November 16th this year was a red letter day as it is the posthumous birthday of two of Africa’s most illustrious sons – Dr.Nnamdi Azikiwe and Professor Chinua Achebe who did the nation proud in their lifetime.
It was also the day that the gubernatorial elections were held in Bayelsa and Kogi states.
The elections were anything but free and fair. They were tragically characterized by killings, voter intimidation, intimidation of the youth corpers who acted as ad hoc members of staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission, ballot box snatching, sporadic shootings amongst other numerous ills.
In Kogi State, four people were said to have died, a later figure put it at six. Even though there was no report of any murder in Bayelsa, the election was at best a farce and comedies of errors as all the aforementioned flaws were present there.
A huge electoral upset was caused in Bayelsa state as the ruling All Progressives Congress have finally had a foothold in the oil rich state. The division within the ranks of the PDP and the lacklustre performance of the incumbent, Seriake Dickson made the surprise victory possible. Dickson proved to be a sore loser as he accused former President Goodluck Jonathan of working in cahoots with the Peoples Democratic Party of which he is still a member.
Kogi state was even worse as there was a death toll of either four or six people. The incumbent who didn’t really perform well – salaries for the civil servants are being owed stretching over twenty-four months, there is hardly any government presence in the state where the nation’s first Governor-General Lord Frederick Lugard first resided before he came down south. Nobody knows how the current youngest Governor in the country spent the bailout funds that the Federal Government gave to him. On the eve of the election, the Deputy Governor, Simon Achuba was gotten rid of to pave the way for Bello’s extremely power Chief of Staff, Edward Onoja to become the new Deputy Governor. Onoja whom Achuba described as the man behind the throne during the first term publicly gifted the Attah of Igalaland a brand new Rolls Royce Phantom obviously from the state government coffers. The victory of Bello is a pointer to the power of incumbency as even a non performer can get another shot at governance. It was hilarious that the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai begged the Kogites to forgive and forget their plight under Bello. How ridiculous!
It is sad that in the twenty-first century, politicians don’t run issues based campaigns – rather they appeal to the emotions of the masses and exploit the artificial poverty which their anti-people policies created to dole out a few wads which the Plebians hurriedly scramble for to merely assuage their hunger pangs. Debates which are a permanent feature in western politics hardly take place here. Our politicians generally have no ideological bend. It doesn’t matter the party they belong to as all most of them are battling for is the base stomach infrastructure apologies to former Governor of Ekiti state, Peter Ayodele Fayose.
Nigeria has enjoyed an unbroken twenty years of democracy and it beats my imagination why we are still so pristine when it comes to electoral matters. There is the need for the nation to shift to the e-voting method. Virtually all developed nations and a sizeable number of developing countries have adopted this cost cutting and time reduction method. In the United States for instance, the citizens vote without any disruption in their day to day activities. No public holiday is declared because they place a high premium on the precious commodity called time which can never be regained when lost.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan had this to say on e-voting “If people these days can transfer billions of dollars from one bank to the other, using electronic means, then I believe that we can do electronic voting perfectly and that will ensure that the use of thugs during elections would be eliminated”
The introduction of e-voting will make the votes of the hapless masses count which will deepen the trust in the democratic process taken into consideration the social contract as espoused by John Locke.
Nigerians in the Diaspora are well over five million and they constitute an important segment of the Nigerian society. They remit billions of dollars annually and many have investments back home which generates employment for their brothers and sisters back home. They shouldn’t be excluded from the democratic process simply because they aren’t resident here. It was bad governance and corrupt leadership that pushed the majority of them into economic asylum. They are critical stakeholders as most of them have dual citizenships. Senegal recently relaxed their electorate laws to allow their Diaspora brothers and sisters vote in their last election. The e-voting will make that possible as it can be done online in the twinkle of an eye.
We recall when Jonathan said his victory is not worth the blood of any Nigerian in his concession speech to Buhari in 2015. Electoral reforms will ensure that never again will any Nigerian lose his or her life because of a four year mandate. I recommend that the electoral reforms committee report by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mohammed Uwais be adopted.
We are in the 21st century and our elections should reflect digital thinking and execution.
May the souls of the departed rest in perfect peace!
Tony Ademiluyi writes from Lagos and edits www.africanbard.com