Nigeria’s democracy is under attack. What is happening is beyond the occasional acts of post-election violence which often lead to the vandalisation of the offices and facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Terrorists, anarchists, arsonists and separatists have been venting their rage on our electoral infrastructure, thus putting our democracy in danger.
The INEC recently disclosed that between February 2019 and May this year, the Commission has recorded at least 42 attacks on its facilities in all parts of the country, particularly the North and East where there are armed insurrections by non-state actors. According to the Electoral Umpire, 18 of the attacks occurred during the EndSARS protests in October 2020. About 20 were vandalisations, while 18 were arson attacks.
Whatever may be the reasons for these attacks cannot be justified by logic or commonsense. If the anger of the vandals is about INEC’s poor performance during elections, this can hardly be solved by destroying the Commission’s facilities. It requires reforms, and the citizens can play a leading role in reforming the Commission and prevailing on the authorities to appoint people of proven integrity to pilot its affairs.
The INEC is the bastion of our democracy. It is the state organ constitutionally empowered to register and regulate the activities of political parties and conduct elections. These elections are veritable avenues for peaceful and lawful change which is desirable. Violent change is an ill wind that does not blow anyone any good. Violence and bloodshed hardly yield any fruitful results.
We must also bear in mind that because of the centrality of the electoral umpire in the operation of our democracy, efforts will always be made to replace their vandalised facilities in readiness for elections. This means that scarce public resources meant for the betterment of the lives of the people will be sunk in rebuilding INEC’s damaged facilities. The people lose in the end.
We call on parents, political, religious and traditional leaders to prevail on their angry youth to always explore the noble option of peaceful agitation for change. Also, the law enforcement and security agencies should rise to their constitutional duties by effectively guarding these facilities. More efforts must also be made to fish out the culprits and bring them to justice. That way, future perpetrators will be deterred.
We find the apparent helplessness of our law enforcement agencies in the face of these assaults on our facilities unacceptable. Any officials who are incapable of doing their jobs should be shown the way out and more capable ones put in their places.
Nigeria is beset by enemies of its survival as a united entity. All must put hands on deck to ensure we do not play into their hands.