Thursday, September 3, 2020
Houston, Texas

hile the phrase ‘Electoral Intimidation’ is not new to lexicology or to our political operation, it is definitely new to our hearing (at least to many persons) in that until yesterday 31/08/2020 when an analyst had used it on national TV to explain the supreme court’s verdict on the Kogi gubernatorial elections – which upheld GovernorBello’s election – and why the verdict was apt.

In retrospection, thereindeed existed the phenomenal electoral intimidation (as was alluded by theanalyst) as reality shows that not every election that went in the exact wayand manner of the Kogi election was rigged. A case in point was the secondelection of former Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti state. In that year of2014, Fayose swept the polls and emerged the winner of that election on theplatform of the PDP.

However, his victory(ably supported by federal power) was a clear tale of electoral intimidation. Forin those days, the PDP was in its potentate stage of political power as far asthe Nigerian political space was concerned and, did believe that it was in deedMachiavellian to destroy any opposition political party that sort to compete withthem for any space in the realm of governance.

So Mr. Ayo Fayosebelonged to the PDP family and for that reason qualified to be assisted witharmed military men whose over-populated presence (for a small electionexercise) was designed to not only scare the electorate but to especiallyintimidate the living day light out of the opposition. With their greatly perniciouspresence, the people of Ekiti state who belonged to the APC-Kayode Fayemi camp understoodbetter than to fool around.

A few years later,Kayode Fayemi would do a payback in much the same manner as was meted to him in2014. In Kogi state, Governor Yahaya Bello – despite being incumbent – neverrested on his privilege as a qualified APC stalwart worthy of enjoying federalbacking but worked quite hard to secure the people’s mandate. For the records,this governor had sought his people who resided in far-away places like Ondo,Oyo, Ekiti, Abuja, Edo, Kaduna and Kano and had ferried them back to Kogi tovote for him.

He therefore neededfederal backing for the simple purpose of to scare away the opposition. This isnever to suggest that there were no cases of clear daylight snatching of ballotboxes under the watchful eyes of soldiers. That would amount to embellishing clearevidences of such acts of rigging. It is to explain that the act of scaringaway the opposition from coming to the venues to vote was the soldier’s solereason.

And, that alone turnedin about 60% of the Gov. Bello’s electoral fortune. This brings us to thequestion: what is electoral intimidation and how does it differ from rigging? Electoralintimidation is the use of an unfair advantage of power or privilege to frighten,cause bodily harm, bamboozle or undermine the capacity of the opponent in anotherwise fair contest with the aim of emerging the victor.

It differs fromrigging in the sense that while rigging has to do with manipulating the votes,this has to do with preventing the would-be voters through any means possible fromshowing up to cast their votes. In the process of trying to intimidate theopposition, perpetrators have engaged and encouraged the youths to thug, kidnapor even kill persons that are perceived to be relevant to the opposition’s successin the area.

In climes where thesystem was working, electoral intimidation should be an offence against the lawthat should ordinarily be severely deplored. But because it is yet to becaptured as such in our list of electoral offences; some persons tend to treat andtalk about it levity even to the point of justifying such amoral mentality onnational television.

If the truth betold, it should be about understanding the fact that Governor Yahaya Bello ofKogi state and acclaimed winner of the said election could not have been ableto attempt such intimidation were he not the incumbent governor or as in thecase of former governor Fayose; enjoyed federal backing. This is why it wasimportant and urgent to revisit our amended electoral act.

A clause thatstipulates the stepping aside of the incumbent (seeking a second term) for 3months period before the election should be added and should also allow thespeaker to act till post-elections; that way, a level playing field would’vebeen created to allow every contestant to partake in the election as equals. Thesame fate should apply to the outgoing governor who anoints a successor fromamong those seeking a first mandate.

I advance these suggestionsbecause – for me – there’s clearly no fair contest when one of the so-calledcontestants has been propped to clinch the trophy. Imagine going in for apromotional examination for the rank of colonel (that you’ve prepared so hardto write) with the knowledge that your fellow soldier (who had a relativehigher up) has seen the question paper 2 days ago before.

It kills yourfighting spirit and makes the trophy worth less fighting for. Or imagine thatthe contract in which you’d bid for is awarded to a crony of the permanentsecretary despite being told that the bidding process would be a fair contest. Thetruth is that the sanity we all seek to have in our democracy cannot comethrough wishful thinking but through a pragmatic approach.