Wednesday, November 15, 2023 9:14 am
Are elections still necessary in Nigeria?
People recognize elections around the world as vital components of democratic culture. They are the most iconic ingredient in the democratic menu without which the aroma of representative governance will suffer the smug contamination of tyrannical hegemony.
“Let us vote” is a popular expression even in remote corners where societies view leadership with reverence and awe. Among men, women, youths, children and even animals, “let us vote” comes to the rescue when there is a conundrum in leadership or a major issue. Although many societies regard democracy and elections as twin Greek rituals, the matrix of some African folklore is replete with how animals in the jungle responsibly schedule and carry out elections to decide an issue. When some school boys were marooned on an Island in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, they chose their leader through a peaceful election.
In Nigeria, following the recently concluded off-cycle elections in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa States, a reality stares the electorate in the face – elections are no longer needed here as a democratic process that leads to the emergence of a leader. Elections mean something else in Nigeria – banditry, criminal carnival, and brigandage.
When reports of the recently concluded off-cycle elections in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa states hit different news outlets, they consistently violated the minds of conscientious persons and assaulted their intelligence. The humiliation grates at the sensibilities with unrelenting, enfeeble intensity. Instead of elections, one is confronted with villainous malfeasance orchestrated by people who should have no business in rational habitation. For sure, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headed by Mr. Mahmood Yakubu has not covered itself in the slightest shred of glory. It is more disconcerting because a huge amount of funds is earmarked for these processions of infamy which we like to call elections. There is no hiding place for Mr. Mahmood Yakubu and his gang.
Elections in Nigeria are not elections but an activity which finds better expressive labels in the realm of desperation and lawlessness. With the elections of 2023 in Nigeria firmly concluded, one thing is certain – the people’s votes do not count. It is either that the electoral officials, in cahoots with politicians, through glaring complicity premeditate the outcomes of the elections or the judiciary, the undisputed predator of election outcomes in Nigeria, eagerly waits to subvert the will of the people in a brazen show of illegitimate mimicry.
If elections in Nigeria have become inconsequential, why do the government and INEC waste scarce resources to conduct an exercise whose outcome is an enactment of fictional ideology? Why does INEC encourage people to register, get their voter cards and go through the agony of standing under inclement weather for many hours only for the efforts to be wasted? This kind of extended punishment by INEC and the government must stop. No one should use the people to perpetuate illegality. In Imo State, how can the incumbent governor, foisted on the people by the Supreme Court four years ago, in all his inglorious annals, win with a landslide, recording jaw-dropping figures even where elections did not take place? Where elections took place, the Supreme Court governor scored more votes than the number of accredited voters. APC magic. How can one explain the total absence of law and order in Imo State during the election where political opponents were openly brutalized while officers of the Nigerian police watched with rapt attention? Of course, mortar and pestle can confirm that there was no election in Imo State. It was a parade conducted by Hope Uzodinma and his sinister forces which unfortunately will accentuate the indelible rupture in the state.
In Kogi State, there are reports that the election results were written before the election took place. If INEC knew that the election results would be written before the real election, why ask impoverished people to abandon their little engagements of survival to queue up for many hours for a predetermined activity? The APC candidate in Kogi State Usman Ododo won by a landslide just like in Imo State. However, the comments of the SDP candidate Murtala Ajaka after the elections underscore the heights of notoriety to which the Nigerian judiciary has fallen. According to the SDP candidate, he will not go to court because it will be a waste of time and money – how damning could that be. In Nigeria now, the judiciary has acquired disreputation for subverting the will of the people especially when the government in power is concerned. The people have completely lost confidence in the once-revered judiciary. In Enugu state, although Mr. Peter Mbah, the governor, presented a forged NYSC certificate to INEC before the election, the court ruled that NYSC certificate is not a requirement to contest the post of a governor. Thus, Mbah remains the governor of Enugu State even though he lied on oath and presented a forged NYSC certificate.
In Bayelsa, words cannot describe the level of atrocity that took place in that riverine, oil-rich state. A video showing the complete nakedness of a man Jonah Daumie, special adviser to Joshua MacIver, the deputy governorship candidate of APC in the state circulated on social media. Soldiers caught the man with arms and ammunition and on further interrogation, he confessed to having instructions to snatch ballot boxes and kill anyone that stood against him. The people of Bayelsa watched with dismay and horror as the results of the election were announced in favour of the PDP candidate and incumbent governor Mr Douye Diri.
There were reports of looting, violence, snatching of ballot boxes and many more underhand practices which are inconsistent with the free and fair electoral process. It is more depressing because law enforcement officers watched with glee and sometimes were involved in the whole treacherous unfolding. Governors of the three states must have taken serious lessons from Nyesom Wike, the immediate-past governor of River State who, it was reported, without shame or any modicum of decency, raped the electoral process in River State in favour of the APC during the last presidential election. Today, he is a minister of the FCT.
Election, that innocuous, peaceful, exciting democratic process has acquired new apparel in Nigeria, becoming unrecognizable, even to the starry-eyed. Of course, elections in Nigeria have not been totally free and fair. In the past, there were pockets of violence, inconsistencies and negative behaviour by some dissidents. But unfortunately, it has gradually degenerated to abysmal levels so that electoral criminality has become the norm in the country. In the current era, people of questionable character and background, people submerged in various iniquitous and disgraceful histories, occupy different political positions in the country and make laws for the populace. Take your pen and paper and make a list of all the political, elected officeholders in Nigeria. Ninety-five per cent of them ooze with putrescence ranging from forged documents, financial misappropriation, embezzlement of public funds, and many amoral indulgences. That is where we are in Nigeria, at the famed crossroad enervated by indecision. Where is Nigeria heading to? Nobody knows. What is the future of a country where its leadership echelon is populated by a coterie of double dealers whose philosophy is surmised in “the end justifies the means”?
Certainly, elections in Nigeria no longer reflect the wishes of the masses, rather it reflects the wishes of the ruling class who only pursue their warped inordinate convictions. In that case, INEC and the government should leave Nigerians alone and out of their electoral charade. The people must not be forced or coerced to participate in an election where the outcome is premeditated one week before the real election. The people must not be disturbed to go through the furnace to acquire voter cards to vote in an election that the judiciary will throw out of the window. Nigerians must be left alone to bear their pain in peace and strategize survival or recover their country from the grip of power desperados. INEC so constituted does not have the confidence of the people anymore. The judiciary is now the last hope of the political brigand and not that of the common man. For how long will these acts of electoral criminality continue in Nigeria, we do not know but it will not continue for too long.
*Promise Adiele PhD
Mountain Top University