africa

Nigerian Elections: A democratic deficit


By Omoshola Deji–
First Osun. Then Kano. Now Kogi and Bayelsa states. The spate of violence
during election brings doubt on Nigeria’s ability to get it right. Unlike other
nations, Nigeria seems to have no magic formula; no means of solving a problem
without creating another. Democracy initially seemed an opportunity to annihilate
tyranny, but has instead increased it. Rule of law, freedom of speech and other
democratic ethics are consistently being violated by the ruling elites and “converted
democrat”. Nigeria is fast becoming the worst country for democracy as
franchise have become an object of attack. This piece appraises the flaws of
Nigerian elections, particularly the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship poll, and
the pundit’s verdict.

The
people of Kogi and Bayelsa trooped out on November 16 to elect their choice for
the state’s top job. The exercise which should ordinarily be civil and peaceful
was marred by unprecedented violence and electoral fraud. Gun-wielding thugs,
aided by the security agencies, disrupted the electoral process from which Nigeria’s
democracy is supposed to grow.

Perhaps
those in positions of authority misconstrued duty as favor. In a democracy,
individuals are morally responsible to vote their conscience, and government is
duty-bound to provide the enabling environment, ensuring the wish of the
majority prevails. Once the environment is not enabling, the outcome of an important
exercise such as election cannot be taken as the wish of the majority.
Factoring this in, although Yahaya Bello of Kogi state and David Lyon of
Bayelsa were return elected, they did not win the election. This by no means
underestimate their ability to win in a credible contest.

Repression of
opposition candidates, their supporters and polling agents made the elections a
democratic deficit. In Kogi state, incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello of the All
Progressives Congress (APC) commanded violence on his contenders. Stalwarts of
the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) were
routinely harassed, injured and killed. Thugs invaded their homes, vandalized
them, and set some ablaze. Several cars and valuables were destroyed, forcing
the targets to go into hiding. This destabilized PDP and SDP from making last
minutes canvassing to woo undecided voters; giving APC an unfair advantage. The
attack surprisingly continued even after APC ‘won’. Thugs set the home of a PDP
women leader ablaze and callously watch her burn to ashes.

Suppression of
voters is also one of the unholy strategies APC employed. The party carefully
studied the voting pattern of both states, ignite violence in opposition
strongholds, but protected hers. In Kogi, election proceeded smoothly in the Central
district where Bello hails from, while the East and West were confronted with
extreme violence. In Bayelsa, people were restrained from voting in Southern
Ijaw where PDP is likely to garner majority vote. The party was also stifled in
Nembe. The outturn of both election suggests APC has devised different illicit
strategies for winning elections. Repression and suppression are autocratic
tenets, a breach of the fundamental principle of fairness that must be adhered
to in a democracy.

Disenfranchisement
made the elections a democratic deficit. Violence and intimidation denied
eligible voters the opportunity to cast their ballot. Fear kept people indoor
while majority of those who turned up scampered for safety as thugs attack
opposition strongholds in Kogi. Many lost their votes via ballot-box snatching.
In Bayelsa, the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement,
popularly called YIAGA Africa reports that INEC announced falsified results and
election did not hold in 24 percent of the state’s polling units.
Disenfranchising such a significant percentage of the population utterly
discredits the outcome of the election. How do we pacify the 24 percent whose
preferred candidates lost because they were denied the opportunity to vote?
Such inequity makes the election a democratic deficit.

Monetary
inducement of voters and electoral officers made the elections a democratic
deficit. Agents of the dominant parties, particularly the APC and PDP always
offer cash for votes, and did so in Kogi and Bayelsa states. They shared
between N500 to N3000, although APC outspend the PDP, being the ruling party at
the federal level.

Two categories
of persons should be criticized for vote-buying, but Nigerians mostly condemn
one; they blame the buyers (politicians) and absolve the sellers (voters).
Vote-buying has become so prevalent that majority of the electorate expect to
be tipped for voting. But then, should we blame the poor voters for demanding a
continuation of what the parties started? Nonetheless, Nigerians need to be
enlightened that politicians are descendants of the devil; they have no free
gift. Vote-buying is a business and politicians who invest in the trade must
recoup their money and make extraordinary profits, hence the prevalence of
under-performing governments.

Electoral fraud and
INEC’s partisanship made the elections a democratic deficit. An electoral
umpire must be impartial to all contending parties, but INEC fell short. In
Bayelsa, election materials stolen by APC thugs surfaced during collation and
INEC allegedly record the votes. The umpire announced bogus results in favor of
APC in Sagbama, Ogbia, Nembe, and Southern Ijaw. It’s baffling how these
troubled spots returned high votes; the Borno 2015 template was apparently
revived. How could the result of Nembe – a troubled spot where people would
naturally abstain from voting – reflect over 80 percent turnout, while the
result of a peaceful area such as Yenagoa, the state capital reflects less than
40 percent turnout? Such result is a clear indication of electoral fraud.

Electoral fraud
was rife, but INEC lacks the courage to wield the big stick, especially against
APC. In Kogi state, armed thugs, aided by the security agencies, manipulated
the poll in favor of APC. Ballot boxes were either carted away, destroyed, or
changed with already thumb-printed ones. To Nigerians dismay, INEC counted the false
votes rather than cancel the results of the affected polling units. To top it
all off, bogus figures were awarded in favor of APC in crisis-ridden areas and
spaces PDP has fair support. For instance, INEC claimed APC scored 112,764
votes, while PDP only garnered 139 votes in Okene local government of Kogi
State. This cannot be true.

A party with
structure and spread like the PDP can’t garner such a paltry vote at a time Kogites
were determined to sack Bello’s failed government. The bizarre result is a
reflection of the extreme rigging perpetrated in almost every area of the
state. In a credible contest, even SDP’s Akpoti would garner more than 139
votes in Okene. It is perturbing PDP didn’t score such a paltry vote during the
Lagos 2019 governorship election. Please bear in mind that although the revenue
generated in Lagos state is incommensurable with its rate of development,
Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration performed much better than that of Bello in
Kogi. Yet the godfather denied him return ticket, but supported Bello.

Unprofessional
and partisan conduct of the security agencies made the elections a democratic
deficit. Over 60,000 police officers and crime fighting equipment were deployed
for the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections. Yet violence prevailed. The
military compromised the election in Bayelsa, while police jeopardized the
exercise in Kogi. Policemen accosted gun-wielding thugs to polling units across
Kogi West and East district to snatch or stuff ballot boxes, attack opposition
figures, and distribute money to APC agents. The thugs moved freely with
vehicles despite restriction of movement, manipulating and destabilizing the
election.

APC agents operated
under massive protection while that of PDP and other opposition parties were
left in the cold. Recall that prior to the election, candidate of the Social
Democratic Party (SDP), Natasha Akpoti’s campaign office was looted and
destroyed by alleged APC thugs, but the perpetrators weren’t arrested. Take a
breather to imagine how the security agencies, the state government and the
presidency would have reacted if such happens to any APC secretariat.

At the venue of
the Peace Accord signing meeting, Akpoti and her aides were molested, her
campaign vehicles were destroyed by APC thugs, while the police looked on. The
raging thugs disrupted the meeting, which had several dignitaries present,
including Mohammed Adamu, the Inspector General of Police (IGP). Yet none has
been prosecuted. Take another breather to imagine how the IGP would have
reacted if the thugs had no state’s backing.

The military’s massacre
of Shiite members who obstructed the Chief of Army Staff’s convey should give
you a clear sense of how the IGP would have probably reacted, if the thugs were
not operating under the authority of the powers that be. However, subjecting the
personality of the IGP to ridicule in a bid to win elections is a bad
precedence with devastating consequences. Politicians need to desist from
sacrificing the image and efficiency of national institutions on the altar of
politics.

IGP Adamu stated
that the policemen that colluded with thugs to disrupt the Kogi and Bayelsa elections
were fake policemen. Nigerians are wondering how fake policemen, if any, overpowered
the over 60,000 trained policemen deployed for the elections. Does it imply
that fake policemen have better strategy and weapon than the real police? Assuming,
but not conceding that fake policemen committed the anomalies, was the police
helicopter that dropped canisters and opened fire on voters in PDP strongholds
piloted by fake policemen? The IGP should come up with a better excuse or
apologize for failing Nigerians.

Police announced
making eleven arrests, but none were paraded. Many wonder why the same police
that’s always eager to parade criminal suspects is reluctant to parade the electoral
offenders. Besides, was it just the eleven persons arrested that perpetrated
the extreme violence reported across the 21 local governments in Kogi state? It
is most disheartening that the same police that couldn’t provide adequate
security in just two states reigned terror on non-violent IPOB members, Shiite
devotees and Revolution Now protesters.

INEC and the
security agencies failed in every respect. Their inefficiencies significantly
makes Nigerian elections a democratic deficit. In Kogi and Bayelsa, electoral
fraud prevailed despite INEC’s promise of a free, fair and credible election.
Violence prevailed despite the deployment of over 60,000 police officers and
crime fighting equipment such as armored tanks and surveillance helicopters.

Vote-buying
prevailed despite the deployment of officers of the Independent Corrupt
Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and
Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Both agencies made no arrest, despite
extensive video evidences showing the face of vote buyers and sellers.
Clandestine moves to disrupt the electoral process went undetected, and were
freely perpetrated, despite the deployment of officers from the Department of
State Security (DSS).

Election in
Nigeria is one of the most expensive in the world, but far from being the most
credible. No less than nine persons met their death during the Kogi and Bayelsa
polls. A police officer, a youth corps member, Senator Dino Melaye’s nephew,
and Kogi PDP women leader were among those unfortunate. APC needs to caution
its members has the opposition parties lack federal might, a major instrument
needed to perpetrate violence and electoral fraud.

Elections can’t
be credible without the political will to make it happen. Nigerian government
must put measures in place to forestall the use of illegal approaches to win
elections. Such measures could include reducing the premium on political
offices, signing the amended electoral bill into law, revamping the security
architecture, and establishing an independent electoral offences commission.

Appraising
the Pundit’s Verdict

It is habitual
for the writer, hereafter titled Pundit, to foretell the outcome of elections.
Notable among his several accurate predictions is foretelling ex-President
Jonathan’s defeat in 2015. The Pundit foretold President Buhari’s reelection in
2019, against the prediction of reputable global institutions such as Williams
and Associates, and The Economist. He also accurately foretold the outcome of
the 2019 governorship election in 23 out of 29 states.

Despite his serial
accurate predictions, the pundit’s prognosis of the elections in focus was not
a totally good outing. Foreseen, but unprecedented violence and electoral fraud
mainly forbid some of his predictions from coming to pass. In a piece titled
“Kogi and Bayelsa 2019 Governorship Election: Foretelling the Outcome”, the
Pundit predicted Duoye Diri’s (PDP) win in Bayelsa, but he lose. PDP’s Dino
Melaye also failed to win the Kogi West senatorial rerun on the first vote as
predicted. The election ended inconclusive. However, APC’s Yahaya Bello ‘won’
the Kogi governorship election as predicted, although not by rerun.

In truth, the
pundit barely saw APC’s win in Bayelsa coming. His prediction was mainly flawed
by ex-president Jonathan’s secret endorsement of APC candidate, David Lyon.
Although there were words on the street, the pundit believed Jonathan won’t
work against his lifelong party, the PDP. This made him assert that “politics
is an interest driven game, hence it is not impossible, but most unlikely that
Jonathan would support APC. This is premised on the manner the party has
disparaged him since he lost power in 2015.”

The pundit was
wrong on Jonathan. He assumed the ex-president won’t support APC despite the
dispute between him and Governor Seriake Dickson, his estranged godson.
Jonathan acted like his erstwhile godfather, ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo. Despite
unilaterally bringing Jonathan to power under the PDP, Obasanjo facilitated his
defeat in 2015 by backing the APC. The party (APC) praised Obasanjo to high
heavens, but abandoned him shortly after forming government. Jonathan’s romance
with APC may also not end well. He may also get the Obasanjo treatment.

Another factor
the pundit failed to consider during prediction is the (ex)militants
endorsement of Lyon. Bayelsa is the den of dreaded militants who have the power
to influence the outcome of elections. But then again, PDP has been governing
Bayelsa since 1999, hence it is not amiss to think, in structure and strength,
“PDP is in Bayelsa, what APC is in Lagos”. Moreover, the judicial invalidation
of APC’s candidacy before the election naturally made winning an unattainable
height, but the party pulled off a surprise.

INEC declared
the Kogi West senatorial poll inconclusive with Smart Adeyemi (APC) leading
Dino Melaye (PDP) with over 20,000 votes. As earlier discussed, the Kogi
senatorial and governorship poll is a daylight robbery and fiery of public
sovereignty. The pundit strongly stands by his prediction analysis and
assertion that Melaye (PDP) would defeat Adeyemi (APC) in a free, fair and
credible contest.

The pundit
foretold Bello’s emergence as governor-elect in Kogi state based on his
disposition to violence and electoral fraud. In the prediction piece, the
pundit explicitly stated that “In a free, fair and credible contest, PDP’s Musa
Wada would defeat APC’s Yahaya Bello. But the election is not going to be free;
not going to be fair; and not going to be credible. Thugs would disperse voters
and smash ballot boxes in Wada’s stronghold. The security agencies won’t arrest
disruptors, and would be grossly partisan.” The lines came to pass exactly as
foretold.

Nigerians never assumed Bello could bizarrely unleash violence on those he aspired to govern. The poor performing governor ingeniously took violence from the realm of creating inconclusive elections to straight win. His conduct ratifies the pundit’s argument that “he’s not deserving of governorship or any other position.” Bello’s insatiable thirst for power made him throw caution to the wind. He eventually got the power, but earned negative fame. The 44 year old ruined his presidential prospect and wrote his name in the wrong page of history. Blessed is the one who defines Nigerian election as a process where thugs decide, police support, INEC declares, and the court affirm.

*Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via moshdeji@yahoo.com

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