Critical scholars have characterized contemporary systems of government that claim to be democracies as mere “electocracies” because the vast majority of people actually don’t vote, which denudes such systems of their claims to being governments by the “demo,” that is, the people. Nigeria’s situation is worse. It has institutionalized “rigocracy,” that is,government by in-your-face rigging, not transparent elections, as its preferred system of government.
Although rigocracy has been institutional in Nigeria for a while, its brazen manifestation in the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections, in spite of putative technological safeguards against it, should invite introspection from people who matter in Nigeria on whether it’s wise to invest enormous resources, not to mention risk the needless deaths of scores of citizens, to organize periodic elections.
The last election was a sham and a shame. There is no question about that. The results INEC announced as the product of the presidential and National Assembly elections are, in many cases, scandalously inconsistent with the figures officially declared at polling units. Given the deployment of technology for the election, you would think that arbitrary allocation of votes to candidates won’t be a strategy of rigging. But it was.
At this point, we might as well have a fascistic monarchy with no elections at all instead of spending billions to organize sham elections that don’t mean anything; that a bunch of mulish, nescient knuckleheads can overturn at will without consequences.
I am surprised that I am surprised by this. In several past columns and social media posts, I had cautioned against what I called “misplaced PVC optimism.” In a September 28, 2018 post, for instance, I wrote: “Nigerians feel oddly empowered by the possession of their Permanent Voters Card (PVC). They think it’s their bulwark against Buhari’s continuing incompetence. I am sorry to be a party pooper, but the truth is that in Buhari’s Nigeria, the PVC is worthless, as we’ve seen in most of the elections conducted while Buhari is president, the latest being the Osun State governorship election.
“All indices show that Buhari would lose the 2019 election if it’s free and fair, but Buhari would rather die in power than hand over power to anyone… So your votes would be worthless in 2019.” And that was precisely what happened: PVCs were worthless last Saturday.
In spite of propaganda to the contrary, last Saturday’s election will go down in the annals as one of the bloodiest, most brazenly monetized, and most explicitly fraudulent presidential elections in Nigeria’s entire history. Ballot boxes in polling units won by opposition candidates were seized, burned, or dumped in the sewers by APC-sponsored thugs in places like Lagos. Countless instances of massive thump-printing of ballot papers in APC strongholds have been captured and shared on social media in the far North.
Nevertheless, in spite of the active state-aided voter suppression in PDP strongholds, murderous violence against PDP agents, ballot paper snatching, and sundry electoral malpractices, Atiku Abubakar still had a comfortable lead. Results that trickled in in real time showed that he won in southern and northcentral states with a wider margin than Buhari did his strongholds in 2015, and lost a majority of northwestern and northeastern states by a far narrower margin than Jonathan did his weak spots in 2015.
At the last minutes, however, votes from several states were arbitrarily inflated in favour of APC’s Muhammadu Buhari, leading to a situation where there are now more votes cast in the election than there were accredited voters in the election.
The title of my last column is, “Buhari, ‘remote control’ is worse than ballot snatching.” “Remote control,” remember, is Buhari’s euphemism for changing results after the vote, which he confessed to have done in the Osun State governorship election. “I know how much trouble we had in the last election here,” he said on January 27 during a campaign event in Osun State.“I know by remote control through so many sources how we managed to maintain the [APC] in power in this state.”
Well, he and his henchmen did precisely that again in Saturday’s presidential election. In the actual votes declared at polling units nationwide, which have been captured in real-time and stored in cloud-computing technology, Buhari lost the election. Troves of anecdotal evidence, including intercepted phone conversations and video recordings, have emerged to show that INEC officials fudged the figures in parts of the northwest, the northeast, the southeast and the south-south after the vote, to give Buhari a fraudulent lead.
This is in addition to massively brazen ballot snatching, ballot burning and outright, barbarous disenfranchisement in PDP strongholds in places like Lagos where, in spite of everything, Buhari only managed to squeak out a narrow “win.”
The signs were always there that Buhari would not accept any result that did not declare him a winner, and I and other commentators have called attention to them. For instance, his refusal to sign the Electoral Bill, which would have frustrated the rigging his minions perpetrated in this election, was deliberate. One of the provisions of the bill was to make on-the-spot transmission of election results mandatory.
He also knew, as I pointed out in a previous column, that his blatant rigging would invite a robust judicial challenge, and that the overturning of his fraudulent victory would be a slam dunk in an independent, unpredictable Supreme Court. That was why he exploited CJN Walter Onnogen’s asset declaration infraction, which most government officials, including Buhari himself, are guilty of, to illegally remove him and replace him with a pliant, acquiescent alternative from his geo-cultural backyard.
This is not an election Atiku and other opposition politicians should accept. It was a brazenly disreputable daylight electoral heist, which has completely destroyed the last vestige of faith most Nigerians had in the integrity of the electoral process. Unfortunately, the judiciary is now so intimidated and so compromised that it’s incapable of dispensing even a semblance of justice. Nevertheless, for the sake of history, I’d encourage Atiku to proceed to the courts to present evidentiary proofs of the enormous rigging the Buhari regime has perpetrated to perpetuate itself in power.
In all of this, the person I am concerned with the most is Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC chairman. Even Maurice Iwu would be alarmed by the shameless sham Yakubu supervised and legitimized. As I’ve pointed out before, Yakubu is straight-up one of the smartest people I have ever related with. As a professional historian, and a top-rate one at that, I thought he would be self-conscious of the judgement of history. Apparently, he is not.
He will sadly go down in the records as the worst INEC chairman Nigeria has ever had. He frittered away billions to invest in technology to organize elections and ended up not using it to determine the outcome of the election. Well, at least Maurice Iwu can thank him for displacing him as Nigeria’s most audacious election fixer in favour of a ruling party. That’s such a sad end for such a brilliant man.
But he might be able to redeem himself someday by writing a manifesto of rigocracy. At least he would make an original contribution to knowledge from the vantage point of someone who supervised an unsophisticated rigocratic process. Such a manifesto would also help cure the illusion that Nigerians have elections.