By Godwin Etakibuebu
The first baptism of fire in this year general election comes up with the Presidential and National Assembly elections slated for February 1, 2019, while Governorship, State Assemblies and Federal Capital Territory [FCT] Area Council elections for February 16, 2019, becomes the second layer of that baptismal.
These are less than forty days from today. Forty days for Nigerians to shout Hosanna or forty days for us to arrive the political battle ground of Armageddon?
The whole country is in a frenzy of palpitation and an unequaled anxiety of what the future; during and post-election days, hold for us. There are genuine reasons for all patriots to remain on the edge of fear about the incoming elections. For some, there are more noises of drums of war being heard than melodious sound of celebrations about the elections.
For others, they are seeing re-emergence of politics of “do or die”; properly marshaled by former President Olusegun Obasanjo [as president from 1999-2007], under the command of the “Garrison Commander” in the person of the late Ibadan strong politician; Lamidi Ariyibi Akanji Adedibu [October 24 1927-June 11, 2008].
And yet, there are some that are suspecting the resurrection of the National Party of Nigeria [NPN] type of “landslide and moon-slide” victory of 1983, which triggered the country into the eclipse of the political horizon and demise of the Second Republic when a Major General Muhammadu Buhari and his men in uniform struck and dismantled every democratic structure.
Everyone has his or her fear factor about this coming election. I have mine also. For sake of clarity, I will take responsibility by categorizing mine into three fear factors that are capable of marring the freeness and fairness of the elections. They are buying and selling of votes, under-aged voters and foreigners’ participation in the voting process. Permit me to elaborate on them briefly.
 Buying and selling of votes:
The Punch Newspaper of December 28, 2018, quoted the Oyo State Resident Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mutui Olaleke Agboke, as alerting the country on how politicians have approached him with the sole aim of buying the uncollected permanent voters card [PVC] in the State, which he said were 914,529.
“They are looking for PVCs to buy. They are looking for what is not available because they know that these things are not available. This is the security report at my disposal. Tell those who are looking for PVCs to buy that there is none to buy in Oyo State. I can assure you that no INEC employee will sell PVCs to any politician. I can assure you that the process will be free and fair in Oyo State. Those who are looking for PVCs to buy, l won’t give you their names. I don’t have their names. That is the security report l got and the report did not specify the party and the individuals that involved. They want us to give them PVCs but we can’t give it to them. They want to buy PVCs but there is none to sell in Oyo State”, Mutui Olaleke Agboke was quoted as saying.
What Mutui Olaleke Agboke narrated was limited to Oyo State alone and all over the country, every State, including the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, have its own leftover of uncollected PVCs. It can only be safe to come to the conclusion, in the light of Agboke revelation, that the market place of selling and buying votes; which is black market of course, is booming with patronage. This is the first evidence that the game of selling and buying of votes; which is a common trademark of our politicians, across board of course, stands to mar the elections.
In my weekly review of topical issues at the Lagos Talk 91.3 FM [a program that l host from 9:30-11am every Monday] of Monday December 31, 2018, I made bold to agree with the Oyo State REC that selling and buying of vote is a malady that could jeopardise free and fair election in Nigeria, by drawing attention to what happened in the governorship election that took place in Ekiti most recently. INEC declared the election inconclusive after the first round of voting and a date was fixed for a rerun in few places. This declared rerun made the two most contending Political Parties [the PDP and APC] to launch aggressively into the “market place of deciding votes”.
Both Political Parties met with Senator Iyiola Omisore in Ile-Ife to solicit for the votes of his followers in the Social Democratic Party, knowing fully that whichever Party got those votes would win the election. Omisore decided on behalf of his people and the outcome of that negotiation for vote gathering is now history. Suffice to say, in my candid judgment that both Parties went to negotiate for vote – it is as simple as selling and buying of votes. Let us take this as the second evidence that selling and buying of votes could torpedo the incoming election.
The third evidence of the threat that selling and buying of votes constitute to free and fair election came directly from the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission; Professor Mahmood Yakubu on Monday December 7, 2019. Listen to what the man said.
“A new method of vote buying is being devised. We have received credible information that some partisan actors are now going round buying up PVCs from voters or financially inducing them to collect the Voter Identification Numbers (VIN) on their PVCs.
“In some instances, telephone numbers and details of bank accounts of voters have been collected. By collecting the PVCs, their intention may be to deprive the voters of voting since no one can vote without the PVC.
“By collecting their phone numbers and bank details, the intention is to induce voters by electronic transfer of funds to their accounts since it will be difficult to buy votes at polling units. By collecting the VINs, they may be acting on the mistaken notion that our system can be hacked into and the card readers somehow preloaded ahead of election and compromised.
“We want to assure Nigerians that we are aware of the new tricks. It is a futile effort. We will work with the security agencies to deal with the violators of our electoral laws, including those who may be trying to compromise our staff responsible for making the PVCs available for collection by the legitimate voters.”
Let us move to the remaining two fear factors briefly.
 Under-aged voters:
This was revealed in Kano State very recently during an electioneering process when video cameras picked children below 15 years, some looking as young as 7 to 8 years old, voting. That became evidence of under-aged voting in some part of Nigeria. What can INEC do about that or how can INEC stop that?
To me, it is almost a mission impossible for INEC to stop it for two reasons. One, this was a crime perfected from “origin” when the under-aged were brought through the process of registering as voters at the beginning of the “Registration Exercise” by crook politicians who have more understanding of the fact that politics is a game of numbers. How they [these crook politicians] were able to compromise the INEC officials that carried out that exercise is another story entirely. Suffice to admit that “the sin of under-aged voters had been sealed and delivered from origin”. There is nothing legally INEC could do to disqualify these “young voters” as long as they have their PVCs [not rejected by the machines] and properly captured and recognized by the PVC machines.
The second reason that INEC cannot do anything to reject the under-aged is for the fact that there is no technological machine manufactured to capture age yet, and if there is one somewhere [which is not known to this writer], INEC is yet to be in possession of it. What this debacle leaves INEC with is a situation that it [INEC] will definitely be smelling rat but not being able capturing the rat. Call it fait accompli, you may not be wrong. Let us go for the third and last reason of the fear factor.
 Foreigners’ participation.
The scenario of foreigners voting in the incoming election, as it has been in the past, again, is a sin that had been perfected from the beginning. The process that created it is akin to that of under-aged voters that had been enumerated above. And this is more convenient and rampart in those parts of Nigeria where borders are extremely porous. In the beginning when voters’ registration was on, the “fast and dubious” politicians made adequate arrangement with their friends, kin and kith from other countries that border their States, ditto “buying or purchasing” those loose neighbours that money could buy and ferried them into the waiting hands of compromised INEC officials in Nigeria for registration.
With this malfeasance perfectly completed some years or months back, it would be easier for the head of a camel passing through the eye of a needle than for any INEC official presiding at the polling stations in the incoming election stopping any voter on the ground that he or she is a foreigner, not with the PVC identifying the person with all the biometrics concurring.
These are my personal three fear factors for the incoming elections. Yet, l wish Nigeria and Nigerians a free and fair election as l wish all a very happy and prosperous New Year.
Godwin Etakibuebu, a veteran Journalist, wrote from Lagos.
Facebook: Godwin Etakibuebu
Phone: +234-906-887-0014 – short messages only.
- You can listen to this author [Godwin Etakibuebu] every Monday; 9:30 – 11am on Lagos Talk 91.3 FM live, in a weekly review of topical issues, presented by The News Guru [TNG].