2 March 2012

Nigeria: Conducting Election Without Security Agents


At the Peoples Democratic Party's governorship campaign rally, penultimate Tuesday, President Goodluck Jonathan spoke with magisterial candour.

He hinged the success of the one-man-one-vote policy that his administration has adopted on the sanctity of elections conducted without gun-wielding security personnel. "God willing before 2015, we would conduct election without security carrying guns to follow us. We know we have disciplined people," the president said.

Yet again, Nigerians are befuddled by intentions that are not backed by political will. To show sincerity of purpose, the president should have asked all the armed security personnel he had ordered deployed to Cross Rivers State to return to base immediately and the Saturday election conducted without them.

It is common knowledge that using state forces and resources during elections has resulted in widespread rigging. For instance, deploying of troops to Ekiti State in 2009 was to protect marauding members of the party and ensure a pyrrhic victory for the party "against the conscience" of the then resident electoral commissioner of the state, Mrs Ayoka Adebayo.

Three weeks ago, over 100,000 policemen were deployed to the president's home state of Bayelsa in what was allegedly an attempt to ensure victory for the candidate of the PDP, Seriake Dickson. Penultimate week in Sokoto State, an 8,000-man military force marched on the streets of Sokoto to guard the polls that returned PDP's Aliyu Wammako.

Even as the president enthused, regarding recent elections won by his party, that "...today we have one-man-one-vote and one-woman-one-vote", no one was impressed.

From the history of elections in Nigeria, we know that people have been cheated and redress has been sought and found. The culpability of security men has also been established in many cases of electoral fraud.

And, in many cases, the PDP has been the primary culprit. The president has taken his reliance on policemen and other security forces further by his deployment of soldiers to the streets on flimsy grounds and in civil matters, such as during the protests against fuel subsidy removal.

What is required of the president is for him to muster enough courage to walk the propitious path of ridding elections of the do-or-die politics made popular by his party.

The use of soldiers and policemen for intimidation rather than security purposes is what Nigerian detest, not their deployment per se. Where security personnel are loyal to the system and not people in power, democracy will prosper.

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