WE are glad with the recent visit to Nigeria by the United States of America (USA) Secretary of State, John Kerry, who, as a representative of the US Government, has advised Nigerian politicians to work towards ensuring a peaceful and violence-free February 2015 general elections. However, we believe the US Government’s advice should also focus on addressing the ‘root causes’ of election violence in Nigeria, which is, election rigging, election irregularities and fraudulently-decided Election Tribunal matters; these are the major problems that breeds election violence in Nigeria. There is no way we can have a “peaceful and violence-free” general elections in the country if the electorates’ votes do not count, and if the elections are seen not to be free, fair and transparent. As long as these things are absent, then we should be rest assured that political violence is inevitable.
Although, the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, who gave the advice at a news conference in Lagos at the end of a closed-door meeting he held with President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammad Buhari, the presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the All Progressives Congress (APC), respectively; also said “The U.S. government strongly believes in Nigeria having credible, free and fair elections next month.” But it is one thing for the U.S Government to ‘believe in Nigeria’ in having credible, free and fair elections, it is another thing entirely for the principal political players that are contesting for various public posts to play by the rules and ensure that Nigerians experience a free and fair election.
A look at the ‘already heated’ political atmosphere in Nigeria as we prepare for the general elections, simply tells that there is every tendency for the upcoming elections to go the same way as past elections that are ridden with political violence, political fraud and stolen mandates. In a situation where supporters of political players of the two major political parties in Nigeria are constantly at each other’s neck; defiling and disregarding every rules of the game, then let us be rest assured that the likelihood of the general elections to go on violent-free, is very slim. With the sort of “hateful campaigns” that we have witnessed in the country recently, plus the “threats of violence” issued to Nigerians by those who want their candidates to win by all means necessary; the electorates are not confident that we are going to have a free, fair and transparent election come February 2015.
The US Government should therefore be bold enough to tell Nigerian Politicians contesting in the general elections, the “truth”; and that is, they should ‘manage’ their political supporters to stop doing things that will bring about political violence. The ruling PDP especially, and the major opposition party, should be asked to allow Nigerians’ votes to count at the upcoming general elections. And that whoever wins in the general elections; irrespective of ethnicity or religion of the individual, such a person should be allowed in peace to occupy his/her mandate. This should be evident at the Presidential elections as well as the Governorship elections in February 14 and February 28 respectively. The US Government should advised our Nigerian Politicians and their various supporters not to allow ‘sentiments’ to becloud their sense of direction by allowing peoples’ votes to count. Nigerians, as the electorates, should be the ‘only’ deciding factor that should determine who wins or not at the polls. No individual or group of persons should be allowed to threaten or coerce the populace in the bid to have their preferred candidate in government office(s). even the incumbent at all levels that are planning to return to power, should not be allowed to use ‘public resources’ to ‘steal political mandates’ not given to them.
We believe the US Government and relevant stakeholders of the International Community should be more concerned about what causes electoral violence in Nigeria in the first place.  Why do we have election violence in the first place? The answer is simply because elections are often replete with irregularities and fraudulent practices by the parties concerned and their supporters. That is the issue that has characterized the “Do-Or-Die” kind of politicking we see in Nigeria. That is why we asked that, instead of the major political parties in Nigeria recently signing a ‘non-violence pact’ for ‘good behavour’ during and after elections, they ought to have signed a ‘non-electoral rigging and thuggery’ pact also. We believe the non-violence agreement signed by President Jonathan, Buhari and others will only become effective if and only if the political leaders concerned genuinely direct their followers to refrain from ‘rigging the elections’ in their favour. This also includes not using the Electoral authorities and Security Operatives to manipulate election results in their favour.
The Nigerian Judiciary and its Election Tribunals, should also be advised by the US Government to come over board in deciding election matters if they should arise after the general elections. It is a shame that in the history of Nigerian Presidential elections, Election Tribunals in Nigeria have never been able to upturn a Presidential election matter since the Second Republic of 1979 and up till today, even when it was apparent that such past elections witnessed gross electoral irregularities and rigging of high proportions. This has made stakeholders to lose faith in Nigeria’s Judiciary when it comes to deciding Election Tribunal matters. People often take laws into their hands to cause violence when they cannot get true justice on election matters through the Election Tribunals.
All of these should form part of the issues the US Government should put into perspective when fixing its gaze on Nigeria and ensuring that Nigeria, as the ‘giant of Africa’, is seen to uphold Democratic principles during and after the upcoming general elections. Election rigging and irregularities have always been the major problems with past and recent elections in Nigeria. This is the reason for whatever electoral violence and election Tribunal cases we have ever witnessed in the country. And until the issue of election rigging and election irregularities are addressed in Nigerian elections, we will continue to witness the peoples’ votes’ not counting and stolen political mandates; all of which breeds election violence and bad governance.
So, it is not enough for instance, for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of Nigeria to recently allay fears of election rigging on national tabloids and announce to Nigerians like they always do, that the commission is on top of the situation. The question is, what guarantees do we have as Nigerian electorates that we will not witness mass election rigging and election irregularities in the upcoming general elections? What guarantees do we have that Election Results Sheets will not be imputed with ‘fake’ and ‘cooked-up’ results to favour some political interests, while the electorates are out under the sun casting their votes? What guarantees do we have as the electorates, that security operatives will not be used on Election Day to grossly rig elections in favour of some highly-placed-political interest? What guarantees do we have that the same fears being allayed by INEC will not be witnessed in next month’s general elections? What guarantees do we have as a people that the so called non-violence pact will be adhered to by the parties concerned? And what penalties are there for those who are found to have violated the said pact? If we ponder on this intently, we would realize that there are indeed no guarantees.
Even though the US Government said, through John Kerry, that it would not hesitate to deny American visa to any Nigerian political office seeker involved in political violence in Nigeria, the truth of the reality is that those who are determined to grab political power by all means necessary, would not care less about being denied American Visa if they are found to have instigated political violence in Nigeria. They would not mind denying themselves the said American Visa so long as they get their ‘stolen political mandate’. Besides, these Nigerian politicians when in power will have access to any part of the world apart from the US. So, the cross of the matter is that the US Government should focus on helping Nigeria to experience free, fair and transparent elections devoid of any form of election rigging and election irregularities.
While it is imperative for Nigerian politicians and their supporters to eschew from acts in trying to win elections by “all means necessary”, it is important for the various authorities of INEC (including those at the State levels) and Security Operatives to do whatever that needs to be done to ensure elections are seen to be free, fair and transparent. It is also imperative for Nigerian politicians to accept election results; especially when they are seen to be free, fair and transparent. We also hope and pray the Nigerian Judiciary through Election Tribunals will also come over board and ensure true justice, regardless of who or what is concerned, in deciding election matters when they arise. Let us hope and pray that the general elections in 2015 will prove to be a free, fair, transparent and non-violent one where peoples votes will be the ONLY DECIDING factor electing the next set of political leaders. But this can only be; when our current political leaders are handling the political race with all sincerity of purpose.