By Ikechukwu Amaechi

On Wednesday, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, declared President Muhammadu Buhari winner of the February 23 presidential poll.

Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC chairman, said Buhari, candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, polled 15,191,847 votes to defeat Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who garnered 11,262,978 votes.

Ambode, Tinubu and Sanwoolu

Expectedly, Atiku rejected the result, calling it a sham and vowing to challenge it in court.

Although those declared winners will dismiss his claim as the ranting of a sore loser, some Nigerians will agree when he said that in his three decades of democratic struggles, he had never seen Nigeria’s democracy so debased.

His assertion that though the 2007 poll was a challenge but remarkably different from the 2019 election because then President, Yar’Adua, was remorseful unlike now when those who trampled on the country’s democracy are thumping their noses down on Nigerians, strikes a chord with most people except those who have elevated hypocrisy to an art.

As Nigerians are wont to do, he has been advised to move on because power belongs to God and He gives it to whoever pleases Him.

It is only here that people are called upon to vote in elections and God, rather than the ballot, determines winners.

But if I were Atiku, I will not break a sweat. I will simply move on and wish Nigeria well. He should not mount a legal challenge to Buhari’s victory, not because of the God-factor, but because the country does not deserve such sacrifice. He has done his bit. After all, is it not said that people get the government they deserve? If the result was a fair reflection of the wishes of Nigerians, then they deserve Buhari. Even if the election was rigged, the manipulation was done by Nigerians. At the end of the day, the joke is on all of us.

But I am worried that Nigeria after 20 years of unbroken democracy has made no progress in electoral politics, even as we spend more money during every new election cycle. As we saw on Saturday, the 2019 elections cannot by any stretch of the imagination be adjudged better than the 2015 polls, no-matter what happens at on March 9.

Yet, the 2019 elections will go down in history as the most expensive.

Daily Trust newspaper did a yeoman job on the issue last year when President Buhari presented N242.45b ($672.35m) to the National Assembly for the 2019 polls, which was about $50m higher than the $625m budgeted in 2015 and more than half of the N450b INEC got as electoral expenditure in the five general elections held from 1999 to 2015.

The money was to be shared between INEC, which got N190 billion (73.51 percent) and five security agencies – Office of the National Security Adviser (N4.28b), Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (N3. 57b), Nigeria Police Force (N30.54b), Nigeria Immigration Service (N2.63b) and Directorate of State Security (N12.21b).

Yet, we neither had free and fair poll nor security. The warlords had a field day.





Not only is each administration outdoing the previous ones, we are also breaking global records in electoral expenditure. For instance, the 2019 INEC budget was higher than the $600m the Electoral Commission of India, ECI, spent during the 2014 general elections in which 553.8m people voted out of 815m registered voters and the £113m the United Kingdom spent during its 2010 parliamentary elections in which 45.6m voted.

Not many Nigerians know that the electoral expenditure started with N1.5b (1999), N29b (2002), N45.5b (2006), N111b (2010) and N87.8b (2014).

INEC’s Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, Director of Voter Education and Publicity, said last year that the humongous budget will be used to procure and upgrade enough card readers for the polls.

The jury is still out on the extent the “upgraded” card readers enhanced the conduct of the Presidential and National Assembly polls.

But what is not in doubt from what transpired on Saturday is that Nigeria spent more money to enable a more violent election.

Politicians were more brazen buying votes and inducing electoral officials. Those who refused to be bought were taken hostage.

In Imo State for instance, Prof Ibeawuchi, the Returning Officer for the Imo West Senatorial poll, alleged that Governor Rochas Okorocha, the APC senatorial candidate, held him hostage until he was declared winner.






The social media was awash with videos of INEC officials whose houses were barricaded by military personnel at the behest of politicians sending out SOS messages to their superiors.

Political thugs no longer snatch ballot boxes and run away. They stay back, aware that they are videoed but not caring a hoot knowing who their sponsors are, to burn the ballot papers.

A N27 billion investment in technology that left us with card readers which could not authenticate the number of people verified to cast their ballot is a waste.

But the most frightening phenomenon is the “Jagabanisation” of Lagos politics which made some people to take it upon themselves to decide for the Igbo how to vote and who to vote for as a condition for allowing them to live in peace and do their legitimate businesses in their own country.

In many parts of Lagos, Ndigbo were disenfranchised because they were perceived to be more disposed to an Atiku presidency that Buhari’s.

Even now that the election has been won and lost, the hoodlums, obviously enjoying the support of the powers-that-be in Lagos, are attacking and vandalising their shops.

On Wednesday, the miscreants, armed with dangerous weapons like cutlasses, broken bottles, wood and knives struck at the Oluwole, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tinubu, Bamgbose and Alli Streets market on the Island, beating Igbo traders and destroying their wares worth millions of Naira.

Ndigbo were warned to go back to their states to do business because “this is Lagos”.

“We campaigned for them to vote for Buhari but they refused and voted for Atiku. They cannot come here to do business again. They must follow us to vote whoever we ask them to vote for. This is just a sample for them, if they ever vote for PDP again, that will be their end,” the hoodlums threatened. No arrests have been made. I doubt if any will ever be made.

On Monday, it was the turn of the traders at Oshodi market. They were beaten and their wares destroyed.

Ohanaeze leader, Nnia Nwodo, said he called the acting Inspector General of Police thrice and he refused to pick the calls. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has not deemed it fit to say something on the matter.

Yet, these are the same people that claim political sophistication.

Neither Buhari nor Atiku is Yoruba. Both APC and PDP are national political parties. The PDP won in Ondo and Oyo states, voted for by Yoruba.

In Lagos, Buhari polled 580,814 votes against Atiku’s 448,016 votes. There are as many Yoruba in PDP as there are in APC.

Buhari garnered votes in all the South East states as he did in every other region just as Atiku also did. So, what is the issue?

Is Jimi Agbaje, the Lagos State PDP governorship candidate not Yoruba? How then could a vote for him be a vote against Yoruba interest? Is Chief Ayo Adebanjo no longer Yoruba? Is Chief Bode George not a Yoruba man? What is this overarching Yoruba interest that the Igbo must pay for with their blood and who determines it?

In any case, if there is Yoruba interest as indeed there should be since politics is a game of interest, is it not only fair that Ndigbo must also have the right to determine what their interest is in the context of Nigeria and who serves it best? So, why must other interests be respected when Igbo interest is an anathema? Why must Igbo interest be subsumed into the Yoruba interest?

Those egging these hoodlums to attack Ndigbo for exercising their franchise should know that they are on a political slippery slope on account of their invidious scheming.

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