PhD Candidate, University of Strathclyde Glasgow, United Kingdom.
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