Buhari’s ‘remote control’ worse than ballot snatching
Elections inspire trepidation in Nigeria because they are traditionally bitter and slaughterous affairs. But violence doesn’t necessarily inhere in elections; it is political actors who exploit elections to instigate violence. It is the utterances of politicians that predispose the nation to avoidably violent post-election upheavals.
All political parties are guilty of instigating, or invoking the threat of, violence for self-interested political gains. Even former president Olusegun Obasanjo whom the passage of time appears to have sanitised described the 2007 presidential election as a “do-or-die” matter. “This election is a do-or-die affair for me and the PDP,” he told elders from Abeokuta North Local Government on February 11, 2007.“This coming election is a matter of life and death for the PDP and Nigeria.”
Former Lagos State governor Bola Tinubu who fancies himself as a democrat threatened in June 2014 that the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections that year— and the general elections a year later— were“going to be rig and roast.”
As a presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari had on many occasions explicitly instructed his supporters to extra-judicially murder vote riggers. In 2011, for instance, he told his supporters in a now viral video, “Ku fitakuyizabe. Ku Kasa. Ku tsare. Ku raka. Ku tsaya. Dukwandabaiyardaba, kuhalakashi!” Rough idiomatic translation:“Go out and participate in the election. Cast your vote. Protect it. Accompany it (to the collation centre). Wait for it (to be counted). Anyone who stands in the way, kill him!” In the video, his audience gave wild chants in agreement.
And that was precisely what happened. In the aftermath of Buhari’s loss in the 2011 election, at least 800 southerners and Christians who lived in the far north, including 10 youth corps members who worked as ad hoc electoral staff, were murdered in cold blood.
A year later, Buhari again threatened violence if elections were rigged. He said there would be a scenario of “Karejinni, biriJini” (Hausa for “the dog is soaked in blood, the baboon is soaked in blood”). Many commentators, including me, had defended the expression as an idiomatic substitute for “fierce competition” rather than a literal call for bloodletting. Nevertheless, in retrospect, both the context of his utterance and his past and subsequent calls for extra-judicial mass murders of so-called riggers subvert the admissibility of our defence.
Nothing proves this more than Buhari’s February 19 revelation on national television that he had“directed the police and the military to be ruthless” with ballot snatchers, and that whoever leads thugs to snatch ballot boxes on election day would be doing so “at the expense of his own life.”
I have as much revulsion toward election riggers as anybody else. However, Buhari’s outburst is disturbing and indefensible for at least three reasons. First, it is unconstitutional and therefore illegal. Jail time, not death, is the punishment for rigging. Given the notoriety of Nigerian security forces for trigger-happiness, Buhari’s instruction amounts to license to mass murder.
Second, it’s ironic that Buhari is complaining of rigging and even giving orders for security forces to extra-judicially murder alleged riggers when he is, in fact, a serial beneficiary of rigging. For instance, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, former Sokoto State governor who doubled as ANPP chairman in 2003, revealed to the author of a new, explosive book titled “Politics as Dashed Hopes in Nigeria” that he rigged the ANPP presidential primary election for Buhari in 2003—with Buhari’s active knowledge and permission. He said Rochas Okorocha won “27 of the 36 states and the FCT, while Buhari could only win five.” The story came out on January 30, and it hasn’t been refuted up to now.
It’s also now evident that Buhari’s 2015 “victory” was fraudulent. First, INEC’s data from the 2015 election, as I pointed out in a previous column, showed that Buhari was a disproportionate recipient of possibly sham votes that were masked with and legitimised by “incidence forms.” “Of the 31,746,490 accredited voters in the election, 13,536,311 — representing 42.6 percent of voters — voted without biometric accreditation. Out of this number, 10,184,720 votes are from states won by Buhari,” according to Deep Dive Intelligence, which got the data from INEC’s website.
Recall, too, that INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner in Kano, from where suspicious 2 million votes were recorded for Buhari, was burnt alive in his home, along with his wife and two children. The man,identified as Mukaila Abdullahi, was said to be uncomfortable with the electoral heist perpetrated in Kano on Buhari’s behalf and wanted to blow the lid off the scam.
Everyone also knows that underage voting is rampant in the northwest, Buhari’s electoral stronghold, which is just as illegal as ballot snatching. And, of course, post-election manipulation is an even bigger, more sinister threat to the integrity of elections than ballot snatching. In a moment of unguarded candor, Buhari confessed to participating in post-election manipulation in favour of his party in the last Osun governorship election.
At the banquet hall of the Osun State Government House on January 27, Buhari admitted that APC won the Osun governorship election only with “remote control,” a euphemism for underhand manipulation of election results. “Remote control” is worse than “ballot snatching.” Should Buhari and other “remote controllers” in the Osun election lose their lives for their treachery against the democratic process?
But what is particularly disturbing about Buhari’s instruction to security forces to extra-judicially murder so-called ballot snatchers is that Buhari suffers from a mental disorder that leads him to think that any vote against him is rigging. Here’s my evidence.
When he ran for president in 2003, 2007, and 2011, Buhari never campaigned in the South. In fact, he didn’t even campaign in the Christian North. Yet he believed he “won” the elections and was “rigged out” by PDP. How could he possibly win a national election when he only campaigned among Hausa-speaking northern Muslims? The only time Buhari’s presidential campaign extended beyond the Muslim North was in 2015.
And even though evidence now shows that his victory was possibly aided by rigging in spite of the significantly more national appeal of his candidature in 2015, Buhari believes that the 2015 election in which he emerged victorious was the only free and fair election in Nigeria. That, right there, is the picture of the mind of a man held hostage by a psychic disorder.
Since Nigerian security forces are now explicitly biased in his favour, as several photos illustrate and the utterances of the heads of the military show, a vote against him might be interpreted as “rigging” or “ballot box snatching” and be met with deadly force.
Buhari’s APC henchmen have come out to defend his bloodthirsty executive rhetorical thuggery. However, when a far less incendiary rhetoric than Buhari’s was uttered by a senior police officer four years, his party was up in arms against the policemen. On February 13, 2015, AIG Joseph Mbu told his men to shoot at electoral offenders who first shot at them. Two days later, APC called Mbu a “lawless and barbaric policeman.” Now, would they say Buhari is a lawless and barbaric president?
Most importantly, though, had Buhari signed the Electoral Act, which provides for on-the-spot electronic transmission of election results, there would be no need for ballot boxes and no risk of snatching them. Buhari is, no doubt, a violent, bloodthirsty man, but may today’s election be peaceful in spite of him.