Just the first time the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is conducting a general election in Nigeria’s twenty years journey to democratic governance, and the whole country is up in flames, thrown into confusion, and near anarchy.
This year’s general elections appears to have been the worst in recent history – militarization of the electoral process, thuggery of the highest order, killings, manipulation of election results, wrong addition of figures, inconclusive elections, and all sorts of election infractions. As someone had put it, it is a coup in disguise.
It all started with the cancellation of the election six hours to the day it was to be held, February 16, 2019, in the middle of the night, when everybody was asleep. Many people who travelled from both far and wide were astonished when they woke up in the morning to be told that the election was no longer holding, that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had postponed it to the following week.
It was a most callous and inhuman decision, as INEC did not consider the collosal harm it had inflicted on the psyche and financial resources of the people who already had prepared themselves to cast their votes, only to be told, at the last hour, that the exercise had been shifted. I wonder why nobody had not yet gone to court to sue the commission for damages.
Then came the day of the rescheduled election. It was characterized by all sorts of malpractices – the use of the military, not only to scare away potential voters, but also to rig the election, disenfranchisement of voters through selective use of card readers, voting by underaged children, thuggery and snatching of ballot boxes, burning of ballot papers, over voting, deliberate voiding of ballot papers as well as inflation of figures at various collation centres, etc.
In the end, what was announced as outcomes of the election did not have any semblance with what actually had happened in the polling booths. And everybody was dismayed, disappointed and disenchanted.
Worst still, on the day of that first election, no fewer than 39 persons were counted dead, killed either by soldiers or by policemen on election duties. Many people were worried and began to ask, when has election exercise become a war front? Why were soldiers involved in civil duties like elections, to open fire on people coming to exercise their franchise?
This made many of them began to lose interest in the entire process, to consider not worthwhile, wasting their time and risking their lives going out to vote in elections. That was why there was general apathy in the governorship and State House of Assembly elections held last Saturday.
They therefore decided to stay put in their houses, and refused to come out to vote. Why would they bother themselves going out to vote when the outcome of the election had already been determined?, they had asked.
In spite of that, INEC could still not manage the very few people that came out on that day to vote. In Rivers State, the entire process was hijacked by men in military uniform, who not only had prevented eligible voters from casting their votes, but had also prevented electoral officers from performing their duties. It was a very horrible and ugly experience.
In many other states, the story was the same – militarization, thuggery, selective use of card readers, underage voting, manipulation of figures at collation centres, etc. In the end, the election was declared inconclusive in as many as six states.
Everybody was demoralized. They cried foul, that their will had been subverted, using the military. There was general discontentment and loss faith in the ballot box. Why is the electoral process being bastardized?Why is the ruling APC destroying democracy in Nigeria? After the 2015 exercise, we thought we should have been making progress, rather than retrogressing. What a shame.