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Kogi: Any commitment to sustainable democracy?

The worst aspect of the recent gubernatorial election in Kogi State is not that a non-performing governor was re-elected. At the end of the day,…

The worst aspect of the recent gubernatorial election in Kogi State is not that a non-performing governor was re-elected. At the end of the day, another four years of maladministration will pass quickly.  What is disastrous for the nation is the ready acceptance of the result by leaders of a political party which claims to be  committed to entrenching high standards in governance.

The top echelon of the ruling APC congratulated their candidate, the governor–elect, for winning a “good race” even though the race was in incontrovertibly characterised by disenfranchisement of voters through ballot box snatching, maiming, physical assault and killings. Admonitions that those who feel disenfranchised should “go to court” are really neither here nor there.

Nigerians have long since lost any faith in the courts dispensing justice, let alone doing it in a timely fashion. The Kogi vote provided irrefutable evidence that Nigerian elections are still far from being free and fair, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) appears not to be overly concerned. Ahead of the polls several pre-election assessments warned of the likelihood of violence, voter intimidation, financial inducements and logistical challenges, yet all INEC’s purported “expertise” and the presence of over 30,000 policemen deployed to the State could do nothing to prevent it.

It really came as no surprise that in spite of all the negative reports and assessments INEC went ahead to declare a result. The electoral umpire continues to find creative ways of defending wrongdoing. With more governorship elections due next year mayhem should be expected because the moral of the story from Kogi is that killing, ballot box snatching financial inducements and terrorizing voters are acceptable methods of winning elections in Nigeria. INEC’s habitual logistical failures are legendary and it’s high time their top echelons stop making excuses and blaming others.

They must swallow their pride and accept that they really don’t know what they are doing. A country that regularly conducts inordinately expensive elections which are always marred by violence, malpractice and disputed results is symptomatic no rule of law and an incompetent electoral body which is incapable of coneptualizing a better and less expensive voting system. As for the declared winner in Kogi, the truth is that not many people were impressed with his performance in his first term because he failed to pay salaries as and at when due, and failed to make any noticeable impact in tackling the multiple challenges facing the State.

Even Kaduna State Governor Malam Nasir El-Rufai the Chairman of the APC Campaign Governorship Election Council for Kogi had to publicly beg voters to forgive his failure to meet their expectations. From the onset it was speculated that this best hope for re-election was if federal might was deployed to help in the process, and violence was rampant. Both took place! Unsurprisingly the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) whose polling agent refused to append his signature to the final result sheet rejected the result alleging “widespread irregularities and violence”.

Election Observers for the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) claimed that widespread use of financial inducements subverted the credibility of the electoral process. They alleged that some INEC officials were bribed and that the distribution of gift items such as rice and materials took place. There is enough video evidence to confirm that the elections were marred by violence, killings, intimidation of voters, and destruction of ballot papers. Political thugs accompanied by policemen shooting sporadically to terrorize potential voters were filmed snatching ballot boxes.

Police authorities claim that those filmed were “fake” policemen, unfortunately that’s an explanation which gives  cause for more concern rather than less. Although a minimum of ten people were reported to have been killed as a result of the election, there is very little likelihood that their deaths will be investigated properly and the guilty parties brought to book. The case of the Kano REC in 2015 is still fresh on the mind. Even after voting was over, PDP Woman Leader Mrs. Saloome Acheju Abuh, was burnt to death in her home.

As has now become the norm in elections, a serving National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member also lost his life. It’s disappointing to say the least that neither those in the Villa, nor the APC National Chairman, nor indeed Governor Bello has deemed it fit to condemn the killings let alone console the relatives of the dead. Impartial election observers have concluded that the Kogi election calls for serious concerns because it confirms that in Nigeria holding on to power by any means appears to be far more important than setting standards for good governance. The recurrence of past lapses with elections makes it abundantly clear that INEC, Politicians, and the Police haven’t learnt the lessons from previous  fiascos and the nation is regressing democratically rather than progressing.

Nigeria dreams of one day becoming a successful democratic nation. Just having a dream cannot guarantee success. To become a successful democracy requires commitment to election security management, equal opportunity for participation and the declaration of correct results. To be frank there appears to be little evidence of such commitment.

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