By Tochu Okorie
Nigeria may have completely slumped back into the Hobbesian state of nature where life is brutish, short and reflects the Darwinian theory in which only the most brutal, the most ruthless survives. A testimony to this is the condonation of lawlessness as valid part of our election process.
We are at that state where cold-blooded murder could be committed even in front of the camera and there is no consequence as long as there is enough stash of dollars with which to legitimize the process in the courts. For Mahmud’s INEC, the end justifies the means. The process is credible if INEC and the courts say it is notwithstanding how many Nigerians would have been brutally killed in the process. And to get INEC on his side, the average politician obviously knows what to do.
What transpired in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa Sates on Saturday November 11, 2023 is best described as warfare, not elections.
These states were turned into a theatre of war that probably made Gaza look like a child’s play in dimension. There had reportedly been brazen use of sophisticated firearms in what would seem like a free-for-all.
In Bayelsa, a team of security operatives were said not have been allowed to access Nembe while Southern Ijaw witnessed wild exchanges of gunfire.
Gunmen took over the Orlu area of Imo. Jones Onyereri, running mate to the PDP Guber candidate was reportedly shot by, guess who, The police. He is said to be in critical condition at the moment. A fleeing ballot box snatcher was short dead allegedly by security operatives in Owerri. This was just as other locations were suffocated with gunshot sounds. Same is true of Kogi where vote buyers were caught with millions of Naira just as armed robbers helped themselves to some of that. Security agencies were generally reduced to mere political thugs working for, usually, the incumbent, according to unverified reports.
Here is the point. The general elections earlier this year and the litigation processes that followed were probably a rude eye opener to otherwise urbane politicians who probably believed the Electoral Act 2022 and INEC’s guidelines meant that the dark days of wanton killings and ballot snatching during elections were over. What rude awakening they must have encountered as the process appeared only to have served to legitimize the paradigm, ‘if you don’t like it, go to court’, metaphorically translating to ‘might is right’.
But if the general elections and especially the verdicts from the courts were not enough to jolt us all, Saturday’s elections in the three states of Imo, Bayelsa and Kogi must have taught a lesson or reinforced one already learnt. That lesson is, get INEC to announce you as the winner. However you achieve that could be anyone’s cup of tea. Then you can boldly and proudly tell the rest to go to court, or indeed, go to hell. Pick up your Certificate of Return, get sworn in to office, empty state treasury in bribes to have the courts brazenly and impudently declare that you did nothing wrong. Cases closed, life goes on, the country continues to get raped with all viciousness just as the economy haemorrhages endlessly.
That is the unfortunate lesson Nigerians learn with every passing election cycle. We thought the perfidious outing of 2015 was our lowest and that it couldn’t get worse. But Yakubu has all but canonized Jega. Jega now has the impudence to move around pontificating about free and fair elections attempting to turn himself into a statesman of sorts, a way of effectively removing the cloak of villainy that he should wear instead.
The mood of the nation is that of belligerence. People have now learnt that crime has no consequence in Nigeria except you are merely a petty thief or phone snatcher who gets burnt alive on the street. So, people’s hearts are hardened to do crime. They learn with every election season that the end, in this case, election victory, justifies the means, the criminal approach to getting it.
Make no mistake about it. I am neither Obidient nor Batified, not even Atikulated even as a PDP partisan. Nigeria is the goose that lays the eggs, which, though anything but golden, still puts omelette on our breakfast tables. To stand idly by on account of partisanship and watch as Nigeria descends into abyss-like hopelessness is an unforgiveable disservice to my children and their generation.
That said, one wonders if there still exists any moral ground for this government to assail any form of electoral reform.
No one has heard from Nigeria’s President on the need for electoral reform. The only thing we have heard is the usual refrain after every infamous court decision, ‘this is victory for democracy’. I can imagine that we are now afflicted and benumbed by the inextricable web of lies and self-effacing dishonesty by which the Nigeria enterprise has been run.
President Umar Yar’adua, God bless the soul of the righteous, was humble enough to publicly admit that the election that brought him to office was flawed. The courts had given him a clean bill of health, don’t forget. Yet, he embarked on perhaps the most audacious electoral reform we have seen. His efforts at reforming the electoral system was visibly honest, a virtue for which he will be missed forever.
Nevertheless, Nigeria has not recovered since the ignoble manipulations of 2015. Buhari had neither the courage nor the humility of Yar’adua. On flimsy excuses, he vetoed amendments after amendments to the Act designed to, at least on paper, move the system forward. Even when he allowed the inclusion of electronic transmission of results, he did not have the will to enforce it, hence the 2023 election charade.
No conscience is dead. The conscience only dies with the body. This is why I can still expect and indeed entreat the President to not completely ruin the future of our children by turning a blind eye to the current deplorable state of our electoral system. The president sure does have a conscience that is alive enough to tell him that the future without a serious intervention in our elections is bleak.
Electronic transmission of results is the singular cure to all the killings and wantonness that have characterized our elections. If the candidate knows that both accreditation and election results will be collated and transmitted at the polling centre in real time via the BVAS, the war at so called collation centres will be avoided. That is the imperative for electronic collation and transmission of results.
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