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ANALYSIS: Election Fever; From “Insecurity” Stress To Technology Debate

By Tajudeen Balogun, Head, African Examiner, Nigeria Bureau

Over four weeks after the shift of the Nigerian (2015) general elections and two weeks to the rescheduled exercise, series of controversies and contradictory developments, which heat up the polity and increase tension in the land have refused to abate. The postponement, generally acknowledged to be very costly and disappointing was attributed to two “key” factors, namely: ravaging insecurity in the North Eastern part of the country and purportedly poor level in collection and distribution of the basic voting instrument – Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVC).

INEC Chairman Pro. Attahiru Jega

INEC Chairman Pro. Attahiru Jega

So far, the battle against the dreaded Boko Haram is ongoing gloriously – clearly opposite of the dragged and failed operations waged over five years by the Nigerian Military. Despite the avoidable huge loss of human lives to the insurgents’ attacks, salute (to me) is only to the gallant soldiers who were at last and eventually properly equipped, prepared and motivated to do the job deserving of them. Posterity will certainly reward them. However, pray may the souls of their brave colleagues as well as innocent civilians perished in the combats rest in peace.

In spite of resistance, condemnation and total rejection of its repeated readiness declaration for the polls, by members and supporters of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has added up to its performance. For instance, the 70 per cent collection of the PVC as at Saturday, February 7, 2015, when the elections were shifted, has stepped up to 80 per cent. Similarly, it has demonstrated to the country’s Senate how to use the card readers and subsequently conducted a dummy election card reading process across the country. All of these were done to the delight of many Nigerians – the PDP Senators inclusive, as the upper chamber on Wednesday, February 18, 2015, expressed satisfaction and endorsed the use of the device in the general elections.

Still, the political landscape has not known peace as one issue; protest, complaint or another were thrown up, then counter followed by the key actors. Notably among these were the confirmed cases across the country, of PVCs racketing and alleged cloning; alleged marginalization of people of certain tribal extractions in certain parts of the country and very painfully poor distribution level in certain states of the Federation. Ogun and Lagos States are good examples in this regard. Efforts are still ongoing to ensure that eligible voters are not disenfranchised during the elections in the reported areas.

Despite this, confusion, needless debates and palpable tension persist in the country, in most cases, at the instance of actions, reactions and unsavoury comments by members, leaders and supporters of the ruling PDP. As we speak, the party hierarchy has consistently contradicted itself and vehemently rejected the use of Card readers for elections accreditation!

The PDP has discountenanced the logical arguments and confidence of teeming Nigerians on the deployment of the device, harping on and promoting the resentment of likely dysfunctionality and subsequent disqualification of many eligible voters, from exercising their civic responsibility. Painfully, the manner the ruling house and its stalwarts have been going about its opposition to the use of card readers undoubtedly creates impression as if the polls were meant only for its members and supporters, hence the mindset that their desire appears superior to other political parties and more importantly, the entire Nigeria.

INEC-card-reader1-300x187Everyone, including the PDP and its members consent to the fact that involving card readers into the country’s voting process is a boost; an improvement and compliance to the global science and technological advancement as well as trends. Ultimately, that it is one electoral tool capable to check to a large extent, electoral frauds associated with the Nigerian voting system.

Ironically, the party’s (PDP) leader, President Goodluck Jonathan, emphasized so much, during his campaigns, his confidence on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) thus pledged to stimulate process of engaging it in the government system, (including using it to wage war against corruption). The President has also mentioned his resolve to create enabling platforms for his successors to take Nigeria to the “moon”. Is this feat feasible without an advanced technology and compliance? We must start from somewhere if there should be commitment to mere verbal pronunciation.

Sadly, the ruling house that takes delight in castigating its number one rival as party with violent and dubious characters; that trades in propaganda and perfects in elections rigging is presently opposing a device that will discourage the same criminal act it has conveniently accused its rival. If this were to be a genuine challenge, who then between the ruling PDP and the leading opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) is expected to accept or reject the machine? What a one but too many paradox of a political party?

What else to be concluded, on opposition and instigated controversies over the use of card readers by the party which members have been caught “red handed” in the electoral rigging (of 2014 Ekiti Governorship election), yet, its leader has since considered and declared that calling for investigation of such weighty accusation was insignificant. Well, I feel Nigerians are only expecting too much of reaction from the President, whose interest according to one of the accused (in the audio tape) ultimately matters in the overall plot. If not, the same man who declared at the rigging meeting that interest of the Oga patapata must be protected, was recently nominated for Ministerial appointment and just Wednesday (this week) amid controversies among the ruling and opposition Senators over his eligibility or otherwise, was fraudulently screen and confirmed!

The nomination of Lagos – Abuja; Abuja – Lagos politician is beyond compensation for his disgraceful defeat in the January 2015 Lagos PDP Governorship primary to a ‘new comer, Mr. Jimi Agabje. Surely, there is more to meet the eyes. ‘And we shall battle corruption; indeed, conduct free and credible general elections and promote the rule of law’.

The instructive nomination by President Jonathan, the Senate’s controversial screening and confirmation Wednesday, March 11, 2015 of former Senator Musiliu Obanikoro was dramatic; another display of impunity, disregard to the rule of law and obviously acting of another scripted game in a build up to the coming and rescheduled polls. But for how long will this last?

In the meantime, may we ask that, what would have happened if the resentment on the polls shift and opposition against the use of card readers were from the opposition, either the main or others? Are the PDP members, leaders and supporters wiser than the entire Nigerians – the voting public? The same ruling house (members and supporters) are up till the moment, agitating for the INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega’s removal for reasons and factors which only them are convinced and shared!

For the fact that the excuses provided by the proponents of the polls shift have changed from the two earlier adduced, especially the insecurity, as mentioned by Professor Jega, (note he quoted the service chiefs), it is very important more fundamental questions are asked and directed at the PDP, its members, leaders and sympathizers. Therefore, can we ask today that, why the PDP did not include use of card readers in the list of its excuses for elections postponement? Who in the first place suggested the idea of card readers and when? Who and which of the government institutions approve the concept? Since when has the card readers been endorsed to be used for the coming polls? When did the phobia for the machine begin?

More questions please. Were the various arms of government (necessary) aware of the INEC card readers budgeting and when it wanted to go for them? Why the torrent protest against the device by the PDP and its members especially now, when so many Nigerians favour it? With the PDP and its allied political parties on one side, the INEC, the first opposition and good percentage of the public on another side, with respect to card readers to be or not; the INEC pass mark on last weekend dummy across the country, what happens in the end if Jega, the ruling house and other stakeholders maintain their differences on the device? And more significantly, will these elections hold at all, given the raging flexing of muscles, mounting tension, endless and needless controversies, many contradictory body languages, persistent hate speeches, personality attacks and so many other very unpleasant and worrisome developments?

President Jonathan on his own, has maintained the elections will hold as rescheduled; the PDP Governors also declared at their interactive meeting in Lagos State this week that the party was not scared about conduct of the elections. Again, Mr. President is persistent (for now) in denying plan and speculation to sack the INEC boss. Yet, what is playing out across the country since the polls have been shifted have not substantially aligned with President Jonathan’s position and assurances. Whether this was designed or function of communication breakdown within the PDP family, only time will tell.

Yet, with the prevailing elections fever, the obvious fact is that the PDP as a party, its members, leaders, allies and supporters have deliberately and selfishly lost touch with majority of Nigerians and have consequently embarked on, as well as engrossed by a parallel mission to suit “only” their desire, not significantly the entire country. Otherwise, the factors and reasons argued so far for the polls shift and why the card readers should be discarded would not have been raised in the first place. And to worsen it, despite many gimmicks, the tricks, mudslinging deployed daily by the party, the fear of defeat at the polls has not really eluded the ranks and files of the PDP, as all destructive instruments directed at its main opponent, its Presidential candidate and Chieftains are reaping the expected gains.

Finally, the latest desperate moves, especially in the South Western part of the country by the ruling house leader, for election blessing and victory is like an alarm bell, which ultimately calls for serious attention and persistent vigilance before, during and after the elections, if it eventually holds. The vital issue to me is that this part of Nigeria should and must not become a ‘sacrificial lamb’ or a theatre of war in a desperate attempt by individuals or political parties to emerge victorious during these particular elections. Therefore, the PDP, its leaders within and outside the geo political zone (with avowed interest to capture it); the opposition and well-meaning Nigerians on the other hand, should ensure blood must not flow in Yoruba land and Nigeria as a whole. Instead, it is PEACE, ONLY PEACE we demand and crave for. God bless those who wish Nigeria well!

The Presidential Debate: Its Values And Moral Questions

It is surprising, yet very thrilling to me, reading and listening to some PDP folks calling and challenging the main opposition – the APC Presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari (rted) for a debate with the incumbent President Jonathan. Let the fact be said that the Nigerian political class, especially the ruling party has not done very well in building and promoting good political and democratic culture. Political debate, at whatever level, is a desirable recipe in developing democratic government, but successive top contenders have since been shying away from this advanced responsibility. Nigerians might recall how former President Olusegun Obasanjo, then contesting under the same PDP failed to present himself for Presidential debate in 1999, whereas, the opposition Alliance For Democracy (AD) Presidential candidate, Chief Olu Falae was available, but virtually with no serious opposing candidate to face.

Jonathan and Buhari

Jonathan and Buhari

I do not really recall what happened in 2007 during the contest by Late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua and the incumbent President Jonathan as his running mate. Yet, it is on record that the current President whose aides and Governors, are galvanizing over the need for Presidential debate especially between him and his main rival, General Buhari, shun similar exercise in 2011, when the PDP presented him and his Deputy for the contest.

This exercise as excellent as it remains, is not a pre – requisite nor constitutional requirement for the candidate to contest the highest political office in the country. In essence, if President Jonathan avoided similar exercise about four years ago, for reasons best known to him, his aides and the PDP in general, let no one disturb Nigerians again about Buhari avoiding Presidential debate within or outside Nigeria. I say it again, none in the PDP family has the moral justification to query or attack the opposition candidate for declining the intellectual display session.

But if those clamouring for the debate stick to their blaming mantra, then similar should go to their leader who had set similar bad legacy, which has become a reference point now. This point has been established endlessly by so many Nigerians, but to the deaf ears of the PDP hawks. As for me, it is only Nigerians (the electorates) who have the moral right to question General Buhari’s refusal or challenge him for a debate, not the PDP, its members or President’s aides who at one time or the other had also faulted President Jonathan similar ‘abandon obligation’.

Besides, I cannot understand why the Presidential aides and some characters in the ruling PDP are hyper active on the Presidential debate of the first citizen whose administration has been besieged with too many clear and huge lapses, many of which he had personally admitted (although retracted some) later. As much as I need not bother to elaborate on high corruption profile; the worst insecurity challenge in the history of Nigeria; generally agreed poor economy records; wide scale of impunity, yet, cases of political intolerance and impugning on rule of law against this administration are too enormous and very alarming not to mention and buttress!

The eruption of election violence, verbal and personalities attacks by the PDP, its members and supporters under the President watch before and during the electioneering campaigns; the failed and remotely controlled attempt by lower legislators, to impeach the number four citizen, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal and the latest – nomination, screening and confirmation of a Ministerial nominee (Obanikoro), despite weighty allegation against him as well as opposition to his nomination by the three Senators from his State – Lagos are good examples in the above regard.

Still, I don’t know and cannot comprehend what is justifiable and defendable in all of these, that Dr. Reuben Abati; the reigning PDP attacking machine, Femi Fani – Kayode, Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross Rivers State and others in the ruling house are groping for debate despite these known facts. I do not know either, if they are aware, if the exercise (debate) is truly independent and fair, these issues will be brought up and listeners would be keen on to have convincing, not evasive and ‘round about’ replies the typical Nigerian politicians would offer give on hard issues that box them into the corner.

Again, I do not know if those clamouring for a debate between President Jonathan and his major challenger, General Buhari (rted) ever thought about the fact that similar ‘stories’ (performance records) promoted by the same President during his campaign, but questioned and not satisfactory to many Nigerians will still be propagated during the so called debate if it holds. So what’s the big deal? Anyway, the PDP has its unique but ‘sole’ perception to issues, distinctly different from many others.

I am sure at the debate; President Jonathan will harp on the paradoxical and self-conceited successful economy indices and will still articulate those points palatable to only to the hearing of his party stalwarts. His Deputy, Namadi Sambo repeated in the recent Presidential campaign, that Jonathan/Sambo inherited over 2000 MWT of electricity, but has now been upgraded to 4000 MWT. This is in spite of over $20 billion so far invested on electricity generation in the last 15 years. And with the recent commissioning of Olorunsogo, Ifo Ogun State, South Western Nigeria 750 MWT capacity power plant, situation had largely remained the same, as the Nigerian gas stations still rake in huge proceeds from high sales of petroleum products to power industrial and household generating sets.

Are these people mindful of these facts and the expected convincing answers from Mr. President, which if achieved, will do the desirable – changing the mind of people? Finally, for me, instead of flogging a dead horse, the PDP men and President’s aides should engage themselves in more other ways, rather than debate they lack moral right to query anyone (not only Buhari), to be featured with their boss. After all, the President had in the last three weeks, stayed more in the South Western part of Nigerian, engaging himself in all sorts of outings and adventures to canvass for votes. The PDP Governors’ Forum had also followed suit, from last weekend till the present week. I urge them to ride on, if in their estimate the last minutes ‘rush’ and ‘race’ would earn the President and his party victory in the ever alive geo political arena. What matters to me, as a South Westerner and Nigerian, is that the elections must hold, as rescheduled and must be generally applauded to be free, fair and credible.

E – Mail: tjaysuccess10@gmail.com; Facebook: Tajudeen Balogun











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