Nigeria’s Bloody Election Process, What You Should Know

Since Nigeria started experimenting with democratic governance, the legitimacy and integrity of Election Management Bodies have always been called into question.

However, no State institution, typifies the rot that Nigeria has become in the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), say for the Nigerian Police Force (NPF).

The INEC was hurriedly conjured by the departing military in 1998 to quickly conduct elections that would usher in the Fourth Republic. Whether the Junta had their preference of outcomes for the elections which the INEC was expected to officiate remains unproven.

The dissatisfaction with the successive leadership of INEC and elections conducted by them led to the overwhelming clamour for a reform of the electoral process.

It was in attempting to provide some form of credibility to the INEC that former President Goodluck Jonathan appointed Professor Attahiru Jega, a man renowned for his integrity, as the INEC Chairman in June 2010.

Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the incumbent INEC Chairman, in a sharp departure from his predecessor, who rather than adopt a reformist approach in tackling the integrity deficits and severe dysfunction of the electoral body and system, Jega chose to whitewash or mask the defects by cloacking the stench in the INEC.

In the conduct of elections, Jega adopted the same principle that led to his appointment, he brought his professor colleagues from the various universities in Nigeria, many of them serving Vice Chancellors.

Academics, especially of the professorial class are mostly considered to be politically aloof and bring some integrity along with them. He also dragged the National Youth Service Corp Scheme into the process by using them as ad-hoc staff.

All these moves merely peppered over the enormous cracks in the system, but given Jega’s integrity credit, he cashed-in efficiently and got Nigerians to trust the system meanwhile, his successor adopted a reformist approach to the electoral process but this has put him at daggers drawn with the establishment and entrenched interests in the polity.

It is important to recall that following the string of APC losses of elections conducted by the INEC under Mahmood Yakubu, the APC’s National Chairman openly accused him of being a mole of the PDP and an enemy of the ruling party.

To be fair to INEC’s thousands of staff, there are indeed a quiet majority who are honest, transparent, hard-working and genuinely want the system to work.

However, the active minority who collude with politicians to perpetrate electoral fraud are so entrenched that it would take more than just prosecutions to rid the Commission of rotten eggs in the system.

The ease with which political actors compromise INEC officials suggests that there must be a surgical, methodical and meticulous reorganization of the agency to position it for efficiency.

The rapid collection of PVCs has also reduced the number of outstanding PVCs from the embarrassing twelve million that it stood at shortly after the 2015 elections. The impressive collection of PVC belies the fact that there is troubling and deep-seethed apathy among voters in participating in the electoral process.

This indifference played out in 2015 where only about 25 million voted in the presidential elections.

The resurgence of Boko Haram attacks in the North East, murderous internecine clashes in Adamawa and Taraba and the North Central states of Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa, a threatening Niger Delta Avengers, a rampaging cult/gang related deadly violence in Rivers, Lagos and Bayelsa and an underground but potentially lethal IPOB all had the capacity of inciting political violence were all pointers which the various security apparatus should have nipped in the bud but as we all know, our reactive and not proactive.

When the elections finally came on the 23rd of February 2019, it was marred by heavy gunfire and alleged explosions in the north-east, killings in the south, vote buying across the country and reports of technological failures.

Four people were shot dead in southern Rivers state, according to the Nigerian press. Hundreds of people fled Geidam in north-eastern Yobe state after a reported attack by Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

In the South-Western part of Nigeria, people woke early and defiled the weather to vote for their candidates of choice.

Voters reported that the two leading political party agents had sought out voters at polling stations and offered financial inducements, pockets of violence were recorded in Okota where ballot boxes and papers were also burnt to ashes, Oshodi and Isolo areas of Lagos State, so also in Oyo state where two people were allegedly killed, election processes were also disrupted in Osun state.

The Police spokesperson in Kogi, William Aya, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, said in Lokoja that a police inspector, Mohammed Hammani, was killed on Friday in Okene while in the company of an aide to the state governor.

He said two others lost their lives on Saturday during the elections. The police spokesperson said the deaths were recorded in Ayingba, Dekina Local Government and Odolu, Igalamela Local Government all in Kogi East Senatorial district. In total, an estimated 15 persons lost their lives.

The political violence that erupted in this election progressively had high ethnic tones as there were ethnic insurgencies and bears semblance to the political violence between June and August 2006, where three gubernatorial candidates were assassinated.

The run-up to the April 2007 elections was violent, as campaigning in many areas was punctuated with political killings, bombings and armed clashes between supporters of rival political parties.

The violence formed part of a broader pattern of violence and abuses that is inherent in Nigeria’s still largely unacceptable political system.

 – By Abimboye Femi (Political Analyst)

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