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2019 state-level elections and the Demola effect   

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The last has not been heard about the 2019 presidential elections but it appears that the governorship and state assembly elections have obviously exposed the anus of the foul to a greater extent than the earlier one.    As things continue to unfold, it is indubitable that two issues characterised the elections of 9/3/19:  militarization of the entire process and voter apathy. People have been wondering what led to these two anti-democratic developments. Well, I have the answer; it is the Demola effect!

The election of 23/3/19 was characterized by signs and wonders.  Those who blame Buhari, Oshiomhole and APC are right but they are not totally right! It has always been like this.  The late Yinka Craig was on one occasion described as an aviation watcher in one TV programme even though we all knew him as a veteran broadcaster. In that same vein, I am an election watcher and I have been watching our elections for the past 20 years. The 2003 election was so bad that I saw it as a harvest of signs and wonders, holding among other things that’ this “fictional landslide” (Madunagu, Guardian, 8/5/03) was made possible by “performance enhancing drugs” (Adio, Thisday, 4/5/03); it was built upon sand! What happened during the last elections –especially that of 4-19 (April, Nineteen) was so pervasive and have been so discussed that the blind have seen, the deaf have heard and even the proverbial “visitor in Jerusalem” is fully aware of it. It was so swift that the “professionals” in the field were caught napping and our versatile wordsmiths are still at a loss on how to classify it. Several political miracles took place all over the land and the testimonies are still pouring in from the overawed witnesses, the stupefied victims and the gloating conquerors. The signs and wonders were so numerous that people did not have to search for them; they were three-for-a-penny’( Ik Muo: Election 2003: A harvest of signs and wonders, BusinessDay, 4/6/03ff). That of 2007 was also bad and I saw it as full of business as usual and unusual, cataloguing some of the strange occurrences ‘In Imo state, (The same Imo!) governorship election was cancelled because of violence or whatever. But the State assembly election held on the same day and at the same time was upheld and released…. When it was rescheduled, the result was announced before the elections. Newspapers on 28th April reported the meeting between President Obasanjo, Iwu and Udenwa where Iwu  was allowed to give it to Ohakim from Okigwe Zone .(see Saturday Independent, 28/4/07,p1). In Anambra, some National Assembly elections were rescheduled for Thursday, then Saturday then Sunday and suddenly, the results were announced! Results were submitted, substituted and counter-substituted depending on whether the person came with the ordinary police, mobile police or soldiers. In the same Anambra, it was also alleged that the initial scores allotted to the ‘anointed one’ was more than the total number of registered voters in the state and there had to be some ‘structural adjustment’( Ik Muo: 2007 elections; business as usual and business unusual. BusinessDay, 2/5/07. It ran for 5 weeks!) In 2011 the sitrep before the elections foreshadowed  what would come as ‘murders, kidnappings and arsons have become the order and the police is apparently helpless and overwhelmed. The PDP governments-in particular- have connived with the police to frustrate the opposition parties on issues like use of venue, police permit and even arrest of key opposition figures, especially in the north. Buhari’s campaign in Niger and Plateau states were contentious while the same party was nearly locked out of Ebonyi State. ACN officials have been arrested, one for being accused of likelihood of breaching the peace and another for an offence that allegedly occurred 4 years ago. (The same Buhari who has brought our electoral fortunes to such an embarrassing mess). The politicians have formed an unholy alliance with the judges and injunctions and counter injunctions are flying right, left and centre.  Two weeks to the election, there were about 300 pending cases, 80% of them, PDP-related. (Prof Yakubu should have known this!) So, while the president has pledged credible elections, his party colleagues and some public officials are not behaving as if they share that dream with him’( Ik Muo, 2011 elections: the die is cast. BusinessDay,29/3/11)

That of 2015 moderated some of these unsavory elements but the elections of 23/3/19 took us way back by quintupling all the evils of the previous elections since 1999. It was also obvious that in states where APC was not in power, the ruling parties tried to perform their own electoral magic and it then became a  terror-balancing act and invariably, those in control of  official instruments of violence had their way. There were over-voting, deliberate manipulation of numbers, deliberate bypassing of card leaders, ballot box snatching, intimidation of voters and every imaginable electoral malfeasance. And then, when the numbers started rolling in, some people clapped but some also asked ‘how can’? This was more so in the war-torn axis of Kebi Yobe and  Borno, which apart from the miraculous  PVC collection rates, also witnessed intimidating voter turn-out and actual votes. Somebody actually quipped that it is easier to vote in Yobe than to live or work there and that was even when the BH operatives paid them some deadly visits that morning and those who did these magical things did not bother about the efficiency of their methods and believability of the outcomes

But the poster-boy of all that was wrong with the 23/2/19 election was the activities of Demola, an accredited dealer in violence, who scattered the ballot boxes, set some on fire, assaulted some voters, all in Okote and like PMB had authorized, nearly paid with his life. So, Demola effect describes everything that was wrong with the elections of 23/2/19: the obvious rigging, manipulation, burning of INEC offices and materials, breaking of limbs and heads and other criminalities perpetrated by brothers against brothers (None of the perpetrators came from Abdijan!) and the outcome that was disappointing to many right-thinking members of the society. It was because of the Demola Effect that people refused to turn out for the election of 9/2/19. In the first instance, they lost their presumed ownership of the electoral process in a very crude manner and as such, found no reason to keep on voting.  If the one they voted did not mater, why worry to vote again? Thus my beloved, who roughed it out  from Okota to Amuwo –Odofi  for the voting exercise reported that those who came for the state elections were not up to 5% of those who came for the national election. That was confirmed by the figures. At Amuwo-Odofin Lagos, accredited voters were 38553 out of 312450 registered while in Ikeja, 38000 were accredited, out of 3286000 registered. As our people say, they decided  to allow those who had seized the fofo to also take the soup! Secondly, to check the rascality of people like Demola, the military was unleashed on the environment  with fighter jets, attack helicopters,  and 2019  models of APC. Consequently, many people decided to stay away for their own safety, except in places like Kebbi and Yobe, where, perhaps the people are used to such sights(???). And of course, the army lost their innocence in the PH axis where Wike was competing with the APC, FGN, army, police, thugs and some INEC officials. Soldiers  were busy trading in ballot boxes and taking over ordinary police duties, supported by people in military uniforms. After all as Fela would say: uniform na cloth, na tailor dey sow am! Of course I am sure that Wike at least has his own thugs!

Other matters:  one step forward, 3 steps backwards and 10 steps inside the Bush

 In 2015, Prof Yakubu assured Nigerians that that his own INEC would up the ante in electoral affairs, building on the two previous electoral seasons. He had a good reason to say so because even though Jega had some challenges, his was a monumental improvement on the Iwu era.  The gods were in his support because he had all the monies he requested and all his conditionalities, at times in conjunction with the FGN, were acceded to. Everything was moving well until the wee hours of 16/2/19. Despite all his bold-faced  assurances, some of which were made a few hours earlier, he cancelled the elections when some people were already on their way to the polling centers. He blamed the weather, the courts, the challenges of conducting elections in a developing country( as if Niger does not conduct elections) and all that but admitted that  money was not an issue. This election witnessed the highest level of vote buying, militarization, questionable electoral decisions and several indicators incompetence like the treatment of corpers, its logistic alignment with National Union of Road Transport Workers, whose alternative name is trouble and which led to the use of rickety danfo-buses to ferry materials, the mysterious  traveling of ballot papers to the wrong destinations and all that. Political desperation played a very serious role in all these but INEC cannot fully blame the stars; the fault was also theirs!

 

Ik Muo, PhD. Department of Business Administration, OOU         

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