The campaigns continued across Nigeria and even took an increased tempo. The best is saved for the last even in politics. In the last one week, mega rallies were held in the largest voting bloc zones by both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Of course, data has shown in the last two election cycles that how Kano, Rivers and Lagos votes determines largely the outcome of presidential elections in Nigeria. So, as supporter turnout has been massive in these major cities and states, it is safe to say “It is not yet uhuru!” for any of these major political parties at the polls yet.
The atmosphere has not been as charged as the elections in 2015. Credit must be given to the PDP which has refused to play opposition less viciously than APC did in 2015.
However, particular mention must be made of politically divisive statements by incumbent and important personalities such as Mallam Nasir Elrufai and President Buhari himself. The president was said to have insinuated at the APC mega rally in Zamfara state that violence could be welcome as well. Elrufai, in his usually incisive and careless statements last week also remarked that foreign election observers will go back to their countries in body bags. All of these remarks earned a proper dose of castigation from different quarters – local and foreign.
Even more damning was when a fairly old video message by the International Criminal Court prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, where she warned that anyone in Nigeria will be prosecuted by the top international criminal court for any actions which leads to violence and tragedy as a result of this election, began circulating in the media as a reminder of what fate awaits election criminals. All voices were unequivocal in sending a direct message to the incumbents regarding tampering in any way with the elections or even in actions which might result in violence after all. This perhaps was what pushed the president to release a rare broadcast appealing for the vote of Nigerians for a second time. After all, when all antics have proved null, appeal to the emotions of voters is often deployed. Former President Goodluck Jonathan did the same when the realities of his exit from power were beginning to dawn on him.
And just 3 days to the first batch of the 2019 elections, all focus and responsibility is being laid on the shoulders of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, bears the burden to prove that the agency can hold an even better election than the one the renowned Prof. Attahiru Jega oversaw in 2015.
Despite receiving the cogent budgetary allocation needed for proper preparations by the independent agency late, the commission has still managed to meet up with preparatory necessities towards the election. Just this Monday, the emergency extension of 3 days announced by the INEC chairman for the collection of Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVC) by those who could not collect it on Friday elapsed.
Notwithstanding all of the myriad assurances by the government and participating agencies, INEC, its officials, and law enforcement officers such as the Police need to watch out especially for sabotage from all corners. Yes, much of the loopholes through which election could be rigged have been blocked with the fine-tuning of the smart card addition to our elections; but an age-old election rigging tactic is ballot box snatching, voter intimidation and violence and it is known to always work in favour of a political party which has a lower chance of winning a polling unit.
In the past one week alone, there has been 3 reported cases of fire breakout in INEC offices targeted at sabotaging voter card collection, smart card deployment and general logistics of the electoral body in Plateau, Abia and Anambra states – which are considered strongholds of the PDP.
Let us ponder on this then: when elections officials and umpires have played their role, but the police and paid thugs move to thwart the outcome of the elections with their usual antics; shall we then, as citizens, succumb to the urge to intervene in forcing the overseers to bend to the biding of the polity and ensuring that the majority really carries the vote in our nascent democracy?
Featured image source: The Nation