|Saturday, May 18, 2019|
Atlanta, GA, USA
“I challenge Buhari to swear with Quran, Bible that he did not rig the election” -Buba Galadima (Vanguard, Sunday April 21, 2019).
resident Muhammadu Buhari caused an uproar when in the run up to the 2019 general elections he announced that he has ordered the security forces to deal ruthlessly with ballot box snatchers. To keen observers, that directive from the country’s Commander-in-Chief sounded like giving a blank check to the usually trigger-happy Nigerian security forces to commit murder. However, in case one did not understand exactly what President Buhari meant, he plainly stated it this way: “Anybody who decides to snatch ballot boxes or lead thugs to disturb the elections ,maybe that would be the last unlawful action he would take. I have directed the police and the military to be ruthless”.
This is not the first time Muhammadu Buhari is applying an extreme measure in tackling what he sees as an intractable national malaise. During his first ascent to power as a military Head of State in 1984, then Major–General Buhari enacted a draconian decree that made drug trafficking a capital offence. And to demonstrate his seriousness, two drug traffickers who ran afoul of that decree were promptly executed. Not a lot of civilized nations governed by the rule of law has drug trafficking as a capital offence.
Election rigging (actually a Nigerian tradition) as bad as it is, should not constitute a capital offence. In fact, I understand that both the Nigerian constitution and the country’s electoral laws have provisions that spell out punishment for election rigging. Bye the way, if President Buhari was serious about making election rigging a capital offence, he could have ordered most if not all state governors executed; not just the petty ballot box snatchers. However, this extreme measure demonstrates President Buhari’s desperation to ensure that he is not out-rigged. The desperation notwithstanding, President Buhari would have us believe that he was determined to see that the elections were not rigged-that they should be seen as being free and fair. However, a side from the unmitigated terror Buhari’s security forces unleashed on hapless Nigerians on election days, evidence have emerged that those soldiers in many cases aided the rigging of the elections in favor of the Nigerian president and his party, the All Progressive Party (APC) .
While President Buhari had warned would be “ballot box snatchers” of deadly consequences in the hands of his security forces, evidence have emerged that there were instances where law abiding political party agents had to put their lives on the line ,literarily, to protect election materials from being snatched by those security forces who were suspected of conniving with the president’s party. A case in point is the incident that took place in Bori (the traditional capital of Ogoni nation and headquarters of Khana Local Government Area. This is how the story goes: According to a press statement issued by the rival Peoples Democratic Party, PDP “Mr.Akin Fakorede, the Commander of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Rivers State have led scores of military men and some leaders of the APC into Bori collation center, hijacked the EO (Electoral officer), all materials, shot several persons, including Dr. Ferry Barineka Gberegbe, a lecturer with the Kenule Saro Wiwa polytechnic, Bori”.
The press statement further alleged that Mr. Akin Fakorede’s led team of both security agents and the APC operatives abducted the Electoral Officer for the Khana local government, took him to an unknown destination, beaten, blindfolded and forced to sign fake results from Khana Local Government, Area’s Governorship and State Assembly elections. The PDP statement further alleged that the abducted Electoral Officer was later spotted at the INEC office in Port Harcourt, with some leaders of the APC, ”trying to submit fake and doctored results of the controversial elections in Khana Local Government Area”. A similar situation was said to have occurred at Oyigbo Local government Area of the state, where soldiers and thugs were alleged to have invaded an election collation center. According to a PDP account, during the National Assembly and Governorship elections on March 9, “soldiers, Police, thugs and chieftains of the APC/AAC went on rampage, killing , maiming and intimidating the electorates and electoral staff in a bid to manipulate the results, contrary to what we have recorded to favour the opposition party”. According to the Oyigbo PDP Campaign coordinator, Hon. John Ndubueze Nwachwuku, “soldiers barricaded the INEC office Oyigbo and chased away all PDP agents and INEC staff returning from their various wards for collation. The siege on the INEC office allegedly continued until 11.00 am the next day when the Returning officer was forced to “concoct” results (sic) at gun point”.
These stories, as partisan as they may sound, follow a familiar pattern. This is how general “elections” are won and lost in Nigeria. The Vanguard newspaper, The Vanguard, April 12, 2011, has this caption : HOW I WAS FORCED TO SIGN RESULT AT GUN POINT, BY RETURNING OFFICER.” A University don. Dr. Godwin Avwioro, Monday narrated how he was held hostage and ordered to sign an election result at gun point”. Of course, the result sheet that the Returning Officer was forced to sign at gun point is not the authentic result reflecting the actual vote counts. It was the fake result prepared in advance.
Now back to the Rivers State incident. It ended on a tragic note as the PDP, agent at the Bori , Khana Local Government Area collation center Dr. Ferry Gberegbe was shot and critically wounded. He died days later at the hospital. For the records, Mr.Akin Fakorede, the Commander of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad SARS) in Rivers State, who allegedly led the security agents who shot and killed the PDP agent is identified as an enforcer( actually a thug) for the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Ameachi. Also, it is believed that Dr. Gberegbe was shot in his attempt to prevent the security agents from hijacking election materials.
In any case, President Buhari seem myopic in his definition of election rigging. He seemed to be only concerned with ballot box snatching; whereas there are a thousand and one ways of rigging elections. From what is widely reported, election result collation centers, both at local government and state levels were mostly targeted by election riggers. What is more, unlike former President Goodluck Jonathan, who in 2011 reportedly warned that no one should rig the presidential election for him, President Buhari did not make any such declaration.
So if Buhari was so concerned about election rigging or was determined to preside over a free and fair election like he later claimed, why did he refuse to sign the electoral bill into law ? The electoral bill is very comprehensive and provides safeguards for free, credible and fair electoral process. For instance, section 49 of the electoral bill prescribes the use of smart card reader and other technological devices in elections. Under the proposed section 49(1) a person must present himself with his voter’s card to a presiding officer for accreditation at the polling unit where his or her name is registered. His refusal to sign the electoral bill into law shows that President Buhari was not interested in a free and fair contest.
However, when it comes to election rigging in Nigeria, no one’s hand is clean. According to the Babalakin report of 1989, election rigging in Nigeria is an all-comers affair. Those who cry Wolf do so only when they have been out-rigged. The PDP, now out of power at the national level, also rigged when it was at the helms of affairs. What is more, election rigging is for the most part perpetrated at the states level by the states governors who are the chief security officers of their states, and who have control of limitless amount of unaccountable public funds with which they bribe every purchasable officials –from the commissioner of Police, the State’s Resident Electoral Commissioner to the Returning officers . A case in point is that of the controversial former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, whom the EFCC has accused of laundering N1.05bn for the governorship and state House of Assembly elections. However, N1.05bn is pocket change, for those bandits called state governors in Nigeria. They also deploy the apparatus of state security to intimidate, harass and sometimes eliminate political opponents out of their way.
And what does it say about democracy in Nigeria, when a former state governor like Rochas Okorocha of Imo state was “elected” as a Senator of the Federal Republic while the EFCC is preparing to try him for corrupt enrichment while he was governor? And Orji Uzor Kalu another former governor whose extravagant display of stolen public funds became an internet trove sensation in 2014, has also been “elected” a Senator of the Federal Republic. The publication under reference NEW NIGERIAN POLITICS, 01/09/2014 listed former Governor Orji Kalu’s arguably ill-gotten wealth as two private jets, fleets of exotic cars, homes in Lagos, Abia and Maryland, United States among others. Of course, a former state governor with this kind of wealth, including billions if not trillions (in the case of Naira) in local and foreign bank accounts and home safes, will easily be “elected” into any political office of his choice in Nigeria. Nigeria’s electoral process (or is it democracy?) is a joke; a huge joke!
Now there is overwhelming evidence that President Muhammadu Buhari did not deserve re-election as Nigeria’s president. He has failed woefully in all spheres of governance in his first term. In fact, he has failed to redeem two fundamental promises he made, which formed the plank of his international support in 2015. In a speech in London, he vowed to crush the terrorist group, Boko Haram, and tackle the cankerworm that is endemic corruption in Nigeria. After almost four years of the Buhari presidency Boko Haram is not only slaughtering innocent civilians but are still sacking military barracks. In fact, added to the Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria is the mayhem being unleashed on hapless Nigerians by the Fulani herdsmen, Buhari’s kingsmen. In fact, it is reported that, on President Buhari’s watch, the general state of insecurity in Nigeria is spiraling out of control. Kidnapping and banditry are said to be on the rise. And what an irony! The Boko Haram terror gang which then candidate Buhari vowed to crush in 2015 is according to his own Army Chief of Staff, threatening to derail his second term inauguration, after four years in power.
On assumption of power in 1984, after the December 31st 1983 military coup, then Major General Muhammadu Buhari outlandishly threw the politicians he overthrew into prison for upwards of 88 years ( effectively a life sentence) on corruption charges. Such was the level of disdain that General Buhari had for corruption. So when campaigning for his second coming as a civilian president Buhari promised to eliminate corruption he was taken seriously by both Nigerians and Nigerian friends and traditional allies like Great Britain and the United States. However, Buhari faltered on his orchestrated anti-corruption campaign when he allowed celebrated treasury looters like former governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, to fund his campaign and in return placed them in his cabinet.
Rotimi Amaechi loaded Buhari’s presidential campaign and the APC with stolen money from the Rivers people. Now, I recall there was a time in Nigeria when a state governor was sent to jail for enriching his party . No, in President Buhari’s regime you are rewarded with Ministerial appointments and control of the party, if not the administration.
In fact, the national chairman of the APC Mr.Adams Oshiomhole is alleged to have told defectors from the rival PDP, ”your sins are forgiven, once you join the APC” . And the other day someone said, the reason past treasury looters in the PDP defected to the ruling APC is to avoid prosecution. Now, on top of being seemingly weak on his avowed war on corruption, President Buhari himself is being accused of being corrupt or at least ,indirectly.
Like it is with his lackadaisical approach to governing, President Buhari, is seen by some commentators as being myopic in his definition of what constitutes corruption. And now there is an aura of corruption surrounding President Buhari himself. There are mounting allegations of corrupt enrichment of his family members. For instance, Buba Galadima, a spokesman for the PDP, presidential campaign have accused President Buhari of aiding the enrichment of his relatives in his native home of Daura, Katsina State. According to Buba Galadima ,: “We know of his relatives who took N2000.00 transport money from us to go to Kaduna. Today, they are multibillionaires. They have assets all over the world. They have estates all over the world. I can show anybody that wants to know”.
And the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar has raised alarm over the ownership structure of multibillion telecoms giant, Etisalat Nigeria and Keystone bank. Atiku called for an investigation into allegations that President Buhari’s family now own substantial shares in Etisalat ( 9 Mobile) Nigeria which has the ownership of these companies
Yet, one of his staunchest supporters, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has provided President Buhari with a dilemma: the same fellow who was so obsessed with the late President Shehu Shagari’s alleged fixer and all- powerful Minister of Transportation, Alhaji Umaru Dikko, that he had him adducted and crated ( as a diplomatic cargo) bound for Nigeria before the prized cargo was intercepted at the London Heathrow International airport by British security agents, has now created another “Umaru Dikko” in Rotimi Amaechi. On President Buhari’s watch, Rotimi Amaechi has run amok, running a scotch earth campaign of vendetta against his political opponents and sections of the country where he believes have not shown absolute loyalty to his boss and the ruling party.
The other day, the Igbo Ekunie Initiative, a coalition of professionals in Nigeria and the diaspora, protested the exclusion of the East and South-South geo-political zones in the National Railway project by the Federal Government-an action they described as “another example of Chbuike Amaechi and President Buhari’s unpatriotic politics of hate and exclusion”. Like the group rightly noted, the railway project is being sponsored with a $20 billion foreign loan, which is going to be paid by all Nigerians. Actually, this foreign loan is going to be paid with Niger delta oil money, and you are going to cut off Port Harcourt from the railway line, just to spite Governor Wike ? This is insane!
By the way, Nigeria does not need foreign loans. If the government could recover the loots from former and current political office holders like Rotimi Amaechi, Orji Uzor Kalu et al, there would be no need for foreign loans which are going to be misappropriated, anyway.
The Transport Minister Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, reportedly coned President Buhari to dissolve the board of the Niger Delta Development commission NDDC. According to Sahara Reporters, of January 28, 2019, Rotimi Amaechi, manipulated the presidency to dissolve the board of the NDDC, just to get rid of Mene Derek, a known ally of Senator Magnus Abe.
And it is strongly suspected that Rotimi (Umaru Dikko) Amaechi, the all-powerful Minister of Transportation might have been the mastermind behind the recent announcement by the presidency to handover the operation of Oil Mining Lease OML11 (Ogoni Oil fields) from Shell to the NNPC. So emperor Rotimi Amaechi is now moving to take over the OML 11, under the operation of his dubious company, Sahara Energy. To which MOSOP, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, in a press statement recently warned him to steer clear of Ogoni Oil fields.
Rotimi Amaechi sees himself as the emperor of Rivers State, the Bola Tinubu of Rivers State, if not the de facto president of Nigeria. He wears a crown on his head. If only he could look himself in the mirror and see how ugly he looks in that crown. In Rivers State, Mr.Amaechi feels he can always steamroll everyone, including a sitting governor and impose his will on the people. We thought we have dogged the bullet of election violence in Rivers State before Rotimi Amaechi struck like a hydra-headed monster. He has torn his party, the APC in the state into shreds, following his devious scheme to impose the candidate of his choice on the party. The war of attrition between him and Senator Magnus Abe came to a head and the INEC armed with a Supreme Court ruling, disqualified the APC from fielding candidates in the National Assembly and gubernatorial elections in the state.
We were going to have a peaceful election or a no contest, with the ruling PDP and Governor Nyesom Wike coasting home to victory. So we thought. But Rotimi Amaechi wanted “war” in Rivers State, at all cost . And he contrived one by adopting a little know political party in the state, the African Action Congress, AAC, to do battle with Governor Wike. Emperor Amaechi made it very clear that he wanted blood to flow on the streets and creeks of Rivers State. And he had a surfeit of it. He reportedly chanted a war song on a visit to Port Harcourt, in the presence of President Buhari. And when Amaechi’s threat was protested to the President, he was said to have laughed it off, insisting that Mr. Amaechi was joking. But Rotimi Amaechi was not joking. He was deadly serious. Rotimi Amaechi’s purchased uniformed and plain cloth thugs had a field day, unleashing an orgy of bloodletting in Rivers State. So much blood was shed in Rivers State that Governor Nyesom Wike had to strikingly dedicate his election victory to those who were killed during the elections. Over ten people were reportedly killed in Abonnema city alone, in the cyclone of election violence that engulfed Rivers State. The killings in Rivers State among others, were exacerbated by the over militarization of what was supposed to be a civil democratic process.
However, aside from the military invasion, the security situation in Rivers State might have contributed to the high rate of casualties during the elections. Reliable information from home indicates that Rivers State is very volatile. I was made to understand that rival gangs are still running rings round the city of Port Harcourt, terrorizing residents. In fact, it is reported that the situation is so bad that those who can afford are relocating from the once garden city of Nigeria while others are withdrawing their kids from Port Harcourt schools and putting them in schools in neighboring states .Whether you agree with his politics or not, Transportation Minister, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, seems to make a valid argument when he referenced the deteriorating security situation in Rivers State as one of the reasons for his friction with Governor Nyesom Wike. Amaechi blames Governor Wike for not doing enough to fight criminals gangs and crimes in Rivers State . He also buttress his argument with the case of collapsing of businesses in the state, a situation he identifies as contributing to the increase in crime rate in the state. Governor Wike must address the deteriorating security situation in Rivers state, especially, the capital city of Port Harcourt. It is shameful that Rivers people would have to withdraw their kids from Port Harcourt schools and send them out of state for high school education. Port Harcourt used to be a magnet for people from all over Nigeria.
Governor Nyesom Wike in his second term in office, has an obligation to return Port Harcourt to the enviable status it once enjoyed in Nigeria. It is heartening to note that he is calling for reconciliation . Indeed, Rivers State needs a great deal of reconciliation and healing. And hopefully, an end to the vicious cycle of senseless blood-letting which has engulf the state for too long.
The so-called general elections of 2019 had the full paraphernalia of a military coup, with combat-ready soldiers swarming the streets . Their intimidating presence might have scared away some potential voters. The Rivers State situation was so compelling that the British High Commission in Nigeria had to wade in. The British High commission statement noted that “the military interference in the polls put stress on the staff of the Independent National Election Commission and has made it difficult for them to carry out their duties.” However, the Nigerian military rudely rebuked the British High Commission, claiming there was no “credible evidence” behind the British government observation. However, the British government was perfectly correct in its observation as there was overwhelming show of force in Rivers State, leading to so much death and destruction. In fact, from local media reports, the South-South states of Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta and Akwa Ibom were targeted for excessive militarization during the elections. True, there are numerous reports of siege at INEC offices and collation centers by security forces and sundry thugs. So it might make sense when the spokesman of the PDP presidential campaign Buba Galadima, claimed that INEC was intimidated and compromised by the ruling party, President Buhari’s APC.
The pervasive presence of the military in Buhari’s supposed civilian administration is concerning. The leadership of the Nigerian army is threatening everyone, including foreign missions. On Buhari’s watch, the Nigerian military has become increasingly corrupt, and brazenly so. And the military is becoming more belligerent towards diplomatic missions and international organizations. They have among others threatened to expel Amnesty International from Nigeria, for daring to expose the endemic corruption at the highest level of the military. In fact, the death of two high ranking military officers, former Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh and a former Chief of Administration of the Nigerian Army, Major-General Idris Alkali are linked to the corruption in the military. These senior military officers were allegedly murdered to cover-up massive corruption in the military. This scandal was recently exposed by a Washington based group, the International Strategic Studies. Has “corruption fighting” President Muhamadu Buhari opened any investigation into this explosive allegation?
As a precursor to the coup against democracy in Nigeria which was executed on February 23, 2019, President Buhari had sacked the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Onnoghen. And it is suspected that the CJN was sacked ahead of the inauguration of the election petition panels so as to give way to a pliable Buhari’s hand-picked Acting CJN to put his own team on the election petition panels. In fact, prominent civil rights activist, former president of the Civil Liberties Organization and the Nigeria Bar Association, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) accused President Buhari of subverting the Supreme Court by the removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon Justice Walter Onnoghen, and the appointment of the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria Muhammad Tanko. And as a result of this subversion, Agbakoba fears the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku may not get justice if he decided to challenge the results of the just concluded presidential election in court.
In the developed world, like the United States or Great Britain, President Buhari could not have won re-election, having failed to deliver on his key campaign promises-“crushing Boko Haram” and “eliminating corruption”. However, as it is with Third world countries where glorified dictatorships pass for “democracies” Buhari easily “won”. But his scammed “re-election” has been roundly rejected across the country-from North to South, East to West. Soon after Buhari was declared winner of the February 23 presidential election, the Forum of Nigerian Leaders and Elders , comprising Afenifere, Ohanaeze, Northen Elders, Niger Delta Forum issued a statement rejecting President Buhari’s re-election. The Forum among others observed that the elections revealed massive irregularities and outright abuse of the electoral, laws, the rules and regulations of INEC as well as the failure of security forces to remain neutral and operate within the highest standards of their calling”
So Nigeria is going to be bogged down with a clueless and lackluster Buhari administration for four more odd and agonizing years. However, Nigerians had a Hobson choice on February 23, 2019. Neither President Muhammadu Buhari nor his challenger, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku is capable of providing a progressive democratic pathway that is necessary to turn Nigeria around. They both belong to the old guard. The most qualified candidate was Economist Dr Oby Ezekwesili, who ended up withdrawing from the race, having realized that the system is stacked against her. Like political gadfly, the irrepressible Abdulkadri Balarabe Musa, noted, under the present system in Nigeria only past public thieves or those who are sponsored by those thieves can successfully run for president. And they are deeply entrenched. Talking of entrenchment, the other day former President Olusegun Obasanjo who Nobel laureate Professor Wole Soyinka described as the most hypocritical former leader, and whose charity begins abroad, had in South Africa remarked that aging African leaders will not go on their own. He then reportedly advised the youths to organized themselves and snatch power from the oldies. Former President Obasanjo is absolutely right. However, he seems to forget that he is one of those “aging African leaders” who refused to go when their time was up. As his second term tenure was whining down in 2007 that hypocrite launched an evil plot for a third term which involved massive bribery and coercion but for those courageous Senators who endured political persecution and steadfastly resisted him.
President Muhammadu Buhari with the help of his collaborators and enablers has staged his second successful coup against democracy in Nigeria and the country is worse for it. However, he has a second chance to redeem himself by providing a robust, responsive, result-orienting yet humane leadership that would set the country on the path of economic transformation and guarantee security of lives and property of all Nigerians.
Meanwhile, the astronomical rise in crime rate and the general state of insecurity in the country is blamed on acute unemployment among the youth population. What about poverty? According to economist and former presidential candidate, Dr.Oby Ezekwesili, 87 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty. This is unacceptable for a country with such a huge economic resource. Yet, there is a correlation between the high poverty rate in Nigeria and the chronic case of treasury looting. The thieves in government continue to empty the national treasury with impunity, leaving little or nothing for economic development. And rather than facing retribution past public thieves are being allowed to use their stolen wealth to buy their way back to power over and over again, and continue the vicious cycle of treasury looting. This is why President Buhari must prosecute a real war on corruption, not the phantom one he is presently waging. And money recovered from public thieves should be invested in the economy to create jobs and for infrastructural development. Treasury looters and those who murder for political power must be punished within the severest prescription of the law, to serve as a deterrent. This is the only way for Nigeria to recover from decades of political and economic abuse.