By Shaka Momodu, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, SMS Only: 0811 266 1654
Nigeria’s democracy is facing arguably its worst form of bastardisation and debauchery in years. We actually thought that with all the reforms instituted over the years, we had moved past the era of ballot-box snatching and violence. But we are seeing a surging comeback of these anomalies. Under the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration, democracy has lost its true meaning and Nigerians are at the mercy of a vicious chokehold by a gang of desperate power grabbers. These politicians of violence and bloodshed are unrelentingly determined to impose themselves on us as leaders. Anyone still claiming we are practising democracy is like a man who claimed to have caught a frog by its tail.
President Muhammadu Buhari, the APC in cahoots with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), have become the biggest threats to Nigeria’s democracy. The media had tolerated all the iniquities for so long and even joined the bandwagon of those hailing the illusion of progress. All this emboldened the President to be more vicious in his anti-democratic behaviour. However, a section of the media on realising that it has shot itself in the foot, decided to reinvent itself and what was Buhari’s response? The lethal Hate Speech Bill.
Unfortunately, these three forces now pose an existential threat to the country. It is clear beyond all reasonable doubts that the president is preoccupied with winning every election for his party at all cost. It is even clearer to any discerning observer of events that the president feels comfortable with this quasi-democracy. He has failed woefully to walk his public avowals as a reformed democrat. As a matter of fact, his failure or maybe, deliberate refusal to deepen the nation’s democracy further from where the baton was handed over to him underscores his contempt and disregard for the will of the people – the fulcrum of democracy. Of course his party men on reading the president’s body language, are displaying remarkable anti-democratic behaviour not seen in recent election cycles. The party cardinals do whatever they like, they don’t care a hoot about the choices of the electorate or about performance as a yardstick for electing leaders. They don’t condemn violence. They boast that they control the coercive forces of state to intimidate the main opposition party. All that matters to them is that the APC must win. Results of elections and the judgments of the courts are now very predictable; elections are no longer about the people’s right to vote and change the leaders they are displeased with. It is now about the APC employing unbelievable mendacity and violence to ride roughshod over Nigerians. From Osun , Lagos, Kano, Rivers, Bayelsa to Kogi State, we have seen the brazen electoral robbery executed by the party’s apparatchiks.
In all elections under Buhari’s government and this particular INEC leadership, we have seen a remarkable pattern of fraud and electoral mischief, all calculated to stymie and stifle the free expression of the will of the people. Just sample people’s opinion and you will see an amazing disinterest in voting. If I may ask the INEC chairman this simple but big question: what is the purpose of the Card Reader in the electoral system? The damage Buhari and Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC have done to the integrity and confidence in the electoral system will become obvious to Nigerians in years to come.
Fellow Nigerians, it is difficult to excuse Buhari of culpability in the burgeoning electoral malfeasance plaguing the country. He has been a willing enabler of those corrupting our democratic system for personal gains. In Kogi for instance, apart from supporting a governor who has largely underperformed, a man who is not afraid to deploy violence to achieve his objectives, who has so brazenly violated the constitution; two days to the Kogi governorship election, Buhari released N10 billion to him. Any discerning observer would tell you that the money was presumably meant to corrupt the system, and buy votes from the people. Where that was difficult, the money was used to finance the stealing of votes and manipulation of results. And where that was not possible, it was used to pay thugs and security agents to instill fear in the people, kill, destroy and disrupt the election by teargassing voters, and deliberately suppressing voter turnout in those areas. The intention clearly was to sway the election. And it did, albeit with unbelievable violence. He didn’t just win, he won with a landslide. A governor that owes nearly 20 months’ salaries – workers with families and friends all trooped out to give him a landslide win? An elated Buhari, grinning from ear to ear immediately came out to congratulate the governor on his victory. He neither condemned the violence unleashed on the people by the police and thugs hired by his party nor the mindless killings during the election. His silence on the killings arguably precipitated further violence even after INEC had declared Governor Yahaya Bello winner. His jubilant blood-thirsty thugs decided they needed more human blood to mark the landslide victory. What did they do? They invaded the residence of the Women Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Salome Acheju Abuh, locked her up, doused the house with petrol, and set it on fire. The house was razed and so was the human occupant. Such was the intensity of the fire that all that was left was her unrecognisable charred remains. While she writhed in pain and ultimately died, the perpetrators of the heinous crime and a senseless mob reportedly cheered wildly their debasing barbarity. It was a state sponsored post-election violence that happened in broad daylight while security operatives looked the other way. This is what Buhari and his APC have reduced elections to in Nigeria.
The APC did not condemn the violence; instead, the party cardinals celebrated the governor’s victory. Buhari did not immediately condemn the killing but was much more interested in Bello’s win as he wasted no time in congratulating Yahaya Bello. It took him six days after the heinous act for his Senior Adviser on Media and Communications, Femi Adesina, to issue a statement condemning the killing of the innocent woman, and calling for investigations, following mounting public outrage about the government’s silence.
After Buhari’s belated comment, our totally partisan police as if waiting for the president’s goading, then swung into action and arrested the suspected masterminds. If the president had not issued that statement, the police would not have acted. This is what Nigeria has been reduced to by this corrupt gang of politicians masquerading as progressives. They have murdered our progress and turned our democracy into a laughing stock among community of nations.
Not unexpectedly, Governor Bello, who by law was supposed to protect lives and properties did not condemn the violence nor call his murderous supporters to order. He did not specifically call out the cruel and gruesome fate that befell Salome Aheju Abuh from his supporters neither was he repulsed by the sheer inhumanity. He won, that was all that mattered. Well, it would have amounted to expecting too much from a man who gets his hubris and political oxygen from the Presidential Villa to show respect for human life.
For those who didn’t know, Yahaya Bello is not beholden to the people because he won his reelection in spite of them. The governor and his party know full well the people don’t count. In fact, the APC fielded him as the candidate despite the fact that they knew he would not win a semblance of free and fair election. All that counts are guns and violence. He is the conqueror, the one who must be obeyed. After all, Aso Rock is there to sustain him with police, army who collude with thugs to unleash mayhem on the people. Bello who INEC has declared winner of the November 16 election would be exercising an illegitimate mandate when he is sworn in in another three months’ time. A mandate obtained by guns and bloodshed cannot be of the people, by the people and for the people.
Finally, let me remind the leaders of the APC that they will not be in power forever. They will one day be kicked out by the people, no matter how long it takes. They should worry about what will happen to them in their day of reckoning. They will be subjected to a similar fate that has befallen the PDP as all the shenanigans and corruption currently going on will be exposed and paid for.
The revelations about corruption and sundry crimes, I can bet my bottom kobo will be earth-shaking. Nigerians will see these pretenders for what they truly are. Jail houses will quickly fill up with APC cardinals.
After the inquest into the party’s poisonous ideology of hate, propaganda, selective prosecution of corruption cases, vote buying, violence, etc. will commence root and branch reform of our body politic. It is disheartening that the APC that rode to power on the back of violence, threats and terrorism has continued to espouse these deadly vices to stay in power.
It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that some of the loudest voices who denounced the last government and sounded holier-than-thou were driven by an overabundance of hate and the many who bought into their narrative did so out of foolishness. Character demands context. From those harsh and sometimes unfair criticisms of the previous government by our pro-democracy advocates, what we are seeing now is silence and at best a whimper of criticism in the face of record-breaking impunity! All I will say is that the moral arc of a lifetime matters. The APC cardinals wanted power to advance their selfish and ethno/religious interests and found a willing and gullible public who bought into their lies. Today they have made the country and its people poorer while they, their families and cronies have become stinking rich.