11 July 2018

Nigeria: Concerns Over Manner of Transition, Credible Poll Next Year

Maintaining the fidelity of voters' verdict has become a crucial concern about the 2019 election. In the absence of a body to commit politicians, especially Presidential aspirants to codes of behaviour before, during and after elections, a lot of Nigerians are wondering what manner of transition the nation would witness after next year's election.

The plethora of arrests of opposition voices, the killings being perpetrated across the country, especially by armed herdsmen and the general insecurity, are creating fears that President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) may not easily handover power should voters decide otherwise in the 2019 election.

However, Executive Director, We the People - Centre for Social Studies and Development, Port Harcourt; Ken Henshaw, declared that "a new standard has been set for election in this country."

He added: "In 2015 we broke a very major barrier and the barrier is one, that an incumbent president with the power of incumbency could actually lose an election and that the ruling party can lose an election. The second barrier is that the person, who lost the election, can actually concede defeat. Prior to this time, that was unfathomable.

"There was another barrier to our political activity that was broken, that was people's election getting annulled in a court of law and they accepting it.

The reality is that between 1999 and now, a lot of things have changed in our democracy to the extent that if a party like the APC happens to lose the 2019 election, even if it is not their intent to leave power, they will leave power, because we have gone past that."

Henshaw said the ruling party and the incumbent may decide to go to court and dispute the conduct of the election, but "the bottom line is they will concede. The option of resisting the outcome of election is no longer available as it was taken out of the table in 2015."

However, he said what couldn't be guaranteed is whether the election will be free and fair, adding, "There is this thing call PVC revolution all over social media." "It is important to get PVC, but were there no PVC in 2015, when those impossible votes from Kano and Rivers came in? The question for me is have votes ever counted in this country?"

The rights activist said the only thing that can solve the problem of credibility is an INEC that takes up its responsibility and under the clear watch of the citizens, who are alert and ready to do everything to defend their votes.

He added: "I don't think that President Buhari is in charge of anything. Since 2015, we have increasingly seen the alienation and abdication of presidential responsibilities by this president. I don't think he is in touch with realities. His patent insensitivity to burning issues in the country and failure to adequately respond to those issues, gives me the impression that there must be some other person in charge. If that person has got political bias, then, the security apparatus may play a pivotal role in the elections, because the president is clearly not in charge of what happens at the security level in this country."

Similarly, contributing during a discussion at a public lecture held recently in Enugu, a lecturer from one of the private universities in the state raised what he called a "worrisome development in the country".

He told the gathering to take a little time and reflect the mood of the nation, especially as it relates to insecurity and the seeming silence of the federal government over public outcry that security chiefs should be relieved of their duties since they had served out their tenure.

The university teacher said that "desperation" for 2019 presidency was fuelling insecurity. He alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari had failed in almost all his promises and knowing the "reality about the feelings of Nigerians, he still wants to do all in his ability to keep to power."

"They are probing everybody that has a name in Nigeria; those who don't have a name are being massacred by herdsmen. Where herdsmen are not killing, hunger and starvation have taken root.

"All these are aimed at beating the people to submission and I have the feeling that the way the government is going, I doubt seriously if the President will voluntarily handover power should his party fail in the coming election. It is something that should agitate the minds and I think discussing political developments and democracy, we have not laid the basic foundations that should make this democracy thrive," he noted.

A former secretary general of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nduka Eya, told The Guardian that Nigeria under Buhari has operated as a 'failed state', stressing that, some disturbing developments, which his leadership had not taken seriously had left one in wonder whether he is actually in charge of affairs.

"Many have said there are several unseen hands operating this government and some of us think that such is the reality. Time has come for us to face the reality and say things that will make our country move forward. The way we are going is not how a country should be governed. If your predecessor had, in an attempt to move the country forward, summoned a constitutional conference where over 600 resolutions were adopted and you came to power and dumped those things, how do you expect to function effectively? It is this failure that is creating crisis in the country and we don't know for how long, because they appear not to be bothered by the situation of things. He is behaving like somebody who is not interested in handing over power to another person," he surmised.

But, former President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Dozie Ikedife, stated that words making the rounds that the President and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), may not concede power in the event of losing the 2019 general election are speculative. Ikedife said he would prefer that those spreading the rumour come up with concrete evidence, stressing also that it was a constitutional matter that "I won't like to discuss."

But, Southeast Secretary of Campaign for Democracy, Dr. Jerry Chukwuokolo, said the situation of the country gives clear indication that the President having not done well, has allowed insecurity in the country as a guise not to surrender power should he be defeated in the coming elections.

He said the fear that Nigerians would not re-elect Buhari to power was causing the current insecurity.

Chukwuokolo declared: "There is desperation to retain power by all means, even when the government has failed. I want to align myself with the report of the Harvard University that Nigeria under Buhari is a good example of a failed state and those fears are fears you always have within the confines of a failed state. One of the challenges is that there is grand design and plan to put Islam ahead of every other thing. We saw a write-up the other time, where they said Arabic studies will now form part of the General Studies and that was from National University Commission (NUC) and people started wondering of what benefit is Arabic that everybody must now study it.

"I read from the social media that there is serious movement of armaments to the north and these things are gearing towards elections. But, if the civil society groups are patriotic, we will move round to enlighten our people on the implications of peace than a wartime situation. And people will understand that if we are able to go on in this sense and people are aware, we will overcome whatever problems we are facing.

"When you look at what happened to Dino Malaye and Enyinnaya Abaribe. The way the National Assembly was invaded by nine thugs, who snatched away the Mace, all in attempt to stop deliberations on the elections. There is a sort of desperation and since these things are coming out early enough, we should wade in to ensure that we don't disrupt this democracy. The APC should watch its steps and confine to ethos that will move the country forward. President Buhari will not be enjoying that office if Jonathan did not concede to power, so he should desist from creating situations that are unpleasant to the people. He should hand over power should he lose in the election."

On his part, leader of the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Uchenna Madu, said: "Nigeria is already sitting on a time bomb, which will likely explode soon. The consciousness of future survival of the people of Biafra, Middle Belt and Oduduwa has been reawakened for total defence of our lands and our people from every maneuvering of Buhari and his men."

Nonetheless, the General Overseer, Ever-Increasing Anointing Ministries, Pastor Taiye Emmanuel Olayemi advised President Muhammadu Buhari to place Nigeria's interest and development above his personal ambition and the desire of those advising him to seek reelection.

He urged the President to seek the face of God in prayers before deciding to run for second term in office due to the persistent 'downturn situation', which the country has witnessed under his administration since 2015.

Olayemi said the unity of Nigeria has never been this threatened as it is in the last three years, saying the manner in which armed herdsmen have been killing and dislocating communities without check by security agencies is worrisome.

The cleric also expressed concern about the increasing rate of poverty and economic challenges in the country, saying unless something crucial is done to address the situation and the increasing rate of insecurity; Nigeria may be heading for the worse.

Speaking on whether the president should seek reelection, Olayemi said, "If I am to look at it from the spiritual angle, Mr. President should not seek reelection in 2019 without first consulting God, who is the ultimate giver of power and position."

According to him, "In the first instance, it was not by accident that Mr. President emerged in 2015 under the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). He contested unsuccessfully more than twice before God gave the nod to his ambition in 2015 when he had almost lost hope. It is therefore important for him seek from God whether he has performed to the expectations of Nigerians for him to continue in office or not."

The cleric appealed to the president to disregard the pressure being mounted by some sycophants around him, saying it is not about whether some people around him want him to rerun. There are two things he must consider, which are his state of health and age. If theses two critical issues were not in Buhari's favour to seek reelection, I would personally urge him to step down and go back home. If he can summon the courage to do this, Mr. President would forever be remembered as a hero in Nigeria.

But, Olayemi warned that it is not enough for Nigerians to continue to groan or that Christians and Muslims should restrict themselves only to prayers in the present situation without doing the needful.

He added: "If there must be change, the Nigerian masses must realise the fact that the strength to change the current situation lies in their votes and not by murmuring, groaning or praying.

"The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will not count our prayers and lamentations, but vote. So, if we continue to pray or lament about our situation that would not change anything. It is only our votes that will count and therefore if Nigerians want a change they should obtain their Permanent Voters Card (PVC), wherein lies their strength to change the government."

In his response, presidential aspirant on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Dr. Kola Olusola-Christwealth, said Buhari being a good man would adhere to the outcome of the polls if he loses.

He declared: "Buhari is also a great man. No General that is worth the title would acknowledge or admit defeat or concede victory in a battle he has all the resources and wherewithal to fight, but not yet fought. I will be disappointed, as one with some military training myself, if the President withdraws before the election. I am happy he chose to run. It would be cowardly and agreeing with the aspersions of his detractors if he did not. He will fight in this battle. He will lose the battle. The good and great man in him would surrender gallantly and honorably."

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