GOVERNOR EL-RUFAI AND THE SANCTITY OF THE BALLOT
BY NASIRU JAGABA
First of all, let me start by congratulating the Citizens of Kaduna State, for violence free election in the local government polls. The peaceful conduct of the citizens in Kaduna despite the happenings that had shown clearly the desperation of persons in the corridor of power to manipulate, overturn the result refused to give in to the chaos but rather responded with all sense of maturity and confidence in the sanctity of the ballot. Had Kaduna responded in similar desperation as shown by the institutional riggers, perhaps curfew would have been slammed in several areas which would have created the perfect cover for the malpractices to happen.
The hate speeches and incitement from the top government officials in Kaduna state government did not end on the platforms for the campaigns alone but went further to reflect in the exercise that held. There are several accounts going round about thugs accompanying some officials to collation centres and chasing away officials and in most cases enforcing doctored results to be announced.
The fraud which is already a hallmark of the Governor Nasir el-Rufai led administration are reasons obviously enough to course breakdown of law and order, but Citizens conducted themselves in orderly manner having in mind that there are peaceful and legal means for recollection of stolen mandate. The election appeared to be a war of conflicting interest between the principles of liberty against autocracy, between the norms of moral influence against material force, between the ideals of government by consent against a rule by compulsion. It is a clear indication that the attitude of insatiable political imperialist, have created a new class of aggressive nationalist who will not accept the old system of oppression, unjust social order, social injustice, stratified inequality and unjust political structure.
Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, in so many fora faulted the whole Nigerian System including the electoral institutions and promised the zealous Citizens a U-turn from what he called an evil system despite his active participation in it. Against the anticipation of the people however, he handed down a terrible legacy, the worst and most fraudulent Local Government election since the creation of Kaduna State. Even the rigging appeared comic and scandalously juvenile.
It would be recalled that the other time he acted the status of publicity Secretary of militias and now flipped to be a spokesman and de factor chairman of KADSIECOM. He is the announcer of election dates, postponements, inconclusiveness and cancellations.
The general report show that the electioneering materials arrived polling units very late; those who were trained to operate the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) were replaced with different choice candidates; observers lamented that even the EVM is a waste of State resources because it has no database of registered voters and no business with the PVC, it cannot accredit or detect multiple voting; some polling units were denied the right to vote as they waited in queue for the whole day without the appearance of electoral officials and material only to hear on radio someone announcing their result. Due to pressure on the side of government to thwart election result in areas where they smelled defeat, disappearance was the means of survival to so many returning officers. Any pulling unit or collation centre that the returning officer disappeared, election result were said to be compromised. Top government officials accompanied with full armed security men and thugs were reportedly seen in collection centres intimidating voters and stakeholders with tear gas which allowed snatching election result sheets and abduction of returning officers only to go and announced their desired figures and declaring their choice as winner.
Five days now some election result are yet to be officially released because the flawed process was met with high level of political consciousness especially in the South and Central senatorial zone where voters safeguarded their votes. In the Northern Zone, the elections have left some sour experiences which may not have gone down well with political actors and exposing the need for more political consciousness and voter education.
So many things went wrong with the election. First was the poor funding for the electoral body which could not sensitize voters on the electoral process, the commission was rather reliant on activities of non-governmental organisations and the civil society to drive down the voter education and the electoral process. There was no official situation room to update the general public of happenings, neither was the commission open to any feedback. In all, the electoral body acted militarily and may not have done so outside the expectation of state actors’ interests giving the fact that the electoral body is entirely independent.
Political observers have revealed that, in spite of the N4 Billion expended in the exercise, the electoral officials have not been paid for the allowances due them for two day training conducted for returning officers, four days for presiding officers and polling clerks. Ad-hoc officials who have concluded their assignments faithfully are yet to be paid a dime even as at the time of writing this piece.
According to the governor, 300 electronic voting machines were procured which may give credence to the feedbacks from people around Igabi where 10 polling units were reportedly denied their franchise. In Kaduna state there are 255 wards with several polling units in each, which clearly 300 machines cannot cover at a time.
What is more worrisome is that of all the areas where the election was observed including where the governor had voted, there was no secrecy of the balloting process which is a contravention of the norm to protect voters through the secret ballot process. Voting was done in public glare, and may have led to a lot of voters misguided in casting their votes.
Yes, electronic voting may have happened in Kaduna but the lessons are that the process could promote institutional rigging, more fraud in the electoral processes. I will not forget to charge Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission to bring to justice erring electoral officials who have only succeeded in wasting tax payers funds. KADSIECOM should also make public the financial accounts on the concluded exercise. For a state like Kaduna to expend N 4 billion in an election is a matter of concern especially when this outrageous figure is said to have saved up N1.7 billion. This is not the first time local government election is conducted in Kaduna. This account must be checked.
As Kaduna may be the laboratory of what is to come in the forthcoming national elections in 2019, it is important for concerned citizens to look into budget funding for the electoral body-INEC. Poor funding is already costing citizens, time, money, jobs in the pursuit to be registered. The rights are being turned into privileges as rural dwellers, regular employees, traders, artisans are finding it difficult to register all over Nigeria today.
Nasiru Jagaba is the President Network for the Rights of Indigenous and Marginalized People in Nigeria- Jagabanasiru@gmail.