UNBRIDLED DESPERATION has become the hallmark of Nigeria’s electoral process. Elections, a symbol of democracy is meant for people to freely and credibly pick leaders of their choice, to govern them in an unhindered process. The past few years, elections in Nigeria have worsened – especially, after 2015 general elections. They are far from legitimate, taking on the proverbial saying: “THE MORE YOU LOOK, THE LESS YOU SEE” – symbolic characteristics of magicians.
Beyond this, elections in Nigeria have been characterised with bloodshed of citizens. They have become “do-or-die” affair. Nigeria’s democracy is in crisis. No thanks to the actors in the electoral process – political parties, independent electoral body, politicians, electorates, judiciary, even the media. All dancing to the same lyrics. Honest and constructive assessments of outcome of elections have waned.
Credible elections move countries to higher stage of democratisation. Which includes politics of inclusiveness, improve relationship with opposition, provide conducive environment for developmental stride, efficient and effective leadership. Strengthens mechanism for nation building, conflicts resolution and oneness of nationhood – devoid of ethnic and religions bigotry, and nepotic leadership. Improves executive, legislative and judicial system. But not the case in Nigeria’s democracy.
DIPLOMATIC WATCH elections observers team, made up of Austria, European Union Delegation, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States, monitored Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections. Statement by the team expressed concern over reports of fatalities and missing persons during the elections.
“We express our alarm at reports of widespread incidents of violence and intimidation, some of which were witnessed by our teams in Kogi. There are reports of fatalities and people missing, including INEC staff. Our thoughts are with all victims and their families.
“We encourage all stakeholders, in particular, political leaders, to call for calm and we encourage security agencies to investigate thoroughly and bring perpetrators to justice. We are also concerned by evident vote-buying and credible reports of ballot box snatching in both Bayelsa and Kogi.”
“We commend the commitment and resilience of voters in both states who came out to exercise their democratic rights. We express our sympathy for those affected by the violence, including ordinary voters; INEC officials; members of the NYSC; civil society; and the media. All should be able to carry out their fundamental role in the democratic process free from intimidation and harassment.,” the observers said.
FEMI FALANA, Human Rights Lawyer and Activist, Monday, in Abuja, warned that if nothing was done to address impunity in Nigeria’s electoral system, the country would continue to witness decrease in voters turnout in future elections. Falana was speaking as panellist at Digital Voting Summit, organised by RestoreNaija, a non-governmental organisation, NGO.
“We are talking about 34 per cent voter turnout in 2015. If this trend of electoral brigandage, unprecedented electoral violence and thuggery continues, I am afraid in 2023, we will be talking of less than 10 per cent of registered voter-turnout,” Falana said.
Gun shooting, kidnappings and killings characterised, the governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States, on Saturday, despite over 30,000 policemen deployed for security duties during the poll to each state. “Next time, you do not expect people to be willing to participate in a war, because election in Nigeria has become a war for the ruling class,” he added.
NIGERIA’S OPPOSITION Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, described the governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States as “shameful”. It said the polls damaged Nigerians faith in democracy. PDP statement said: “The shameful elections conducted in Kogi and Bayelsa states have damaged the faith of Nigerians in a democratic order. Nevertheless, the PDP remains strong and united in the face of all odds. Nigeria is our nation and no individual or group can appropriate our collective sovereignty as a people at all times.
PDP, through its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan said: “Nigerians and the entire world watched in horror as the APC-led government trampled our democracy under foot with an utmost impunity that can only be obtainable in Hitler’s Germany and Samuel Doe’s Liberia, where the lives and rights of citizens meant nothing to suppressive power-mongers.
“Citizens agonized as APC-controlled security forces aided armed hoodlums to invade polling centres, shoot and kill innocent citizens, cart away ballot boxes, stuffed them with already thumb-printed ballot papers in favour of APC, after which results are allocated and handed over to a compromised INEC to announce against the will of the people, the statement added.
NIGERIAN PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, congratulated the ruling party’s governorship candidate in Kogi and Bayelsa states – Yahaya Bello and David Lyon for their victories at the polls. He commended APC supporters and Nigerians in both states, voting in what he described, as “peaceful manner notwithstanding pockets of unrest recorded in some locations during the elections”.
Buhari condemned the loss of lives, and sympathised with families of victims. He said: “Violence during elections vitiates our commitment to demonstrate to the world and upcoming generation that we are a people capable of electing leaders in a peaceful and orderly manner.’’
The president said officials of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and security agencies did their best within “ambit of the law to ensure free, fair and credible elections”. He said it was unfortunate that pockets of unrest, mostly sponsored by desperate politicians, were recorded during the polls.
UMARU MUSA YAR’ADUA was inaugurated president of Nigeria, May 29, 2007. The elections that gave him the presidency was less legitimate. In his frank assessment of the electoral process, he acknowledged that the elections were flawed with irregularities, and vowed to address and improve the system. He did, with the inauguration of Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais electoral reform panel. Uwais panel submitted its report, December 11, 2008, with far reaching recommendations for the improvement of Nigerian electoral process.
Yar’Adua won the elections, according to INEC, on 70 per cent landslide victory. His closest rival, Muhammadu Buhari, of All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, was awarded 18 per cent. Nigerians, civil society groups, religious leaders, labour – all bitterly disputed the elections result. Buhari challenged the election results in court, and was given credible judicial attention. Yar’Adua got a slim victory of four justices of the supreme court to three in favour of Buhari.
GOODLUCK JONATHAN became president of Nigeria, after the passage of President Yar’Adua. Doggedly, President Jonathan pursued electoral reforms initiated by Yar’Adua. He gave Nigeria and Nigerians, electoral process that enhanced the chances of the opposition.
Riding on Jonathan’s electoral reform, President Buhari, from the opposition camp, benefited from the reforms. He defeated Jonathan, to emerged president of Nigeria in 2015, general elections. Which has been acclaimed; after June 12, 1993, elections; as fairest, freest and credible.
ABOUT FIVE YEARS OF PRESIDENT BUHARI on the saddle, presiding over the affairs of the Nigerian nation, no iota of attention has been given by his administration to improve Nigeria’s electoral process. President Buhari’s governance team, his political party, the APC and allies, seemed to preferred an amorphous electoral process that is opened to manipulations.
Generally, according elections observers, the president’s ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, is having field day, shattering elections in Nigeria, going by various elections conducted under his watch – including 2019 general elections. Analysts and observers believe, the country’s democracy has become a mockery and laughing stock to international community.
President Buhari rode to power, winning 2015, presidential election on the crest of popular support and general goodwill. He was a beneficiary of electoral reforms that opened the country’s political space for oppositions to thrive. After three, unsuccessful attempts at the presidency, Buhari got a shot at the presidency on the fourth attempt, due to electoral reforms that resulted in free, fair and credible elections.
Five years on, President Buhari’s administration, and the ruling APC party, are offering Nigerians dashed hopes in the country’s electoral process and democracy. No attempt, so far, by his government to build on the electoral gains Nigeria has made.