An old English saying is that a chain is as strong as its weakest link. This saying while old is still as true today as it was when it was coined.
The just concluding 2019 Nigerian election must therefore be measured by what is happening in Rivers State, the chains weakest link. First a little background.
The responsible election authority is INEC. This body determined that APC, the ruling party had not conducted a credible primary elections in the state and submitted the result on time specified by INEC. There are two factions of APC in the state, Amaechi faction and another rival faction.
INEC ruling was appealed to the Nigerian courts and courts ruled in favor of INEC and after the rulings INEC excluded APC candidates from Rivers State elections.
Mr. Amaechi sought a coalition with Mr. Sowore who rebuffed the offer. APC, the ruling party at the Federal Level, became desperate and decided that if they do not have candidates in the state there will not be any election and have resorted to engineering violence which is now plaguing the electoral process in the state resulting in the suspension of all electoral activities in the state.
Let us come back to measuring and validating the conduct of 2019 Nigerian elections. This writer has no choice but to rate the conduct of the election as an “F” for the following reasons:
1. The elections in Rivers State is nothing but a sham. It will not matter how the issues is resolved. The fact that the governing party was not able to pull its party together to present candidates in the state and was unable to accept the decisions of the INEC and courts show that the government is actually “lifeless”.
2. What happened in Rivers state is a magnification of what happened in several other states, Lagos, Imo, Zamfara, Kaduna, to name a few. The elections were neither free nor fair nor conducted according to the rules of the game.
3. The postponement of the election for one week to allow compromised judges to nullify the exclusion of APC candidates in Zamfara made the election incredible.
4. Not many believable commentators would say that the election was without violence. Even though both the army and police were all over the place, peace did not reign. Ballot boxes were snatched, collating papers torn, and voters beaten or stopped from voting. The result was that the voting numbers for the second leg of the election process saw just a few of the voters in first leg show up, sometimes as few as 40% of the votes in the presidential stage in some places.
5. In a presidential or federal system, ministers are considered civil servants and therefore not allowed to be directly involved in political process as they are paid from the common coffers. But many ministers were neck deep involved. As an example Mr. Amaechi, the transport minister, is PMB’s top re-election head. He did not resign his post as was required. The implication is that APC’s re-election campaign was funded in part by the federal government to the exclusion of the opposition parties.
6. Good elections must start from the conduct of primaries all the way to the general election. All Primaries by the major political parties are full of flaws. APC used excessive fees for purchase of nominating fees, to exclude middle class (SKC Ogbonnia) and the poor but visionary candidates from seeking offices. PDP used diversionary tactics to confuse candidate seeking offices. Party leaders such as Mr. Oshiomhole were sworn to some old faithful’s that the party interests were sabotaged.
7. The head of INEC has no knowledge of project management and failed many times, be it logistics, communication, security of documents and the personnel he assigned to many polling stations. His head should fall immediately.
8. The lifeless Commander-in-Chief could neither guarantee the peace nor the lives of citizens nor was the obedience to the court’s rulings enforced.
The elections may be over but the country still exists and Nigerians must find new ways to exist. Some of the lessons learned include the fact that so-called university chancellors and professors who were called to help conduct the elections were not up to the task. That the presence of police and army may cause violence rather than quell it.
See you in 2023.
*** Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba wrote from Boston, Massachusetts.