Nigeria 2019: The New Low In Election Rigging, By Zainab Suleiman Okino
A society like ours where impunity and criminality are condoned and politicised as acceptable norms, can hardly change… When bad ways are legitimised as normal, such a society is doomed and apparently has lost its values. With regards to election rigging, we have really gone down low and this last election is evidential of our degeneration.
In our unwritten political culture and lexicon, rigging occupies a prominent place. Beginning from our pre-independence elections till date, cheating to win in the form of rigging has been part of the ways of electing our representatives. Since then, the behaviour and attitude of the political elite on this issue have not changed markedly. And despite the constant reforms introduced by the electoral body at one time or the other, the bad eggs among us have always sought to get ahead of our electoral system, no matter how sophisticated this has become.
However, 2015 marked a turning point in this regard, with the introduction of the card reader. Before then, it was always massive electoral heists of sort, through rigging, as politicians damned the consequences of their actions, believing that the end justified the means. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s inglorious past testified to this, such that rigging was no longer seen as a crime against the electorate. Thus, some of their cocky members once declared that, “a party can only rig where it is strong”, suggesting that with or without rigging, the party would still win anyway, to justify the PDP’s near national dominance at one time. Unfortunately, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is not different.
Over time, there have been tremendous improvements in our electoral fare, but as the saying goes, old habits die hard; therefore, we still have pockets of those old habits, and possibly in deadlier ways. Before and during the just concluded presidential election, some of these violent tendencies reared their ugly heads. While the details are yet to come out, there are at least 19 recorded deaths through election-related violence in the country, including in Delta State. In Kogi State, a student and a police officer were killed; also, a soldier, an Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) staff, a former aide to Governor Wike and his brother, were murdered in Rivers State; and a photojournalist attached to Bayelsa State was shot dead, while a ballot box snatcher was equally set ablaze in Lagos State. In addition to outright murder, a lot more people were injured and maimed. In total, 128 suspects were arrested for election violence nationwide, according to the police.
…there is even the issue of paying election officials or gifting them with cars and houses – even those at the level of INEC commissioners – to alter results in favour of the highest bidders. While this and ballot box snatching appear to be receding, new and sophisticated ways of rigging are emerging.
Nocturnal electoral manipulation is an old trick that lingers till date. Powerful politicians, armed with mind-boggling amounts of money, influence elections and change results after ‘normal’ people might have cast their votes and returned to the comfort of their homes. It looks like ballot box stuffing, ballot box snatching and vote buying as forms of rigging have come to stay. Despite President Buhari’s directive to security agents to deal ruthlessly with ballot box snatchers, many still dared it. Some succeeded, especially where a particular party was in charge; others paid with their lives. A deputy commissioner of police (FSARS) was even apprehended in Bayelsa State for attempting to rig the election there; how low can it get for a man of his calibre. As for vote buying, it has gone digital and morally reckless; governors even starve their workers of salaries in order to save to bribe voters and sway votes in a coded manner on election day. And there is even the issue of paying election officials or gifting them with cars and houses – even those at the level of INEC commissioners – to alter results in favour of the highest bidders. While this and ballot box snatching appear to be receding, new and sophisticated ways of rigging are emerging. Besides, you don’t want to know what ‘mobilisation of voters’ means during election. It runs into billions of naira, or otherwise what was a bullion van doing in Bola Tinubu’s house on the eve of the presidential election?
The abduction of strong supporters, critics and, lately, social media influencers form the bedrock of another category — people who see and speak out to draw attention to misdemeanour, if any. Such people can be silenced through abduction or kept away for sometime if they are lucky to survive. The latest and perhaps hottest way to rig is through arson. Election riggers deliberately target places where their opponents are strong, and after collation, destroy or set everything on fire thereby erasing evidence of electoral success that may have accrued to the opponent. That happened in the Okota part of Lagos, Abonima and Akuku-Toru in Rivers State and many other places last Saturday. Recall that during the governorship primaries of the APC in Ekiti State last year, an agent of one of the aspirants openly destroyed/scattered ballot boxes already filled with ballot papers. Up till this moment, no one has been tried for that impunity. Another evidence of the new low is a corps member being caught in the bush thumb-printing ballot papers. What an audacious criminal the lady corps member is. How much would she be paid for this lifetime embarrassment, yet she is supposed to be a role model for the younger generation.
…what we later got to know about the 2015 election, especially the story of underage voting especially in the North leaves a bitter memory in us. Even pertaining to last Saturday’s election, there is a trending video on the social media of children voting in Taraba State. No one apprehended them.
Meanwhile, the younger ones we are talking about already have their minds polluted with all sorts of criminalities. Voting is an adult affair, adults who know the difference between right and wrong. That is why the voting age is put at 18 years. But what we later got to know about the 2015 election, especially the story of underage voting especially in the North leaves a bitter memory in us. Even pertaining to last Saturday’s election, there is a trending video on the social media of children voting in Taraba State. No one apprehended them. Like such cases in the past, that too will come to pass without anyone being punished.
A society like ours where impunity and criminality are condoned and politicised as acceptable norms, can hardly change. As a matter of fact, if children are already acculturated to do wrong things, and pass it for heroism, that society can hardly redeem itself. When bad ways are legitimised as normal, such a society is doomed and apparently has lost its values. With regards to election rigging, we have really gone down low and this last election is evidential of our degeneration.
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