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  • Nigerian Elections: A Democratic Deficit By Omoshola Deji

  • First Osun. Then Kano. Now Kogi and Bayelsa states. The spate of violence during election brings
    doubt on Nigeria’s ability to get it right. Unlike other nations, Nigeria seems to have no magic
    formula; no means of solving a problem without creating another. Democracy initially seemed an
    opportunity to annihilate tyranny, but has instead increased it. Rule of law, freedom of speech and
    other democratic ethics are consistently being violated by the ruling elites and “converted democrat”.
    Nigeria is fast becoming the worst country for democracy as franchise have become an object of
    attack. This piece appraises the flaws of Nigerian elections, particularly the Kogi and Bayelsa
    governorship poll, and the pundit’s verdict.
    The people of Kogi and Bayelsa trooped out on November 16 to elect their choice for the state’s top
    job. The exercise which should ordinarily be civil and peaceful was marred by unprecedented violence
    and electoral fraud. Gun-wielding thugs, aided by the security agencies, disrupted the electoral process
    from which Nigeria’s democracy is supposed to grow.
    Perhaps those in positions of authority misconstrued duty as favor. In a democracy, individuals are
    morally responsible to vote their conscience, and government is duty-bound to provide the enabling
    environment, ensuring the wish of the majority prevails. Once the environment is not enabling, the
    outcome of an important exercise such as election cannot be taken as the wish of the majority.
    Factoring this in, although Yahaya Bello of Kogi state and David Lyon of Bayelsa were return elected,
    they did not win the election. This by no means underestimate their ability to win in a credible contest.
    Repression of opposition candidates, their supporters and polling agents made the elections a
    democratic deficit. In Kogi state, incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello of the All Progressives Congress
    (APC) commanded violence on his contenders. Stalwarts of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and
    Social Democratic Party (SDP) were routinely harassed, injured and killed. Thugs invaded their

    homes, vandalized them, and set some ablaze. Several cars and valuables were destroyed, forcing the
    targets to go into hiding. This destabilized PDP and SDP from making last minutes canvassing to woo
    undecided voters; giving APC an unfair advantage. The attack surprisingly continued even after APC
    ‘won’. Thugs set the home of a PDP women leader ablaze and callously watch her burn to ashes.
    Suppression of voters is also one of the unholy strategies APC employed. The party carefully studied
    the voting pattern of both states, ignite violence in opposition strongholds, but protected hers. In Kogi,
    election proceeded smoothly in the Central district where Bello hails from, while the East and West
    were confronted with extreme violence. In Bayelsa, people were restrained from voting in Southern
    Ijaw where PDP is likely to garner majority vote. The party was also stifled in Nembe. The outturn of
    both election suggests APC has devised different illicit strategies for winning elections. Repression
    and suppression are autocratic tenets, a breach of the fundamental principle of fairness that must be
    adhered to in a democracy.
    Disenfranchisement made the elections a democratic deficit. Violence and intimidation denied eligible
    voters the opportunity to cast their ballot. Fear kept people indoor while majority of those who turned
    up scampered for safety as thugs attack opposition strongholds in Kogi. Many lost their votes via
    ballot-box snatching. In Bayelsa, the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement,
    popularly called YIAGA Africa reports that INEC announced falsified results and election did not
    hold in 24 percent of the state’s polling units. Disenfranchising such a significant percentage of the
    population utterly discredits the outcome of the election. How do we pacify the 24 percent whose
    preferred candidates lost because they were denied the opportunity to vote? Such inequity makes the
    election a democratic deficit.
    Monetary inducement of voters and electoral officers made the elections a democratic deficit. Agents
    of the dominant parties, particularly the APC and PDP always offer cash for votes, and did so in Kogi
    and Bayelsa states. They shared between N500 to N3000, although APC outspend the PDP, being the
    ruling party at the federal level.
    Two categories of persons should be criticized for vote-buying, but Nigerians mostly condemn one;
    they blame the buyers (politicians) and absolve the sellers (voters). Vote-buying has become so
    prevalent that majority of the electorate expect to be tipped for voting. But then, should we blame the
    poor voters for demanding a continuation of what the parties started? Nonetheless, Nigerians need to
    be enlightened that politicians are descendants of the devil; they have no free gift. Vote-buying is a
    business and politicians who invest in the trade must recoup their money and make extraordinary
    profits, hence the prevalence of under-performing governments.
    Electoral fraud and INEC’s partisanship made the elections a democratic deficit. An electoral umpire
    must be impartial to all contending parties, but INEC fell short. In Bayelsa, election materials stolen
    by APC thugs surfaced during collation and INEC allegedly record the votes. The umpire announced
    bogus results in favor of APC in Sagbama, Ogbia, Nembe, and Southern Ijaw. It’s baffling how these
    troubled spots returned high votes; the Borno 2015 template was apparently revived. How could the
    result of Nembe - a troubled spot where people would naturally abstain from voting - reflect over 80
    percent turnout, while the result of a peaceful area such as Yenagoa, the state capital reflects less than
    40 percent turnout? Such result is a clear indication of electoral fraud.

    Electoral fraud was rife, but INEC lacks the courage to wield the big stick, especially against APC. In
    Kogi state, armed thugs, aided by the security agencies, manipulated the poll in favor of APC. Ballot
    boxes were either carted away, destroyed, or changed with already thumb-printed ones. To Nigerians
    dismay, INEC counted the false votes rather than cancel the results of the affected polling units. To
    top it all off, bogus figures were awarded in favor of APC in crisis-ridden areas and spaces PDP has
    fair support. For instance, INEC claimed APC scored 112,764 votes, while PDP only garnered 139
    votes in Okene local government of Kogi State. This cannot be true.
    A party with structure and spread like the PDP can’t garner such a paltry vote at a time Kogites were
    determined to sack Bello’s failed government. The bizarre result is a reflection of the extreme rigging
    perpetrated in almost every area of the state. In a credible contest, even SDP’s Akpoti would garner
    more than 139 votes in Okene. It is perturbing PDP didn’t score such a paltry vote during the Lagos
    2019 governorship election. Please bear in mind that although the revenue generated in Lagos state is
    incommensurable with its rate of development, Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration performed much
    better than that of Bello in Kogi. Yet the godfather denied him return ticket, but supported Bello.
    Unprofessional and partisan conduct of the security agencies made the elections a democratic deficit.
    Over 60,000 police officers and crime fighting equipment were deployed for the Bayelsa and Kogi
    governorship elections. Yet violence prevailed. The military compromised the election in Bayelsa,
    while police jeopardized the exercise in Kogi. Policemen accosted gun-wielding thugs to polling units
    across Kogi West and East district to snatch or stuff ballot boxes, attack opposition figures, and
    distribute money to APC agents. The thugs moved freely with vehicles despite restriction of
    movement, manipulating and destabilizing the election.
    APC agents operated under massive protection while that of PDP and other opposition parties were
    left in the cold. Recall that prior to the election, candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP),
    Natasha Akpoti’s campaign office was looted and destroyed by alleged APC thugs, but the
    perpetrators weren’t arrested. Take a breather to imagine how the security agencies, the state
    government and the presidency would have reacted if such happens to any APC secretariat.
    At the venue of the Peace Accord signing meeting, Akpoti and her aides were molested, her campaign
    vehicles were destroyed by APC thugs, while the police looked on. The raging thugs disrupted the
    meeting, which had several dignitaries present, including Mohammed Adamu, the Inspector General
    of Police (IGP). Yet none has been prosecuted. Take another breather to imagine how the IGP would
    have reacted if the thugs had no state’s backing.
    The military’s massacre of Shiite members who obstructed the Chief of Army Staff’s convey should
    give you a clear sense of how the IGP would have probably reacted, if the thugs were not operating
    under the authority of the powers that be. However, subjecting the personality of the IGP to ridicule in
    a bid to win elections is a bad precedence with devastating consequences. Politicians need to desist
    from sacrificing the image and efficiency of national institutions on the altar of politics.
    IGP Adamu stated that the policemen that colluded with thugs to disrupt the Kogi and Bayelsa
    elections were fake policemen. Nigerians are wondering how fake policemen, if any, overpowered the
    over 60,000 trained policemen deployed for the elections. Does it imply that fake policemen have
    better strategy and weapon than the real police? Assuming, but not conceding that fake policemen
    committed the anomalies, was the police helicopter that dropped canisters and opened fire on voters in

    PDP strongholds piloted by fake policemen? The IGP should come up with a better excuse or
    apologize for failing Nigerians.
    Police announced making eleven arrests, but none were paraded. Many wonder why the same police
    that’s always eager to parade criminal suspects is reluctant to parade the electoral offenders. Besides,
    was it just the eleven persons arrested that perpetrated the extreme violence reported across the 21
    local governments in Kogi state? It is most disheartening that the same police that couldn’t provide
    adequate security in just two states reigned terror on non-violent IPOB members, Shiite devotees and
    Revolution Now protesters.
    INEC and the security agencies failed in every respect. Their inefficiencies significantly makes
    Nigerian elections a democratic deficit. In Kogi and Bayelsa, electoral fraud prevailed despite INEC’s
    promise of a free, fair and credible election. Violence prevailed despite the deployment of over 60,000
    police officers and crime fighting equipment such as armored tanks and surveillance helicopters.
    Vote-buying prevailed despite the deployment of officers of the Independent Corrupt Practices and
    other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission
    (EFCC). Both agencies made no arrest, despite extensive video evidences showing the face of vote
    buyers and sellers. Clandestine moves to disrupt the electoral process went undetected, and were freely
    perpetrated, despite the deployment of officers from the Department of State Security (DSS).
    Election in Nigeria is one of the most expensive in the world, but far from being the most credible. No
    less than nine persons met their death during the Kogi and Bayelsa polls. A police officer, a youth
    corps member, Senator Dino Melaye’s nephew, and Kogi PDP women leader were among those
    unfortunate. APC needs to caution its members has the opposition parties lack federal might, a major
    instrument needed to perpetrate violence and electoral fraud.
    Elections can’t be credible without the political will to make it happen. Nigerian government must put
    measures in place to forestall the use of illegal approaches to win elections. Such measures could
    include reducing the premium on political offices, signing the amended electoral bill into law,
    revamping the security architecture, and establishing an independent electoral offences commission.

    Appraising the Pundit’s Verdict
    It is habitual for the writer, hereafter titled Pundit, to foretell the outcome of elections. Notable among
    his several accurate predictions is foretelling ex-President Jonathan’s defeat in 2015. The Pundit
    foretold President Buhari’s reelection in 2019, against the prediction of reputable global institutions
    such as Williams and Associates, and The Economist. He also accurately foretold the outcome of the
    2019 governorship election in 23 out of 29 states.
    Despite his serial accurate predictions, the pundit’s prognosis of the elections in focus was not a totally
    good outing. Foreseen, but unprecedented violence and electoral fraud mainly forbid some of his
    predictions from coming to pass. In a piece titled “Kogi and Bayelsa 2019 Governorship Election:
    Foretelling the Outcome”, the Pundit predicted Duoye Diri’s (PDP) win in Bayelsa, but he lose. PDP’s
    Dino Melaye also failed to win the Kogi West senatorial rerun on the first vote as predicted. The

    election ended inconclusive. However, APC’s Yahaya Bello ‘won’ the Kogi governorship election as
    predicted, although not by rerun.
    In truth, the pundit barely saw APC’s win in Bayelsa coming. His prediction was mainly flawed by ex-
    president Jonathan’s secret endorsement of APC candidate, David Lyon. Although there were words
    on the street, the pundit believed Jonathan won’t work against his lifelong party, the PDP. This made
    him assert that “politics is an interest driven game, hence it is not impossible, but most unlikely that
    Jonathan would support APC. This is premised on the manner the party has disparaged him since he
    lost power in 2015.”
    The pundit was wrong on Jonathan. He assumed the ex-president won’t support APC despite the
    dispute between him and Governor Seriake Dickson, his estranged godson. Jonathan acted like his
    erstwhile godfather, ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo. Despite unilaterally bringing Jonathan to power
    under the PDP, Obasanjo facilitated his defeat in 2015 by backing the APC. The party (APC) praised
    Obasanjo to high heavens, but abandoned him shortly after forming government. Jonathan’s romance
    with APC may also not end well. He may also get the Obasanjo treatment.
    Another factor the pundit failed to consider during prediction is the (ex)militants endorsement of
    Lyon. Bayelsa is the den of dreaded militants who have the power to influence the outcome of
    elections. But then again, PDP has been governing Bayelsa since 1999, hence it is not amiss to think,
    in structure and strength, “PDP is in Bayelsa, what APC is in Lagos”. Moreover, the judicial
    invalidation of APC’s candidacy before the election naturally made winning an unattainable height,
    but the party pulled off a surprise.
    INEC declared the Kogi West senatorial poll inconclusive with Smart Adeyemi (APC) leading Dino
    Melaye (PDP) with over 20,000 votes. As earlier discussed, the Kogi senatorial and governorship poll
    is a daylight robbery and fiery of public sovereignty. The pundit strongly stands by his prediction
    analysis and assertion that Melaye (PDP) would defeat Adeyemi (APC) in a free, fair and credible
    The pundit foretold Bello’s emergence as governor-elect in Kogi state based on his disposition to
    violence and electoral fraud. In the prediction piece, the pundit explicitly stated that “In a free, fair and
    credible contest, PDP’s Musa Wada would defeat APC’s Yahaya Bello. But the election is not going
    to be free; not going to be fair; and not going to be credible. Thugs would disperse voters and smash
    ballot boxes in Wada’s stronghold. The security agencies won’t arrest disruptors, and would be grossly
    partisan.” The lines came to pass exactly as foretold.
    Nigerians never assumed Bello could bizarrely unleash violence on those he aspired to govern. The
    poor performing governor ingeniously took violence from the realm of creating inconclusive elections
    to straight win. His conduct ratifies the pundit’s argument that “he’s not deserving of governorship or
    any other position.” Bello’s insatiable thirst for power made him throw caution to the wind. He
    eventually got the power, but earned negative fame. The 44 year old ruined his presidential prospect
    and wrote his name in the wrong page of history. Blessed is the one who defines Nigerian election as a
    process where thugs decide, police support, INEC declares, and the court affirm.
    *Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via

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