Monday, March 2, 2015

Why Nigeria's Presidential Election is a Joke

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) decided to postpone the highly anticipated presidential election for 6 weeks, citing security concerns. Granted, Boko Haram has been relentlessly terrorizing northeastern Nigeria for several months, but is that truly the reason for the deferment?

It should be noted that prior to INEC’s announcement, Nigerian Security Chiefs assured Nigerians that Boko Haram posed no security threat, and that elections could hold February 14. And initially, there were rumors of INEC rescheduling the elections for a later date, because some registered voters had yet to collect their permanent voter’s cards (PVCs).

With all these excuses, it’s not difficult to understand why Nigerians are cynical about INEC’s decision, since they’re aware this is a tightly contested election, and that Goodluck Jonathan has a formidable contender in Muhammadu Buhari. This is the first time in a long time that an incumbent is uncertain about his future. There are no guarantees that Jonathan will remain president after March 28, which seems to be the real reason the election was deferred. Apparently, these six weeks will buy Jonathan more time to campaign and perhaps win over more hearts and minds.

But how can he win hearts and minds when he hasn’t given people adequate reasons to judge him favorably?

Lest we forget, the Chibok girls have been missing for almost a year now, while thousands have been slaughtered under his administration. The government’s inability to find the girls and crush Boko Haram has left people wondering if the captain has abandoned the helm. Meanwhile, Niger, a country that isn’t as rich as Nigeria, was successful in launching an offensive against Boko Haram. Isn’t this a shameful reality that the so-called ‘Giant of Africa’ cannot crush a home-grown terrorist group?

One has to wonder if Jonathan is planning to use the next 4 weeks to A) Find the missing Chibok girls B) Annihilate Boko Haram, or C) Both. If he is, that would be most disingenuous and politically expedient. And should he succeed, Nigerians can then assume he had the intelligence and resources to tackle the insurgency, but decided to play politics with Nigerian lives. In such a scenario, his tactics could be likened to the grotesquely infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in that he had the remedy for the disease that is Boko Haram, but chose not to employ it.

Buhari (L) and Jonathan (R)

Incidentally, INEC claims to be independent, yet its decision to alter the election date proves otherwise. Furthermore, INEC has failed to put in place suitable security measures to ensure a free and fair election. Case in point, my mother visited a PVC collection unit in Oguta LGA, Imo state to collect her parents’ PVCs, only to be told by an INEC staff that someone had already collected them. He, however, assured her that it wouldn’t constitute a problem should they decide to vote.

But how can they vote without the very document that’s required to do just that? And what sinister plan does Mr(s) Anonymous have for their PVCs? As it is, such lapses demonstrate just how free and fair the upcoming elections will be, and the importance of the PVC readers.

Interestingly enough, INEC had 4 whole years to plan and prepare for the elections, so why haven’t all registered voters received their PVCs? Plus, why were only 3 days slated for potential voters to register?  

Come March 28, I will not vote as having to choose between both presidential candidates is like being compelled to choose between eating the feces of a donkey and a horse. Both choices are unpalatable and uninspiring. Additionally, it doesn’t help that the PDP, the party Jonathan belongs to, and the APC, whom Buhari is the presidential nominee, are two sides of the same coin.

By all accounts, a typical APC member is an erstwhile PDP member. Both parties consist of corrupt politicians, and have no credible manifesto that differentiates one from the other. Therefore, even if Buhari wins, what are the chances that positive change will come? What’s more, Buhari has been branded an Islamic fundamentalist by his detractors, who claim he’s bent on making Nigeria a Sharia state, based on polemical comments he made in the past. If it’s true, that could spell trouble for Nigeria.

The PDP has been in power since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, and its dominance seems to have backfired. In the 16 years that it has held sway, not much has improved for ordinary Nigerians. Universities close for several months because lecturers aren’t paid. The standard of education still remains abysmal, yet Jonathan’s cronies are quick to add that he has built schools, as if that is what ails Nigeria. The transportation system is in shambles, but Jonathan thinks he can alleviate the problem by procuring trains perfectly fit for the 18th century, as proudly announced on his Facebook page.

At what point will the APC, PDP and other lesser known parties stop short-changing Nigerians and get to work? Or rather, at what point will Nigerians raise the bar on what is acceptable and should be expected of any administration? Telling Nigerians that you built roads doesn’t cut it. That is a given.

Paradoxically, the only reason I want Buhari to win is just so that elected public officials would stop taking their first terms for granted. I want them to realize that if they don’t pull their weight in the first 4 years of their tenure, then their second term wouldn’t be guaranteed. I want them to realize that Nigerians will no longer brook incompetence, laziness and nonchalance. I want them to realize that the divide and rule stratagem that has long been the preserve of Nigerian politics has become anachronistic.