The Nigerian democratic experience seems to be one simmered in violence. The blood of citizens is the oil by which the electoral process runs. The story of political thuggery, ballot box snatching, stuffing of ballot boxes with thumb printed ballot papers and setting of electoral materials ablaze seem cultural in Nigeria. The crescendo of electoral violence is the act of deliberate snuffing of life out of young people, just because some persons want to remain in power.
Since the inception of this Republic in 1999, political thuggery has been growing geometrically. We were initially made to believe it was part of our teething problems. The 1999 elections were marred by violence and intimidation, as well as widespread fraud and rigging. Previous Nigerian governments had used political violence even more brutally and systematically, often without any real pretense of operating within a democratic system.
Despite the shift from military to civilian rule, political violence has remained prevalent. It has been facilitated by the availability of small arms and a large population of unemployed young men who are willing to be hired and armed by politicians to intimidate their opponents.
Violence became such an accepted part of political competition in some areas during the 2003 elections that politicians did not even attempt to conceal it; for example, a PDP ward chairman in Port Harcourt told a human rights activist directly how the PDP had distributed guns in the state.
According to Human Right Watch International, the 2003 elections took the lives of about 100 Nigerians during and after the elections. The 2007 that brought the Late UmaruYar’Adua into power, gave a new definition to the menace, as over 300 persons died.
Also, the 2011 general elections that brought Goodluck Jonathan into power were bloodier, as over 800 persons were reported deed before and after the elections. Ethnic, religious and regional differences played out as post election violence was witnessed in many northern states.
Though, there were skirmishes of electoral violence in the 2015 election that brought President Mohammadu Buhari to power. It took a real democrat in the person of Goodluck Jonathan to douse the tension his defeat threw up. Recall that the then president had told his supporters that his “political ambition does not worth the blood of any Nigerian.”
In the wake of the preparation for the 2019 general elections till now it has been reported that over 250 Nigerians had lost their lives. Maybe by the time the Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections are over, the number may be higher.
The questions are: why must we spill much blood and cause much havoc to conduct elections in Nigeria? Are we running a democratic government without democrats? Why are our crop of politicians so wicked that they don’t mind killing everybody to remain in Power? Does democracy in the Nigerian context mean a different thing, order than the universal definition of democracy? These and many other questions are begging for answers.
Our own democracy seems not to be “the government of the people, for the people, by the people”. It is a government of the elite for the elite by the elite. That is why they use our religious and ethnic differences as tools to continue to perpetuate electoral violence in order to remain in Power.
Democracy must be practiced by real Democrats, not unrepentant dictators, who seem to have temporarily adorned democratic apparel to capture power. And fast put back their true colours in order to afflict us with poverty, starvation and mass murder, while they loot our common wealth.
These people preach the rule of law, but never believe in the rule of law, they run to Court when they need the court, yet they don’t obey court orders. They are better described as democrats of convenience. These groups of democrats, say, “Master Master”, but their hearts are not with the Master.
BY FRANCIS OGBUAGU