Mr President And The Free And Fair Polls Question


President Goodluck
Jonathan might have firmly delivered credible elections since his inception into office, compared to what the citizenry witnessed in the polls conducted by the past administrations.
Nigerians cannot forget so easily, incidents of ballot stuffing, ballot snatching, intimidation and victimization of voters, inducements of voters, and electoral officers which often times are known to be factors bedeviling the success and credibility of our voting exercise. Yet, he won’t stop getting bashings from the opposition. This is normal in any constitutional democracy and moreover the buck stops on his desk.
Mr President seems to be working very hard to convince everyone that he means business. He is very quick to brandish the credentials of the electoral umpire in the person of Professor Attahiru Jega, the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Arguably, Jega is qualified; but his recent polling units scandal and the probable electoral dangers that deliberate blunder could bring to Nigeria’s future elections had openly put Jega’s integrity and competence to test. This latest incident has also revealed that Jega’s past successes are not unconnected with the enabling environment which President Jonathan dispassionately created; truly a functional system is what is needed to sanitize Nigerian electoral process for credible results.
For the records, the recent outcomes of two elections from the South-West States, namely Ekiti and Osun which are perceived to be litmus tests to the 2015 general elections are pointers to validate enthronement of free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria. It is no news that there were pockets of violent clashes before the Ekiti elections, which gave enough reasons to warrant the deployment of about 12,000 troops including, soldiers, men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, State Security Service (NSCDC), police officers to keep the peace during the poll.
In retrospect, elections were also held in Edo, Ondo and Anambra States respectively, with huge attendance of armed security operatives, movements were equally restricted before, during and after the conducts of the polls. However one key thing played out in these three states, none of the candidates of the PDP which has the control of the government at the centre, won the guber contests.
Such a leveled playing field cannot be said to be short of acceptable, credible, free and fair elections.
Edo’s July 14, 2012 governorship election, the battle was between the Action Congress of Nigeria and the Peoples Democratic Party which had the full support of the Federal Government. However, Edo was critical to the ACN as the party was determined to keep its influence in a non-South-West state and Governor Adams Oshiomhole won the vote of the people decisively for a second term in office.
In Ondo, the dynamics were slightly different as the incumbent is of the Labour Party, which has no presence at the national level and Ondo is the only state it controls. The ACN (now APC) was desperate to control, as said in Nigerian parlance, ‘capture Ondo’, which was the only non-ACN state in the South-West as at that time; while the PDP would love to get a foothold in the ‘hotbed’ of opposition. After months of intense politicking and anxiety, the Ondo State governorship election held on October 20, 2012 ended, with incumbent Governor Segun Mimiko of the Labour Party emerging victorious.
Anambra election that held on November 16, 2013 was not anything different from the experiences of Edo and Ondo States.  The outcome of the hotly contested election produced the candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Willie Obiano, as the winner of the Anambra governorship election.
To a larger extent the ‘militarization’ of our polls as famously described by the opposition has obviously yielded positive results for our electoral process, perhaps the President was taking a cue from the deadly post-election violence in northern Nigeria, following the April 2011 presidential voting which left more than 800 people dead. The victims were killed in three days of rioting in 12 northern states.
The violence began with widespread protests by supporters of the main opposition candidate,Muhammadu Buhari, a northern Muslim from the Congress for Progressive Change (now fussed to APC), following the re-election of incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the Niger Delta in the south, who was the candidate for the ruling People’s Democratic Party.
The protests degenerated into violent riots or sectarian killings in the northern states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa,Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara. Thankfully the government had learnt its lesson and this has consistently informed the need to be proactive during the conduct of elections in Nigeria.
However as Nigeria continues in her democratic journey, it is expedient for the opposition to show magnanimity in victory and exhibit spirit of sportsmanship, especially when electoral outcome fails to favour them. The insinuations that there are sinister motive behind deployment of security agents for election other than ensuring peace may dangerously drift the nation back to square one.

Emmanuel Ajibulu

President Goodluck Jonathan with PDP members at a rally, recently
President Goodluck Jonathan with PDP members at a rally, recently