APART from my inimitable benefactor, a man of philanthropic incomparability and unparalleled existential humanism, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jnr., GCON, I have never in this column or in THISDAY, THE SATURDAY NEWSPAPER, where I also keep another racy conversation, enjoined God to bless anyone in my three-decade-plus quintessential and celebrated journalism.
The second person in this Hall of Fame is the former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, a respected, distinguished and highly cerebral academic and reputable ‘aluta’ exponent. Jega’s robust and profound pedigree exemplifies taciturnity, which abhors flippancy.
His irrefutably authoritative avowals on the conduct and outcome of the 2019 general elections with emphatic and no-holds-barred declarations on the governorship poll informed the subject of this damning intervention. I implore every mature Nigerian to Google Jega’s analysis and digest it. Just an extract of the expose as published in THISDAY, Back Page, October 26, 2019: “From 2011, there were incremental positive changes, but the problem is that by 2019, we were beginning to see a reversal, especially in the governorship elections where the incumbent governments influenced security agencies to manipulate the outcome of the polls.”
It agonises me that there were no interrogations and deep public discussions of the critical and developmental issues raised by Jega. We have become so apathetic, despondent and docile to the extent that life-threatening challenges are dismissed with a casual wave of hand, let alone matters that are essentially, but not exclusively, political in nature. Jega’s infallible assertion on the 2019 elections should have, by now, in sane climes, been a subject of interminable national discussion and profuse engagement of everyone—adults and children (to serve as a learning curve in their evolutionary trajectory).
The revelation did not mean anything to the federal government—how much less to the indicted state governments most of which are enjoying the spoils of their electoral fraud! It is also an irony that for the first time in the history of Nigeria no governor was dismissed either at the tribunals or in the law courts, including the summit of judicial hierarchy. I was informed by an eminent politician that money exchanged hands at all levels of our convoluted judicial system. This friend of mine said he was intimated to the judicial shenanigans by one of the beneficiaries of the blood money that clandestinely went round a few senior judicial officers who could pull the strings where and when it mattered most!
I have never believed that votes count in governorship elections. My skepticism is informed by the desperation of governors who either are seeking reelection or have completed their two terms and decide to handpick a successor-stooge who will cover their soiled tracks. In a related circumstance, powerful godfathers decide who becomes the next governor, singlehanded!
Of course, there would always be a few exceptions where some candidates’ popularity and universalism are invaluable electoral catalysts. In such cases, victory is assuredly guaranteed and does not need any manipulation or influence by any godfather no matter how powerful. Just three examples of credible and popular governors right from their candidatures: Hon Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State; Oluseyi Abiodun Makinde of Oyo State; Engr. David Nweze Umahi of Ebonyi State; and Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri of Adamawa State.
This columnist is astounded by the fact that security agents who are supposed to protect the people’s mandate are the very collusive elements in the perpetration of electoral fraud and thwarting of voters’ will because of a mess of porridge! Do these people in uniform realise the collateral damage they are doing to the polity and generations of Nigerians with their indiscretion and lust for slush money?
The greatest irony is that the leaderships of these security establishments are aware and at times get involved in the manipulation of election results through coercion and blatant introduction of money to influence the entire process from voting to the announcement of results.
Sometime ago, the Nigerian Army massively deployed soldiers in one of the South East states before, during and after the governorship poll and this ensured that the militarisation produced the anticipated result! This was done in such a manner that even the blind could hear and feel the presence of soldiers of occupation! The soldiers’ mission was public knowledge throughout the state. The governor served his two terms and thereafter became a senator! Timid oppositional attempts to counter the electoral banditry paled into insignificance. The worst tragedy is that those who should have spoken were hastily compromised.
It is my prayer that God will continue to bless a man like Jega who courageously blew the lid on what most governors do to retain their positions or impose their lackeys on the electorate on completion of their terms in foreclosure of a date with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). It is unfortunate that his exposure did not generate the kind of response I had expected. What a nation of cowards and accomplices in perpetuation of electoral criminalities.
The disheartening aspect of it all is that nothing is going to be done with this revelation as it will always be “business as usual” in furtherance of our retrogression as a nation. Are we beyond redemption? Do we wait for divine intervention interminably?
There have always been factual reports that some candidates engage in vote-buying apart from their pastime of compromising security agents to intimidate electors. Even when video recordings of these electoral criminalities go viral, nothing is done. The collective nonchalance to these fraudulent practices during and after polling fuels the perpetuation of the crimes as the perpetrators know that the authorities and everyone conventionally look the other way in these matters!
In all of these, it is obvious that the INEC seems hapless. If the government cannot address the issue, certainly not INEC which is at its wit’s end and grappling with all manner of challenges that have apparently overwhelmed it. The situation has reached a level that the commission now has to involve the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other offences-related Commission (ICPC) to round up vote buyers.
INEC’s resolution to get political parties to sign peace accords does not change anything because of its perfunctory nature. Electoral frauds are committed in cubicles and recesses where oppositional stakeholders would never know. So, peace or violence does not affect committal of crimes—perhaps, the only likely benefit of the accord is the assurance on safety of life and property. There is no situational correlation between governorship poll fraud perpetration and serenity. As Jega noted, all that is required is manipulation of figures in collusion with corrupt and unpatriotic INEC officials and declaration of beastly candidates as winners!
The level of poverty in the country today is so high that it is easy to induce even the “average” person. When Nigerians voted en masse for Chief M.K.O. Abiola, nobody needed to be given any Greek gift because of the passion for the right candidate and optimal demand for observance of electoral ethics. There is no sanctity of elections anymore because the entire process is flawed from the outset. Nowadays, our moral rectitude as members of the global community has so crashed that most Nigerians are isolated abroad at international airports and treated with obscene contempt and disdain because of our scandalous reputational and perceptional pedigrees.
From the foregoing, it is clear that it will take a long time before we would have a transparent, free and fair election. For now, it is like as the years go by, the situation degenerates.
Once more, may God bless Jega bountifully. Amen.