Democracy is a system of government by the majority of the people, typically through elected representatives. In simpler terms, it is, as declared by Abraham Lincoln in his 1863 Gettysburg speech, the government of the people, by the people and for the people. From its definition, it is generally taken that the principles and practice of democracy are adopted in pursuit of the welfare of the generality of the people. The practice of democracy differs from place to place, and no two countries have the exact same template. While majority of countries practise democracy for the political, social and economic benefit of the generality of its people, Nigeria, amongst other third world countries has curiously branded her democracy as government of the few, by the few and for the benefit of the few. The recently conducted “elections” (selection more appropriate), is the greatest evidence of this misshaped and tyrannising brand of Nigeria’s brand of democracy. It was sordid.
The presidential election took place on the 23rd February, 2019. After 3 spine-chilling days of collating and calculating results, President Muhamadu Buhari the candidate of the APC was finally declared the “winner” on the 27th February, 2019, with a total of 15,191,847 votes, as against that of his closest opponent, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, who allegedly scored 11,263,951 votes. This was a very sad day for Nigeria, though not for the “winner”, PMB, and many of his fawning and gloating followers. No. It was a sad day for the Nigerian masses, the majority of Nigerians who have been yoked with PMB’s dictatorial but clueless rule. It was a sad day for Nigerians who were promised a free and fair election, blindly believed same, but were presented with a militarised and murderous election. It was a sad day for democracy, as the elections clearly questioned the concept of democracy as midwifing a people’s government. After the 2015 presidential elections. Nigerians from all works of life were happy. They danced on the streets. Some trekked from Lagos to Abuja. Compare this with the just concluded elections. Not even the “winners” could celebrate or dance. They knew full well they are temporarily holding on to a stolen mandate. The people’s mandate that will definitely be retrieved for and on behalf of the Nigerian people. The elections were neither free, fair, transparent, credible, nor imbued with integrity and credibility. Soldiers went on rampage, killing innocent voters. Opposition’s votes were either outrightly cancelled or downgraded. APC’s votes were outrageously inflated. On a day Boko Haram even struck to underline the continued insecurity in the North East, the geopolitical zone posted humongous votes that can only come from Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, a fairy tale. The ruling party’s hired thugs in collaboration with security forces, especially the military, brazenly snatched ballot boxes, beat up opponents, terrorised the populace, stole votes, and in some cases, arrested and detained INEC officials whom they forced to announce results at gun point. Never before in Nigeria’s electoral process (not even during the “operation ‘wetie’” days), did we behold such a malevolent, despicable and crude use of power to subjugate and subvert the Constitution and the people’s will and mandate. That is why Nigerians are crying, nay, mourning, rather than celebrating. It is like a grave yard.
Some people have surprisingly been “advising” Atiku Abubakar (the custodian of the stolen mandate), to call and congratulate Buhari. Before the elections, Atiku had had consistently maintained he would congratulate Buhari if he (Buhari) won in a free, fair, transparent and credible elections. On the contrary, Buhari never expressed such a desire if he lost. He maintained he could and would never lose. His followers clapped and said Buhari could NEVER be defeated. With this mindset of invisibility and unconquerabilty, it became clear that the APC in conjunction with INEC (the presumed, but biased umpire), would work from the question to the answer, to ensure their “prediction” came through.
That is why the elections were so violent, brazenly rigged with votes clearly doctored to meet the answers. We saw children “voting” in the North East and card readers not used; results were falsified. To deepen democracy, help the Nigerian people and reclaim his stolen mandate, Atiku must head for the tribunal. It is incredible to see where an insurgency – ravaged geo-political zone post the most humongous results, while peaceful areas did not.
There is history in favour of Atiku going to court. Buhari had himself gone before the tribunals in 2003, 2007 and 2011, albeit unsuccessfully. Some people believe his descending on the judiciary (with masked DSS operatives in 2016) and baying for CJN Walter Onnoghen’s blood in 2018, were carefully designed to create fear in the minds of Judges that would eventually handle the election petitions he knew would arise from his near “moonslide” victory.
Even current APC chieftains had achieved their ambitions and reclaimed their mandates from the tribunals. Adams Oshiomhole, APC National Chairman, had dethroned Professor Osarienhen Osunbor to reclaim his Edo state governorship seat. Rotimi Amaechi, the DG of Buhari’s campaign organization, reclaimed his Rivers state mandate from Celestine Omehia; while Rauf Aregbesola snatched his from Olangunsoye Oyinlola, at the tribunals. Some of the cases took years to decide, but justice was eventually served.
It was glaring during the last presidential elections that contrary to Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu (INEC’s Chairman)’s refrain that only card readers would be used for the elections while manual voting was disallowed, the reverse was clearly the case. In the southern part of Nigeria, card readers were employed to disenfranchise many voters. Some were physically prevented from voting. In some places, votes cast in favour of PDP were publicly burnt as many online videos showed.
On the contrary, in the northern parts of Nigeria, particularly in the North West and North East, Manual voting (rather than card readers, were mostly used with the ugly spectre of children obviously below the age of 10 either queuing up to vote, or seen physically mass-thumb printing ballot papers. This template was prevalent, not isolated. Most voters there simply “voted” without any form of accreditation, contrary to electoral guidelines and INEC chairman’s serial promises.
With incontrovertible evidence of unearned jumbo votes, especially in states like Bauchi, Borno, Kano, Kebbi, Katsina, Yobe, Nassarawa and Kaduna States, it is clear that Atiku would reclaim his stolen mandate. The journey would be long, tortuous, rough and energy-sapping. But, it is worth the travails. Otherwise, democracy would have been completely murdered in Nigeria.
The so called international observers were obviously compromised and afraid of their lives. What with threats of “body bags” against them, and clear warnings not to “interfere” in our electoral process? They rather sat in their cosy hotels, “pepper-souping” “goat-heading” and “big-stouting” (apologies to Igodomigodo, Patrick Obahiagbon). It is only local observers that cried foul, both in their interim and final reports, that this election was the worst ever in the chequered history of Nigeria.
The incumbency factor was brazenly and crudely used to murder democracy, disenfranchise Nigerians, undermine constitutionalism and enthrone a regime of fear, terror, and needless suspense. Nigerians are sleep-walking, somnabulistically, not sure of tomorrow. The change that was promised them 4 years ago has become a frightful nightmare, an apparition whose ugly visage they want exterminated. Will they have their relief, their succour? Can the judiciary, inspite of its obvious travails in the hands of the present government hold its head high and do pure and undiluted justice, as its blind-folded woman symbol shows? Only time will tell. But, Nigerians should be hopeful of the truth emerging eventually from the phoenix of dashed hopes and aspirations.
Nigerians, as you begin a new week, continue to engage me on a weekly basis in the national conversation, whilst always awaiting explosive topics of Sunday Sermon on the Mount of the Nigerian Project by Chief Mike A.A. Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb, Ph.D, LL.D.