This is not a false alarm: The 2023 elections may not hold, at least as planned by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Since the completion of the 2019 general elections, Nigeria's political media space has been dominated by the permutations regarding the 2023 elections.
However, as the nation moves closer to 2023, there are increasing worries that the elections may not hold, due to some really scary, disturbing and unprecedented developments.
"The recent attack on our facility after we have just concluded the inventory of electoral materials nationwide in readiness for the 2023 General Election is worrisome.
"If unchecked, these attacks may constitute a setback on the Commission's preparations, including the ongoing conversion of Voting Points to Polling Units, the forthcoming Continuous Registration of Voters (CVR) exercise and the conduct of polls."
Those were the words of Festus Okoye, INEC's spokesperson in a statement released on Sunday, May 2.
A breakdown of the fire incidents showed that the most affected states include Akwa Ibom (four), Abia (three) Anambra (two) and Imo (two).
Other states that witnessed fire incidents between February 2019 and May 2021 are Borno, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Kano, Ondo, Plateau and Rivers. Abuja was also affected.
In the year 2021 alone, at least four offices belonging to the nation's electoral body have been attacked and set ablaze, Legit.ng can confirm.
INEC announced on Monday, April 20, 2021, that its data processing centre in Kano state was gutted by fire.
Similarly, the INEC office in Essien Udim local government was on Sunday, May 2, set ablaze by unknown assailants.
On Sunday night, May 9, 2021, the recently renovated INEC office in Ohafia local government area was set ablaze.
According to INEC, the building was virtually destroyed. Apart from furniture items, all electoral materials and office equipment were destroyed, Legit.ng gathers.
Also on Sunday night, May 16, INEC's headquarters in Enugu state was gutted by fire.
These targeted attacks, as INEC's spokesperson had earlier warned, may affect the conduct of the 2023 elections.
Meanwhile, apart from those attacks, two geopolitical zones in the country, the southeast and the south-south, have recently become an "abattoir" where policemen are "slaughtered" and their facilities destroyed.
A recent report by Premium Times stated that 18 police officers were killed across Nigeria in just one week!
Several police stations and operational vehicles have also been burnt. And the attacks continue even at the time of filing this report.
Is Nigeria politically mature enough to conduct elections without the help of the police and other security agencies? The obvious answer is NO!
Even with the massive deployment of policemen and other security agents to ensure the nation's elections are free, fair and credible, the polls still witness electoral malpractices and violence.
Incidentally, the states where INEC offices have been destroyed the most happen to be those in the southeast and the south-south where police killings are also predominant.
When asked for comments on the 2023 elections in a recent interview, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the minority leader of the Senate, has this to say:
"The most important thing today is that, we don’t know if the 2023 general elections will be possible or hold. People have been talking. We don’t have to behave like Nero who fiddles while Rome is burning.
"There is the fear of insurgency. The biggest problem now is insecurity. We don’t want to overlook what can break the country and focus on ephemeral issues like the elections which may not hold."
Also commenting on the development, Bolarinwa Abdulwasiu Ajibola (aka Mayload), an Oyo-born young politician and State House of Assembly aspirant, cautioned INEC against failing to hold elections in the areas where its offices were burnt.
He told Legit.ng that doing so will amount to denying the people the chance to exercise their right.
The politician also said that there are insinuations that INEC offices were being burnt due to alleged electoral malpractices and lack of confidence in the electoral process. He, however, noted there is no tangible evidence to back up the allegations.
So, amid other security challenges, the burning of INEC offices and police stations and the killing of policemen pose a huge threat to the 2023 general elections.
By 2023, Nigeria will have had 24 years of uninterrupted democracy. All hands should be on deck to ensure the year 2023 does not mark the end of another democratic dispensation.
Instead of the desperate politicking going on in different parts of the country at the moment, the Nigerian government and other stakeholders should focus on finding lasting solutions to the security crisis in the country.
The targeted attacks on INEC's facilities must stop now. The burning of police stations, the killing of policemen must stop. It's enough!
As former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently said, political leaders must ensure the year 2023 births the emergence of a new federation otherwise Nigeria may slide into dissolution.
For Nigeria to progress, the 2023 elections must hold. The Nigerian government must as a matter of urgency start taking steps to address all the factors threatening the conduct of the elections.