Issues about general elections in any country is a very serious matter. Mass participation is at the heart of any democracy and election is the crux of mass participation. Elections establish the sovereignty of the people. It is the tangible sign that the people are masters while political players are the servants. So when elections don’t happen or are haphazardly done, they become real issues for big concern.
February and March, 2019 were election months for our country, the first was the presidential and national assembly elections; and the second was the governorship and state assembly elections. The periods before and during afforded some of us – public commentators on public affairs – the golden opportunity to take a critical look at some of our political structures, and to return some verdicts. We did take a few positions, and looking at it there is the temptation to say the elections are over and we should move to something different. This disposition would have been correct if most of the things and processes went right to about 80 per cent, but that is not the case; and if we keep quiet we impose more harm on the people and on the country. Albert Einstein was right when he observed that, “the world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”
We have a bad situation, and in fact we ought to be very ashamed that after 58 years of nationhood, our country is unable to execute what should by now become a routine exercise. The 2019 elections are not the first polls to be conducted in our country, we have had many and what that should suggest is that we have a history of electoral outings. It also means we have a base from which to stage a fantastic jump, but 58 years after independence we are still showing deep signs of lack of ability to have sound organisation in place. Some have said the population and landmass of our country is huge, that may well be a fact, yet it does not diminish the knowledge that by now we should have enough data on our country to be able to handle, adequately, challenges posed by the factors mentioned earlier. So we ought to have things done far better than is currently the case.
The performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under the chairmanship of Mahmood Yakubu, has come into great question and contention, especially by those who feel they know too much, yet you do not need any scientific labour to rate the organization or Yakubu himself; all you need do is to listen to reactions from the people themselves. Today they no longer call that organisation its true name, they call it ‘Inconclusive National Electoral Commission’, and this could well be a signpost to the performance of the body under Yakubu. It is true there were pockets of upsets here and there which could make one pass the elections as fair and credible, but the critical review of most of the factors that make for good elections would leave one with no other conclusion than this was a clear demonstration of national incompetence.
In a true democracy, it is abnormal to postpone elections. That it happened sometime in the past, is no excuse or right precedent that it should happen again, especially under a correctional regime such as we claim to have. Predictability of election dates is part of the things that make elections fair and credible. When you postpone arbitrarily like was done by this INEC at the unholy hour of 2:30am, 5 hours to the take-off, it amounts to a civilian coup; like every coup, order is disrupted and undue advantage taken by foul means. When Yakubu did his own, the third time the nation passed through similar experience, it proved costly. The country lost dignity, we marketed incompetence and mediocrity in the world market full of decent civilizations. We told the world we are still primitive and unfortunately unashamed. Our economy lost billions by that singular reckless act, and the umpire wittingly conferred advantage to a side. This ought not be.
INEC blamed logistics, yet we know they had four years to organize an election for which the nation spent N250 billion. They know the political architecture of this country. The atmosphere preceding the take-off of the elections, especially the Presidential and National Assembly elections was not suitable for free and fair elections. The military that should not be heard nor let alone be seen, were highly visible, barking others and in some circumstances issuing outright threats; the height was the president’s directive to shoot ballot box snatchers at sight. This is a wrong approach, it is scary. In real situations, democratic institutions assure the public of security and congenial atmosphere to exercise their democratic rights, while the government and its agencies work under ground to nip possible security challenges in the bud. That is the way it is done, and not the Chief of Army Staff, his commanders and heads of other security organizations talking as if Armageddon was around the corner.
Government introduced soldiers into what should be purely a civilian affair, and this is in spite of an Appeal Court judgement ruling that such should not happen. As would be expected, this attempt to gain undue advantage has become an albatross on an innocent country and her people. We have lost many lives and all well-meaning Nigerians must condemn in strongest terms the military invasion of Rivers and Bayelsa states especially. The obsession to capture Akwa Ibom and Rivers by all means is something no democratic mind can comprehend. Such brazen activities that distort our processes and diminish the human element have continued because the leaders do not take the people into account, they don’t report to them and the people don’t care to ask questions or challenge the political monsters when they take the rest of us on a journey to Golgotha.
The culture of dissention is dead, Nigerians no longer pour into the streets to say no to clear aberrations, everybody wants to play safe or to support his tribesman who is taking undue advantage. If culture of dissent were in place, INEC wouldn’t give us results, which computations are at variance with what should be, they wouldn’t give us figures that can’t tally. They wouldn’t do it, because they know we would come at them immediately. The All Progressives Congress leadership in Lagos State would not instigate a fight between Igbo and Yoruba, just to win elections; because they know the people will be sensitive enough to know their enemies and will come for them. The presidency would never contemplate militarizing elections in Rivers, because it would be clear to him that such step could mark the beginning of his own fall.
The antidote to tyranny and slavery, sages have said is bravery. This is what we need if our nation is to do away with the will of men which they pass for the will of God. Will of God is to have life and have it more abundantly; it is the will of men that has caused us to have wickedness and have it more abundantly. God’s will is that it is our responsibility to deal with the wicked and remove them from the path of perfidy. It is stupidity to deliberately make mistakes and yet claim to be learning every year.