When it comes to politics and elections, the three states where governorship elections were held last Saturday are hot potatoes. Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states have a history of political violence, intimidation of voters and, sometimes, outright falsification of election results. Last Saturday’s exercise was not totally different.
Before the commencement of elections in the three states already mentioned, there were indications that the elections might not be free and fair. One major red flag was the appointment of some alleged card-carrying members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Commissioners. Clearly, this is against the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, Part 1, Item F, paragraph 14. Concerned citizens raised eyebrows when President Bola Tinubu made the appointments. But rather than reject them, our Senate confirmed the appointments. Obviously, an electoral umpire populated by such characters may never approach their jobs with fairness. From the look of things, Nigeria is gradually being captured by the ruling cabal which had turned Lagos into some form of a dynasty.
The pretentious nature of INEC does not help matters. The electoral umpire informed Nigerians recently that it was prepared and ready to discharge its duty in the off-season elections. This has been its usual style. But when the chips are down, most times, the umpire commits cardinal sins that are bound to take some of its members of staff to hellfire.
That was why I became sceptical when the umpire promised to upload election results on the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal. This is the same body that said electronic collation of election results was illegal in Nigeria. Last week, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, reportedly said that Presiding Officers were expected to use the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) to snap the polling unit election results also known as Form EC8A and upload the same to the IReV after the conclusion of all processes at the various polling units. However, he noted, people needed to understand that the IReV was not for collating election results or determining the winner, while the BVAS was also not an electronic voting machine. He asserted that “electronic voting or collation of results is illegal in Nigeria at the moment. All that the IReV portal does is just to display the Form EC8A uploaded from the polling units for the public to see.”
My reading of INEC’s position here is that the Commission is being clever by half. If the elections went its preferred way, it wouldn’t mind uploading the results electronically. If the elections didn’t go its own way, its officers might do what they did during the presidential election of February 25, 2023. Recall that the umpire successfully uploaded the results of the National Assembly election held the same day. But when it came to that of the presidential election, story changed. They claimed there were technical glitches. Hence, the results could not be uploaded on the IReV portal. This significantly affected the outcome of the election and killed the spirit of many Nigerians as far as democracy is concerned. Realizing the import of their tricks, INEC Chairman announced the winner of the presidential election in an ungodly hour on March 1, 2023. There is no need crying over spilt milk, as the Supreme Court has given a stamp of legitimacy to the shenanigans called 2023 general election.
The same Supreme Court also dashed the hopes of many Imo citizens in the 2019 state governorship petition judgement. Governor Hope Uzodimma had come fourth in the election. But in a curious twist of fate, the apex court ruled that he won the election. Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who had ruled for some months as governor, handed over to Uzodimma in what has remained a mystery judgement in Nigeria. With this type of scenario, it is obvious that it will be difficult to dislodge Uzodimma in Imo. At the collation centre in Owerri, a Labour Party agent was reportedly beaten and bundled out of the centre for protesting that the results turned in were at variance with what were uploaded on the IReV portal. Well, INEC, on Sunday, declared Uzodimma winner of the election.
Kogi state is another contentious state. In the November 2019 governorship election that secured a second term for Yahaya Bello of the APC, everything was done to suppress the will of the people. Political thugs wore military and police uniforms given to them by politicians and operated with impunity. Security agents allegedly aided party thugs to snatch ballot boxes, intimidate and harass voters and electoral officials. About six people lost their lives during the election. At the end of the day, Bello was announced the winner. It did not end there. Some thugs suspected to be loyal to the APC invaded the house of the PDP women leader of Wada Aro Campaign Council in Ochadamu ward in Kogi, Mrs. Salome Abuh. They surrounded Mrs Abuh’s house, bolted every exit and escape from outside, poured petrol on the building and set it ablaze while she was inside. The thugs waited, shooting and watching as the fire burnt the woman to death. In last Saturday’s exercise, election was suspended in nine wards in Kogi following some malpractices.
Bayelsa State is no less contentious. Some thugs are also available for politicians to hire. The PDP is in charge in this state. But the APC wants to dethrone the incumbent. As of press time, it is not certain who won. But, most likely, the incumbent governor will use the power of incumbency to win.
That also depends on the cooperation of the security agencies. The funny thing is that these security agencies will come out to warn election riggers or ballot box snatchers to beware. But, they normally close their eyes and watch events when loyal thugs cause their usual havoc. In the November 2019 violent governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, the police hierarchy deployed about 66,241 officers to maintain law and order.
These officers could not do much to stop the chaos that characterized the elections. The then Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, blamed the violence on fake policemen. He was proud to tell us that he gave his men tags to distinguish them but did not tell us what he did to apprehend the fake ones without tags.
In the last Saturday’s election in the three states, the Force Headquarters informed us that the police had carried out heavy deployments in all areas prone to violent attacks and that three Deputy Inspectors-General of Police had been deployed for the election security management in the three states. Although the election appeared better than the 2019 poll, there were still pockets of violence in the three states. At Ayigba town in Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi State, military officers reportedly shot and killed a thug who attempted to snatch a ballot box and flee. In the same Kogi, a local government chairman was reportedly arrested with ammunition and cash. In some parts of Bayelsa and Imo, thuggery also held sway. Also, there were voter inducements ranging from N5,000 to over N20,000. Some politicians also reportedly shared rice and wrapper.
It is sad that Nigerian politicians have continued to play Russian roulette with our democracy. I have been talking about restructuring or reforms of our political and electoral systems. Those enjoying from the current arrangement may not agree to such reforms. But time shall come when we may not contain the upheaval that may follow the desecration of our democracy. A nation that cannot conduct a simple election is doomed to fail. Tinubu should now wear the cloak of a statesman and rescue this nation from total collapse.
Re: Presidential yacht and First Lady’s SUVs
Dear Casy, the situation in Nigeria today can be likened to Igbo proverb which says, “A bird that perches on a tethered rope would be ‘dancing’ as the tethered rope would, also, be ‘dancing’.” Dancing, in this context here, refers to unstable and shaky movement of both the bird and the tethered rope simultaneously. Casy, what a very dangerous situation? All because of the avaricious appetite and plundering zeal of our mindless dealers masquerading as leaders, with the soul of the Judiciary in the cemetery? In this kind of situation, only the almighty God can save us!
-Steve Okoye, Awka, 08036630731.
Casmir, financial recklessness that is sequel to financial indiscipline on the part of leaders/misleaders, seems to be the trend in this Tinubu government. They are not getting their priorities right! This is a government that tends to major in minor and minor in major. They are ‘sacri-enjoying’ while Nigerians are ‘sacri-suffering’! We now know that the word ‘sacrifice’ has two different meanings! They removed subsidy so that the masses would fund their extravagant lifestyles. Sadists are in control of the levers of power! It is time for the masses to begin to say “enough is enough”! Heaven helps citizens of nations who help themselves! Henceforth, it shall no longer be the ‘hands akimbo’ posture. Tinubu does not owe his allegiance to the masses; it is to INEC & the judiciary that gave him the ‘licenses’ to do ‘nonsense’. This government doesn’t do the needful but the ‘mouthful’. It loves frivolities! Passivity on the part of the citizens will further retrogress the nation. This is a government of ‘showmen’ that loves to flaunt affluence. Pity! A government that was established on the foundation of ‘bazaar’ will display bizarre tendencies! N5bn presidential yacht, N1.5bn for the SUVs of an unconstitutionally recognised 1st lady are absurdities that are capable of raising the blood pressures of citizens of a country, where two ladies a fortnight ago, engaged in a ‘do or die’ fight over N500 debt and the creditor didn’t let go until I came to the rescue! Nigeria is now ‘poverty incorporated Nig. Plc’. Lord have mercy!
-Mike, Mushin, 0816 111 4572
S.O.S to every Nigerian citizen who genuinely and sincerely care about one Nigeria and unity, peace and progress of Nigeria and above all good governance! Our leaders have deceived us enough. And they behave and pretend like they do not know what they are doing! Let’s think about this? Are Nigerian leaders faithful to the principles that can promote peace and unity? Are they faithful to principle and characters that can promote and bring good governance? Nigerians must start asking those questions. Nigerian media should start asking our leaders what and what they have done tangibly to promote peace, unity and total good governance!
-Romanus Ndehigwo, Idiroko Ogun State, 0802 420 9181
•Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, November 13, 2023