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Like a thunderbolt, the postponement of the 2015 general elections strikes the Civil Society Organisations, the media and all by-standers at a joint they least expected. Beyond that, the change of date in what could have been a decisive democratic engagement dealt a huge blow to our 15-year old democracy, dents our rule of law grandstanding and nearly made a joke of Prof. Attahiru Jega’s integrity and questions the independent appendage in Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s name.
Many observers never saw the postponement coming, many were busy drilling INEC on Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), urging the commission to use Temporal Voter Cards (TVCs) or advocating for Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) and getting totally oblivion of the responsibilities/relevance of the Nigeria Security apparatchiks in the conduct of elections, at least, in this clime we found ourselves. Yes, the issue of insecurity albeit insurgency was part of pre-election discourse; nobody ever envisaged the Nigeria security chiefs to use the dereliction in their mandatory duty to truncate a process that has been under planning in the last 3 years.
The Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance; Supplementary to the Protocol relating to the Mechanism For Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security explicitly stated in Article 19(1) that, “The armed forces and police shall be non-partisan and shall remain loyal to the nation. The role of the armed forces shall be to defend the independence and the territorial integrity of the State and its democratic institutions.” While Article2 1(2) of the same protocol posits that,” All the elections shall be organised on the dates or at periods fixed by the Constitution or the electoral laws.” The action of the National Security Adviser (NSA), the Service Chiefs and INEC is antithetical to the protocol and indeed Nigeria’s democracy.
Being a proactive development focused organization, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), after observing the spiraling insecurity and near leadership indecisiveness in curbing the scourge of Boko Haram attacks and the probable consequence of that on Nigeria’s democracy and development, at its maiden edition of inter-party debate series prioritized the issue of insecurity. The Nigerian Political Parties Discussion Series (NPPDS) debate between Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) on the theme: “Addressing Rising Insecurity in Nigeria, What is the master plan?” held onDecember 19, 2014, was designed for both APC and PDP to detail their agenda towards combating Nigeria’s seemly intractable security challenge that is precariously threatening the continuous existence of the Nigeria entity. Did the two parties exploit the rare opportunity? NO!
Viewing from an objective purview, one could assert that the two political parties frittered away the opportunity. Their representatives came completely unprepared or better still picked the problematising section of the topic and did blind-shot at the “what is the master plan” part of the debate question. Rather than a debate to proffer solution, it was a blame game. However, of the duo of Dr. Kachi Ononuju representing the PDP and APC Deputy National Chairman, North-West, Alh. Inuwa Abdulkadir, the later spoke to the party’s manifesto than the former.
It could be asserted that managerial ineptitude has made insecurity the norm in Nigeria. A rag tag, bow and arrow, cutlass wielding group – boko haram; a self acclaimed righteous Islamic sect was allowed to transform in one of the most sophisticated, most equipped and most daring Islamic fundamentalist groups in Africa. It is incredible to realize that boko haram even attacks soldiers in their own barracks. Following the unabated surge in insecurity in Nigeria, the African Union proposed to set up a regional force of 8,700 troops to fight the insurgents. The Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram became necessary because the sect has “committed unspeakable brutality” against humanity. AU is of the opinion that the “terrorists should be addressed with a regional and international cooperation.” That is how bad our military prowess has been undermined.
The Nigeria Security apparatchiks particularly the army in the last few weeks has been meretricious with its open partisanship; first in Ekiti ( were a leaked audio tape purportedly tell how rigging of Ekiti Governorship election was planned) and now in the letter to INEC, calling for six weeks to wipe-out insurgents in the Northeast. In a war that has now been made to look like what can be frisk away with a magical wand, the true number of casualties remains a mirage. Nigeria, the self acclaimed giant of Africa, lacks verifiable database system either for birth or death. The actual figure of those that died in Baga on January 3rd, 2015 remains hard nut to crack. Since the shameful attack of the Federal Capital Territory on October 1st 2010, Nigeria cannot ascertain if she had lost 400,000 or even a million citizens. Nigerians will never know the true extent of this rampaging genocide. Hundreds of thousands are victim to unspeakable terror as major Local governments are under Boko Haram rule; from Bama to Gulak to Gwoza, Mitchika, Mubi, Chibok amongst others, it has been one horrific tale of arson and bloodletting.
According to National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, as at December 2014, a total of 802,000 persons have been displaced since the beginning of the carnage, and socio-economic situation in the Northeast region paralyzed beyond recognition, thus, making the issue of internal security channeled towards protecting the sovereignty and indivisibility of the Nigeria crucial in the light of the now March/April general elections. In the last six month, almost the whole of Northeast has been under siege. It is easier to be woken by ricocheting sound of gun than the crow of a hen today in that region.
Aside deaths, there persist a lingering social-rights trauma for those attacked by the itinerating marauders. Fate of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) remains bizarre as they hang in neighboring communities without bed or board. A visit to any IDPs camp drives home the danger at hand. Government neither protects citizens from potential danger nor feels adequately concerned to cater for those who had escaped by sheer luck. Mid last year, government raised 60 billion naira from the organised private sector inclusive of Aliko Dangote, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu amongst others, the “Victim Support Fund” was purportedly for rehabilitating the plagued northeast. Today, nothing seems to be in the known as regards the fund or things it was used for.
The military is promising a recrudescence of attack on the insurgents under six weeks for Nigeria to be able to decide the fate of its democracy. At the debate held on December 19, 2014, Dr. Kachi Ononuju representing the PDP had said,” Nigeria was never prepared for Boko Haram, and the Army has not been engaged in training in the last 30 years until recently when the present Government embarked on massive trainings of soldiers.” He further asserted that the opposition has often been a clog in the wheel of the current administration’s efforts against insurgents. He alleged that APC had mounted campaigns against Nigeria in the attempts to purchase arms and ammunitions abroad. However, he fails to categorically state what the government is doing to curtail the said saboteurs preventing government from doing its primary responsibility of protecting lives and property. With the new stand of the military, one could be forced to ask, what has change? Has the said opposition causing hindrance been arrested or why is the Army so sure it would curtail Boko Haram in six weeks?
The PDP representative tactically avoided the issue of poverty, universal primary education, corruption and human right abuses that necessitated the refusal of United State of America, to sell arms to Nigeria. In 2013, former United States President, Bill Clinton, at the 18th edition of the THISDAY Awards, in Abeokuta, Ogun State, said the Federal Government can tackle the myriads of problems facing the nation including insecurity by making universal education available to the youth as well as addressing the problem of poverty. Same view was shared at the debate by APC Deputy National Chairman, North-West, Alh. Inuwa Abdulkadir, when he opined that insurgency in Nigeria has its roots in poverty and unemployment; a major reason the party would be making the creation of employment opportunity as a priority when it comes into government. APC intend to create 2 million jobs immediately elected. “The failure of the PDP to nip the situation in the bud has led to the present situation of loss of territory in the country, the APC Manifesto would create structures that would absolve and ameliorate the insecurity in the country. The party is in support of Community Policing and creation of a State Police.”
As much as one would agree with the Clinton and the APC representative, one cannot rule out addressing crass corruption as the bedrock of combating insecurity. Corruption and lack of quality and quantitative education in Northern Nigeria remains a major albatross to addressing insecurity. Though the Almajiris schools are a starting point, there is need to monitor quality of what is being taught and sustainability. In 2013, a report by Kate Redman, Communications Specialist, Education for All Global Monitoring Report, EAGMR, of UNESCO, puts Nigeria’s out of school children at 10.5 million, making Nigeria the highest country with such education deficit. Do we still wonder at how boko haram gets its pool of child bombers?
Today, more than 100 million Nigerians survive on less than a $1 a day, despite economic growth statistics that the Federal Government has been showing around. The National Bureau of Statistics said 60.9% (112.47 million) of Nigerians in 2010 were living in “absolute poverty” – this figure had risen from 54.7% in 2004. According to the Bureau relative poverty was most apparent in the north of the country, with Sokoto state’s poverty rate the highest at 86.4%. In the north-west and north-east of the country poverty rates were recorded at 77.7% and 76.3% respectively, compared to the south-west at 59.1%. It is no doubt that aside other corresponding factors, the extremist Boko Haram group continue to have an appeal in northern due to the level of poverty and underdevelopment in the region. In the coming election, ability to bridge the widening gap of education deficit and poverty through a monetized strategic plan should inform candidate’s choice. It goes beyond transformation or change. None of the leading candidate has been meticulous in their party’s manifesto on insecurity; a low on Civil Societies campaign for issue based politics.
To combat terror, government need to address the issue of corruption, ammunition starving of soldiers on battle field and offer decisive leadership and broad based policy, terms presently lacking in the current administration. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo while granting an interview To Financial Times at the launch of his autobiography titled, ‘My Watch’, in Nairobi, Kenya, captured it succinctly, “It is a question of leadership – political and military. I think you need to ask (President Goodluck) Jonathan how he let the army go to this extent. Many things went wrong: recruitment went wrong; training went wrong; morale went down; motivation was not there; corruption was deeply ingrained; and welfare was bad.”
Just has Mr. President has said that May 29, 2015, handover is sacrosanct; the President should know that holding a credible, free and fair elections are more sacrosanct. And no other form of change of government other than handing over to a democratically elected President would be tolerated.
Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni, writes from Centre for Democracy and Development, Abuja
Twitter handle: @SMS_0407
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