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Sowore And RevolutionNow: Seventy Thousand Years Of Inheritance



Sowore And RevolutionNow: Seventy Thousand Years Of Inheritance

Sowore and RevolutionNow: Seventy Thousand Years of Inheritance




  Toyin Falola

Justice, equality, and fraternity were the tripod forces and principles that triggered the 1789 French Revolution. These became the song on the street of Bastille and other parts of France that year. It was sung and animated so much so that it became the signpost of hundreds of demonstrations of people’s power around the world in the years and centuries that followed. The organization of polities around the notion of a nation-state and the political coordination of such an entity was at this time remodeled. This implies that the 1789 revolution brought a deep search-light on the social contract that existed between the ruled and the rulers. Even more interesting in this year’s event is that since then, the French aristocracy has neither stopped nor yielded its place for another in the history of the people’s revolution against the ruling class and the state.

From here, one wonders what the Great Teacher meant when he called on us to ask for our daily bread in our communication with the universe. Bread might have been the primary staple of that civilization, but it has turned out to be a metaphor for the significance of food consumption in the everyday life of human beings. In the more recent times, as recent as the year 2020, after over three decades of endurance under the draconian regime of Omar Al Bashar and his terrorist state, the people of Sudan finally gained the courage to break the yoke only after an astronomic hike in the price of bread. Scientists have equally equated an empty stomach to a gloomy and temperamental spirit. As Harari demonstrates in his work on the history of humankind, the domination of this planet earth by humans only began about 70,000 years ago when they climbed and remained at the peak of the ladder of the food distribution chain in what could be fairly called the animal kingdom—the world in which man and other animals competed for food and survival in the same environment.

Arriving at this superior pedestal was not an easy fit for humankind after years of cohabitation with other animals, especially the jackals, lions, and other “kings” of the jungle they lived with. But ever since that 70,000-year-old revolution described as the “Cognitive Revolution,” the impulse to constantly reshape and recalibrate their physical and social environment for purposes that boil down to protecting their interests and common good has been one of the great preoccupations of humankind. Through this, humans have made an indelible footprint on the planet-earth, both in collective and individual terms. Not surprisingly, therefore, attempts at the redistribution of wealth have continued to produce and reproduce the history of mankind for over 70,000 years.

READ ALSO: Sowore: Society, Sanity, Safety, and Stability

Since the Westphalia treaty of 1648, this attempt has been increasingly linked to the condition and notion of human rights. Child and female education, freedom of will, association, speech, and all, as well as the rights to a dignified life, employment, wellbeing, and others, are intrinsically weaved into and around the question of wealth distribution. Among several other historical notables, this brought about the Methodist Revolution in England, the Fifth Amendment in America, the Bolshevik Revolution in the old Soviet state, piecemeal independence in Africa and other colonial states, the Iranian Revolution, and the unrelenting press for democracy and democratic reforms around the world, especially since the symbolic or rather, the technical end of the cold war.

Revolution, like development, has never been a destination but a thorough and consciously tamed endeavor by the collective awareness of the people. Nigeria and Nigerians have been in this saddle for over a century since the 1914 mercantile-inspired amalgamation. Before this time, various peoples and cultures, not yet to be called Nigerians, had made a fundamental print on this pedestal of revolution and change. More than any other time in history, this was particularly so in the nineteenth century, which cannot be referred to as the Age of Revolution in the Niger area. Nineteenth-Century political establishments in this area were faced with the odds of not fresh ideas, but refreshed motifs from various forces bent on changing the status quo as dictated in their peculiar environments.

In this regard, one could name the likes of Uthman dan Fodio, Ogedengbe, Lisabi, Jaja, and a host of others. These great men and their protégés reformed and instituted new forms of governance across the Niger area along the line of the socioeconomic reality of the time—expanding trade, burgeoning population, and permanent foreign relations. In some cases, as in the new town of Abeokuta, their attempt at remodeling the political and socioeconomic morphology of the states was spurred and directed by their returnee kinsmen from the Americas and Sierra Leone. Their protégés in the twentieth century, many of whom were descendants of the returnees, and western educated individuals, namely Herbert Macaulay, Dr. Obasa Randle, Chief Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikwe, and Ahmadu Bello, also tuned into the prevailing sociopolitical ambiance of the colonial era to demand change in the coordination of the state affairs.

Their demands ultimately ignited the independence of the state in 1960 but did not put an end to the conditions to which they responded, organized, and expressed their nationalist agitations. In the same way they hijacked the transformational process initiated by these nineteenth-century figures, others in the postcolonial state have taken the gauntlet from them, demanding a better state and the redistribution of wealth. This struggle has been staged on different platforms and has been the career notable of some impeccable and iconoclastic Nigerians. Many of them never joined partisan politics, others did at some points, ostensibly seeing the tomfoolery in demanding a butterfly to act an eagle. Tai Solarin, Wole Soyinka, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Omoyele Sowore, and others have been in this ring and have paid dearly from the tyrannical response of the state.

In all of this history, it is safer to refer to these men as the vanguard of the society. More broadly, in recent times, that is from the twentieth century, they constitute the conscience of the society. Although their predecessors can hardly be described as the conscience of the society, given the circumstances in which some of the revolutions were staged, which were purely a matter of military prowess and quest for power, they all share the commonality of being drawn from the small pool of “enlightened” members of the society whose vision of tomorrow becomes the trailblazer of public action. Many thanks to the age of the Internet of Things, which was heralded by the digital revolution of the current millennium, the works and thoughts of these formidable figures have been animated and easily disseminated to the public.

READ ALSO: Omoyele Sowore: A President, A Prisoner, And A Promise

Since the debut of his online investigative journalism platform, Sahara Reporters, in 2006, Omoyele Sowore, perhaps the youngest and most vibrant of these popular figures in recent times, has become a target of the state. Whereas this was a notch forward in his engagement with the state in the demand for a just society, the battle line had long been drawn between this indefatigable figure and the state since his days as a university student in the late 80s. Talk about the struggle for democracy and democratic principles in Nigeria from this period onward, and you will find Sowore acting in one capacity or the other. If he is not organizing protests and calling for reforms, he is joining the hands on deck to do the same.

From phantom charges to detention, restriction of movement, to all sorts of psychological incarceration that are the hallmark of all dictatorial regimes, Sowore has grown to become the nemesis of the state and the albatross to be constantly checked by its elite political class. Just a couple of days ago, the death of his brother, Olajide Sowore, in the hands of the marauding forces of evil and retrogression was added to this appalling profile. Neither Sowore nor his brother could be protected by the state—and neither is any of us—but they could be murdered, incarcerated, exploited, and dehumanized by the same state they pledged to serve in the national anthem and other legal documents and actions. Such a sad story! Once again, my deepest condolences to the Sowore family.

Remarkably, the activist made it to the Toyin Falola Interviews on Sunday, September 5, 2021, just a day after the unfortunate news of his brother’s demise, a telling tale of the dogged spirit that had seen him navigate the rugged sociopolitical terrain of the Nigerian state for over two decades. This is also a testament to how dear to his heart he holds the restoration of the state, which is on the fringe of collapse, and how much he detests the possible return of the state to the stone-age animal kingdom where life was brutish and short.

Even though, as Professor Olatunji Olaopa rightly observed during the interview session, the structure, approach, and praxis of the revolution championed by Sowore still need a thorough rejigging for clarity, direction, and mobilization, for its modus operandi to materialize, given the mammoth to be subdued in this pursuit, no one can question his commitment to the cause of changing the postcolonial narrative of the Nigerian state.

As revealed during the interview session, and as many must have known, this has taken the trend of building or attempting to build alliances with like-minded individuals and organizations and establishing structures of action across the federation. So, when Professor Moses Ochonu asked if Omoyele Sowore saw no contradictions in the clamor for restructuring by a section of the social movements and space of the state, secession by others, and his own call for revolution, the media guru had no problem drawing the parallel that exists in this public space and efforts he and his comrades have made in building bridges across divided lines. Certainly, no one can doubt the need for a common ground and coalition among the revolutionary forces in the state. As Sowore pointed out, call it demand for restructuring or secession, all are revolutionary drives, and the word “revolution,” which scares the enablers of the status quo so much, does not necessarily have to be violent or bloody. This is why there is the option of a referendum.

READ ALSO: Obadiah Mailafia: The Grip Of Grief

Talking about a referendum, not a few who were present at the live streaming of the latest Toyin Falola Interviews, and most certainly sharing the minds of other patriots within and outside the country, were of the view that the 2023 elections under this current stricture would be another waste of public resources for the recycling of the old problem. Like a commentator mentioned, in some cases, the problem of governance in Nigeria is not so much of having incompetent hands in the saddle of leadership but of a system that has been programmed to make them fail and incapacitated. Others warned that if Sowore were to participate in the charade called elections in 2023 without pushing for and achieving tangible compromises in the current electoral system as well as the rogue constitution, whether by way of referendum, constitutional conference, or even the combination of both and other viable means, no one should be surprised if there is a repeat of the 2019’s.

When pressed further on how he hoped to effect change on the political scene while responding to Professor Ochonu, Omoyele Sowore seems to base his hope on the limited six percent of the population that could relate well and key into the message of his party, the African Action Congress (AAC), the Liberation Movements, RevolutionNow, and others. If this population could upturn the ignorant-majority electing and “de-electing” candidates, it is believed that the political landscape of the state could be hugely transformed. Where then does this six percent lie? They are mainly found among the middle-class population and students, many of whom have given up on the state. Getting this population on board will not only reduce the cost of campaign but is also sure to recalibrate electioneering processes. This way, more competent heads can throw their heads in the ring. However, even with this population of “refined minds,” politics will remain that dirty arena of slings, manipulation, and shenanigans, though this could be at the level of intellectual, rigorous, and stimulating debates. I pointed this out because politics is a game of interests, and interests are never static but dynamic with time and circumstances, even with a guiding principle. Hence, man is a sociopolitical animal.

Interestingly, not everyone buys into the idea of Sowore’s revolution and overhauling of the political atmosphere of the Nigerian state. In place of this, they advocate for the evolution of the state. In one sentence, they subscribe to the evolution of the state, as against revolution, for its sociopolitical and economic transformations. They hold this position to the view that the revolution did not transform the condition in Sudan, Egypt, Tunisia, or Libya, as the states have since relapsed into an even deeper abyss of political uncertainty, pandemonium, and dictatorship. Among this group belongs Dr. Ena, who described himself as a pro-investment as against a pro-people person. The young man argued that there could be a dichotomy between these two approaches to development without ripping one’s heart and soul into the bin of degeneration.

Aside from the prayers of fortitude for Omoyele Sowore at the opening of the interview session, Dr. Ena’s stance was another of the most significant moments at the event. It offered to the public caption-clear opposing views dominating Nigeria and the global economic world. The discussion touched on the relations between private and public entities in the state. To what extent should the government be involved in private businesses? And here, the question of the Dangote refinery was brought to the fore. Although Sowore was quick to pronounce this ambitious project aimed at pumping 650 000bpd to West African markets, including Nigeria, a failure, his skepticism, like that of many other well-meaning Nigerians, is unfounded but a palpable one rooted in the political culture of the state. This is even more so considering the primitive approach of the current regime (not administration) to governance, which has repeatedly brought about the accusation of sectional agenda against it from different quarters within and outside the Nigerian space.

However, on a broader lens devoid of sectional interest, the $4 billion commitment of the Nigerian government, which gives her a twenty percent share in the $19 billion project, could be the best conduit for the country to be self-reliant in energy consumption and take a leap in the value chain of global production. I am not acquainted with Mr. Aliko Dangote, but let no one be deceived about an ethnoreligious undertone of this deal. Dangote Corporation and the man are two different entities. By any chance of legal circumstances, the Nigerian government or any other legal entity could even take over the refinery in the future. As far as the interests of Nigerians are duly represented, it cannot be denied that they will benefit from this pro-investment project. Not only can they save from the cost of petroleum products, further infrastructural investments and developments from the returns can also be expected. As a pro-investment person that Dr. Ena is and as shared by many big businesses like Dangote, the elites’ interest supersedes the interest of the people in cases like this.

READ ALSO: Molefi Asante: The Lion Who Refused To Buy The Hunters’ Stories About The Forest

Consequently, we find a recurrent situation where the corporate responsibilities of multinationals are jettisoned for the interest of these elites. Dr. Ena also referenced this in his critique of revolutionary movements regarding the Niger Delta crisis. A pro-investment drive that tags along the wellbeing of the people remains the sure link to development, and not the mere growth often flaunted in statistical data measured by the GDP. From the Nigerian case in particular, and the economic growth story of the rest of the world in general, an upward trend in states GDP is not equal to improvement in the everyday life of the average person on the street. It takes holistic relations between pro-investment plans and pro-people schemes to unleash the potential states as seen in China in recent times. There are no metrics for the damage that pro-investment excesses have caused and its continued cancerous effects on our everyday life. Covid-19 politics have added a new icy to this macabre cake.

Meanwhile, it remained to be seen how evolution could be achieved without revolution at some point or another in the 70,000-year history of man. Earlier in the program, Mrs. Motunrayo Alaka had brought this view to the question of women participation in politics, policies, and public space, to which Sowore admitted that his party failed to do justice to as intended in the previous elections but reiterated their position on the aphorism– “educate and empower women, educate a nation.” The preceding points remain the central and intricate drive of changes and transformation, which have driven human society for thousands of years, and which no nuclear weapon had been able to decimate despite the incarceration and muddling of voices like that of Sowore.

At this point, I join the elders at the interview session to pray for the family of Omoyele Sowore, asking for the strength to bear the unfortunate loss of their son, husband, father, and brother, Olajide Sowore. I also say a big “Ase!” to all the heartfelt prayers offered.

Sowore and RevolutionNow: Seventy Thousand Years of Inheritance

Omoyele Sowore

(This is the second report on the interview with Omoyele Sowore on September 5, 2021.  For part of the transcript, YouTube:  Facebook:

Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.


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Toyin Falola Interviews Holds Talks With Samia, Daughter Of Kwame Nkrumah



Samia Yaba Nkrumah

The Toyin Falola Interviews is set to hold a conversation with the renowned Pan-Africanist and former Convention People’s Party chairperson, Samia Yaba Nkrumah.

Sunday, June 25, 2023
4:00 PM Ghana
5:00 PM Nigeria
11:00 AM Austin CST

Register and Watch:

Samia Nkrumah was born on June 23, 1960, in Ghana to Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of the Republic of Ghana and Africa’s most decorated Pan-Africanist, and Fathia Nkrumah, an Egyptian. The aftermath of the 1966 military coup that overthrew Kwame Nkrumah saw her immediate family divided between Guinea and Egypt, where she had her elementary education. At the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, she obtained a Bachelor of Arabic Studies in 1991 and a master’s degree in Comparative Politics of Contemporary Middle East at SOAS in 1993. In 2008, Samia Nkrumah entered Ghanaian politics and served as the Member of Parliament for the Jomoro Constituency of the Western Region of Ghana between 2009 and 2012. In her quest to revive her father’s political party, Samia Nkrumah became the National Chairperson of the Convention People’s Party between 2011 and 2015. Currently, Samia Nkrumah is the founder and president of the Kwame Nkrumah Pan-African Centre, a non-profit organization committed to promoting the vision and ideas of Kwame Nkrumah.

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Professor Paul Lovejoy At 80  – Part 2: Peculiar Substances!



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola

 Paul Lovejoy has approached African history by studying commodities: kola nuts, salt, tobacco, and cowries, among others. My dialogue with him will reveal the crucial importance of these objects that interface with such issues as trade, trade routes, trading colonies, and short- and long-distance commerce. When you cumulate his studies on these objects—peculiar products—you can understand why no scholar compares with him in his enduring contributions to African Economic History. As objects connect with our desires and habits, Lovejoy becomes a pre-eminent social historian. He followed the trans-Saharan trade routes from one end to the other, diverted to the Sudan, to the Swahili city-states and crossed the Indian Ocean to Gujarat. Is a Zaki allowed to drink? If so, we must add the study of alcohol to the items of trade and habits.

Critical attention that Lovejoy accorded to the exploration, examination and interrogation of slavery would almost make one assume that outside of that intellectual discourse, he barely picks other interests. This is not so. His available contributions to other related but different tropes of knowledge signal that, like all other prolific scholars, he has made an incredible addition to numerous areas of knowledge. One may not have the idea that Lovejoy dedicated much of his intellectual energy to studying objects and commodities. 

In the spirit of fairness, the common attitude to recognizing objects is harsh, taken for granted, based on the misleading assumption that we need not study them. Why natron, why bitter kola? Meanwhile, that orientation towards all these objects and commodities is ill-motivated and misinformed, given the magnitude of ideas that the works of Lovejoy have opened our minds to. The meeting point between people and objects is understanding the cultural ideologies of groups of people. In essence, all human activities are somewhat connected.

Professor Paul Lovejoy

Paul Lovejoy, alongside some other scholars, undertakes the responsibility to understand some aspects of human cultures that are considered good and bad, respectively, concerning how they use them to drive or advance their civilization forward, beyond the imagination of anyone. They look into drugs in human society, their consumption and cultural attitude to their proliferation. Drugs have different levels that they operate within the human body. That they have superficial effects in some cultures or people and have deeper psychological outcomes on others reveals how some groups have decided to immerse themselves in the habit for certain reasons. In Consuming Habits: Drugs in History and Anthropology, the tripod of Lovejoy, Sherratt and Goodman perform anthropological operations on some cultures to bring to the fore the cultural reasons for the consumption of some hard drugs ranging from opium, cocaine, coffee, tobacco, kola, and betelnut among other substances. One thing they reveal is that these consuming habits help  to characterize people and define how they understand drugs from time to time. Drugs are objects, but they are consumable ones with definite results on the human psychological domain and, in some cases, their socioeconomic conditions eventually. 

The central message of their examination in Consuming Habits is that behind the success of countries in their endeavors is an untold story of their deepened involvement in the patronage of some substances as they employ them to perform engagements that dramatically affect the human world. Perhaps, the knowledge that the consumption of drugs has increased crimes and encouraged morally condemnable engagements, the world, through policies, has emphatically opposed the patronage of these substances. The irony of this moral quandary is that hard substances patronage is increasing daily in many countries. This raises important questions about the seriousness of combating consumers of hard substances and their very intentions about others they have successfully de-marketed. The endgame is that when they label some items “legal” or “illegal,” they have disallowed scholars from understanding the cultural context of their patronage and the reason for their continued appropriation. Lovejoy has helped us understand the overlapping beauty of culture and moral principles and how the desire to separate them has always generated unimaginable results with negative consequences. To that extent, they let us understand why humans keep using and abusing these substances. 

In Salt of the Desert Sun: A History of Salt Production and Trade in Central Sudan, Lovejoy uses his scholarly work to understudy production and exchange systems. Before then and after, it has often become the subject that pre-capitalist African cultures were unaware of market forces, a point that Tony Hopkins also demolished in An Economic History of West Africa. Both Lovejoy and Hopkins did not tie the idea of a subsistence economy to the template of racial ideology that drove it. In that ideological template, Africans were unfit to talk about advancement in ways we have observed in Asia, Europe and the Americas. The foundation of that assumption was faulty, given that it was recorded that salt, as an object, was sufficiently distributed across different areas in the Sudan in an advanced economy. Lovejoy saw increased salt production as a testament to the ability to produce mass commodities that they used for various purposes.   

Of course, the hallmark of the economic success of the period was the ability to sustain such a high level of performance to meet the demands of people in different places, especially in contiguous areas. Production quantity would be affected because the major means of conveyance and transportation were animals (camels and, in some cases, horses). However, the salt trade promoted interstate economic affairs of the time. 

Lovejoy opened our minds to equally significant information usually masked in popular narratives. More than the distribution of salt in Western, Central and Eastern Sudan, there was an extensive exchange of cultural ideologies. The more economic engagement they had, the deeper they penetrated the culture of one another through intermarriages, migrations and resettlements. Therefore, these aspects of history reveal the complex nature of local and international politics, as it hinges on impressive economic transactions. The interlink of economy and culture is constantly strengthened by the fact that one would have to absorb the ideas and values of others, using whatever means, before taking advantage of economic strength and activities. 

Commodities, as Lovejoy analyzed, aided the transfer of cultures. He mentioned, for instance, how the Wangara became initiators of economic ideas in the old Songhai empire during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Wangara became exceptional in their economic investments by adding commodities and new products such as kola nuts, and they became actively involved in the spread of the Songhai monetary system based on cowries and gold. Meanwhile, they also produced quality textiles spread across the vast areas of the Hausa territory and Borno. In other words, the vast involvement in the sale of these commodities became the reason for their continued economic growth and what brought them to the limelight in the period, thereby becoming strong reasons for the unity of cultures. Objects facilitated the empowerment of the Wangara, transforming cultural and political institutions. In essence, the onus of Lovejoy’s argument is that there were strong economic institutions in the period constructed on the forms of substances they produced and how they managed to sustain and establish an economic system. 

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Digging Deep: Ayisha Osori On Nigeria’s 2023 Elections



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola

Presently, there is heightened tension in some parts of Nigeria. In some other parts, there is assurance and calm anticipation. The former is the case with Nigerians who believe — no matter how little — that the Election Tribunal will shake up the announced results of the presidential election. In the latter camp are Nigerians who have peace of mind and confidence that the Tribunal will — whether due to the legitimacy of the Tinubu-Shettima ticket’s win or the expectation that it will be business as usual with the Nigerian Judiciary — uphold the results of the election as announced by INEC.

On either end of this divide are Nigerians whose expectations from the Tribunal reflect their choices during the election, giving credence yet again to how personal choices influence our expectations, perceptions, and interpretation of results. “Let the law run its course.” Yet, those in the Atiku-Okowa camp expect that the law will reverse the election results and declare their candidate as the rightful winner. In the same vein, the Obi-Datti camp believes that justice would only have prevailed when their candidate and his running mate are declared as the rightful winner of the elections. This proves that in a democratic system, there will always be aggrieved people.

Recent elections in the country — starting from the Osun gubernatorial election that preceded the overall national elections in 2023 — have witnessed several vote cancellations. Ayisha Osori drew participants’ attention to this particular concern at the last edition of the Toyin Falola Interviews. Results cancellation has successfully registered as an avenue for manipulating election results, buying time for anointed candidates, and making candidates not so sure of winning the election eventually emerge as winners. It played out in the Adamawa and Kebbi states — where 20 of the 21 local government areas in Kebbi State had cancelled votes, all totaling about 90,000 cancelled votes. There is, therefore, the need to understand what these cancelled votes are, what they mean exactly, and how they have continually served as machinery in the hands of election manipulators. We must also ask ourselves: Why does the election-organizing body cancel votes to the tune of hundreds and tens of thousands in each state? Why do we have so many cancelled votes? 

Vote cancellation often leads to supplementary elections in the affected local government areas. What these supplementary elections mean is that they help aspirants strategize how to gain vote share in the affected areas. It is an avenue to go out and have a do-or-die fight-to-the-finish run. Therefore, it is always in favour of the candidate who was not leading — most likely the one in the second position — during the live counting of election results, as supplementary elections are an avenue to close up the gap and eventually win. 

There is a need to explore the lacunae in the Electoral Act, which has supported widespread vote cancellation, especially the empowerment of electoral officers to cancel election results in a polling unit. Although this empowerment by the Electoral Act is to help mitigate rampant instances of over-voting, it is not worded in a way to help arrive at optimal outcomes, as it leaves vote cancellation at the discretion of each electoral officer — so much so that even an instance of over-voting caused by just one vote is an acceptable condition for vote cancellation.

The ability of just one vote to determine the outcomes of every other vote cast at a particular polling unit on a given election day makes the Electoral Act porous, as the subjectivity of the electoral officers can be leveraged by power-hungry political parties to spur vote cancellation in their opponents’ stronghold, thereby buying themselves more time to deploy more machinery for electoral malpractices — whether it be more thugs, complicit law-enforcement officers, more funding for vote-buying, or any other form of result-manipulating machinery.

Given the sheer amount of power the Electoral Act grants to the INEC body and its officers, it is pertinent that electoral officers, resident electoral commissioners, and returning officers are people of high moral standing that are largely insulated against corruption, bias, and bribery. However, this is rarely the case in Nigeria. The quality of the people who hold these positions — being the ones that control the fairness or otherwise of the electoral body — is what Ayisha Osori finds highly questionable and which we all, as concerned Nigerians, should also find questionable.

Electoral officers, resident commissioners, and returning officers must be independent and non-partisan. However, the reverse is the case in most instances in Nigeria. Over and over again, there have been filmed instances where electoral officers and returning officers showed bias and were partisan outright in discharging their duties. We have also witnessed cases where card-carrying members of political parties end up in these electoral positions. Ayisha Osori believes that Nigeria’s electoral problems will never be resolved if we do not arrive at that point where we thoroughly screen members of the electoral body to check their antecedents, affiliations, political leanings, friends, and associates and ensure that they are as non-partisan as expected. We should hold returning officers, electoral officers, and resident electoral commissioners to a similarly rigorous standard and routine by which we hold our judges.

However, the question remains: even if we were to successfully get enough Nigerians that fit the moral and non-partisan characteristics required for the positions of returning officers and resident electoral commissioners, can we get as many Nigerians to function as electoral officers and presiding officers across all polling units? Knowing the peculiarity of Nigeria as a corrupt country, it is difficult to ascertain the feasibility of a sustainable selection of high-quality and skilled people for the important roles of electoral officers, resident electoral commissioners, and returning officers.

This need stems from the fact that irregularities in the Nigerian electoral process have — from time immemorial — always been through the collaborative efforts of stakeholders in the elections (political parties, electoral officers, resident electoral commissioners, and law enforcement agencies, among others). Take the debacle and shenanigans of the Adamawa gubernatorial election, for instance. The announcements of fake election results were fully backed by the state’s police commissioner and the Department of State Security, and one of these announcements was made by the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Adamawa State. This said, the announcement was made without the breakdown of results or any proof — all the REC had to declare the APC candidate as the election winner. But for the intervention of the national body of INEC, the announcement would have held water, leaving the eventual true winner Ahmadu Finitri to challenge the election results through the rigorous and sometimes unrewarding path of election tribunals and courts of justice.

Therefore, it is insufficient to call for adjustments to the Electoral Act or increased funding for Nigerian elections. The more compelling questions need to be asked, there has to be a full mapping out of the root problems of the Nigerian electoral system and process, and there is also the need to combat these problems collaboratively, the same way stakeholders have been collaborating to cause irregularities or engage in electoral malpractices.

If anything, one of Nigeria’s biggest problems is that corruption and crime are enticing and promising in the country — enticing because Nigeria is a largely poor country where one’s engagement in crime or corruption could be their easy pass to a future of generational wealth, and promising because the consequences of corruption in Nigeria are ridiculously low, even if the perpetrators are accosted. 

Since crime pays off and being a criminal is not dangerous, there is less motivation to desist from criminal or illegal acts in the country. To fully combat electoral malpractices, engaging in electoral crime has to be made unenticing, and the easiest way to make it unenticing to other Nigerians is to ensure that perpetrators of any form of electoral crime are severely and appropriately punished. 

When some are made scapegoats, and there is an active and heightened search for electoral offenders, the people would understand that there is no more laxity or laissez-faire to electoral processes in the country. Anything short of this would mean that our elections would continue to be as they have always been — which would, in turn, give some people the audacity to claim that some others can never emerge as the winner because they do not have the structure to win, of which structure here is nothing but the structure of electoral manipulation.

Another point to ponder from Ayisha Osori’s commentaries on the 2023 elections is the possibility of us all burrowing down an endless rabbit hole if we solely banked on the results from the elections — especially the presidential election — as our point of reference for claiming that the 2023 elections were free, fair, and credible. According to her, the competitiveness in the presidential results does not automatically translate to a strengthened democracy. In her words, “…there is a thing like competitive authoritarianism. You can have competitive results without the country being more democratic.” Osori believes that solely focusing on the results as a way of proving the credibility of the 2023 elections is a distraction from the other pockets of issues aggregated by agitators in their claim that the elections were neither free, fair, nor credible.

If competitive authoritarianism or any of its variants was truly the case in the 2023 elections — that is, if the results are rather a subtle way of rigging to evade detection or make it difficult to prove irregularity — then the perpetrators would have successfully set Nigeria back by many years. This is because while we would have gone back to something akin to the crude years of massive and widespread electoral malpractice, the subtlety in the perpetrators’ actions would make it much more difficult to prove, and to be difficult to prove is equivalent to it being difficult to identify. Difficulty in identifying the problems and their characteristics means there will be a corresponding difficulty in battling the problem. And there, thus, the puzzle of the Nigerian 2023 elections lies.

In the coming years, Nigerians and their newly elected leaders will not only need to drag the country out of the mire of economic calamity and insecurity but will also need to answer fundamental questions that will shape the approach to elections and electoral processes and choices in the country — some of these questions are what Ayisha Osori asked and commented on during the discourse.

 This is the final part of my reflections on the Panel Discussion on Nigeria’s 2023 elections by Ayisha Osori, Jibrin Ibrahim, Cynthia Mbamalu, and Chido Onumah. The session, which has received millions of views across different platforms, discussed the various aspects of the elections. My views  are not necessarily those of the four panelists. For the transcripts, see:




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