By Sam Eyoboka
IN the considered opinion of the Public Relations Officer of Northern Christian Elders Forum, Elder Sunday Oibe, militarisation of the electoral process is an ill-wind that has seriously undermined our democratic culture. According to him, involvement of military in our electoral process has actually aborted what we call democracy. He added that it was unfortunate that this will be happening given the fact that we are operating a democratic system modelled after that of the Americans; a system whereby people are expected to cast their votes and go back to their normal businesses.
He said: “What we have now is a mockery of democracy. As far as some of us are concerned, we are not yet practising democracy in Nigeria. Is it not curious that when people in this same government were in opposition they went to the court and the court made a pronouncement that military should not be involved in electoral process. What is the duty of the Police, Civil Defence? But today military is the one the government is using everywhere to harass people.
The military should know that they are Nigerians and after 35 years of service they would come back to civil life. If they destroy the system today, where will their children be? That you are a soldier does not mean that your wife, children or mother are also soldiers. That is why we must allow civil thinking to guide our electoral process.
What has happened in the 2019 elections is nothing but gangsterism using military. It is worse than armed robbery because they use guns to harass the people, thwart the people and seize their mandate. I have been around for a while and have witnessed elections in this country; there is no presidential election in this country that people turned out like the just concluded one but yet the wish of the people was subverted.
When you come to the gubernatorial/state assembly elections, the same thing happened all over the place. The same INEC that promised that they will conduct free, fair, credible elections failed us; the only one in INEC deserving of our praise is the Resident Electoral Commissioner of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Mike Igini, who told the whole world that he went to Akwa Ibom to count votes and not money.
Can the rest also come out and make such declaration? Those who claimed to have won by forcing the military on us, are not having peace, because they did not win freely, transparently. They did not follow due process of democratic norms. They are in confusion right now. As we have read in the newspapers, some elder statesmen are counseling Atiku Abubakar not to go to court; they know if he goes to court he would win. Others are threatening to unleash terror on Nigeria if they don’t have their way.
The question is: Who has monopoly of violence? Do they sell violence in a market? If it is sold in an open market, anybody can do that; but we are not praying for violence. If somebody steals your watch, the best thing to do is to tell the fellow to return the watch to you. To tell the person to keep away and not go to the police or court is not acceptable. It is unfortunate what is happening in Nigeria. The people who said they are fighting corruption, who believe that they are transparent have questions to answer themselves. The worst form of corruption is to subvert the will of the people through the ballot box. It is to say that the vote of the people should not speak. The worst form of corruption is to bribe, harass, intimidate INEC officials so that they will do your bidding by giving you the vote. To us we see it as a tactical way of intimidating the electoral umpire. What Nigeria should be asking for now is that we did not want any electoral umpire who would be appointed by a President.
INEC chairman should evolve through political parties or the National Assembly should bring somebody who will do the needful because he who pays the piper dictates the tune. That is why there is no celebration anywhere. People are not happy as evidenced by the fact that when the gubernatorial and state house of assembly elections were conducted there was voter apathy.
People openly said that it was a waste of their time to vote when their votes would not count, and that is what we saw all over the place. Imagine the number of people that came out to vote during the presidential election; they are the same Nigerians, they did not travel, they did not come out because they knew their votes would not count.
Military should be kept in the barracks and do their military work. When you take them to the polling units where they will hijack ballot boxes and using guns to harass people, that is armed robbery and they should be tried for that. They should be tried if they are found culpable of committing electoral crimes.
We condemn what INEC is doing. Elections were conducted and then you introduce the language of inconclusiveness. What does that mean? In some states, the difference between the leading candidates is less than the voided votes and INEC did not declare such results as inconclusive.
Thumb printing by underaged children
In some places, you see underaged children thumb-printing, voting and such elections were not cancelled. Some places did not use card reader because I happened to be one of the election observers who went round and I saw what happened. Majority of the places here in the North, they did not use card reader. But INEC said anywhere there is no card reader, they should not vote but they voted and INEC did not cancel such results; while places where people did legitimate voting were declared inconclusive.
Declaring inconclusive elections in places like Benue, Sokoto, Plateau, Adamawa, Bauchi, Kano is not acceptable. INEC has a lot of questions to answer. The reason why it is so painful is that their children are watching. The painful part is that most of these people have families and they see what they are doing: the younger generation definitely is in trouble.
But we congratulate the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai for the success recorded by his troops during the election.
He should be reminded that there is a bigger battle after this waiting for him and his troops at the North East where Boko Haram is still killing people and holding Leah Sharibu and several other girls captive. Same in Zamfara where hoodlums are still terrorizing innocent persons; Plateau and Benue states where armed herdsmen have resumed their activities and of course in Southern Kaduna which has become a full theatre of war for some time now.