Despite the huge investment into securing democracy and ensuring that the electorates are able to speak with their votes freely and fairly without fear, threat or intimidation, the kingdoms of Kogi and Bayelsa hosted demons in hooded attires on November 16, 2019 during which the integrity of the gubernatorial elections was undermined. The hooded demons came to intimidate, steal, kill and destroy. They moved around despite the restriction of movement and the deployment of 66, 240 policemen (35,200 for Kogi and 31,040 for Bayelsa) complemented by Counter-terrorism unit, special protection unit and police mobile force. When we add the army and other security agencies to the figure, we should cry that stakeholders’ compromise continue to undermine true representation, and thereby block the genuine road to growth and development. Through the instrumentality of violence, there is enthronement of unconcerned and anti-democratic characters holding the levers of power. Of course, the consequence of this is the sustained recession being witnessed in all areas of our national life.
As soon as I read of the happenings, I went back to get inspiration from Late Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s song entitled “Teacher don’t teach me nonsense”. In this song, Baba 70 characterised our type of democratic practise as pure demonstration of ‘craze’ or crazy demonstration. If we mobilised all state resources and the ideological state apparatuses for just two out of the 36 states and this is the best we could get, then the situation has worsened. In Fela’s words, ‘Babanla nonsense’ aptly describes the elections’ which lacks the global accepted standards of free, fair and credible polls. Just like Baba 70, ‘as time dey go, things just dey bad, dey bad more and more. Poor man dey cry, rich man dey mess….demonstration of craze, crazy demonstration….democracy!”
It is sad to hear the Police Service Commission say that security agents were overwhelmed by hooded demons that unleashed terror on peaceful voters. While violence is not limited to Nigeria the crass display of superior aggression by APC and PDP call into question their genuine development agenda for the country beyond the instrumentalisation of violence on the polity. Violence has become a political strategy in Nigeria where the unpopular anti-democratic elements impose themselves on the people by force. Consequently, Nigeria’s brand of democracy has become government of the rich, through the manipulation of the poor for the service of the few and exploitation of the majority. Violence is dysfunctional to representative government and draws back the hand of development. How can a person who mounts the leadership rostrum by violence and bloodshed listen to the yearnings of the people? Violence is used to attack the strongholds of opponents, intimidate electorates from coming out to cast their votes in order to reduce the chances of a more popular opponent. As in the cases in point, violence has resulted in bloodshed, burning and destruction of properties and casts doubt on the legitimacy of those pronounced winners at the polls. This is because violence undermines electoral integrity.
In his 2019 convocation lecture at the University of Ibadan, former INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega noted that “deeply embedded unwholesome practices such as use of money, violence, incumbency powers and a range of electoral malpractices and fraudulent activities in the electoral process grossly undermine its utility as a vehicle for democratic development”. Violence is embraced by dominant political classes to access power for self-actualisation rather than for the betterment of their states and Nigeria. Jega averred that “ritualised elections which lack integrity merely serve to legalize, if not legitimize, access and control of power into executive or legislative arms of government by people unconcerned with or indifferent to, the requirements of sustainable democratic development”. The implications are that such elections do not produce responsive and representative leadership.
While the citizens who sold their votes in Kogi and Bayelsa for short term gain should be ready to suffer long term pains and join the millions of Nigerians who populate the poverty clan in Nigeria, the security agents who look the other way as bandits ruled failed in their primary responsibility. The implications of allowing hoodlums to enthrone monsters are grievous only for the discerning mind. The crime statistics of kidnapping, armed robbery and other forms of violent crimes in the two states might have gone down because the criminals have been contracted by political actors. Now that the elections are over, and the boys have been adequately equipped, it will be difficult not to see such crimes grow. It means the security agents who failed to arrest criminals in the convoy during campaign may themselves be killed by the same bandits later. It also means that the politicians who used and dumped them after elections would become victims of kidnapping. If they are recruited from campuses, try out of new weapons in cult clashes should be expected. Then, the same government that enthroned violence will be claiming to fight the seed of violence it sowed. According to Fela, Babanla nonsense (Utter nonsense)!
Moving forward, it is important for the government of the day to review elections conducted under their reign and see how much we have progressed or regressed. It is important to analyse if there is a relationship between heavy deployment of security agents and enthronement of violence which undermines electoral integrity. If we consider how much we continue to budget for security in Nigeria, we would see that it will be wise for a government not to allow violent characters reign for a moment. If we continue to allow violence as a national culture, we would see its spiral effects in all sectors and that is showing with the growing incidence of insurgent citizenships. Bayelsa and Kogi states have shown how superior aggression and social network of manipulation dethrones and enthrones. Security agents must be true with their security threat assessment and ensure that future elections meet security standards devoid of loyalty to the manipulative power of influential people. The tragedy is that the poor (vote traders and thugs) is used to undermine the future of the masses for the benefit of the few exploiters in the corridors of power. The poor kills the poor to the benefit of the rich. They unleash violence on themselves and kill one another for those who care less about them. If the violent takes the mantle of leadership by force; then repressive and oppressive administration should be expected.
Dr Tade, a sociologist sent in this piece via firstname.lastname@example.org