2019 Presidential Election, Height of Corruption

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Children queuing up to vote at the presidential election February 23, 2019

Trouble is brewing in the land; groups are up in arm against one another, community people are evacuating their homes in fear of being attacked by security forces or some herdsmen.  Relentlessly, aggrieved persons are protesting the outcome of the February 23, 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections.

Underlying all these is the open abuse of due process that reverberated across the country while the contest lasted.

Firstly, after telling Nigerians and the world that everything was in order for the kickoff of the election, the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, quietly put off the elections some few hours to the election. People had travelled home to prepare for the election and were caught unaware..

INEC had mobilized its staff and machinery for the election and even President Muhammadu Buhari was at the polls on February 23 to cast his vote in Daura, his home in Katsina State where he registered to vote.

INEC chairman Prof. Mahmoud was to later tell Nigerians that the election was pushed forward because of logistics problems. Don’t forget that he consistently assured days before the ‘D’ day that everything was in place.

To demonstrate INEC’s unpreparedness, despite receiving the sum of N180 billion to execute the 2019 general elections, as late as 5pm on Friday February 22, ad hoc officers engaged for the exercise where huddled in vans or on the floor in varied states, waiting for deployment for an assignment billed for the next morning. Sensitive electoral materials meant for states where deliberately or mistakenly sent to other states. For example, materials meant for Kano State were sent to Delta.

“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) continues to struggle with logistics for the 2019 general elections as some sensitive materials have been sent to the wrong states.

Some result sheets that were meant to arrive in Imo, Lagos, Kano and Kwara were accidentally delivered to other states across the country,” The Punch reported.

And even after postponing the elections by one week, the logistics were still not in place. Many polling units did not have result sheets, compulsory for election; there were wide reports of late off, ending with intimidation of electoral staff and voters mainly by the army. In many instances in Lagos, votes were burnt to ashes before the voters, leading to a brewing war between Ibos and Yorubas in Lagos; a sentiment which if not well handled can snowball into open conflict. And Nigeria has more conflicts than she can handle at the moment.

Beyond the widespread rigging, INEC presented faulty results some of which did not align with the number of registered  or accredited voters as in Nassarawa  State nor could it explain how war- torn Yobe ad Borno states produced millions of votes, whereas they are deserted areas  where even the army dread to thread. Even for something as important as JAMB and NECO exams, Zamfara for instance could only register 24 and 28 candidates for those national examinations.

INEC announced that in Nassarawa State, a total of 1, 401,895 persons registered to vote. Of this, valid voter population was 580,778 persons and 18,621 votes were voided. Even with the rejected votes, valid  votes cast still stood at 599,399 from which APC garnered 289,903 to PDP’s 283, 847 votes.  These figures were churned out by respected Prof Azubuike.

Even though the international observers adjudged the elections free and fair maye bearing in mind earlier threat y Kano State governor El-Rufai to send them home in body bags, they did not fail to call for attention to noticed irregularities.

All of these resulted in the rejection of the election outcome by the main opposition Peoples democratic Party, PDP and a sizeable number of Nigerians who feel that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC used INEC and the military to thwart the will of the people. Consequently, there is an uneasy calm with the PDP flag bearer,  Alhaji Atiku Abubakar heading to the court.

According to Communist tyrant, Josef Stalin, electoral outcome rests on those who do the counting. “Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything”. The INEC proved him right.

The election was also very bloody. In the South, especially Rivers State many lives were lost – 16 in Abonnema, 2 in Andoni, 2 in Emohua; also in Nembe, Bayelsa State. Some were injured by gun shots from army personnel accompany the NDDC Finance director in Agbere, Opokuma Local government Area. Interestingly, all the recorded election deaths took place in the South because the over-riding interest of all the politicians is how to capture the major oil producing states of Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta and Bayelsa states. The APC is still sounding war drums for Saturday’s governorship election even as communities are relieving the death of their loved ones in the February 23 elections.

All the deaths could have been avoided if the politicians, INEC and security operatives had played by the rule. The law guarantees choice of candidates for every citizen while the security agencies are mandated to protect this right but that was not the case here. There were several cases of top APC officials including Senator Godswill Akpabio and Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi intimidating INEC Resident Commissioners to alter collated vote figures. The story was the same in Imo State with Governor Rochas Okorocha and even Kaduna/Kano where the NSA was reported to have been on the neck of the RECs.

And thanks to the use of force many women are in mourning over the loss of their children and husbands. The INEC ad hoc staff killed in Abonnema by a trigger happy soldier, was a young mother of four small children.

Even though the Federal Government had raised an alarm prior to the election alerting that politicians were planning to move huge sums of foreign currency  into the country to execute the election, as it turned out, APC had a field day moving government fund to pursue its presidential ambition. Bola Tinubu, the APC presidential campaign leader positioned two Bullion vans, which he said were not ballot boxes but money, in his Budillon premises in Ikoyi. When confronted by journalists, he said it was his money and nobody had a right to question him whereas we have the money Laundering law and law against vote buying. The Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC deployed officers to monitor movement of cash among opposition parties but turned a blind eye on what the APC was doing openly.

In Bayelsa State, the acting managing director of the NDDC tried luring his Agbere women with the sum of N20,000 which was reportedly rebuffed. He came back next day in a convoy of 10 Hilux vans of men in military uniform and two Hilux vans of thugs who catered away the ballot boxes from voting centers to his house, after the army men fired into the arena and injured two persons. That ended the election but the brave community people trailed the attackers to his premises where the ballot papers allegedly in favour of the PDP were littered all over his entrance.

One can go on listing the problems but the fact is that all these have added to further diminish the Nigerian electoral system. Now more than at any time in history, the people are expressing openly, a loss of faith in the electoral system, INEC for allowing its independence to be eroded by the Buhari government.

The electoral outcome has also put a question mark on the Nigeria security – police top officers, assistant commissioner of police and different police officers were all caught aiding and abetting rigging. The army was a worse offender lending its service to individual desires against collective interest.

The sum total is that the electoral system has been undermined taking us many, years back while the brazen display of violence and impudence without check by the security agencies is driving voters indoors.

“Nothing will make me risk my life to come out and vote again in this country,” an 86 year old man who travelled from Delta State to Port Harcourt to vote told this reporter.

“Look at that young boy of 19 who was shot by a flying bullet trying to perform his national duty,” the octogenarian lamented. He said the violence exhibited would drive away more young people and women.

Appalled by all these, concerned Nigerians are searching for a better way to conduct the elections, such as will cut off opportunity for irregularity at the collation stage. They are now advocating for full electronic voting as in practice in other countries. They are also calling for sanctions for those found violating the process as well as urging President Buhari to sign the Electoral Act which has been on his table since, to allow for the prosecution of electoral offenders.

Sheikh Gumi in a comment on Facebook on the presidential elections lamented that Buhari’s integrity had been sacrificed on the altar of the elections.

Said he:  “The 2019 presidential polls were manipulated from inception to collation. Don’t mention the card reader ruse. Thus, no two honest people argue about that. The voting argument is that both sides did it.

“Therefore, without denial of doing it, I conclude that the true loser is integrity and respect. It has finally sealed the tortuous history of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s political career with the state of embracing everything corruption if he’s able to cling to power  after a full term of exercising power with the slogan of fighting corruption.

“The real winner is thus the true diagnosis of the real corruption that has dampened the soul of the nation.  Sheer hypocrisy is just in ever quarter. 2019 presidential polls have exposed the deep rot in the seemly conservative northern Muslim society. I was shocked seeing poor village women lined up receiving N500 note each with instructions to vote the ruling party. “Under-aged voters everywhere. The minister was used as a partisan politician pulpit. Name it, it all happened and widely; Zamfara’s  case is the most pathetic”. 

Like other Nigerians, Sheik Gumi expressed disappointment over the role of both INEC and the security agencies as well as the president.

“The president, INEC chairman, the security chiefs are all Muslims. This is disgusting that such colossal rigging and incompetency will happen with their apparent collaboration or silence.  Islam remains free of any obligation to all human malevolence.”

He said the true winner is the opposition “The re-emergence of the opposition back in full force to the extent that the ruling   party embraced full blown corruption and rigging to retain power struggling with few millions of rigged votes is absolutely amazing and a good position of a better nation.

“One thing for sure, this nation needs urgent restructuring. INEC needs an overhaul. And like in some countries, the chairman should be elected by members of the state assemblies.”

As Atiku heads to the court to contest the outcome of this corruption ridden election, while hired groups and individuals have been pressurizing him to back off and accept defeat, learned Nigerians are urging him to go ahead and test the independence or otherwise of the judiciary, the supposed last hope of the common man. They argue that the legal arguments that will ensue will further deepen our democracy while if dispassionately handled, the outcome will help check the madness exhibited on February 23 which made it the worst election conducted in the country.

“Peace can only thrive in the presence of justice. Let Atiku go to court, let APC and INEC defend  that result. It will help Nigerians understand both the law and what can and cannot be done. We need it for the future otherwise we will soon not be having elections,” Mrs Mary Ngekwu, a mother and grandmother stated.

As we head back to the polls this Saturday, t is with misgivings as none is too sure whether or not the Buhari government and INEC will let the votes count. Duty however, calls.