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The Imperatives Of Free And Transparent General Election In Nigeria In 2023, By Uchenna Nwankwo

  • Paper Delivered at the Commencement of the Youth Week of the Anglican Church of Praise, Akoka, Yaba, Lagos, 6pm, Monday, 19th September 2022 @ the Church Auditorium


It is interesting to note that the very day I received the invitation to speak here on the subject of Free and Transparent Election in Nigeria in 2023, the CUPP (Coalition of United Political Parties) released its findings on what it called an elaborate plan by the APC to rig the said 2023 General Election. I must say that although the allegation is yet to be confirmed, it was quite disconcerting even for me. Talk of a credible election in Nigeria! Come the day!! But we continue to limp along in the hope that one day e go better!!! Hope, they say, is what sustains the living.

It was not only the above bad news that broke on the day I received the invitation to deliver this speech. There was a favourable one. And this was the proclamation from a joint meeting of the Northern Governors Forum and the Northern Traditional Rulers’ Council which resolved to support the idea of our establishing State Police in Nigeria for the sake of providing greater security to life and property in the country. So the political news of the said date was a mixed bag. It included something that somewhat counter-balanced the above disturbing news item about election rigging. Indeed, the State Police idea is a policy instrument to which I have devoted much time and energy, for I have personally written so much about it and have since the early 1990s promoted the idea in Nigeria, in every way I could. So it gladdens my heart that the North, which has been averse to the idea of state police, is at last beginning to make a U-turn!


Let me start by saying that the scheduled Nigerian General Election of 2023 is definitely going to be a make or break election however one looks at it. I say this because given the multiple collapses that have become the lot of the country under the leadership of Buhari and his APC cohorts, nothing short of the election of a brand new set of credible individuals or men and women of substance and integrity to run the affairs of Nigeria, will suffice.

Which of the collapses can one talk of and leave out the others? Is it the gross erosion of civility in our interrelationships as a people or the broad collapses of our economic and political traditions? Just look at the glaring insecurity of life and property in the land since 2015 when Buhari and the APC took over the mantle of leadership in the country. Witness the gross activities of the army of bandits, kidnappers, cattle herders, and terrorists all over the country and the untold carnage, mass murders and genocide going on under Buhari’s watch.

What brand of leadership is this where the rulers themselves appear by their acts of omission and commission to be the ones behind the many insurrections in the land? It is not only that the land has been painted red with human blood but also that these have rubbed off on the economic foundations of the country enthroning depreciating productivity and whittling our food security. The nation’s farmers are most of the time consistently kept away from the farms by ever rising banditry and menace by hordes of cattle herders and other criminals, who assault, rape, kill or kidnap them in the farms or on their way to the farms; in the bush. The resultant poverty and hunger in the land have turned more and more citizens into crime and unexpected criminal activities. The looting of national resources under the Buhari government has never been as pronounced even though one of his key objects of coming to power is to check corruption in the land. Indeed, the situation is so bad that Nigeria has become a net exporter of criminals around the world.

At the political level, Buhari has sown mounting discord and disunity that Nigerian groups are now sharply divided and distrustful of one another. There is so much hatred and disharmony everywhere. Conversely, people now fear the worst from their neighbours and fellow countrymen that we seem virtually at war with one another. It has never been so bad in the annals of this country. Even during the Nigeria-Biafra war, we did not see as much hatefulness and disharmony as we witness today. Indeed, Nigeria has become a dog-eat-dog society. Buhari’s nepotistic policies and actions have virtually turned Nigeria into an Apartheid society, with outright war, pillage and plunder staring all in the face.

Impact of Severe Inter-Ethnic Face-offs & Underlying Constitutional Crisis

It is not only in Nigeria that politics has remained a battle between different ethnic groups each of which aspires to seize the instrument of state power and exclude every other group from influence, patronage and status. Throughout the African continent, it is precisely this problem that has made the state so fragile and unstable. In Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Niger, Mauritania, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Central African Republic, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Mozambique, Angola, South Africa, Mali, Chad, Burkina-Faso and Ethiopia, the ethnic struggle for supremacy has ended in civil wars with the attendant massacres and refugee problem, and the disruption of development initiatives and projects.

To put it succinctly, ethnic pluralism is the ogre standing between Africa and development.  Until this problem is solved through dialogue, openness, commensurate power sharing and equity, no other problem can be usefully addressed. Peace is a pre-condition for prosperity, and it is only in freedom that people fully mobilize their creative powers. In Nigeria, as in the other African countries, programmes of economic reconstruction will continue to fail until we get the politics of national reconstruction right. In other words, the most important reform Nigeria needs is political. We first need to affect a thorough restructuring of the captive Nigerian state that will in turn reconcile the different Nigerian peoples and hence liberate the suppressed genius and complementary energies of the people for social and economic advancement.

To cap it up, we can say that historically Nigeria’s post-independence constitutional, political and resultant developmental crisis kicked off very early in the day with the manipulations and revisionism that overthrew its better structured 1960 Independence Constitution and replaced it with the so-called 1963 Republican Constitution, and then the rogue 1999 Constitution – with dire consequences for the country and its peoples. Those individuals who tell you that economic despoliation and declines in the country are responsible for the political disruptions, collapses and instability in Nigeria are telling you a big lie. It is a wrong analysis of the Nigerian condition. The right perception is the other way around; that our bad politics disrupts and destroys our economic foundations and inhibits its advance because we are too busy plotting and fighting tribal wars to bother about concentrating our energy and focus on the enhancement of our productivity, economic wellbeing and growth. And the most disruptive aspect of these frictions and tensions in Nigeria is located in the incessant waves of jihad foisted from the Far-North, as is witnessed today under the Buhari administration.

Background to Buhai’s Political Aspirations & the Ruination of National Cohesion

In his book, Path to Nigerian Freedom (1947), Chief Obafemi Awolowo informed us that at a conference of Northern emirs in 1942, a letter written to them by the West African Students Union (WASU) in London came up for discussion. The letter, Chief Awolowo tells us, touched on many problems affecting Nigeria as a whole; and the WASU appealed to the Northern emirs and their peoples for cooperation with leaders and peoples of Southern Nigeria in tackling them in order to ensure peaceful coexistence between the two sections of the country.

According to Chief Awolowo, the emirs’ comment on this appeal for cooperation, as contained in the official report of the conference, can be summarized as follows:

Holding this country together is not possible except by means of the religion of the Prophet [Mohammed]. … If they [the South] want political unity let them follow our religion. {Awolowo, Obafemi, Path to Nigerian Freedom (1947), p. 51}

In other words, the condition given by the emirs for peace and unity in Nigeria is that Southerners must become Moslems and must all come under the Sokoto Caliphate. Unfortunately, Buhari bought this idea decades later and has in the last seven or so years tried to foist same in 21st century Nigeria. This in a nutshell is what has polarized Nigerian politics, created so much enmity in the country as well as disrupted social and economic progress in Nigeria. Or what do you think Buhari’s attempt to monopolise power and hand the country over to his Fulani brothers was bound to fetch!

This is why we look forward to a free and transparent general election in Nigeria come 2023 so that Nigerians can safely and freely vote in reasonable and credible leaders, men and women who would take over from Buhari & Co, and would be able to rise above ethnic-ism and religiosity to give us good governance; people who would work hard to reestablish Nigeria as a progressive, cohesive, and democratic nation-state run with the rule of law in focus as well as return Nigeria to a federation, as originally conceived and established by our forebears. This would enable them to curb our plummeting economy and restore faith and vibrancy to our socio-economic conditions as well as curtail corruption. Of course, this is an onerous, some would say, daunting, task. But we remain confident that with God on our side Change will come and a peaceful transition is possible, unlike the atrocious 1966 scenario that ended in a fiasco or the outbreak of the Nigeria-Biafra war.

Some of you may not know it, but Sir Ahmadu Bello was the first person that tried to colonize the rest of the country in post-independence Nigeria and turn it into a Fulani Caliphate, in order to fulfill the wishes of the Northern emirs, of which Chief Awolowo had earlier informed us about. Ahmadu Bello, the Fulani leader of the NPC, had become the political leader of Northern Nigeria following the conspiracy of the British colonialists with the Northern emirs that effectively rigged out Aminu Kano, (the prudent, egalitarian, anti-jihadist, anti-feudalist Fulani leader of the NEPU), in the staggered 1951 Northern Nigerian elections. Ahmadu Bello used the Nigerian Army to attack the Tivs in the Middle Belt, who had from pre-colonial times frustrated Fulani jihadist expansion into Tiv land and had stood in opposition to Ahmadu Bello’s autocratic rule in Northern Nigeria.

Later, Ahmadu Bello and his NPC exploited the 1962 split in the Action Group (AG) with a view to gaining political control of the Western Region. He was on the verge of using the Army in Western Nigeria in the same way he used them in his attempt to colonize Tiv land when he was stopped by Nzeogwu & Co.  In effect, it was the attempt by Ahmadu Bello to incorporate the rest of Nigeria into the Sokoto Caliphate that brought about the military coup d’état of January 15, 1966, which eventually degenerated into war.

In the above regard, Buhari is only the second Fulani man that has seriously tried to accomplish this same fit of turning other Nigerian peoples who were not previously part of the Sokoto caliphate into vassals of that caliphate. From the way he has pursued the putative dream, making Daura his home town look like a focal or nodal city with linkages into Niger Republic, it might well be that he had wanted to create a new caliphate with headquarters in Daura, which would subsume the old Sokoto caliphate, encompass the rest of Nigeria and perhaps parts of Niger Republic, with himself as the caliph or sultan of a new emergent Daura caliphate.

We are not sure that Buhari has given up on his ‘caliphate agenda’. But his term of office as president of Nigeria is gradually coming to an end. And so he has to leave that exalted office. Would he meekly accept that his successor in office should be elected by Nigerians without let or hindrance from any quarters? Or would he want to manipulate the process in order to install a surrogate (Fulani) president to continue from where he stops? In other words, are we going to have a credible, free and transparent election in 2023? These are the imponderables! In effect, Nigeria is pregnant, and we know not what will be birthed come 2023. One thing seems certain though. If Nigeria’s 2023 election fails to meet the expected standards, there will be anger on the streets! On the other hand, it is possible that the supremacist elements in our midst would want to do everything in their power to forestall a credible election; to cease power in whatever guise or way they can and any time from now. In effect, it would seem that Nigeria is somewhat headed for a monumental showdown between these two opposing forces or tendencies.

My Conclusion: We need a lot of prayers, and of course eternal vigilance!


1). Pro-Biafra Movements, Ohanaeze & the Future of Nigeria by Uchenna Nwankwo

2). Rescuing Nigeria from Internal Colonisation                               “           “

3). The Centrist Manifesto                                                                  “           “           

4). Shadows of Biafra                                                                         “           “

5). Zik, Ndigbo & their Southern Neighbours                                   “           “

6). On National Reconciliation & Development                               “           “                                                                        Tel. +234 8118195950 

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