The Great Electoral Heist

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•BY SHAKA MOMODU•

The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything– Joseph Stalin

I am angry, very angry. Indeed many are angry, disappointed, dispirited about what just happened to our democracy. The only people celebrating are not different from armed robbers who broke into a bank’s vault and made away with the cash and other valuables in there. And after escaping, they are popping champagne celebrating their success in a hideout.

Of what use is an election when your vote won’t count? Of what use is all the billions of Naira spent preparing for elections when a few people can just sit somewhere, protected by soldiers and write out results, hand same to INEC to declare as result of an election?

Make no mistake. This is not about Atiku Abubakar’s loss of the presidential election or that President Muhammadu Buhari won his re-election bid. No! Far from it. It is about the integrity of the electoral process. The integrity and sanctity of free choice by the people. After what happened last Saturday and the days after, how can anyone even say we practice democracy? The Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi held an Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) official hostage in Rivers State using military personnel and insisted she will not leave her office until she does his will to manipulate results to favour Buhari. How can any right-thinking democrat not be appalled? And this has not outraged the human rights/pro-democracy community. Why are they silent on this? Is their silence suggestive of acquiescence with the fraudulent result from INEC?

I am even more surprised that some people even pretend that Buhari won. How can these people not see the truth and be able to say it? Don’t these people live amongst us to gauge the mood of the people after Buhari was declared winner?

We have just witnessed the grand theft of the people’s mandate by the INEC in cahoots with the All Progressives Congress (APC) and others to foist on Nigerians a president they roundly rejected in the presidential election conducted last Saturday. It is one of the biggest heists in our recent democratic history – a huge setback for democracy. The audacity and brazenness of it all was even the most shocking part of the entire plot scripted and executed with such reckless disdain for any pretence of moderation that one is left gasping for breath. For the ambitious greed of one man and his party, the gains of democracy of all the previous years have been rolled back.

They have stolen the people’s mandate. On the orders of Buhari, the army, police, and other security agencies were used by senior elements of the government to execute the rigging of the election and the bastardisation of the sanctity of free and fair choice – that important ingredient that gives democracy its legitimacy and beauty. And yet his supporters would tell us he knows nothing about it. We saw violence unleashed by hooligans, ruffians of a cursed ancestry at the prompting and direction of invidious politicians who have carved fiefdoms out of our country as their territories of influence.

For those few celebrating the fraudulent re-election of Buhari and congratulating him, it is difficult not to pity them for what they think they have achieved. They know that the man who actually won the election is not Muhammadu Buhari but Atiku Abubakar. They know it, I know it, Buhari and his party know it. They know that Mr “Integrity” has been rigged into office for another four years by gangsters, cultists and men and women of low morality and brigandage. But they are prepared to look the other way for whatever reasons. Sometimes it is difficult not to lose hope for Nigeria because of the many idiots populating this landscape. A friend who has since given up on our country once cautioned me this way: “Nigeria will defeat you.”

He was referring to my passion for Nigeria and warning me that Nigeria and Nigerians are not worth the headache. But I had remained undaunted by his warning. I don’t know now whether I am losing hope for Nigeria or not based on the collusion at all levels that engineered the most brazen theft of the people’s mandate in our recent history. At any rate, with Buhari in the saddle, it is dream and hope deferred.

But even as they celebrate the triumph of evil over good, which I believe is temporal, I am hopeful because we can see the guilt in their eyes. We hear the anxiety and fear in their voices when they speak for they know not what is to come. There is an ominous quiet in the land and no one knows what forebodes on the horizon. Their words quake in fear of their conscience, which Uthman Dan Fodio described as an open wound only the truth can heal.

Though the government and the APC had tried to put a brave face on the situation in the build up to the election, they knew in their hearts that many had become tired of the president who would rather blame others instead of working to fix the country’s problems. It is not for nothing that Nigerians who gave him their support and trust in 2015 had just a few years into his reign realised their tragic mistake they had made and were determined to right it last Saturday. He had clearly become the problem. He is the one setting Nigeria back from where he met it.

He has promoted division among the people. He has seized the collective opportunities in the land and handed them to only people of his ethnic stock. His nepotism and clannishness had become too evident to even his most ardent supporters. Such that they had no defence for it. So was his inability or lack of capacity to govern. The economy is in the throes of death, businesses imperiled, healthcare system is a crying shame, education is in a derelict state of shambles. Everywhere you turned, there was despondence in the air. How does a leader associated with those pain and anguish win election? Nigerians were tired and decided the country needed a new pathfinder to take them on a different direction to the dreams of its founding fathers. Nigerians went into the election to exercise their franchise to elect a new leader who would take them on that new direction.

But tragically, Buhari and his party who benefitted from the sanctity of the ballot box in 2015, decided it was too antiseptic and suffocating a ritual to observe in its pure, free, fair and transparent form. But what do you expect from a man who had repeatedly expressed surprise that former President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat?

It is very annoying that a few days to the election, Buhari the artful schemer sold a dummy to the undiscerning, saying anyone who snatched a ballot box should be killed. Well, behind the scenes, Buhari’s men quietly goaded the APC apparatchiks, the military, the police, even the INEC into snatching of ballot boxes and shameless manipulation of the results. Policemen and soldiers as reports have it were the ones snatching ballot boxes. The integrity of the electoral process has no meaning to Buhari and his APC. I had repeatedly stated that as things stood, Buhari could not win a semblance of free, fair election. He didn’t win the February 23rd election even though the INEC has declared him the winner. He is not the people’s choice. Of course he and his supporters couldn’t really celebrate as they ought to because they know he didn’t win. Instead there was mournful look on many people’s faces; something like a funeral silence following the declaration of Buhari as the winner of the election.

From the preparations for the election – the events that shaped the run-up to it, viz. Buhari’s refusal to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, the suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen (someone even said Buhari now doubles as the chief justice of Nigeria), the present happenings have put a lie to the puerile claim that he was not aware of the plot to unseat Onnoghen at the outset, the sudden postponement on election day of the elections, from 16th to 23rd February, the actual election itself marred by rigging, voter suppression, the militarisation of the election, the deliberate delay and piecemeal release of the results to give more time for manipulation of figures to achieve a pre-determined end (the analysis of the figures from the South-east, South-south, North-west and the war-ravaged North-east would show this), from the discrepancies in the results, it was clear that the fix was in. The dark air of suspicion that hung over a series of actions taken by the government were all scripted to achieve the re-election of an unpopular candidate for another four years.

I have read in the media that APC stalwarts are calling on Atiku to concede defeat and call Buhari on phone to congratulate him. It is a desperate attempt to legitimise fraud, ballot box snatching, voter suppression, manipulation and altering of election results, and outright writing of result where election did not hold, in favour of the losing candidate. Where is that done? Where does the victim of a robbery pick up the phone and call the robber to say congratulations for breaking into my house and making away with my valuables? Who are these politicians? Where did they come from?

Atiku should NOT congratulate Buhari. He should stand firm on his conviction; even if he decides not to go to court as some have suggested because of the anti-petitioner jurisprudence of our electoral legislations. Some have even added that the court system’s adversarial trial procedure will most likely fail the best of advocates that the country can boast of to make a triable case. As elegant and well-meaning as those suggestions may be, I am more worried about the command influence the commander-in-chief now has over the Supreme Court that will try the petition against him. So the odds against the petitioner due to the adversarial trial procedure have been magnified with Buhari’s Supreme Court, with his appointee CJN at the helm.

Let Atiku present his evidence to the public for all to see. Let the people protest peacefully against this heist otherwise it will be the norm of elections by these fraudsters masquerading as progressives. For the power of the people is more powerful than the people in power. Indeed those who counted our votes decided everything.




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