By Tonnie Iredia

For the general elections scheduled to hold Saturday, February 23 and March 09, 2019, Nigeria’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) expects no more than some 84 million voters. That is the total figure she claimed to have arrived at when the latest registration exercise ended.  She therefore assumes that when the total votes cast are counted, it would be unlikely that they would surpass that figure. And because the total number of votes scored by a political party is the sole determinant of the results of an election, 84 million votes must have been INEC’s take off point in its preparation for the polls.

So, she could neither have printed more than 84million ballot papers nor could she have divided the nation into electoral units whose total would rake in more than that number of votes. Nigerian politicians appear to think differently bearing in mind that they have worked assiduously to mobilize more than twice the number INEC has in mind. How then, do we reconcile the results of our elections?

Based on the power of incumbency by which she wrongly appropriates state resources both human and material, the ruling party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) probably has a higher figure than others. The votes she expects are coming from its numerous admirers with the highest figure of 60 million votes from APC women and Youths as pledged by Brig-General Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd). This is followed by the Buhari Osinbajo Dynamic Support Group which promised 40 million votes. Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria pledged 20 million while Fulani Youths Association of Nigeria would get 11 million votes. Both the Nigerian Traders for PMB and former Akwa Ibom Governor, Godswill Akpabio would bring in 10million votes each. The Southwest, APC zonal coordinator, Chief Olusola Oke guaranteed 8 million votes followed by 6 million votes from the Bus Conductor Association of Nigeria. Both Governor Ganduje of Kano state and former Bauchi Governor Isa Yuguda promised 5 million votes each. With these alone, President Buhari ought to score 175 million votes. Yet, INEC expects everyone including Buhari to score some 84 million votes.

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The main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is not left out in the endorsements and compilation of more votes than the electoral body has in mind. But because the PDP has more strategists, she was able to atikulate a figure closer to that of INEC. It is not impossible that her statisticians may have used Dubai computers to record approximately 97 million votes. This is broken down to the highest figure of 26 million votes coming from the Eastern Peoples Front. No less than a figure of 18 million votes would come in from the 21st Century Youths of Nigeria for Restructuring. Whereas, the Atiku/Obi Vanguard for Good Governance worked towards bringing in 12 million votes, three other groups, the Grassroots Network 4 Atiku 2019; the Atikulation 2019 Movement across North-West zone for Atiku and the Atiku/Obi Presidential Movement pledged to secure at least 10 million votes each. Also not left out was the Coalition of Saraki Advocates for Atiku which was sure of delivering six million votes. Former Governor Kwankwaso of Kano state didn’t speak; he acted and sent shivers to all.

To validate the figures being bandied, the politicians of the two major parties embarked on rallies to which they transported rented crowds in different parts of the country. In certain locations, the organizers lost capacity for crowd control leading to deaths of some Nigerians who attended the rallies. Painfully, no one remembered that the full capacity of ALL our stadia and other rally venues combined is less than 10 million. If so, what happens to the other millions of voters in the pledges? Besides, no one reminded us that such fake figures were canvassed in the past. It will be recalled that a group popularly known as Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria reportedly gathered in October 2014, a figure of 17million signatures of Nigerians who were allegedly begging former President Goodluck Jonathan to accept to seek reelection in 2015. Why did we allow this old gimmick to continue?

It is not irrational to argue that ‘we are where we are’ because, Nigeria as a nation has failed to follow global realities in the conduct of elections. Everyone says there must be level playing field, yet in Uyo, Kano and some other cities, the government in power short-changed the people by preventing them from hearing the other side until they were pressurized to do otherwise. In the Centre of Unity, Abuja which they say is for all; the opposition was not allowed to use the Eagle square for campaigning on a working day so as not to disorganize the nearby federal secretariat, yet the ruling party used the same venue last Wednesday? In other words, those in power want us to hear only them.

Public debates which should enable us to know who can best govern the society are poorly organized and attended.  Again, Nigeria is still organizing elections in which revered traditional rulers that are otherwise known as royal fathers are compromised materially to serve as election canvassers. Will such traditional rulers continue to enjoy the respect of those they worked against during elections?  How easy will it be for the National Orientation Agency to be going round the nation with enlightenment campaign teams condemning vote-buying when the votes and influence of some traditional rulers were bought?

Painfully, both the enforcement of electoral law and the settlement of election disputes are bastardized. In the case of the enforcement of electoral law, public confidence is now at its lowest ebb as the authorities coerce the Police to disorganize its command structure through incessant transfers of its commissioners. It was so for 16 years of PDP rule and it is still so now that the self-styled agent of change is in power. The use of hungry security operatives to manually secure elections is not only obsolete; funding for securing our analogue elections by far exceeds that of elections assisted by technology.

Painfully, the politicians have rendered our judiciary impotent. These days, parties to a case always attempt to use the English language to educate the rest of us so that we can better understand judgments given in English. The protest in Port Harcourt a few days back by a political party, despite the clear pronouncement by our apex Supreme Court is instructive.  Thus, the failure to sign the electoral law which would have brought genuine reforms to our election process is a grave error. We can only hope that whoever forms the next government would be patriotic enough to let 2019 be the last opportunity for electoral retrogression where instead of relying on the voice of the people through their votes we are left to marvel at fake endorsements.



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