On Sunday, June 12, Nigeria commemorated Democracy Day. The day began with a speech from the President Muhammadu Buhari followed by festivities in the Eagle Square, Abuja, which included military parades and displays by cultural troupes. It marked the 29th year since what was adjudged to be Nigeria’s most credible election on June 12, 1993, won by Chief M.K.O. Abiola and later annulled by the Ibrahim Babangida-led military regime to the consternation of Nigerians. President Muhammadu Buhari in his Democracy Day speech, noted among other issues that, the political party primaries conducted ahead of the 2023 general elections were peaceful and urged that the atmosphere be sustained into the campaigning and voting periods. He further noted that his administration has made significant investments to reform electoral laws, systems and processes to safeguard votes, adding that the right of Nigerians to choose their government will be preserved and protected.
On insecurity, President Buhari stated that his administration is working to address these challenges and secure the 2023 general elections. He appealed to citizens to support and co-operate with security agencies by reporting suspicious characters and activities to law enforcement agencies. He added that efforts will be sustained to secure the release of persons in captivity and to bring their kidnappers to book.
Against the background of the Democracy Day celebrations however, citizens anxious not to be left out of the ballots in the 2023 general elections are pushing for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to extend the deadline for voter registration currently scheduled to end on June 30, 2022. Across the country, citizens have been besieging INEC registration centres in large numbers, asking to eb registered. In some States, the Electoral Commission has been overwhelmed by the large turnout. The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Anambra State had more than two weeks ago, publicly stated the overwhelming pressure from citizens asking to be registered. The House of Representatives upon resumption of legislative business on Wednesday, June 15, passed a resolution urging INEC to extend voter registration by 60 days from June 30, to enable Nigerians to get registered. In addition, it directed its Committee on Electoral Matters to engage INEC with a view to resolving the shortage of voter registration machines and manpower, by deploying an additional 30 registration machines in each Local Government Area and training ad-hoc staff to facilitate the registration process.
Observers note that a vast majority of Nigerians are disenchanted with the current situation of the country and therefore, do not believe in the capacity of the Buhari-led administration to deliver substantive change between now and May 29, 2023, when the President’s second term in office will come to an end. The frustration and aggression among citizens appear to have been channeled into getting registered to vote in the forthcoming 2023 general elections and collecting their Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) from INEC in locations across the country.