in the build up to the recent Rivers State rerun election when the gladiators of the main political parties admonished their supporters to be courageous and to resist intimidation in the ensuing electoral struggle, did they ever imagine that the seemingly simple process of electing the representatives of the people would entail the murder of a police DSP?
Maybe not. But by the end of that tortuous process, a police DSP and another security official had been slain. The DSP was gruesomely beheaded and many others were maimed. It is sad that rather than improve, the electoral process in Nigeria has been anything but peaceful. In states like Rivers where elections had to be conducted out of the schedule of the national general election, the full complement of national security agencies has usually had to be deployed for supplementary polls, but virtually to no avail. Controversies trail the results of these polls with allegations of different electoral malpractices ranging from monetization to biased supervision by security officials.
There were also allegations of disruption of the collation of polls even by the security personnel charged with keeping the peace at the various venues of the elections. Results were delayed unduly, raising doubts about the genuineness and veracity of the figures that were eventually submitted. At the end of the day, it was virtually impossible to uphold the declared results with any iota of confidence. Not many could say that they represented the wishes of the people who were supposed to have chosen their leaders freely. But the truth is that the narrative of the rerun elections in Rivers State and in any of the recently conducted elections in other states did not differ much from what obtained in the First Republic which was eventually sacked by the military.
It is regrettable that, since then, the country has not got its electoral acts together. Indeed, the cynical observation that Nigeria’s democracy is one devoid of democrats is valid. The recent elections in Nigeria did not in any way display a better educated electorate than the country had in the First Republic. The elections merely showcased how more sophisticated the electorate had grown in terms of unruliness and violence. Rather than reflect the political interests of the people and show who they want as their representatives in the parliament, elections have become the indices to measure the oversized egos of political warlords and this is tragic in our view.
Political power should ideally not belong to whoever can exert the most mindless violence, especially where the gladiators are the educated elite in the society. The real tragedy, however, is that INEC in all of these crises only sees an improvement, which it claimed at the conclusion of the Rivers rerun elections. Even if the nation has become accustomed to the Nigerian penchant for unwarranted self-adulation, especially by individuals in public offices, we still think this claim by INEC remains most bizarre. How can a rerun election in a single state, armed with the full complement of the country’s security operatives but eventually ending up with casualties, be adjudged an improvement? We remain perplexed by this absurd self rating.
The truth is that the risk of this Republic ending up like its forbears is very potent. Since political offices have become the most lucrative in the country, access to them has become contentious and violent. Sadly, those who should be most concerned prefer to look the other way. For instance, the Federal Government is affecting a nonchalant attitude in this direction, as if the problem does not exist. We cannot condone this situation and we call on the government to address it decisively.