The Guardian
Email YouTube Facebook Instagram Twitter WhatsApp

The electorate and the legitimacy of electoral outcome (1)




 Text of lecture delivered at the Ninth Beko Memorial Anniversary organised by Beko Memorial Committee, in honour of the Late Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti on the broad theme “Which Way Nigeria?’ 

Preamble Given Nigeria’s chequered post-colonial experience and development crisis, and in particular Nigeria’s monotonous history of troubled elections, the Beko Memorial Committee could not have chosen a better topic for this year’s Beko anniversary.

The relevance of the topic would be better appreciated if it is realised that the lecture is in honour of an iconic pro-democracy and rights activist, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti.

WITH the conduct of the 2015 General Elections, the dispositions, actions and utterances of the political elite showed with clinical clarity that they and their followers and supporters are totally bereft of a sense of history.

All the destructive issues that plagued previous general elections in Nigeria, especially those of 1964, 1983, 1993, and 2011, and demonstrated the nature of the state as a dysfunctional entity are today still at work even with new and greater destructive and destabilising dimensions and forces.

The major parties, i.e., the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) were like two nations at war.

Electioneering had been associated with abuse, insolence, slander, libel, and even death-wish, all delivered and expressed through extremely inflammatory language.

Beyond this, there had been violent attacks on rivals.  The campaign convoys and rallies of the presidential candidate of the PDP, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was violently attacked in Jos, Katsina, Bauchi and Jalingo.  There was a bomb explosion at the campaign ground of the same candidate in Gombe.

If violence could be organised and unleashed with audacity on the campaign convoys and rallies of a sitting president of the country, then all well-meaning and public-spirited people, true democrats and enlightened citizens cannot but worry about the elections and the response to their outcomes by politicians and their supporters.

Large-scale violence was being anticipated everywhere, both in the country and outside. The palpable fear is that Nigeria may well be coming to the eschatological Judgement Day through an electoral Armageddon.

Two or three years ago, quasi-or semi-official intelligence sources of the United States warned that Nigeria may break up in 2015.  Although the sources were silent on the circumstances of the predicted break-up, there can be no doubt that the sources were referring to the circumstances of the 2015 general elections.

For, the spontaneous response in the northern section of the country to the declaration of Dr. Jonathan as the winner of the April 2011 presidential election was mindless and callous killing of those perceived to be the agents of rigging, especially youth corpers of southern Nigerian extraction.

This did not go unnoticed by the world!   Then, there was the Boko Haram metamorphosis, first from its original status as the political structure of some northern politicians, then to a nonconformist and protestant organisation, and finally, after the extra-judicial killing of their leader, Yusuf, to a fundamentalist Islamo-political movement aimed at the overthrow through a jihad of the government of Christian infidels, abolition of western civilisation, the expansion of Islam, and the imposition of the Shariah as the basic law of the state.

The Boko Haram onslaught has been consistently so lethal, and has caused so much destruction in terms of human lives, private properties, and public infrastructure that it is today the greatest challenge to the state.  Within the Armed Forces there have been cases of mutiny as some soldiers who dread the Boko Haram disobey their high command.

The mutinous soldiers were simply awed by the magical fighting power and technology of the Boko Haram, their guerrilla methods and tactics, and their intelligence and reconnaissance.

With the Boko Haram menace, the state has clearly lost its monopoly over the instruments of coercion.  Again, the world is watching!!   It would seem that when the Americans made their prediction, it was based, among other factors, on the spontaneous reaction to Dr. Jonathan’s victory in 2011, the “radical” transformation of Boko Haram, and the concomitant security challenge that the “radical” transformation represented.

From the history of elections in Nigeria and especially with reference to the 2011 experience, it would seem that the American prediction at the time it was made public, was based also on their expectation that there would be a “do or die” presidential election with an outcome that might provide more impetus for the intensification of Boko Haram insurgent war against the infidels.

Our topic is comprised of three issues, all a concatenation, viz: The 2015 General Elections, The Electorate, The Legitimacy of Electoral Outcome.

In addition to these three components of the topic we have taken liberties with the topic to add a fourth component, which is on what we consider basic issues that must be addressed and resolved to ensure a break with the troubled past, apropos general elections and political development.

The 2015 General Elections ONE of the fundamental problems of Nigeria and, indeed, most other states in Africa, has been the abysmal failure or inability of their democracies to achieve regular statutory transition from one civilian government to the other through peaceful general elections within the bounds of the constitution and electoral laws of the state.

This is particularly true of elections for political offices and positions at the centre.  In Nigeria, with the exception of the June 12 1993 presidential election, all elections have been associated with violence, carnage, maiming, arson, destruction of private properties and public infrastructure.

Yet, without regular elections it is impossible to have an enduring constitutional democratic order and a stable political system, enjoyed by the “developed” democracies.

Therefore, the choice before Nigeria is between growing into a developed democracy or remaining backward in the category of nations described somewhat pejoratively by western political theorists and anthropologists as primitive societies and cultures.

Previous elections have all been associated with gross irregularities manifested in rigging, snatching of ballot boxes, stuffing of ballot boxes with marked ballot papers, intimidation and harassment of voters, violent disruption of voting, threat of killing, actual killing and maiming of voters, etcetera.

From the inflammatory and inciting utterances of the leading political actors and their supporters, it was clear that the nation has not made progress in the development of democratic culture.  Indeed, what the nation has achieved in this regard is much more of retrogression rather than progress.

It is instructive that before the April 2011 election, a presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari and other northern leaders such as Alhaji Isa Kaita, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Dr. Junaid Mohammed and Dr. Ango Abdullahi were reported to have threatened to make the country ungovernable in the event of rigging or the declaration of Dr. Jonathan as winner of the election.

In addition, some of the northern leaders preached that Muslims should not vote for Christian candidates.    In particular, General Buhari called on his supporters to lynch election riggers and aiders and agents of rigging.

Thus, when Dr. Jonathan was declared the winner of the election the northern section of the country, especially the northeast and north central parts, was immediately turned into a crucible of sanguinary violence.

The violence in the northeast, as the nation conducts another general election this week, has attained the zenith of threat to the integrity of the state.    The situation has not changed in the last four years.

General Buhari was reportedly said to have told his supporters in an address on May 12, 2012 that should the 2015 election be rigged “dog and baboon will soak in blood”.

Besides, the Director-General of General Buhari’s campaign organisation, Former Governor Rotimi Amaechi threatened that a parallel government would be formed by the APC should Dr. Jonathan emerge as the winner of the presidential election.

It is significant that while some were busy making inflammatory statements, stoking the embers of bloody violence, others were appealing to their supporters not to shed human blood in the name of political support.  This category of politicians clearly did not see electoral victory as a matter of life and death.

This was the unmistakable position and disposition of the late “servant-leader”, President Umaru Yar’Adua.  We are not aware that his successor, Dr. Jonathan has at anytime or on any occasion issued a threat, or called on his supporters to lynch perceived riggers.  On the contrary, he reportedly expressed on many occasions that “nobody’s political ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian”.

It is important to note, however, that despite the pacifist position and disposition of Dr. Jonathan, despite his pronouncements and appeals against violence, the APC and their supporters did not have a monopoly of bellicose stance.

Witness, for example, the position of a leading supporter of Jonathan, Alhaji Mujaheed Asari-Dokubo, Founder and Leader of the Niger Delta People Volunteer Force (NDPVF):   “If it is war the North wants, we are ready for them, because Jonathan must complete the mandatory constitutionally allowable two terms of eight years. At home we have regrouped and we have put our people at alert. In less than one hour, the way we would strike the world will be shocked…”

The above outbursts are clear threats to the survival of the state as an entity.  Does the defeat of any candidate in an election mean that there has been rigging?

Should perceived riggers or their agents be killed or maimed without recourse to judicial trial?  Why should there be a parallel government simply because a candidate or some candidates did not win in an election?  Is it abnormal for victors and losers to emerge as the outcome of an election?

The electorate   Democracy is about participation.  Participation is either representative or direct mass participation, better termed participatory.

Representative and direct mass participation are bourgeois (capitalism) and proletarian (socialist) practices respectively.  But whether the form of democracy is representative or participatory, the people vote to elect the executive and legislative arms of government.  The eligible voters constitute the electorate.

Political parties and their candidates seeking the vote of the electorate articulate their manifestos and policy measures and instruments and explain them to the voters.

Manifestos are official programmes of action of political parties.  The process of presenting and explaining parties’ manifesto to the electorate is known as campaign or electioneering.

By voting any party or candidates into office, the people express confidence in them and expect that the party’s manifestos and their implementation would meet the everyday aspirations and expectations of the people.

All elected persons form the government, which represents the people.  When a group of persons are elected, they are said to have been empowered to exercise authority on behalf, and for the good of the people.

Where and when this authority is the outcome of a regular, free and fair election accepted by all, irrespective of partisan interests, the authority is said to be legitimate and the government is said to be sovereign.

There are two categories of political parties and politicians that seek public office through election, viz, (1) those seeking re-election and (2) those challenging the wielders of power.

Where the electorate are enlightened voting pattern is influenced and determined by the way they (1) evaluate political parties and candidates seeking re-election; and (2) understand the manifestos of the “new” parties and politicians, i.e., how much they think of the new contenders.

The issues the electorate reflect on are: (1) what did the ruling parties and politicians promise and how have the people fared under them?

In other words, how much of the “social contract” between the rulers and the electorate has been executed to the satisfaction of the greatest majority of the people?

If the people have not fared much, if much has not been achieved, what are the new parties and politicians promising?  Will the new parties be better?

Are their manifestos anchored on the peoples’ needs and aspirations?  Have the new parties worked out the strategies and tactics for the execution of their manifestos?

The voting pattern is an aggregation of the peoples’ perception of, and opinion on these and related issues.   TO BE CONTINUED • Onyekpe, PhD, FHSN, MAPDHR, Department of History and Strategic Studies University of Lagos

Receive News Alerts on Whatsapp: +2348136370421

No comments yet