Accusations and counter-accusations after an election have no doubt become the hallmark of Nigerian politics. In most cases, the loser does more of the accusations, while the winner eulogizes the process leading to his/her success, even when there are glaring cases of misnomers.
In fact, but for President Goodluck Jonathan, who conceded defeat in 2015 to Muhammadu Buhari, it is difficult to name any other person who lost an election, organised by the country’s electoral umpire and accepted the results in Nigeria. It has become normal, so much that even when there is good reason for the loser to feel cheated and hence aggrieved, he is widely seen as following the band wagon.
Unfortunately, this stance has become a major Achilles’ heel of Nigerian politics, one that has, election after election, either bemusedly present-ed those who say all is well in the face of clear unwell as the real destroyers of the country’s yearnings for democracy, or made the losers (who are tagged mere complainers) as troublemakers.
Ironically, this aspect of the country’s politics is the part that makes each subsequent election stand out on its own. In the history of Nigerian politics, for instance, critics will always point to 2003 as the period when politics of gunrunning found its way into Nigerian politics. Since then, the situation has only been as good or bad as the focus of the sitting president, and in the interpretation of the interest of the one talking.
Worthy of note is the fact that at each point, most of those who dish out these bitter experiences, or receive same, have either been direct or indirect key players when it started, or supported it as the norm they came into play, even when they may have known at some point that it wasn’t right for the polity.
The difference between political gunrunning when it started and now is that while in the beginning the key players were civilians whose briefs was to protect the interest of their principals, currently those commandeering with the aid of the gun are trained military personnel who have sworn to protect the interests of the people.
The result is that while those who are on the receiving end of the alleged excesses of the military, which, like in the Abonnema experience of February 23, 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections, allegedly claimed over 50 lives at the end of the day, those who it has favoured see it as their time to shine. This is all there is to the allegations and counter allegations over the 2019 elections.
In the midst of all this, however, there is the need to think out of the box, if one would truly want to be seen as being patriotic, as most of the key players claim to be, about what Nigeria has been thus far as a Republic, and what it should be in terms of development.
When viewed from the perspectives of the realities as they emerge, which come up almost as frequent as the brains of those who concoct their works, and placed side-by-side with what the leadership claims to be focused on for the good of society, it becomes very easy to clearly separate the real allegations, the reality of it, and the ideality of the situation which everybody seem to lay claim to.
What could perhaps be regarded as one of the first allegations of the 2019 Nigeria’s general elections occurred in Rivers State in Ikwerre and Emohua Local Government Areas (LGAs): The Returning Officers of both LGAs alleged military invasion, intimidation, molestation and carting away of collation materials, as the case may be, hence there was no result to declare at the LGA collation centers.
The reality of the allegations is that it does not change the fact that from the point of the polling units, where results are first declared, up to the Wards level, agents of political parties and virtually all concerned and their cronies have direct access to the real figures of each result.
On the other hand, ideally, whether the results were delivered at the LGA Collation Centers or not, it will be easy to get the results in bits from the Units or Wards and still arrive at the correct result, in perhaps slightly adjustable time, if the electoral umpire had worked out enough contingency plans as backups, and also earned the trust of the voters.
Even when such contingencies may not have been foreseen, if after the killings in Abonnema and the collation disruptions in other areas, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) could ignore them and announce the Presidential and National Assembly elections, what else could stop elections in areas where voting had successfully taken place in a peaceful atmosphere, counted at the Units and Wards, only to be disrupted at the LGA?
But for that it shows the reality that INEC is less concerned (or interested) about getting genuine election results, and so places more attention on getting any result from persons other than the ones they officially appointed to get the results from, the Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC can hardly have genuine reason to let the one characterised by fatalities go, and stamp its feet on a better option.
In its second interim report on the Governor-ship and State House of Assembly elections of March 9, 2019, the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) said in part that, “The political parties had a field day inducing voters with money, food items, soaps and various other items to vote for their partie’s candidates. These acts of inducement right before security agents within the voting precincts have the propensity to destroy the citizens’ confidence in the entire election process.
“There were several reports of electoral violence from all over the country. Party thugs and hoodlums had a field day invading voting centers to snatch polling materials, destroy voting materials, harass, molest and intimidate voters and, in some instances, INEC officials”.
The report, credited to the Chairman of the NBA Election Working Group, Afam Asigwe, stated that, “Surprising in most places where these dreadful acts were recorded or reported, security agents were either complicit or indifferent”.
The Chief Observer of the European Union Observation Mission to Nigeria, Maria Arena, summed up when she said,” Observers, includ-ing EU observers, were denied access to collation centres in Rivers, apparently by military personnel. This lack of access for observers compromises transpa-rency and trust in the process.
“In Rivers, INEC suspended until further notice the elections due to violence in polling units and collation centers, staff being taken hostage and election materials, including results sheets, seized or destroyed by unauthorised persons.
“There is no doubt that the electoral process there was severely compro-mised.”
While these allegations have not been able to encourage INEC and the Federal Government to take deliberate steps in ensuring that the military is only involved in securing the environment for peaceful elections, it only proves the reality that as far as these elections are concerned, the military has been given the power to do everything they deem fit, including taking as many lives as they can, even in a non-war situation.
Another key reality is the phrase, “people dressed in Army uniforms”, used to describe Army personnel who are blamed for carrying out all the stated allegations before and during the 2019 elections. While these allegations are sometimes backed by video footages, the military seem to be unperturbed, as it seems with the Federal Government too. With each subsequent denial of the allegations, it seems to be business as usual.
In all of these (and many more), all key players claim ideality: they want the people to see them as saints; people who are doing everything for the interest of the country; that they are the best thing to happen to the people, even when they do not have the least regard for the people, by their actions.
Leadership seem to forget in a hurry that by its actions and inactions, it has done a pretty good job doing in a more grievous manner what it had professed against just about four years ago. The APC-led Government seems only to be bent on improving on the same things it allegedly fought against, and for which it got the people’s Presidential mandate in 2015.