The outcome of the just concluded presidential elections was shocking to me. Not necessarily because my leader; His Excellency, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (Nigeria’s incumbent President) lost to a weaker (in several ramifications) candidate, but because of the circumstances that led to that loss. Shortly after voting was deferred to Sunday 29th March 2015, I in company of a friend jetted to Abuja from Lagos so we could boost the morale of young Nigerians working and providing backend support to our field officers from the TAN situation room in Maitama. It was from my cozy suite in Irabel Hotels on Emeka Anyaoku Street, Area 11 that we monitored the procedure that started with a state by state collation of figures and ended with the announcement of Retired General Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the elections.
Shortly before that time, I strongly believed Retired General Muhammadu Buhari never stood a chance against His Excellency, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in a fair contest on the basis of productivity and capacity. Not even possible incidences of under aged voting synonymous (and now accepted as normal) in the North was sufficient to make me rethink. I had banked on the (assumed) truth that our differences as Nigerians notwithstanding, we all had something in common – a desire for improved living standards and better life generally. These, I expected was enough to guide Nigerians through making a choice from both candidates. But alas, I was wrong. As it dawned on me the president was losing, I withdrew from my friends and a few officials of the National Association of Nigerian Students that were visiting. My body temperature rose and I suffered a mild headache. I ordered for a meal from the kitchen but lost appetite immediately I was served. I even missed an appointment with the publisher of an African political news magazine based in The Netherlands.
Before the elections which were initially scheduled for February 14th, I and some Nigerians had sounded the alarm that a loss was imminent for the incumbent president should that date be adhered to. We disclosed our reservations about the capacity of the Prof. Attahiru Jega led INEC to conduct a credible exercise because we were genuinely concerned that even if he were, the statistics of PVC distribution nationwide stated otherwise. Besides the PVC concern, we referred to incidences of foreigners from the Sudan, Libya, Chad and Niger being recruited and empowered (with PVCs) by politicians whom would also pay them to vote for the APC as a means of boosting their chances of winning in the North. We took a step further and issued what was more or less a warning to Mr. President that unless the mass migration of southerners and moderate Muslims from the core north to the south is reversed by massive deployment of troops to flash points in the north, the APC would capitalize on that exodus to garner massive votes in the states concerned to his disadvantage. To be exact, we demanded a shift in the dates of the elections.
Selfish as our views were at that time, the date of the federal elections was altered and Nigerians saw an INEC that were most unprepared to conduct elections. We also saw an INEC chief who consistently lied through his teeth to the nation about the readiness of his organization to conduct elections. We saw an INEC which was yet to commence training for the ad-hoc staff it hired to compliment its staff strength. We even saw an INEC that was yet to test the software it acquired that would make the election credible. All these we saw within a space of six weeks. The INEC chief kept lying and telling more lies!
As I write the presidential elections have been won and lost but did His Excellency, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan actually lose the elections? Did the INEC really deliver on its pledge to deliver credible elections? Should this election be adopted as yardstick to determine the credibility of future election? All these are salient questions that need answers.
By my estimation, His Excellency, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan did not lose the election. The reason for my position is simple; the entire process was fraught with irregularities. The incidences that characterized the conduct of the elections as it went on clearly showed that besides the PVC distribution debacle, every other concern raised by honest Nigerians about the elections (especially incidences of foreigners from the Sudan, Libya, Chad and Niger being recruited and empowered to vote and the mass migration of southerners and moderate Muslims from the core north to the south were not addressed) were not addressed. Consequently, it becomes absolutely impossible for this writer to concur that the elections were credible. How then can one be said to have lost an election that was barely credible? Such is the case of Mr. President.
Besides these man-made issues, the hand held PVC reading device was recorded to have malfunctioned in several locations. While I’d spare readers the experience of the President and his wife, I shall disclose that His Excellency, Dr. Willie M. Obiano (my state governor) suffered a crueler fate when the machine failed to recognize all his fingers (10 fingers). We should note that while this mainly occurred southwards, Kano State which reported the highest incidence of voting took precautionary measures and discarded the device earlier in the day. By the time the INEC formally approved a reversal to the manual voting method (which I have canvassed for at some point), the APC in Kano, Kaduna and Jigawa states especially have had a successful outing and were already rounding up voting via the manual method. This situation was also the case in several states in the fringes of the desert. These incidences are verifiable and can be confirmed by relevant authorities hence, the INEC cannot and should not claim to have delivered on its pledge to organize credible elections. Simply put, Prof. Attahiru Jega organized an election that was slightly acceptable in the South but fraught with all forms of irregularities in the North.
Besides outright rejection and failure of the reading device to capture finger prints of users, over half of the voting strength of the south (nationwide) were disenfranchised because of the configuration settings of Prof. Jega’s PVC. Imagine a commercial bank issuing debit cards that only work and dispense cash from teller machines installed by the issuing bank. Imagine an international airline that sells flight tickets that cannot be used once the traveler misses the original flight on which he/she was scheduled to travel. Such is a basic feature of Jega’s PVC. You are caused to change location; the card becomes unusable for voting. You miss a plane to Enugu (where you registered) on the eve of the elections; the card becomes unusable for voting. As a federal civil servant, you are transferred from Uyo to Abuja by the government: the card becomes unusable for voting. What an innovation in this age!
The outcome of 2015 general elections bears in it a lot of revelations. Already, some Nigerians are of the view that its outcome was acceptable and reflected the wish of Nigerians but may I be excused to ask if the quest for change have imposed to the agents of change an obligation of cause change to occur by any means? Suddenly, Nigerians who used to be miffed at the sight of under aged persons and foreign nationals voting during elections now consider such incidences acceptable. Out of the blues, Nigerians who spent the entire 2006 querying the outcome of the last census h ave joined the #SaiBaba cult to bask in the euphoria of the huge turnout of voters in Kano and Kaduna states. This election cannot therefore be adopted as yardstick for subsequent elections even though I am of the view that its relative orderliness in the south can be improved upon.
The dangers inherent in generally declaring this election a success are enormous. It will be disastrous to adopt it as yardstick for the conduct of future elections because if it is, the south will most likely be dragged into a population contest with the north. Sacks of rice and kola nut trees may start being counted during censuses. Dead people may start resurrecting so they could be counted during censuses. Yams may be harvested and counted whilst in the barns so fatter figures can be reported. Unless we honestly address the weaknesses of this process, under aged kids and foreigners from Cameroun, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Benin and Gabon may be invited to vote in the next elections as a means of reducing or possibly balancing the number gap between the north and the south.
Ezeani, Chukwunonso Elvis is the Shadow National Youth Leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party. He can be reached via @NonsoEzeani1
Read: Breaking News
See Others: Home Page