Electoral Banditry In Buhari’s Nigeria, By Majeed Dahiru
It is morally reprehensible for a President Buhari who was beneficiary of Nigeria’s fledging liberal democracy and improved electoral management process in 2015 to bequeath to Nigeria a legacy of electoral banditry. President Buhari has betrayed the moral code of democratic leadership, which places a constitutional obligation upon him to put national interest above any other interests in the business of governance.
For his tenacity of purpose and consistency in principled opposition without compromise, President Muhammadu Buhari will be remembered as the man who helped keep Nigeria’s democracy alive in the first sixteen years of the Fourth Republic. His engaging and robust politics of opposition, which saw him contesting for the highest office in the land from 2003 till 2015, against every PDP incumbent, helped prevent Nigeria from sliding into a one party state. General Buhari would eventually share the spot light in 2015 with his predecessor, then President Goodluck Jonathan, whose electoral reforms sanitised the system to such an extent that for the first time in Nigeria’s electoral history, an incumbent lost in a contest with an opposition candidate. After sixteen years of an unbroken but wobbling civil democratic rule, Nigeria’s nascent democracy has matured and what was deemed an experiment had become a certified theory of people power as the determinant of political leadership.
While General Buhari kept democracy alive with the oxygen of robust opposition, after ascending to power as President Buhari, he is now suffocating the same democracy to death. Having failed to fulfil any of his three-pronged electoral campaign promises of taming corruption, tackling insecurity and fixing the economy in his first democratic ascension to office, President Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) resorted to electoral subterfuge to hold on to power four years later in 2019. Apparently emboldened by a judiciary, which not only allows them to keep what their opponents contends to be a stolen mandate but has raised the bar of the burden of proof on victims of electoral heist beyond realistic limits, President Buhari and his ruling APC threw caution to the wind in the democratic abomination that was the recent Bayelsa and Kogi State elections.
However, the electoral sacrilege that these elections in Bayelsa and Kogi presented is only the lesser part of a greater unfolding aberration in Nigeria’s civil constitutional democracy. Upon his pyrrhic victory in the 2019 election, President Buhari moved to quickly consolidate his hold on power with a vice like grip. A committed partisan purist, who is well known for his abhorrence for the due process of the rule of law and the constitutional dictates of separation of powers, President Buhari has deployed executive powers to humiliate the now subdued judiciary and bully the legislature into a state of slavish submissiveness. In a manner akin to Hitler’s Nazirisation of Germany, President Buhari has politicised otherwise apolitical state institutions by appointing party chieftains as their heads, in the process sacrificing national interest on the altar of partisan considerations.
The last time Nigerians witnessed anything close to the recent electoral abomination in Bayelsa and Kogi States was in the 2007 general elections. However, what makes the case in hand worse is that the newer ‘2007’ happened in Buhari’s 2019 Nigeria – a clear reversal of the modest democratic gains achieved in 2015.
President Buhari’s fidelity to partisan purism, as well as his commitment to party supremacy, which aim to decimate the ranks of the opposition into extinction by every possible means, portends grave danger to Nigeria’s fledging liberal democracy. Among many other strategies, his selective war on corruption, which largely shields his partisan loyalists from the law but severely punishes opposition elements, has turned the ruling APC into a safe haven for former and current rogue elements in the political space. For a man who places a high premium on personal loyalty, which he apparently equates to patriotism, it was easy for smart political renegades to take advantage of President Buhari’s idiosyncrasies to earn his trust by simply feigning robotic loyalty to him. These rogue elements have successfully converted President Buhari’s commitment to partisan purism into an opportunistic criminal franchise of power grab, by way of electoral banditry for self-service at the expense of Nigeria’s common patrimony.
Arguably one of the greatest electoral heist in the history of the Fourth Republic, the Bayesla and Kogi elections were openly rigged in favour of the ruling APC with the full cooperation of security agencies and Nigeria’s electoral management body. The over 60,000 policemen that were deployed to enforce law and order during the exercises stood by and feigned helplessness as daredevil thugs invaded polling units, dispersed voters and made away with voting materials. An equally compromised electoral management body not only surrendered voting materials but also accepted these when they were returned, officially endorsed the fictitious figures imputed and announced the winners of this charade.
The last time Nigerians witnessed anything close to the recent electoral abomination in Bayelsa and Kogi States was in the 2007 general elections. However, what makes the case in hand worse is that the newer ‘2007’ happened in Buhari’s 2019 Nigeria – a clear reversal of the modest democratic gains achieved in 2015. In addition, the unrelenting efforts at curtailing a free press in order to evade public scrutiny of its dark sides and the unleashing of electoral banditry on Nigeria’s voting populace to steal their mandate at gunpoint, sign posts a steady descent of Nigeria into a one party authoritarian fascist dictatorship, where the people have no voice and their votes no longer count. With the APC devoid of any ideological leaning or pragmatic approach to good governance, President Buhari’s partisan purism is not a commitment to any superior ideal of good governance but a protective cover for the self-serving political agenda of the numerous rogue elements in his ruling APC.
If democracy died in Africa, then President Buhari just presided over its rites of passage in Bayelsa and Kogi States of Nigeria. Sadly, even in death democracy was not given a decent burial in Nigeria, as its body was mutilated, burnt and its ashes dispersed into the confluence of rivers Niger and Benue from a flying helicopter.
For Nigeria, the consequence of a routinely stolen electoral mandate is arrested socio-economic development. Under the yoke of a deliberately flawed electoral process, Nigeria is not likely to experience peace and prosperity, as electoral banditry approximates administrative banditry. For failing to reform Nigeria’s electoral process to further reinforce the power of the people to reward or punish their elected political leaders as the only incentive for behaviour while in office, President Buhari has set Nigeria several light years backwards, with the guarantee of a pervasive culture of bad governance that has now been entrenched in the system. Clearly, President Buhari’s fidelity to partisan purism and commitment to party supremacy is an enabler of entrenched culture of bad governance. Nigeria’s ruling political establishment has just been enamoured to continue in its bad ways of misrule and governance inertia, for as long as they belong to President Buhari’s ruling APC they are guaranteed victory at the polls, no matter what the people feel.
It is morally reprehensible for a President Buhari who was beneficiary of Nigeria’s fledging liberal democracy and improved electoral management process in 2015 to bequeath to Nigeria a legacy of electoral banditry. President Buhari has betrayed the moral code of democratic leadership, which places a constitutional obligation upon him to put national interest above any other interests in the business of governance. The change democratic revolution of the oppressed masses of Nigeria in 2015, which brought him to power, has been lost to their former oppressors, thanks to President Buhari’s betrayal of their trust and confidence in his ability to transform their ideals to reality. If democracy died in Africa, then President Buhari just presided over its rites of passage in Bayelsa and Kogi States of Nigeria. Sadly, even in death democracy was not given a decent burial in Nigeria, as its body was mutilated, burnt and its ashes dispersed into the confluence of rivers Niger and Benue from a flying helicopter.