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Published On: Thu, Mar 28th, 2019

Nigeria 2019: Sokoto and the power of 342 votes

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By Asuquo Ekanem

The above headline best captures what transpired this past Saturday during the supplementary election conducted in Sokoto State. The gubernatorial election was declared ‘inconclusive’ on March 9 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). By the way, ‘inconclusive’ is now a word that has found its way into the average Nigerian lexicon.
Governor Aminu Tambuwal of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had scored 489,558 votes, while Ahmad Aliyu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who was once his deputy, scored 486,145 votes.
The cancellation of results in some places in 21 local government areas necessitated a supplementary election in those areas. Apparently, 342 votes have returned Governor Aminu Tambuwal to the Government House in Sokoto.
Democracy has always been a game of numbers. Modern democracy has shown that ultimate power rests with the voters. In other words, numbers count. This doesn’t mean that large numbers is a true source of strength by the way. The famous Battle of Thermopylae saw 300 Spartans commanded by King Leonard defeating a well-disciplined army of the Persian king, Xerxes 1. For Christians, the Bible tells us about Gideon defeating the Midianites with just 300 soldiers. For lovers of Hollywood, the 2018 thriller 12 Strong depicts a true life brave story of 12 American marines who fought their way through the trap of terrorists in Afghanistan. So one can see that numbers don’t necessarily equate to strength.
For most Nigerian politicians, election is a battle. A battle they must win by any means, not minding the existing laws. Also, the famous George Bush Jnr and Al Gore voting recount in Florida comes to mind here. In 2000, during the USA presidential election, George Bush Jnr won the Florida electoral vote, after defeating his opponent, Al Gore, by a meagre 537 votes, out of almost six million cast.
The lesson from the Sokoto election is that the electoral process in Nigeria is getting better and stronger. Every vote indeed counts. Democracy in Nigeria, when placed by the side of those of many other countries, can be described as nascent. The apathy of voters has been one of the banes of Nigeria’s democracy. The erroneously peddled phrase “Dem no dey count vote” has done more harm than good to Nigerians. The Northern voters, it appears, have a firm belief that every vote counts. The comparison of the number of those who actually voted from all the regions in Nigeria lends credence to this fact.
It behoves on every Nigerian, irrespective of religious affiliation or tribal attachment, to take a cue from the Sokoto election. The people of Sokoto have shown their belief and trust in the electoral process of Nigeria. Staying at home with our arms folded won’t give us the best option.
The message of the electoral body, INEC, through its Voters Education and Publicity Department has always been “Every Vote Counts.” The electoral commission has, within its power and statutory obligation, encouraged Nigerians to come out and exercise their franchise.
Seminars and meetings were held for civil society groups, persons with disabilities (PWD’s) and other relevant stakeholders in the country, prior to the general election. The Sokoto experience has shown that the effort of the electoral body was not in vain. For democracy to thrive in our beloved country, the people must be willing to make their votes count.
The people’s vote will always count whenever they come out to vote. Let’s make our democracy nice by encouraging ourselves first and then our friends to vote. After all, INEC counts votes, not social media likes.

Asuquo Ekanem, a youth corps member, with INEC Kebbi State.

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