AS the November 16, 2019 D-day for the conduct of the off-cycle governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states becomes a reality in a couple of days, the major source of concern remains the security situation and how the law enforcement agencies will cope.
Two weeks to the election, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, raised the alarm over alleged stockpiling of weapons and mobilisation of thugs for polls in both states, expressing great fear for the safety of INEC staff and electoral materials.
According to him: “There are already warning signals in the two states. Both are politically volatile. Elections have been severely disrupted by violence in the past. Our own risk assessment, which will be shared with the security agencies…has identified some flashpoints”.
In virtually every election in Nigeria there are often two potential sources of security compromise aimed at derailing the will of the people and perpetrated by politicians. The first is the use of hoodlums and thugs who are armed to the teeth to intimidate supporters of opponents and steal the vote. Sometimes they camouflage themselves in military and police uniforms to confuse voters and even security personnel.
The second is the mobilisation of members of the armed forces, police and other security agencies by the Federal Government, but often compromised by politicians to betray their professional obligations and help them to steal the vote.
On the eve of every election, the Police draft thousands of their officers for electoral duty in areas where elections are taking place. The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has already announced the deployment of 31,041 personnel for Bayelsa and 35,200 for Kogi, assuring that the security of INEC officials and materials are guaranteed.
In addition, there will also be military deployments, especially as the Nigerian Army’s Operation Crocodile Smile is already active in Bayelsa, while in Kogi, it is Operation Ayem Akpatuma.
Our worry is that in spite of these usual heavy military and police mobilisations most elections in the two states as in many others are won by political parties which succeed in outgunning the others. Electoral malfeasances climbed several notches during the 2019 general elections when uniformed men openly reportedly invaded people’s homes and polling/collation centres to compromise the people’s vote.
These intimidating mobilisations which heavily drain on public funds are often not justified by the results because officers are not held to account. This must stop. Every military and police mobilisation must be accounted for vis-à-vis the success or failure of missions.
The military, police and other security agencies must deploy more intelligence and technology to identify flashpoints, mop up arms, identify fake officials and arrest hoodlums before and during election days.
The performance of our security system during elections must be tracked and made accountable.