Emma Okah canvasses electoral integrity during elections
Fears are rife that the 2019 election may be marred. If this happens, hold the security agencies and the electoral umpire responsible. The fears seem to be so real that the EU officials paid a visit to the Buhari Campaign Organisation to extract commitments on the elections. Campaign Director General Chibuike Amaechi made a promise of credible polls even when he knew he meant the opposite. Recently, a US Agency (USIP) has raised the red flag and warned of electoral violence in eight states of Rivers, Kano, Ekiti, Kaduna, Lagos, Plateau, Anambra and Adamawa. This is an indication of fears on the side of the international community, a recurring decimal that characterise Nigeria’s elections. Of all these, Rivers faces the worst threat because everything has been “put in place” to write results and bring down Gov Nyesom Wike at all cost.
When some of us raise alarm over threats to Nigeria’s democracy, it is dismissed with a wave of the hand as the opposition crying wolf. They even say it was the way the opposition party did it when they were in power. This means to them that bad is good if it is your turn. By every iota of logic, doing bad because you think somebody did it first is failed leadership. Yet, many of those in the ruling party today were also leaders in the party in power during that period.
Nigeria’s democracy seems to be exactly at that point. The All Progressives Congress (APC) seems to be obsessed with vengeance over real or imagined harm done to them even when many of them were on the other side in the past. The victim of the harm is Nigeria’s democracy and the progress that ought to launch Nigeria to leadership position in Africa. The truth is that the security agents and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) seem to do more harm to democracy than whatever they said the PDP did, but should this be so? An APC leader in Rivers State recently boasted that whatever method the PDP used in capturing power in Rivers State is what they (APC) would now do. Assuming the Peoples Democratic Party did bad and you condemned it and asked Nigerians to allow you do better, why resort to the same thing you said was evil?
Some of us have always said that democracy is like a vehicle. If the driver is not committed enough, the journey would end in peril. Right now, every part of Africa is striving to move to another level, no more playing at the level of primitive political violence and open brutality. Small African countries have gone beyond thinking of how to run election. Even in Ghana, people go to work like in America, while voting is going on.
It does not matter which party is in power at the centre, the truth is, until we operate by electoral integrity across board, there would never be an end to misrule. Office holders must fear the power of the people to vote them out, not federal might. This is because as the office-holder ascends the throne, what comes immediately to his/her mind is the people. Nigeria must resolve this issue of election. At the moment, it seems to be about INEC and partisanship, doing exactly the opposite of what they swore to do, and security agencies marching as collaborators to wrest power from any opponent of the party in power. See how they crushed Osun to take power even when it was glaring the APC failed; see how they humiliated a sitting governor in Ekiti just to take power. The federal government merely sits and watches while these go on.
Most persons feel bad that everything now seems to be about election. After every election, the gladiators start immediately to jostle for the next one and increase the volume of evil needed to overcome. In Rivers, we saw printing of result sheets and use of security agencies and INEC to defeat the will of the people. Now, handkerchiefs and blue caps have become symbols for thugs and security agencies to know who to eliminate or stop on voting day as in Osun. This raises the question of whether truly Nigerians want to build a nation. To build a true nation, some institutions do not take instructions from the presidency but from the Constitution: police, armed forces, central bank, the attorney-general, electoral body, etc.
What we have is that right in our eyes people are being disenfranchised and maltreated, as we saw in the Osun State election. If it happened in Rivers State, they would say Gov Wike is always raising alarm or shouting. Many now fear that what may happen in 2019 would be mere journey to Kigali. Evil is now being encouraged and rewarded. People would want to resist this in 2019.
Nigerians must continue to cry out until President Muhammadu Buhari gets to know these things and act because we believe he may not know all of these evils. This is because, no matter what politics does to a man, Buhari has a pedigree. His aides and the cabal around him seem to be doing everything to shield him from full awareness of what is happening. He said so when he visited Kaduna and confessed he did not know that so many people were killed. In the Benue crisis, he asked the IGP to relocate to Benue State but the man relocated to Lafia, the headquarters of the state seen to be hostile to Benue. This triggered the alarm and suspicion on the Benue side. If you do not fix your country, nobody will. The international community cannot do it for us.
Buhari was once a military head of state and he was many young people’s idol. I adored him and Tunde Idiagbon, his deputy. But I am worried by the turn of events. Mr President, God has blessed you with another opportunity to save Nigeria. God has blessed only two of you; you and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in this category. Mr President, this thing happening now is not your previous trade mark, or your brand identity but your silence is changing your colour as I knew you. Are you happy that these things are happening? The same people that voted for you yesterday are crying today.
Mr President, many off-season elections took place under Goodluck Jonathan such as in Ekiti, Anambra, Ondo, Osun, and Edo. Out of these, PDP won only one. Yet, this was in the presence of heads of security agencies and service chiefs appointed by that president. Mr President, compare with what is happening today. Where are we heading to today, Mr President? Truth is, there is great threat to civilian rule. Many are scared.
Mr President, know that not all those enemies they paint and show you truly hate you. Gov. Wike in particular does not hate you. When you returned from medical sojourn, he made sure he came to receive you at the airport. This sent signals that such important leaders in the opposition did not wish you death, and that there is a line between politics and humanity. This is no small message. Mr President, note this; Gov Wike supports federal agencies and causes in his state more than any governor in any other state, including APC ones. Rivers people will respond to love if you show one. The FGN and Rivers need each other because heavy economic installations are in the state. Despite this, you do not plant projects in Rivers State and promised ones are not executed; the FGN does not support the state in critical moments. Many view these as signs of hatred of Rivers people. We cried during reruns but the federal government did not intervene.
You can still turn round to save Nigeria’s democracy if you insist. Since you left governance as military president, alarming decay crept back in public life and it remained so to this day. When you came to power under the military, foreign reserves increased, the naira appreciated overnight, War Against Indiscipline (WAI) came and people started behaving well. Senior military officers began to join queues in the banks, etc. Some of us saw Gen Domkat Bali in a bank queuing like any other person. That was how much you influenced most of us. Mr President, don’t let this thing that is about to happen to happen. There is something you can do and enthrone electoral integrity and save the nation from calamity.
Okah is Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications