The presidential Candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress, President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), respectively and their supporters as well as some foreign interests are waging a war for the control of the soul of the nation
| By Maureen Chigbo | Feb. 9, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
THE political battle for the soul of Nigeria is raging. In the unfolding scenario, all manner of weapons are being deployed by the combatants who are contestants in the February 14 and 28 polls to suffocate opposition in this unfair war that foreign countries and Boko Haram elements are also interested in. The missiles used in this warfare ranges from violent verbal onslaught, vexatious advertisement, intimidation, outright lies, innuendo to physical violence as the politicians are leaving no stone unturned in their bid to emerge winner in the general elections.
A close monitoring of the electoral space showed there have been a lot of scheming, maneuvering, nocturnal meetings where plots and counter plots are devised, reviewed and deploy at the earliest convenient time to unsettled the opponents. Also, there are allegations and counter allegations for and against the two prominent campaign teams – the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressive Congress, APC. The way the political fight is being waged now for the polls, all is fair and fair is foul in the ensuing bitter and divisive political campaigns of the two frontline presidential candidates – President Goodluck Jonathan of the ruling PDP and General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) of APC.
One worrisome development in the fierce battle field is the allegation that the Independent National Electoral Commission, has already rigged the election in favour of a particular candidate. The Irony is that both PDP and APC have claimed that INEC was plotting to rig election in favour of their opponent. But the most visible reason why the allegation against INEC is sticking is because of the shoddy distribution of the permanent voters’ card, PVC, to the electorate. Whereas in the South, people are finding it difficult to collect their voter’s card, the same could not be said in the North where majority of the people have collected their cards.
It has also been alleged that INEC made it difficult for people in certain demographic areas especially where the Igbos reside in all parts of the country difficult for the electorate to collect their permanent voters card without which they will not be able to vote in the forthcoming election for the candidate of their choice. Suffice it to state that INEC has not come out to expressly denied this allegation but it has also said that in some of the areas people are not picking up their voters card.
Another allegation which INEC will have to dismiss pronto, is the idea that traditional rulers in the North are collecting the voters card in bulk for their people, but the same is not allowed in the South. There is no evidence to prove this but the rumour has been strong in the South particularly in the East and South South.
Perhaps, this belief explains why International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, Intersociety, alleged that INEC under the watch of Attahiru Jega, chairman, INEC, has already rigged the 2015 presidential poll in favour of the North. According to Intersociety, its forensic evaluation of the INEC’s distribution of PVCs across the country clearly shows that the commission seems to have successfully put electoral demographic statistics hugely in favour of the North, which will allow it clinch the presidency of the country come February 14, 2015. Emeka Umeagbalasi, board chairman, Intersociety, issued a statement on January 24, in Onitsha, citing the alleged mismanagement of the distribution of the permanent voters’ cards in favour of the North by INEC, claiming that it “is the third out of three-stage designed strategy for the North to emerge in the country’s presidency.”
The first, according to Intersociety, was the botched creation of 30,000 polling units with grossly lopsided geopolitical distribution and the second was the issue of strange preferential voting treatment for the North-East IDPs said to be 918,416, who are mostly of Muslim population. The mother of all these was systematic and careful extermination of Christian populations and settlements in the North by Boko Haram oiled insurgency to make the voting an all Muslim affair in the core North.
In the entire North, 24,481,487 citizens have received their PVCs and empowered to vote, whereas in the entire South, only 16,151,298 are empowered to vote having been issued with their PVCs. Owing to insecurity and other unsafe conditions created in the North, over four million Southerners mostly of Igbo tribe have fled the North and more three million will flee or leave the area between now and first week of February.
“Out of these numbers, up to five million of them will not vote in the said crucial polls owing to absence of their PVCs. There are also those that were recently captured in various continuous voters’ registration exercises across the country particularly in the South, who have received only Temporary Voters’ Cards, TVC. Many others have not even received PVCs or TVCs till date. These, INEC said will not vote because they do not possess PVCs.
These prompted Intersociety to ask “Jega and his INEC, If Nigerian registered voters are to be blamed for not coming out to collect their PVCs, numbering 15,567,219, which forms the number of undistributed PVCs; are they also to be blamed for 14,491,866 that are yet to be produced and delivered to the commission till date? Are Nigerian registered voters responsible for 14,491,866 PVCs names that have not been captured till date only twenty days to the presidential poll? Is it also the Nigerian registered voters that should be blamed for those voters registered recently who have not been captured either in PVCs or TVCs? Are Nigerian registered voters also responsible for hundreds of thousands of missing registered voters from the INEC’s National Register of Voters such as in Ogbaru LGA of Anambra State where 9,000 registered names are missing from the INEC’s manual and digital data?”
Against this backdrop, the Intersociety concluded that the INEC has already rigged the presidential poll demographically speaking in favour of the North. “It is still shocking and magical as how the Commission effected high percentage distribution of PVCs in the troubled geopolitical zone of the North-East to the extent that the state of Bauchi has so far received 1,509,255, out of the so called registered voters of 2,502,609. The statistical implication of this is that the PVCs recipients in Bauchi State alone equal the total PVCs recipients in Anambra and Imo states put together. While a total of 1,544,793 PVCs have so far been distributed in the two states (Anambra 862,747, Imo 682,046), total of 1,509,255 PVCs have so far been distributed in Bauchi State alone. While five States in the troubled region of North-East have received 4,886,499 PVCs as of date, only 3,944,242 have received theirs in the entire five states of the South-East,” it said.
Intersociety wanted INEC to state the magic behind such high percentage PVCs distribution in the troubled North-East? “Are they hoarded in the warehouses of some, if not many district heads/Emirs for onward transfer to Almajiris, infants and livestock on poll day? Were their owners located in the Cameroonian mountains, Adamawa hills, Sambisa forests, bushes and purdahs and issued or were they ferried from these hideouts to the collection centers via helicopters, horses and camels? In view of the magical distribution of PVCs in the troubled North-East with high percentage, why thickened desperation to get the North-East IDPs to vote at all costs, while disenfranchising millions of other registered voters in the South?” it asked.
Umeagbalasi said that the group’s attention has again been drawn to the latest public statement made by the Jega, blaming Nigerian registered voters for not coming out en masse to collect their PVCs and absolving his commission of any blame associated with their poor distribution and collection. “The INEC chairman was responding to our recent letter to the Federal Executive Council of Nigeria, dated January 21, 2015, over the issue as well as a comment on the issue made by the national security adviser, Mr. Sambo Dasuki in UK, while responding to a question put across to him by a journalist, Mr. Theodore Damian, over the issue of disenfranchisement of over 30 million registered voters based on non-distribution of PVCs.”
Dasuki had expressed same concerns and disappointment expressed by millions of other Nigerians, particularly the registered voters numbering 30,059,085, including the Sultan of Sokoko, who, till date, have not received or been issued with their legitimate PVCs. He concluded that if it could take INEC one whole year to distribute only 38,774,391 PVCs, what is the possibility of the commission receiving and distributing the remaining 30,059,085 PVCs less than three weeks to the all important February 2015 polls including 14,491,866 not yet produced and delivered to the Commission by its contractors/suppliers?
Intersociety which is not in support of shifting the dates of the polls, insisted that all the registered voters must receive their PVCs. It suggested that the problem of the massive disenfranchisement could be remedied by taking the PVCs to the homes of the registered voters or allowing the registered voters to vote with either their PVCs or TVCs.
Apart from the concerns of Intersociety, some Nigerians see the call by Dasuki for postpone of the election as a ploy to remove Jonathan from office through instituting the interim government which was previously canvassed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. One of people who share this line of thought sent a text message to Realnews describing Dasuki’s advise as “the plan B in motion”. According to the text message, “While the attack on Jonathan’s campaign team escalates, Dasuki (NSA) calls for election postponement. Sultan joins his voice. APC pretends to object, INEC too. Next step will be interim government, a formula Obasanjo pushed in the past. Will it fly today? Are we wiser now. Can we push back?”
While serious thinkers are still trying to rationalise the interim government idea, political parties are devising devising ways to rig the election by all means possible. On Thursday, January 22, the Department of State Services, DSS, uncovered another plot by the All Progressive Congress to rig election in Imo State. A letter from the DSS with reference No: S.292/867 dated January 9, 2015, alerted INEC to the illegal registration of electorates by the APC in Imo State. According to the letter which originated from the DSS office in Owerri, “on 9th January 2015, about 1350 hours, at Emekuku Comprehensive College, Emekuku, Owerri-North LGA, four (4) members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were arrested on suspicion of illegally registering members of the public who are yet to collect their permanent voters card from INEC. The quartet arrested are Ben Njemanze, Nnadi Micheal, Stella Njemanze (f) and Adanna Nzeh (f)”.
According to the letter, investigation done by DSS revealed that “the registration exercise is statewide and is equal to a directive by the state leadership of the party (APC)/ and Governor Rochas Okorocha, who distributed registers with INEC inscription to party excos in all the electoral wards in the state for onward distribution to all polling booths for the above exercise.”
“The action of the APC is generating tension amongst supporters of other political parties, who view the exercise as a part of a grand plan by APC to compromise the electoral process, with a view to rigging the 2015 polls. The fear of this category of electorates is further heightened by the fact that INEC in the state has disassociated itself from the exercise being carried out jointly by the APC and the state government”. The letter said that in the light of the this, it was imperative for INEC to caution those engaged in such activities and reject any list that may be presented to it on behalf of those yet to be registered”, the letter which was signed by O.P. Adegboye, state director of security, Imo State Command, said.
The illegal register (which is published on our website,) had the name of 90 voters made of male and female, who said that they are business or security men, artisans, teachers, drivers, students and traders. Their year of birth ranged between 1940 to 1999 while the phone numbers on the list have only 10 digits instead of 11 digits for a normal mobile phone. This made it impossible for Realnews to call the numbers to speak with one of the registrants.
Prior to the Imo incident, INEC had invaded and arrested some people at the APC party office in Lagos, alleging that they were planning to hack INEC’s data base. APC has dismissed the DSS allegation stating that it was being partisan. Moreso, INEC has said that its data base was not under any threat.
If the accusation to rig the election has failed to stick, the violence that has occurred in several parts of the country is part of the strategy deployed by the politicians to gain advantage. Already, many Nigerians cannot openly say who they want to vote for fear of being molested. In some offices, when people discuss a particular candidate, it is done in hushed tones to avoid someone who is opposed to their views from hearing and victimising them afterwards.
The visible evidence of the violence, which has dogged the general elections reached a climax when the convoy of the president was attacked in Katsina. President Jonathan was also pelted with pure water at a campaign rally in Bauchi, an incident that Governor Isa Yagudu of Bauchi State said was instigated by discontented members of PDP in Abuja. Prior to these incidents, the campaign buses of the Jonathan campaign were attacked and burnt in Jos and Niger. Also the campaign office of APC in Rivers State was also bombed. Apart from destruction of property, nobody died.
Many Nigerians from both the APC and PDP have criticised the attacks on Jonathan. The APC hierarchy led by Lai Mohammed denounced the attack on the president in Katsina, but he took a different tack to the incident in Bauchi. The APC, in a statement signed by its national publicity secretary, Lai Mohammed, insisted that the attacks were planned by some members of the ruling PDP. “Information is now in the public domain that these attacks were self-inflicted, with the aim of demonising the APC and instigating retaliatory attacks in the southern states, thus precipitating chaos which the PDP and the Presidency will then use as an excuse for the postponement of the elections. “Apparently, they did not envisage that the information about their complicity over the attacks will leak to the public. It is common knowledge that the security around the President is such that no hoodlum can come close enough to pelt him with stones,” APC spokesman, Lai Mohammed said in a statement released on Saturday, January 24.
For Adams Oshiomhole, governor of Edo State, the battle for the soul of Nigeria is not just about politics but a matter of survival. He said last week in Igarra: “The issues are very clear. They have seen it and are now calling for the postponement of the February 14th elections. You cannot postpone the evil day. Nigeria must go for a peaceful election and the election will be peaceful. When God has decreed, no man can do otherwise, when your time is up you can’t postpone it.
What we need now is a leader with courage. The courage to stand for Nigeria and that is why after trying PDP for 16 years, we believe we need General Muhammadu Buhari to take over and secure our country so we can live our life. A man has to come out, this election is about our survival. …So the issues this year is about our survival,” he said.
On the other hand, Jonathan’s kinsmen from the Niger Delta are also drumming the songs of war for the survival of their son – President Jonathan from further attack. To rammed their message home that they will not sit idly by and watch their the President being harassed wherever he goes to for campaign, leaders of major former militant groups in the Niger Delta who are from the same ethnic stock as Jonathan, have threatened to unleash a spate of violence on the country should he lose the February presidential elections. The militants spoke at a meeting held at the Bayelsa State Government House in Yenagoa, with Kingsley Kuku, president Jonathan’s Niger Delta Affairs, and chairman of Amnesty Implementation Committee, Seriake Dickson, Bayelsa state governor, and his deputy and Udengs Eradiri, president General of Ijaw Youth Council among others. Others present at the meeting were Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, leader, Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force; Victor Ben Ebikabowei, aka, Boy Loaf; and Government Ekpudomenowei, aka, Tompolo. The former militant leaders said a defeat for Jonathan at the presidential poll would be deemed an assault on the integrity of the Ijaw nation, and as such they would not only unleash violence on Nigeria but would also take back their oil.
”For every Goliath, God created a David. For every Pharaoh, there is a Moses. We are going to war. Every one of you should go and fortify yourself,’’ Asari-Dokubo said, advising those at the meeting to be ready for the battle ahead and declared that Mr. Jonathan would win reelection.
Dokubo-Asari, who condemned the attack on Jonathan in the north in the ongoing presidential campaigns, maintained that the survival of the Ijaw nation rests in the hands of the militants gathered at the meeting.
Similarly, Boyloaf condemned the attack on Jonathan in the north, saying nobody has the monopoly of violence. He said there is nothing like one Nigeria, pointing out that oil is the only thing binding Nigeria’s diverse nationalities together. While maintaining that President Jonathan would win the election, he however said if the North takes the power away from Mr. Jonathan, the people of the Niger Delta region would take their oil back.
However, Governor Dickson thanked the former militant leaders for their resolve to back the re-election of President Jonathan with greater vigour and assured them that he would relate their position to the President. He urged them to resist the temptation of being recruited by the opposition to destabilise the state. The governor also charged them to shun propaganda and blackmail.
Nonetheless, the militants’ statements have angered some Nigerians who called for their arrest. On Wednesday, January 28, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, former chief of army staff and defence minister, called for the arrest of the ex-Niger Delta militants for threatening to declare war against the nation if president Goodluck loses February election, describing it as “unguarded and reckless” and warning that “miscreants” must not be allowed to hold the country by the jugular.
A school of thought have equally scoffed at Danjuma’s umbrage asking where was he when Governor Rotimi Amaechi threatened that APC would form a parallel government should their candidate lose the February election.
Nevertheless, the chants of war may have woken Suleiman Abba, inspector general of police, from slumber when he said that the police will arrest anybody making inflammatory statements. But he has not matched the tough talk with action so far given that supporters of the politicians in the presidential race have at one point in time made inflammatory statements without being arrested. Any arrest now will have tongues wagging that the police, which is headed by a Hausa-Fulani like the APC presidential candidate and INEC chairman, is taking sides in the ensuing struggle for the battle of the soul of Nigeria come February 14.
The situation in the country is already tensed. And that may have explained the unscheduled visit of John Kerry, United States Secretary of State to Nigeria last week. Kerry who met with the two presidential candidates warned that anybody who recourse to violence will be denied US visa. The EU has also weighed in even though it has expressly said its observer mission will not go to the North East because of violence. The invisible fighters aka Boko Haram which wants to establish an Islamic Caliphate in Magreb and Nigeria have equally weighed in denouncing the two candidates. The Christians are also fighting to ensure that nobody takes away their freedom of worship.
The meaning of all these is that the coming election is very important for all the interest groups. The situation looks pretty much precarious but not unmanageable. It behoves everybody involved in this macabre political dance – especially the citizenry, the supporters of politicians, the law enforcement agents and more importantly INEC – to waltz through the political mine field gingerly so as not to detonated any bomb that will plunge Nigeria into chaos and oblivion.