Year 2015 And A Reason For Peaceful Election in Nigeria By Odeyele Ayodeji
Elections in Nigeria are characterized by uncertainties, due to the possibility of election-related violence. Election-related violence may take place at different stages of the electoral process: before, during or after elections. During the 2003 Federal and States election in Nigeria, at least 100 people were killed and many more were injured.
In 2011 more than 800 people were killed and millions of properties were destroyed, making elections in Nigeria prone to bloodshed and violence, this has led many in recent time to have suggested that high level of poverty and high level of illiteracy are the main reason for electoral violence in Nigeria. This was clearly noted by Usman, Sule Machika from his work titled “Youths against Electoral Violence”
“The Nigerian polity over the years had been immersed with endemic electoral violence. Rather than elections to be embraced as one of the important processes that strengthen democratic Institutions and facilitate peaceful transition of power. They are seen as a violent means of acquiring the spoils of democracy. Thus, all the previous general elections conducted after independence in Nigeria, were marked by widespread violence, intimidation, bribery and corruption just to maintain or wrench power. This heightens the potential for violence at every level of government, especially at transition periods. Political elites mobilize the pool of unemployed youths, often along ethnic, religious and party affiliations, as vital violent arsenals. They youths are induced to threaten or unleash violence as a means to achieve electoral and political success. The elites are responsible for arming the youths, who mostly are political thugs to manipulate electoral outcomes, kidnap or kill political opponents, threaten and intimidate electorates, destroying lives and properties, as electoral processes are disrupted.”
Some observers have rather hastily blamed the introduction of democracy on the political violence that has wracked the region in recent years, asserting that the zero- sum nature of electoral campaigns polarizes fledgling democracies and makes them particularly vulnerable to violence, especially when politics is organized along ethnic or regional lines.
The ineffectiveness and malfunctioning of the security personnel in Nigeria has also given people the impetus to stage electoral violence. The ineffectiveness especially on the part of the Nigeria Police is a major factor which encourages electoral violence. Pre-electoral violence is often associated with killings but the Nigeria police always fail to get to the root of those killings. This failure seems to be creating a culture of impunity and motivation for recurrence of crimes and violence in our society.
In Nigeria, Electoral Violence is not being met with strong criminal punishment for it to serve as a deterrent to other people who might be planning on engaging in Electoral Violence (either pre or post Electoral Violence). Weak penalties or punishment for violators of electoral process also give room for more crimes to be committed. Penalties or punishment are intended to achieve correction, retribution and deterrence. Nigeria lacks the proper forum for mitigating and guarding against Electoral Violence and this exposes Nigeria’s election to all forms of crimes and violence.
As the 2015 general election draws near, there have been obvious signs and different hand writing on the wall for Nigerians to be scared as there has been incidences and news of pre-elections violence. For the record, On January 10, 2015, youths in Jos burnt cars belonging to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which is the ruling party during their campaign, chanting Buhari’s slogan “Sai Buhari”, which in Hausa language means “It has to be Buhari”, in reference to the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and of course President Goodluck Jonathan’s main opponent, Muhammadu Buhari.
Also, President Goodluck Jonathan was attacked by a mob in Katsina on January 21, 2015, as he visited the family home of former President, Late Umaru Musa Yar’adua. The mob who chanted “Sai Buhari” besieged the President’s motorcade and, as the DSS raced to the airport, they were stoned. Two days later in Bauchi, the Goodluck Jonathan campaign group faced another trial in Bauchi state, when about 6 security aides were injured as they protected the President from the anger of the masses. The president was on his way to Bauchi airport, when broom-wielding youths chanting “Sai Buhari” attacked the convoy with a hail of stones, some of which apparently caught some presidential bodyguards protecting him. Security personnel shot canisters of tear gas in an attempt to disperse the unruly crowd. The convoy was, however, able to manoeuvre its way to the Bauchi airport, where the president left for Makurdi, Benue State, for the next leg of his campaign. He had told the crowd of supporters at the Ibrahim Babangida Square, Bauchi venue of the rally, that no “retrogressive forces” could force the PDP out of government. This was the second time in four days, that President Goodluck Jonathan’s convoy had escaped death.
In a similar vein, On January 24, 2015, alleged thugs belonging to the PDP attacked the venue of the APC governorship rally in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers state. The Police Commissioner, Mr Dan Bature said that the thugs attacked around 4am in the morning with dynamite. No lives were lost, but the rally was aborted and public systems were destroyed.
A Nigerian Human Rights Body, the “National Human Rights Commission”, said that in the past 50 days, 61 incidences of election violence occurred in 22 states with 58 people killed. The body’s head, Chidi Odinkalu, said that in three states, the number of crimes has been on the high end. He said: “The three States are Lagos, with 11 incidences and 22 persons killed; Kaduna with three incidences and nine people killed; and Rivers with one incidence and at least six deaths.”
Apart from all the above stated happenings, the Boko Haram insurgence is also another reason why Nigeria’s 2015 General Election is prone to violence. It is of great concern to many Nigerians and is also garnering significant international attention. However, the Boko Haram crisis is only a microcosm of the country’s deeper malaise. This may prevent people in some parts of the country from expressing one of their fundamental rights which is the “Right to Vote”.
The idea of zoning in Nigeria political system may also contribute to violence in the forth-coming elections. In the words of Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth,
“2015 worries me …. My worry stems from the fact that the political competition of 2015 is seen in terms of sectional interest. And my worry is: what happens when these sections are disappointed, when they do not get what they are affirming is their sectional right”.
It should be acknowledged also that the country’s religious diversity also poses a challenge to the conduct of peaceful elections because the continuing manipulation of religious sentiments could aggravate electoral tensions in several States and exacerbate the historical North-South, Muslim-Christian divide. Many Nigerians have strong religious identities and the two major political parties are dangerously playing up these sentiments to boost their electoral support.
According to an April 2010 report by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre, 87 per cent of Nigerians say their religion is “very important” to their lives; 11 per cent say religion is “somewhat important”. 31 per cent say they would support only leaders from their own religious group and there have been evidences of political utterances by politicians playing the religious card.
Also, one of the Nigerian online news, Premium Times of 14 October, 2013 states, “APC leaders accuse Jonathan of pandering to Christian voters”. For obvious reasons, President Goodluck Jonathan is visibly close to Ayodele Oritsejafor, a Pentecostal pastor who is President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and has advocated a more assertive and confrontational stance toward Muslims.
In October 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan led 30,000 Nigerian Christians on an annual pilgrimage to Israel, the first ever by a Christian president while also according to a Nigerian newspaper Thisday, published 8 January, 2014, The PDP has labelled the APC, whose two foremost leaders (Muhammadu Buhari and Bola Tinubu) are both Muslims, as “Nigeria’s Muslim Brotherhood”, and “a party of bloodthirsty, religious and ethnic bigots averse to the unity of the country and their party APC has been accused of fueling the Islamist insurgency, describing its leaders as “a hypocritical lot, wolves in sheep skin, devils who, through their utterances, stoke the fires of violence by night only to wear messianic robes in the morning to shed crocodile tears for their victims.
What then will happen to Nigeria in 2015 and beyond if her elections lead to violence?
In a nutshell, without so much grammar and punctuations, we all need to get this straight that Electoral Violence will affect everyone in the country if accurate and necessary measures are not put in place as there might be casualty in terms of personal injury, displacement from homes, destruction of property, loss of jobs or earnings or loss of lives in the course of the general elections.
In conclusion, if the Nigeria General Election ends like that of Lesotho, which was described by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) deployed to Lesotho to monitor elections this would go a long way in boosting the economy and the level of development Nigeria has gotten to. The mission released its preliminary findings to the media in Maseru on Monday after Lesotho went to the polls on Saturday as follows:
“Based on its observations, the SADC Electoral Observation Mission concludes that the 2015 National Assembly Elections in the Kingdom of Lesotho were peaceful, transparent, credible, free and fair, thus reflecting the will of the people of the Kingdom of Lesotho.”
Nigerians are therefore urged to go out in their numbers this coming Saturday so they can express their one of their Fundamental Human Right, “Right to Vote” and should not allow any rumour of Electoral Violence deter them. This is our right and we must allow democracy and transparency to have the light of the day henceforth.
Odeyele Ayodeji is a graduate of History and international studies from Osun state university,Osogbo.
He send this from Maitama, Abuja.
Opinion expressed on this page is solely that of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Abusidiqu.com and/or its associates.