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PRESS RELEASE: The 2019 Elections and Democratic Regression in Nigeria

1st December 2018

Suddenly, as Fela would say, “Just Like That,” Nigeria is, once more, in its elections season. This season, which started with series of primaries and, before then, series of elections in Osun, Ekiti and Anambra states will culminate ultimately in a Presidential/National Assembly Elections on 16th February, 2019, and Governorship/State Assembly elections on 2d March 2019.

The road to the conduct of the elections has thrown up a number of challenges for the Nation and the polity. Shortly before the primaries began, we witnessed series of cross-carpeting by politicians to various parties, which has continued till date. Added to that, some Governors are bitter about the outcome of the primaries as their preferred aspirants were reportedly shortchanged.

One of the APC states remarkably, will not be fielding candidates for the elections for the Governorship and the House. Because of the inability or unwillingness of the President to intervene in many of these states, the Governors have drawn the battle line with Comrade Adams, the Party Chairman.

The main opposition party, PDP, seems to have come out a bit better; perhaps, a lot less is at stake and the party seems to have learnt its lessons. What many had predicted as the likely fallout of the presidential primaries did not happen; they seem to have been able to weather the storm and have conducted what everyone sees as transparent live broadcast primaries.

No doubt, the February and March 2019 elections are remarkable in many respects. It is marking the 20th year of our democratic experimentation. The fact that we have experienced 20 years uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria shows that there has been a transformation in the mode of constituting public power.

Multi-party politics as a means of forming representative government is increasingly being entrenched. The last elections saw the ruling party losing elections to opposition candidates not only at the center but in many states. The electoral umpire seems to have built public confidence in its conduct then. But will it achieve the same fit next year? It remains to be seen. Nigeria has come a long way; we however have a long way to go.

Since our return to democracy so far, we have failed to build the social institutions and operate them in the right manner. We have failed to inculcate the right values of conduct that are right and wrong; this lack of boundaries of right and wrong has degenerated our societies to dangerous social pathologies. Our 20 years of democracy has made us more or less a norm less society; a society without trust, tolerance and compassion.

Political corruption in our twenty years has led to wanton abdication of civic duties, social insecurity and violent and bloody conflict. This wanton and bloody conflict, which has become part of our history, has worsened in Northern Nigeria.

It is, indeed, sickening that the Northern half of Nigeria has become identified with poverty, illiteracy, backwardness and decay. In the North, we celebrate the death of Nigerians if they belong to the wrong faith. Killings, which if it occurred in other climes, will prick the conscience of fellow human beings] occur here on an atrocious level, and have become part of our reality.

Between the 1953 killings in Kano – because Northern Leaders were booed in Lagos for opposing independence – to the killing of youth corpers in2011, or the Maitatsine killings in Maiduguri or the endless killings and massacre in Jos, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Zaria, Taraba, Benue, Nassarawa and, of recent, in Southern Kaduna that was capped by the death of the First-class traditional ruler of Kachia; what it has shown is that life does not appear to have any meaning to some in the North.

At the slightest provocation, miscreants are ready to kill even women and children and set them alight. The President himself was surprised, recently, that 75 people were killed in Gidan Magani in Southern Kaduna and it hardly made any headline outside Nigeria. The international community is tired.

It then means that even with 20 years of democracy, we still have the challenge of meaningful political expression and participation in our multi-party democracy. This is made worse by the increasing alienation of the state from the people through bad governance, which is the source of the debilitating conflict that has torn many parts of Nigeria apart today.

We face a society that is hostile and dehumanizing, a society in which the distribution of resources is skewed and a divorce of wealth from work, of power from responsibility. A society in which public power rather than been subordinated for the common good is a means of private appropriation and oppression.

To address many of these challenges, there is need to open the political space by liberalizating the process of political participation and enhance the power of the people to control those, who govern them. Currently, the electorates are more or less discounted.

The refusal of the political class to allow for independent candidature, for instance, has led to the institutionalization of the politics of dispossession, through exclusive reliance on political parties as instruments of political contest and limitations on the capacity of the people to make impact on political life, either because the electorate is easily discounted in political contest or they have no power over the distribution of social products.

To make matters worse, the political class is yet to develop democratic dispositions. So far, our political class is yet to cultivate the capacity for justice and compassion, despite all the noise they make about same. After 20 years of democracy our political class has yet to empower our people to realize her human potential in a significant manner. After 20 years of democracy, we are confronted with the dwindling opportunities for social development and self fulfillment and serious problem of cultural dislocation involving a loss of capacity for deliberate self-initiated change.

We have fallen behind in the development process. If truth be told, we are faced with the frightening risks of deteriorating insecurity, humiliating poverty as a result of continuous underdevelopment and social decay. Will Nigeria ever be able to evolve an industrial civilization especially in the automotive and textile sector? Without it, how can we face other societies and ensure a genuine partnership? As we go into the campaigns, can our politicians articulate an integrated, political, economic and cultural agenda, which is guided by a common vision for the capacity of the human being to renew himself? We wait to see.

And Three Other Things

 Between Citizen Alkali and Citizen Adoyi

One was a retired General reportedly killed after the 3rd of September, 2018, reprisal attack, following the killing of 17 of their villagers in Du, Jos south; the other was a 200-level pharmacy student of UJ, who was killed in Corner Shagari, Jos

North, also in reprisal attack when he was heading to Katako area from the University around the same period.

The former was from Bauchi, the latter was from Benue. In the case of the former, the authorities ensured the entire community was haunted and some taken to Rukuba Barracks, including a heavily pregnant woman, until they reportedly discovered his body in an abandoned well. The latter, his body was discovered in a river in Katako, also after several days.

In the case of the latter, no arrests have been made and no one has been charged to court, but in the case of the former, 19 accused are already in prison; in the case of the latter, no such arrests has been made. In the case of the latter, Lalong visited the Army Headquarters on condolence and even visited the widow of the General to assure her; in the case of the latter, we are not sure if Lalong visited the family of Adoyi.

So far 1,801 people have been killed in six local governments and over 50,000 displaced in a needless and avoidable battle for the soul of Jos. In a typical fashion that plays into the stereotype, the powers that be, disallowed the Prince of Wales the opportunity to hear the true story of our travails and beam the searchlight of the whole world on the Jos Plateau, for “security reasons.”

Again, is Letep’s APC set for self destruct?

In September, 2017, I ruffled some feathers when I asked this same question. I argued then that biblical principles and standards cannot change just because APC is now in power, and the truth that applies to PDP also applies to APC. In February, 2014, the PDP blatantly rigged and in broad day light robbed the people of Plateau in the Local Government Elections.

Over four years later, the APC has repeated the same fit. They bruised the masses with the outcome of the elections, this time, in a more daring manner. What is interesting about it is, some of the victims of that 2014 rigging are today the beneficiaries and even the perpetrators of the September 2018 rigging. We await the drama that will follow in March 2019…

The Lalong Administration and Garkawa District’s Near Misses

When the 2015 elections were conducted, Garkawa district had a serving commissioner for Local Government (powerful position by any reckoning), ruling party Treasurer, Deputy LGC Chairman, etc. In spite of that, the people were sufficiently mobilized and joined the rebellion in the state against the PDP, and Lalong won in the district (GNS won in the three other districts that make up the local government).

Today, the people of Garkawa are grumbling about their near misses in the over three (3) years of the Lalong Government. Their terribly bad road linking Yelwa, abandoned; their all important Tuesday market project on the verge of being awarded around May this year, diverted; their hope of producing the chairman of PLASIEC, the GM of PEPSA and even holding the Transition Chairman of Mikang, etc., dashed. Those, who led the rebellion, are wondering to tell the masses…

Nankin Bagudu, PhD

Director, League for Human Rights

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