Published On: Tue, Dec 20th, 2016

Buhari and Nigeria’s Electoral Backslide

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Nigeria’s renascent democracy has been threatened by electoral irregularities and sundry abuses, but these absurdities have assumed melodramatic proportions with the violence that has marred recent elections in some states; the latest being the December 10, rerun election in Rivers State. The dust is yet to settle on the Rivers elections, as the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris has set up a panel to investigate the 70 allegations brought by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the circulated voice recording allegedly by Governor Nysom Wike, threatening to kill some election officials for failing to deliver on a promise they received graft for. Certainly, the signs do not portend positive signals for future elections. Pointing accusing fingers to the politicians under the circumstances would be diversionary. President Buhari who is the beneficiary of free and fair elections must ensure that, elections ultimately and fully reflect the genuine desire of the people.buhari-4a

From Ondo to Osun to Rivers, violence has returned as an electoral decimal in Nigerian politics; and this is raising fear, and justifiably so, that future elections, including the 2019 presidential elections will also be threatened. The scandalous and shameful electoral backslide got the most devastating advertisement after the main political parties in the Rivers election conundrum traded accusations and even blamed the police and INEC officials for the mayhem. The APC in Rivers presented petitions to the INEC and the Nigerian Police on its reservations over the conduct of the re-run elections. On his part, Governor Nysom Wike led PDP demonstrators to the police headquarters, accusing the police of impartiality and for responsibility in the death of PDP supporters; demanding the redeployment of two senior police officers from the State. It should be recalled that in the violence that marred elections last year in Rivers, Mohammed Alkali (DSP) was killed and beheaded with other police officers, but nothing has been done; and no arrest has so far been made. This is unacceptable.

This assault on the sensibilities of weary Nigerians, who already bear the heavy burden of poor leadership and bad governance, should not stand and all associated with it ought to face the wrath of the law. It reeks of impunity when Senate President, Bukola Saraki, swore in the three new senators – Magnus Abe (Rivers South East), George Sekibo (Rivers East) and Osinakachukwu Ideozu (Rivers West), who “won” in the controversial Rivers rerun election. While the conduct of the two main political parties is disturbing, INEC, which has a responsibility to regulate all electoral activities, has been pathetic by throwing up its hands in helplessness over this open assault on Nigeria’s democracy.

It is saddening that after the 2015 general elections adjudged worldwide to have been free, fair and credible; and the high bar set by INEC under its former chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, the electoral umpire is, directly or indirectly, undermining whatever social capital and public trust it may have acquired in recent times. Moreover, it sends the wrong signal to the local and international community that INEC may not be capable of securing and guaranteeing a level playing field for all players in future general elections. Worse even, President Buhari seems to have become passive and disinterested, to intervene and remedy this blight on the toga of Nigerian democracy, which calls to question, the integrity of those leading Nigeria today.

The standing view is that the presidency has opted to suffocate the political space through the excessive deployment of incumbency power. Recourse to the abuse of presidential power to secure electoral victories outside your political base is not a sign of political strength. Rather, it is a manifestation of an embarrassingly low level of political immaturity as much as a sign of desperation by the president and his handlers. Election violence is one of the absurdities which make a mockery of Nigerian democracy.

The situation is bewildering because it is happening under a supposedly democratic system that was supposed to engender change. Unfortunately, the present dispensation even under a much touted change president remains addicted to garrison politics.

A return to do-or-die politics is unacceptable and those who submit to such egregious anti-democratic antics betray their lacking in vital attributes of political tolerance and democratic engagement, and are not fit to be in any public office. It puts into question what the intention of the political elite really is. This escalating sequence of entropic political violence has turned political thuggery into instruments of electioneering and this should worry the president. The more Buhari pretends to extricate himself from election violence involving his party, the more he gets entangled. If he says he has no hands in the things happening in the Sates, nobody will believe him! His inaction confers tacit endorsement.

It is indeed regrettable that politicians, whether in the opposition or the ruling party, seem all ganged up against the people, constantly pursuing only their self-interests. Nigerians are generally unhappy, but cannot express their displeasure, because they have been pauperized to a state of helplessness. The audacious impunity by Nigerian politicians comes down to the leadership question. Nigerian leaders are not setting good examples, so everything else falls in line with the rot, abuse and corruption which characterize the government. If Nigeria’s claim to democracy will ever stand the test of time, the country must begin to play politics by the rules.

To curb this recurrent issue of election violence, INEC should rise to the occasion by making a public pronouncement on the matter and any party which violates the law should be disqualified from contesting the election. Nigerians deserve leaders elected on merit, not on their ability to hire thugs to intimidate voters or buy polling officials, and public office should not be a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder. This only hurts our democracy.

Nigerians are apprehensive of the Gestapo tactics being employed by politicians to win elections; fearing the country is gradually receding to the transmutation trajectory of military dictatorship which stifled Nigeria, claimed the lives of many patriots and brought shame upon the country. The growing trend of electoral violence is frightening. This macabre dance must therefore stop in the interest of peace and stability. Whenever democracy is under assault, all well-meaning Nigerians of conscience must stand up and defend it. The time to rise in defense of democracy is now!



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