FURTHER indicators that the 2019 general elections were considerably far behind the standards set in 2015 have emerged with the release of the report of the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room. It revealed that 626 Nigerians lost their lives in election-related violence between the beginning of the campaigns in October 2018 and the end of the supplementary elections in March 2019.
Compared to the 2015 figure of 106 deaths, it means that the death toll in 2019 increased six-fold. That is scandalous. Instead of getting better at managing the complexities of transitional elections, we are getting worse.
A breakdown of the figures, according to geopolitical zones, shows that the North West and North-East commanded the vast majority of the casualties with 172 and 146, respectively. The South-South where armed uniformed men and political thugs were seen on live television shooting in many parts of Rivers State recorded 120 deaths, while the rest had: North Central, 111; South West, 63 and South East, 14 casualties.
It was also reported that Benue, Borno, Kaduna, Rivers and Zamfara had the highest number of fatalities. The case of Rivers State was not too surprising because some political leaders of the state had openly beaten war drums during the campaigns.
Also, President Muhammadu Buhari had, after a security meeting on February 18, 2019, told Nigerians he had given the Army and security agencies orders to be ruthless with “ballot box snatchers” and election disruptors.
This was remarkably different from the tone set by former President Goodluck Jonathan before the 2015 election, admonishing his supporters not to “rig” for him as his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian. Thus, the 2015 general elections which had been predicted by some powerful foreign countries as likely to lead to the breakup of Nigeria, turned out to be the most peaceful in Nigeria’s history after the June 12, 1993 elections.
Compare our fatality records with those of India which also held general elections this year. We had 84 million voters and recorded 626 death, but India had 830 million voters and recorded less than 400 fatalities.
We wonder why President Buhari has not made good his threat to query the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, over the seriously-flawed process. We need to know what led to this unacceptably high number of deaths with a view to correcting observed flaws. Those responsible for the deaths of innocent political participants should be made to face the wrath of the law. Otherwise, the trend will only worsen in future elections.
Nigerians have the right to choose their leaders in an atmosphere devoid of danger to their lives and property. It is the duty of government, the INEC and security agencies to provide this conducive atmosphere.