Most candidates for Saturday’s elections must have known, by now, whether they will win or lose. Even those who will face the ballot on March 2 already know the likely outcomes at the end of the day. All through the campaign period, each candidate has gauged their popularity among actual voters.
We recognize, however, that the average politician hardly faces reality. Up until voting day, they keep hoping they would carry the day. In Nigeria’s case, we all know that the most popular candidate does not always win, thanks to electoral fraud in high and low places. Some resort to violence, if only to capture power by force.
We have no best wishes or good luck for any politician who intends to violate the will of the electorate. For them and their wicked collaborators in INEC and the security agencies, we prescribe frustration or worse. May they fail to actualize their evil machinations! May the people express their wishes in their votes between this Saturday and March 2, and may those bent on reversing their wishes not succeed.
This first set of elections – the presidential and federal legislative polls – will set the tune for the second set. We must make it as smooth as possible. No rigging. No violence. There must be no tales of ballot box snatching, underage voting, late arrival of election materials or use of firearms by those not authorized to do so. Above all, offenders must be arrested and punished this time round.
Already, red flags have been raised ahead of the polls. Last Saturday, it was reported that fire from an unknown source had razed the INEC office in Qua’an Pan local government area of Plateau State. INEC spokesman Osaretin Imahiyereobo admitted that the incident was a setback for the commission: “The office is completely burnt with all its contents: ballot boxes, generator sets that have been serviced and filled with fuel, cubicles, newly printed electronic and manual voter register, uncollected PVCs, materials for the preparations of RAC and other materials yet to be identified.” Who did it? “A drunken security man was said to have caused the fire outbreak,” said Imahiyereobo, adding that it was too early to suspect any sabotage.
A week earlier, aggrieved people reportedly set ablaze the INEC office in Isiala Ngwa South LGA of Abia State. INEC said 2979 PVCs were burnt in Abia. In Plateau, 5987 were burnt. And how much more when, on Tuesday afternoon, two containers filled with sensitive election materials were gutted by fire in Awka, Anambra State?
It is reasonable to suspect such incidents as acts of sabotage. Although INEC has promised to replace the PVCs burnt in Aba and Plateau before election day, one should skeptical. Many have been unable to collect their PVCs even in places INEC offices have not been harmed. And, certainly, it cannot replace the smart card readers and other sensitive materials burnt in Awka.
Political parties that have been threatening to throw fire and brimstone on election saboteurs are right to frown on acts capable of impeding free and fair polls on Saturday. Upon INEC’s shoulders lie the burdens of 200 million Nigerians. Chairman Yakubu Mahmood, resident electoral commissioners, and all other staff, regular and ad-hoc, of the electoral body must not only keep their hands clean but must also be seen as clean. Security agents, who have been accused of masterminding the burning of electoral materials in certain places, should do more to stop tongues from wagging..
Armed security agents are not supposed to be seen in the streets on election days. In more civilized countries, they play little role. In Nigeria, however, they are needed to keep troublemakers at bay. They must restrict their activities to such role on Saturday. Nobody should fire a shot except one directed at a confirmed criminal. No security operative should allow himself to be used to perpetrate any criminal activity.
For their part, voters must not be scared away by sights of AK 47-wielding soldiers and police. But they must conduct themselves peaceably. We agree with Professor Bolaji Akinyemi who has asked political leaders to “call on their supporters to eschew violence and any undemocratic behaviour during these elections. We should avoid hate speech not just now but in our political system.” Besides, we urge the politicians to believe in the philosophy of former President Goodluck Jonathan who said, “My ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian.”
We Nigerians should remember that the entire world is already here. Let us treat election observers and monitors with respect and prove those who think we are incapable of conducting elections wrong. Even where the polls are not transparent, those provoked should simply have witnesses, document their evidence and later seek redress in the tribunals and courts. Violence is never an answer because two wrongs don’t make a right.
With: The Oracle Today