Who plans to rig elections in 2015? By Ayisha Osori
“The third part of the answer lies with our electoral past. No election since the pre independence elections has been untarnished by violence. However, limiting the period under review to 1999 – 2011, each successive election has seen increased rigging and amplified desperation for political domination of Nigerians.”
Who is planning to rig elections in 2015 and why? This is the question which needs to be asked in the wake of the uproar accompanying General Muhammadu Buhari’s now (in)famous quote in Hausa about how both the bully and the bullied will be bloodied in battle if elections are rigged (again) in 2015.
We have part of our answer from Sir Edwin Clark who last week declared on behalf of his godson/protégée, President Goodluck Jonathan, their intention to run for the presidency in 2015. No President in Nigeria – ever – has been as abused and reviled as this President and no administration so dogged with consistent escalating allegations of corruption and mismanagement. Granted, this perception could be heightened by the era of social media and instant communication, but it still remains a factor to be considered in determining the will of the people.
The other part of the answer comes from the absolutely wretched state of affairs in every crevice of governance and every thread of social fabric and the fact that by 2015 we would have been under the yoke of a PDP lead government for sixteen years. Apart from what we all know, see and hear on a daily basis about life in Nigeria, on the Human Development Index, Nigeria is currently ranked 156 out of 169 countries (down ten places since 2009). And the Gini index which calculates inequality (a key factor in internal conflict) suggests that inequality rose from 0.43 in 1999 to 0.49 in 2004 placing Nigeria among the 30 most unequal countries in the world.
As Asiwaju Tinubu succinctly puts it: “are we (Nigerians) sadists?”
In other words, what warped relationship do we have with pain and underdevelopment that would drive us to continue voting for the same nonperforming, gross mismanaging government? For instance, the North, Nigeria’s poster child for underdevelopment, has the worst human development indices in the country comparable with war-ravaged countries
such as Sudan and Somalia. To cap it, after years of de-industrialization, some of the few remaining commercial nerves – Maiduguri and Kano have become war zones where commerce and industry have been severely mutilated and the social environment coloured with fear, hopelessness, and extra judicial killings, is breeding future generations of militia. Unless governance changes magically and drastically in the next 30 months, then logically, emotionally or intuitively it should be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a PDP government to be reelected in any of the 15 states currently controlled by PDP. Likewise, the traditionally ANPP States (Yobe, Zamfara and Borno) should reject ANPP (and by association & experience, PDP) in 2015.
The third part of the answer lies with our electoral past. No election since the pre independence elections has been untarnished by violence. However, limiting the period under review to 1999 – 2011, each successive election has seen increased rigging and amplified desperation for political domination of Nigerians.
After the 2007 elections, international observer groups concurred that the elections did not meet minimum international standards for democratic elections and was one of the worst witnessed in Nigeria and around the world. Madeline Albright, who observed the election for the National Democratic Institute said ‘in a number of places and in a number of ways, the election process failed the Nigerian people’. But this merely echoed what election observation missions said about Nigerian elections in 2003 and 1999, and as each election got progressively worse, so did the violence.
Then came 2011 where over a trillion naira later ($6.2 billion) and after one of the most transparently bigoted campaigns, the tag for our election became ‘credible’ (but not free and fair). Some insist that the last elections reflect the will of the people but the almost spontaneous violence which erupted in the north and which initially targeted those perceived to be supporters of PDP e.g., the Emirs of Kano and Zaria and the houses of the Vice President, Namadi Sambo, indicate that there is growing frustration and desperation amongst voters. If we take a few random examples, in Enugu State approximately 500,000 citizens voted during the gubernatorial and legislative elections but for the Presidential elections this number doubled to over a million votes. Likewise, Bayelsa and Rivers are on record for having successfully dealt with the issue of voter apathy with close to 98% voter turn out during the presidential elections – an achievement worthy of an award in the Guinness Book of Record (other contenders are usually 20 points behind with 76%).
Unfortunately, because the 2011 elections have been white washed, no one is seriously advocating for electoral reform in preparation for 2015. We can accept that the 2011 elections were an improvement on 2007 which was the peak of successively rigged elections but there is still a long way to go and improving the process is where everyone should be focused on now. A few simple changes could improve the transparency of our elections in 2015 and make it harder to rig and if there is any sincerity about protecting the lives of Nigerians –making peaceful change possible.
The most critical thing is to link accreditation and voting electronically. Those 10 fingerprints Prof. Jega obtained from registered voters in 2011 should be let out of captivity and put to good use. If 5 people come out to vote, then 5 ballot papers should be printed and only 5 votes should be counted, backed by a device which will not accept any of the fingerprints of a registered individual more than once within a particular period. It is then up to parties to mobilise citizens, for the police to protect our access to the polling booths and for international observers to blow the whistle on voter obstruction or intimidation.
Next, disaggregate polling booth results. Granted, announcing the results of all 120,000+ polling booths would be a nightmare, but how about using available technology to post the results on the INEC website so that we can verify how the voting went in each booth? That way there is a check on the numbers received from INEC and Nigerians can satisfy themselves that the usual monkey business with ballot papers has not happened far from the diligent crowds and in the dark recesses of collation centres.
The reason why all our elections are marred with violence is not because of statements such as those made by Buhari but because politicians in power do not want to be accountable to us in any way especially not on election day. There ways to forestall violence in 2015: it is to ensure that the elections are free and fair and for those in elected positions to use their time meeting the needs of Nigerians instead of fretting over threats to their plans to rig.
And there we have the last part of our answer: the people who do not want meaningful reform, who do not want to perform and who do not want to be voted out in 2015 are those whointend (to continue) to cheat and rob us of our votes.