Wednesday, November 26, 2014

International Crisis Group’s red flag on 2015 elections

“Nigeria’s presidential, parliamentary and state governorship and assembly elections, scheduled for February 2015, will be more contentious than usual. Tensions within and between the two major political parties, competing claims to the presidency between northern and Niger Delta politicians and along religious lines, the grim radical Islamist Boko Haram insurgency and increasing communal violence in several northern states, along with inadequate preparations by the electoral commission and apparent bias by security agencies, suggest the country is heading towards a very volatile and vicious electoral contest”
–International Crisis Group (November 21, 2014)
Many have asked me why I have not joined any political party or contested any elective positions in Nigeria. My simple response to such persons has been that I do not have what it takes to favourably compete in Nigerian politics. In terms of age, I am qualified to contest even for the presidential seat of this country. Academically, I am over -qualified as I am a Master’s degree holder (in the science of politics) when the minimum I need is a secondary school attendance certificate. I do not even need to have passed the external examination according to Section 65(2) (a) of the Nigerian Constitution. In terms of experience, I have acquired sufficient knowledge as a worker in the development sector to be able to govern this country. Indeed, on many counts except two, I am eminently qualified. What are the two exceptions? I am not wealthy and I am not violent. Nigeria’s brand of politics is not for a gentleman or an egghead like me but for the rich and ferocious.
In the course of my official assignments, I have been privileged to observe elections locally and internationally. Globally, I have been a short-term international accredited election observer in Ghana, the United States of America and Egypt. In none of these countries have I experienced the kind of electoral warfare and monetised politics as being on display in Nigeria. I have been an accredited observer during general elections in Nigeria since 1999 and have also researched on many thematic areas in the electoral process. Not only that, I have been involved in training of some actors and stakeholders in the electoral process from election officials to accredited observers, media practitioners, and political party executives. These experiences have clearly shown that Nigerian politicians are a rare breed. It is in this clime that the Machiavellian principle of “the end justifies the means” finds perfect expression.
Our politicians are mostly ruthless and unscrupulous. They bate no eyelid before committing any manner of crime, be it killing, maiming, rigging, bribing, lying or subverting democratic ethos in as much as it will guarantee their quest for power. I once attended a conference where a former member of the House of Representatives openly declared that what many of them do is to send their immediate families abroad about three months to Election Day. As they too go on campaign, they have on them valid visas to many foreign countries with a minimum of 2,000 pound on them. So, should anything go awry, they will head for the nearest international airport to exit the country. These are the same politicians who will arm other people’s children to go kill and maim their political opponents, snatch ballot boxes and perpetrate diverse electoral heists and malfeasance.
The Independent National Electoral Commission on November 16 officially pronounced commencement of campaigns for the presidential and National Assembly elections in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended. Just imagine how the political temperature of Nigeria has soared in that one week of open campaigns. Political thugs went on the rampage in Ibadan between last Friday and Sunday killing at least three persons including a police inspector. Unknown arsonists torched the Peoples Democratic Party’s office in Cross River State. Officials of the Department of State Service last Saturday stormed the APC Data Centre in Lagos over allegation of cloning Permanent Voter Cards. Seven members of the Ekiti State House of Assembly sat and purportedly “impeached” the authentic Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House even when they blatantly knew that their action was an infraction on the law, not having the number to form a quorum to sit nor the required two-third majority to impeach the Speaker. The Ekiti scenario is reminiscent of what happened last year in Rivers State where five out of 32 members of the state House of Assembly purportedly impeached the Speaker.
The same thing happened at the Nigerian Governors’ Forum where a faction with 16 members claimed victory in a contest involving 35 members. Last Thursday, a show of shame was reenacted when police blockade against House of Representatives members including the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, made some of the lawmakers to jump over the gate. The action indeed is barbaric and condemnable. However, as condemnable as the dishonourable action of the lawmakers is, an adage says if you must blame the hawk for wickedness, first blame the mother hen for exposing her children to danger. If there was no biased police cordon, will the lawmakers have had to scale the gate? Some commentators said they should have left when police denied them access. Obviously, those who want Tambuwal impeached, if he was not going to resign having defected from the PDP to the APC, are naive. It is all politics, crude politics!
It is not only me that is worried stiff about the gloomy, ominous vista surrounding the next general elections in 2015. Some foreign bodies too are concerned. One of them is the International Crisis Group that issued a statement on Friday, November 21, 2014 titled, “Nigeria’s Dangerous 2015 Elections: Limiting the Violence.” The ICG, in the report, expertly articulated all the possible triggers of violence before, during and after the 2015 polls and made far-reaching recommendations on how to avert the doomsday.
The Group submitted that, “With only three months before elections, the government cannot engage in long-term structural efforts to improve the quality of the vote, but it can and must be encouraged to urgently take several steps to limit the risk of widespread violence. These include increasing efforts to contain the Boko Haram insurgency, paying special attention to the police to improve the security environment, reinforcing the capacities of INEC to restore confidence in the electoral process, and along with all politicians, avoid playing the religious card and reducing tensions within and between the parties. The government – President Goodluck Jonathan, the federal legislature, INEC and security agencies-must bear the greatest responsibility for implementing these measures, but other national and political figures, including civil society, as well as international partners must also rally to stop the slide.” Come to think of it, there is nothing the ICG said in its statement that our own indigenous CLEEN Foundation has not been saying in its quarterly, now monthly, security threat assessments. Indeed, there’s none so deaf as those who will not hear!
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