Nigeria’s elections as point and kill

By a little after 3 am, in the wee hours of today, I was awoken by a chat informing me of the possibility that the election may not be taking place in seven Local Government Areas of Imo state.

The senior director at the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who brought this sad tale, also tasked me to find out why this was so.

The director expressed shock, consternation and disappointment that the insecurity in the South-east of Nigeria has been allowed to degenerate and has become a hydraheaded monster.

The person expressing this worry is not even Igbo speaking but he was genuinely concerned about what has gone on for two years now in the Igbo heartlands.

Although I admitted from the word go that there was no justifiable reason why elections should not take place in 21 local government councils of Imo state on Saturday February 25, 2023 being the Presidential and National Assembly polls and on March 11, 2023 for the givernorship and House of Assembly polls.

This is so because for the population in a chunk of the entire local councils in Imo state to be denied their constitutionally guaranteed civil and political rights to vote means that the country’s military and the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, have surrendered to the whims and caprices of agents of instability and destabilisation.

It was said before that government was the wielder of the most overwhelming force of controlled violence. However to see the unfortunate degeneration of Nigeria into a huge ungovernable spaces, in which armer terrorists are permitted willfully by the central government to operate and kill  at will, represents the most significant act of treachery tolerated, incubated and waged by members of the powers that be.

The fact is that for a nation to actually and practically beat her chest and say that it has sovereign authority over a geo-political entity, it must do so with certainty when the armed forces under the direction of an effective political leader can guarantee territorial control.

The Armed Forces of Nigeria and President Muhammadu Buhari therefore should be made to give account should this unfortunate scenario happen and the electoral umpire actually fails to conduct election in seven local Government Area of Imo state.

Be that as it may, it is so obvious that the military and police have actually failed to be on top of the situation of widespread insecurity and killings that have escalated in the South-east of Nigeria in the last two years when President Buhari ignited this climate of unease and insurgency by picking and detaining the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.

Besides, the tempo of the violent killings and attacks of government and private assets,  increased as soon as there was a landmark negative development regarding the prolonged detention of the IPOB leader and thousands of his supporters by the military, police and the Department of State Services (DSS).

With the brazen disregard of the judgement of Court of Appeal, Abuja, freeing Mazi Nnamdi Kanu after all the charges of terrorism slammed on him by the federal government the rate of targeted execution of individuals in the South-east by fringe groups purporting to be advocating secession from Nigeria, escalated.

So, it is fair to state here without any shadow of doubts that President Buhari is solely responsible for the violence in the South-east by his actions and inactions.

I want to say right away that there is no justification for the spate of killings. No amount of injustice by President Buhari should justify the kind of destruction and killings that some armed non-state actors and even state actors have unleashed on the South-east thus making politics a point and kill adventure.

Aside from the universal fact that politics is expensive, indeed very costly, what is now very burdensome is the fact that politicians, who are desperate for the spoils and privileges of office in Nigeria’s kind of parasitic politics, have now started paying killers to assassinate any strong rival.

The resurgence of the Labour Party all over Nigeria once Peter Obi enlisted as its presidential candidate practically meant that the credible candidates in that party, especially in the South-east, were on the line of fire.

Many candidates of the Labour Party have paid the supreme price only for aspiring to be elected in different capacities within their states or to gain seats in the National Assembly in Abuja, which is obviously the most juicy legislature in the whole wide World.

Those in the position of political authority, perceive that because Peter Obi is credible and loved by millions of Nigerians, it therefore follows that anyone aspiring for political offices under that party’s platform poses a threat to the ruling party especially in the South-east. This is a fallacy, because it doesn’t follow that once Peter Obi is credible then everyone running for offices in Labour Party is credible.

One issue that motivated the competitive type of politics is that politicians in Nigeria see their election as opportunities to rob the country of her resources and amass illicit wealth. For instance, the law makers at the National Assembly of Nigeria are the highest paid anywhere in the world including even in the developed western societies like Britain and the USA.

These attacks on labour party aspirants is escalating because Obi is seen as charismatic and about the less of all the evils running for the top most political office in Nigeria.

Politics in Nigeria has always been winners take all, but there is now a new dimension making it a point and kill adventure.

The involvement of money in politics is also the main motivation for these attacks.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, had said that over N500 billion old naira notes stashed by politicians yet to return to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Bawa stated this when he appeared on Channels TV programme, Politics Today.

The EFCC chairman noted that the commission had a lot of information on some of the means politicians were devising to buy votes during elections.

He said, “The only option politicians have now is to buy votes, as BVAS will do a lot of wonders. They want to maximize the numbers they have. That is the intelligence we have and I am happy that all the security agencies are working to make sure the election is successful.

“Some people stashed money for the purpose of the election. Even as of today we still have over N500 billion old naira notes that are yet to be returned to the CBN. And the CBN has printed N500 billion new naira notes which is in circulation.

“We have our own way of getting such Intel and God willing we are going to use it maximally this time around.”

So, politics in Nigeria being seen by politicians as money making gambit has made those seeking for political offices and those holding public offices as an endangered species.

It is obvioysly late to expect that President Muhammadu Buhari will change his lackadaisical attitudes to the spate if insecurity.  The best bet is to await the result of the election to see if the will of the people won’t be subverted.

If the president elected by the majority of the voters emerge on Saturday after the polls, it will be the first major assignment of the winner to do something fast about the state of insecurity as soon as he is sworn in on May 29.

 Emmanuel Onwubiko is National Coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association (HURWA) and writes from Abuja.

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