Trouble isbrewing in the land; groups are up in arm against one another, community peopleare evacuating their homes in fear of being attacked by security forces or someherdsmen. Relentlessly, aggrieved personsare protesting the outcome of the February 23, 2019 presidential and NationalAssembly elections.
Underlying allthese is the open abuse of due process that reverberated across the countrywhile the contest lasted.
Firstly, aftertelling Nigerians and the world that everything was in order for the kickoff ofthe election, the electoral umpire, the Independent National ElectoralCommission, 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 hadmobilized its staff and machinery for the election and even President MuhammaduBuhari was at the polls on February 23 to cast his vote in Daura, his home inKatsina State where he registered to vote.
INEC chairmanProf. Mahmoud was to later tell Nigerians that the election was pushed forwardbecause of logistics problems. Don’t forget that he consistently assured daysbefore the ‘D’ day that everything was in place.
To demonstrateINEC’s unpreparedness, despite receiving the sum of N180 billion to execute the2019 general elections, as late as 5pm on Friday February 22, ad hoc officersengaged for the exercise where huddled in vans or on the floor in variedstates, waiting for deployment for an assignment billed for the next morning.Sensitive electoral materials meant for states where deliberately or mistakenlysent to other states. For example, materials meant for Kano State were sent toDelta.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) continues to strugglewith logistics for the 2019 general elections as some sensitive materials havebeen sent to the wrong states.
Some result sheets that were meant to arrive in Imo, Lagos, Kano and Kwarawere accidentally delivered to other states across the country,” The Punchreported.
And even afterpostponing the elections by one week, the logistics were still not in place.Many polling units did not have result sheets, compulsory for election; therewere wide reports of late off, ending with intimidation of electoral staff andvoters mainly by the army. In many instances in Lagos, votes were burnt toashes before the voters, leading to a brewing war between Ibos and Yorubas inLagos; 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 thewidespread rigging, INEC presented faulty results some of which did not alignwith the number of registered oraccredited voters as in Nassarawa Statenor could it explain how war- torn Yobe ad Borno states produced millions ofvotes, whereas they are deserted areas where even the army dread to thread. Even for something as important asJAMB and NECO exams, Zamfara for instance could only register 24 and 28candidates for those national examinations.
INEC announcedthat in Nassarawa State, a total of 1, 401,895 persons registered to vote. Ofthis, 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 toPDP’s 283, 847 votes. These figures werechurned out by respected Prof Azubuike.
Even though theinternational observers adjudged the elections free and fair maye bearing inmind earlier threat y Kano State governor El-Rufai to send them home in bodybags, they did not fail to call for attention to noticed irregularities.
All of theseresulted in the rejection of the election outcome by the main oppositionPeoples democratic Party, PDP and a sizeable number of Nigerians who feel thatthe ruling All Progressives Congress, APC used INEC and the military to thwartthe will of the people. Consequently, there is an uneasy calm with the PDP flagbearer, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar heading tothe court.
According toCommunist tyrant, Josef Stalin, electoral outcome rests on those who do thecounting. “Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votesdecide everything”. The INEC proved him right.
The election wasalso 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. Somewere injured by gun shots from army personnel accompany the NDDC Financedirector in Agbere, Opokuma Local government Area. Interestingly, all therecorded election deaths took place in the South because the over-ridinginterest of all the politicians is how to capture the major oil producingstates of Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta and Bayelsa states. The APC is stillsounding war drums for Saturday’s governorship election even as communities arerelieving the death of their loved ones in the February 23 elections.
All the deathscould have been avoided if the politicians, INEC and security operatives hadplayed by the rule. The law guarantees choice of candidates for every citizenwhile the security agencies are mandated to protect this right but that was notthe case here. There were several cases of top APC officials including SenatorGodswill Akpabio and Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi intimidating INEC ResidentCommissioners to alter collated vote figures. The story was the same in ImoState with Governor Rochas Okorocha and even Kaduna/Kano where the NSA wasreported to have been on the neck of the RECs.
And thanks tothe use of force many women are in mourning over the loss of their children andhusbands. The INEC ad hoc staff killed in Abonnema by a trigger happy soldier,was a young mother of four small children.
Even though theFederal Government had raised an alarm prior to the election alerting that politicianswere planning to move huge sums of foreign currency into the country to execute the election, asit turned out, APC had a field day moving government fund to pursue itspresidential ambition. Bola Tinubu, the APC presidential campaign leader positionedtwo Bullion vans, which he said were not ballot boxes but money, in his Budillonpremises in Ikoyi. When confronted by journalists, he said it was his money andnobody had a right to question him whereas we have the money Laundering law andlaw against vote buying. The Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCCdeployed officers to monitor movement of cash among opposition parties butturned a blind eye on what the APC was doing openly.
In BayelsaState, the acting managing director of the NDDC tried luring his Agbere womenwith the sum of N20,000 which was reportedly rebuffed. He came back next day ina convoy of 10 Hilux vans of men in military uniform and two Hilux vans ofthugs who catered away the ballot boxes from voting centers to his house, afterthe army men fired into the arena and injured two persons. That ended theelection but the brave community people trailed the attackers to his premiseswhere the ballot papers allegedly in favour of the PDP were littered all overhis entrance.
One can go onlisting the problems but the fact is that all these have added to furtherdiminish 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, INECfor allowing its independence to be eroded by the Buhari government.
The electoraloutcome has also put a question mark on the Nigeria security – police topofficers, assistant commissioner of police and different police officers wereall caught aiding and abetting rigging. The army was a worse offender lendingits service to individual desires against collective interest.
The sum total isthat the electoral system has been undermined taking us many, years back whilethe brazen display of violence and impudence without check by the securityagencies is driving voters indoors.
“Nothing willmake me risk my life to come out and vote again in this country,” an 86 yearold man who travelled from Delta State to Port Harcourt to vote told thisreporter.
“Look at thatyoung boy of 19 who was shot by a flying bullet trying to perform his nationalduty,” the octogenarian lamented. He said the violence exhibited would driveaway more young people and women.
Appalled by allthese, concerned Nigerians are searching for a better way to conduct theelections, such as will cut off opportunity for irregularity at the collationstage. They are now advocating for full electronic voting as in practice inother countries. They are also calling for sanctions for those found violating theprocess as well as urging President Buhari to sign the Electoral Act which hasbeen on his table since, to allow for the prosecution of electoral offenders.
Sheikh Gumi in acomment on Facebook on the presidential elections lamented that Buhari’sintegrity had been sacrificed on the altar of the elections.
Said he: “The 2019 presidential polls were manipulatedfrom inception to collation. Don’t mention the card reader ruse. Thus, no twohonest 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 andrespect. It has finally sealed the tortuous history of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’spolitical career with the state of embracing everything corruption if he’s ableto cling to power after a full term ofexercising power with the slogan of fighting corruption.
“The real winneris thus the true diagnosis of the real corruption that has dampened the soul ofthe nation. Sheer hypocrisy is just inever quarter. 2019 presidential polls have exposed the deep rot in the seemlyconservative northern Muslim society. I was shocked seeing poor village womenlined up receiving N500 note each with instructions to vote the ruling party. “Under-agedvoters everywhere. The minister was used as a partisan politician pulpit. Nameit, it all happened and widely; Zamfara’s case is the most pathetic”.
Like otherNigerians, Sheik Gumi expressed disappointment over the role of both INEC andthe security agencies as well as the president.
“The president,INEC chairman, the security chiefs are all Muslims. This is disgusting thatsuch colossal rigging and incompetency will happen with their apparentcollaboration or silence. Islam remainsfree of any obligation to all human malevolence.”
He said the truewinner is the opposition “The re-emergence of the opposition back in full forceto the extent that the ruling party embraced full blown corruption andrigging to retain power struggling with few millions of rigged votes isabsolutely amazing and a good position of a better nation.
“One thing forsure, this nation needs urgent restructuring. INEC needs an overhaul. And likein some countries, the chairman should be elected by members of the stateassemblies.”
As Atiku headsto the court to contest the outcome of this corruption ridden election, whilehired groups and individuals have been pressurizing him to back off and acceptdefeat, learned Nigerians are urging him to go ahead and test the independenceor otherwise of the judiciary, the supposed last hope of the common man. Theyargue that the legal arguments that will ensue will further deepen ourdemocracy while if dispassionately handled, the outcome will help check themadness exhibited on February 23 which made it the worst election conducted inthe country.
“Peace can onlythrive in the presence of justice. Let Atiku go to court, let APC and INEC defend that result. It will help Nigeriansunderstand both the law and what can and cannot be done. We need it for thefuture otherwise we will soon not be having elections,” Mrs Mary Ngekwu, amother and grandmother stated.
As we head backto the polls this Saturday, t is with misgivings as none is too sure whether ornot the Buhari government and INEC will let the votes count. Duty however,calls.