Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari has been declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), a body that is in charge of elections in Nigeria but not after what many have described as the worst election ever conducted in the history of the country especial since the return of democracy twenty years ago in Nigeria.
Muhammadu Buhari Atiku Abubakar
President Buhari of the All Progressive Congress was declared winner in the early hours of Wednesday 27th February, 2019 by the country’s electoral body after he pulled 15,191,847 votes to defeat his immediate rival and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar ,the presidential flag bearer of the People’s Democratic Party who pulled a total of 12,262,978 to come a distant second. The result was however rejected by opposition parties including the People’s Democratic Party on the ground that the election was marred by widespread rigging, electoral violence, hostage taking and unprecedented intimidation by the Nigerian Army and other security agencies.
Accordingly, our team gathered that the 2019 election sufficiently amounted to a crude departure from the gains of the 2015 election that saw incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party been defeated in an election both local and international observers described as free, fair, credible and generally accepted as bold step towards the process of deepening democracy in Nigeria particularly and Africa in general.
In our findings, both international and domestic observers who monitored the elections across the country including Nigerians who participated have expressed their disappointment in the process that produced President Buhari as the winner of the presidential election on the 27th of February, 2019. While many continue to cast aspersion on Professor Mamud Yakubu, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission for lowering the standard that was ably raised in Africa under the Leadership of his predecessor, Professor Attahiru Jega, others have directly taken a swipe on President Buhari who many felt after benefiting from one of Africa’s cleanest, highly elevated, independent and internationally accepted electoral process has unfortunately spearheaded the conduct of one of the nastiest election in Africa. With this, history has gladly assumed unpleasant positions with both the President and the INEC chair.
In the first instance, a lot of people believed the killings that were witnessed during the election is unwarranted and something that must be properly interrogated. While many believed that the killings is not unconnected with the matching order President Buhari gave to the Nigerian Military and other security agencies to deal “ruthlessly” with Nigerians cut undermining the process, an order most people saw as desperate, dictatorial, unpresidential, unconstitutional and have further interpreted to mean “Shoot at site any perceived opponent” leading to the gruesome murder of most innocent Nigerians, including INEC adhoc staff. At the last count, no less than 39 people were recorded to have lost their lives on the day of the election alone, many of which were killed by the military stray bullets across the country. According to the country’s Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu, a lot of arrest have been made in connection with the widespread killings, unfortunately, nobody had been held responsible. In August 26,2018 following the violence that greeted the aftermath of the presidential election in Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe to lead an inquiry into post-election violence when the army opened fire and six people were killed. On the contrary, a lot of people believe that perpetrators of these unwarranted killings in Nigeria instead of adequate sanction to serve as a deterrent, would be sufficiently compensated.
The Over militarization of the 2019 general election in Nigeria was unacceptable and a source of concern to both foreign and domestic observers. First and foremost, Nigerian Laws are very clear on the role of the military. All over the world, elections are seen as civil matters and therefore has little or nothing to do with the military whose role is to protect the territorial integrity of the country. In any case, the military in Nigeria is already overwhelmed with the Boko Haram insurgency where the Nigerian Army itself have suffered unaccounted number of casualties and unending sleepless nights. Other security threats confronting the Nigeria Military include; Banditry in the northern part of the country including President Buhari’s home state, Katsina State, Farmers/Herders killings that have claimed more than 6,000 people in the last three years according Amnesty International report. Nigeria’s farmer-herder conflicts claimed 2,075 lives in 2018 alone, representing 57% of the total deaths in the last three years.
According to Amnesty International, between January 2016 and October 2018, the fulani-herders conflicts claimed lives of 726 people in Benue state alone. Other states worst hit include Adamawa, Plateau and Zamfara.
In its new report, “Harvest of Death: Three Years of Bloody Clashes Between Farmers and Herders”, the International Human Rights organisation claimed that the escalation of the bloody clashes between pastoral farmers and herders in the country was fuelled by the government’s inability to investigate the matter and bring perpetrators to book.
After all these daunting challenges that stares the Nigeria military in the face, one will then ask what then is the interest of the highly respected military profession in a very simple civil affair.
Another grey concern in the just concluded Nigerian general election is the unpardonable rate of disenfranchisement. Most stakeholders in the election insist that was a calculated plan to whittle down the influence of electorates who are sympathetic to the opposition. In most places, according to observers, people were prevented from voting in collusion with the security agencies. Others were simply told their names were not in the voters register, even with valid voter’s cards and therefore cannot vote. These incidence were only witnessed in the strong base of the opposition People’s Democratic Party. Others maintained that a certain section of the country where the incumbent president is not popular were mistreated in a view to suppress votes coming from those areas and in some cases, with ballot papers set ablaze.
There is an impression that the election was deliberately programmed to ensure that a certain part of the country did not participate fully.
According to a participant at the election, out of the 10 million registered voters in the zone, only about 20 per cent were able to cast their votes, a situation he attributed largely to conspiracy.
Recall, shortly before the election, over 4,000 card readers got burnt in a particular state of the South Eastern Nigeria which is originally the opposition stronghold. According to him, “it became clear that something was wrong somewhere and the Independent National Electoral Commission could neither save the situation nor allow people to vote manually”.
“But in some other parts of the country, people were allowed to vote manually and it was accepted by the electoral body.
“How can you tell me that states like Yobe and Borno produced more voters than Anambra and Ebonyi states put together?
“The two states have been at war. I wonder how they got card readers that were working so well, despite the war situation in which they found themselves.”
Our team observed that, in the history of Nigeria elections, disenfranchisement has never been experience in this crude and barbaric manner.
There were also accusations of concocted figures order than what was announced in the collation centres. Most observers frowned at the widespread change of figures in favour of a particular candidate in connivance with the security agencies. A lot of figures emerged ahead of the final announcements with claims and counter claims. Of particular note is a certain figure which emerged on the eve of the election that later corresponded with the final results on Tuesday which made a lot of people doubt the authenticity of the INEC final result that was announced by the INEC.
Added to the above abnormally is the unprecedented cases of announcement of result at gun point. In a particular state in the south eastern part of the country, official of the Independent National Electoral Commission, confessed how a governor of a state coerced him into announcing result at gun point, which he has to do because he was afraid for his life as well as his family members. The same incident was also experienced in other parts of both the South and northern part of the country according to observers.
On the strength of the above, Global Advocacy for African Affairs is of the view that Nigeria which was on the spotlight of world democracies to watch has regrettably taken tens of steps backwards especially with the charade that was witnessed during the 2019 general election.
Elections are vital to democratic government. Elections conducted with integrity not only promote democratic values and human rights, but also help to improve governance, fight corruption, empower minority groups and deliver services to the poor. If the hallmark of the Nigerian government is to uphold integrity, it will be hypocritical in the superlative to accept the outcome of the 2019 election as the verdict of the people.
With the Nigerian experience in the full glare of the international community, the biggest challenge of the Buhari’s second term will be his unending struggle to prove his integrity to the world amidst other daunting self-created challenges of governance, including but not limited to uniting the country that is now dangerously divided along ethnic and religious lines.
Global Advocacy for African Affairs.