IT is no longer news that following the outcome of the 2015 presidential election, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has since given way as President to be succeeded by General Muhammadu Buhari. The new President was sworn in on May 29, Nigeria’s acclaimed Democracy Day. It was the ninth peaceful transfer of power and perhaps the most intriguing in Nigeria’s 55 year history as an independent nation.
Like the transitions of 1960,1965,1979,1983,1999,2003,2007 and 2011, the processes leading to 2015 general elections were typically Nigerian in every sense, as all the peculiar oddities inherent in the nation’s electoral process strikingly manifested.
However, while the euphoria of change lingers, it must be noted that the exercise which would culminate in the transfer of the reins of government on May 29, 2015, could not be written off to have only reproduced the fault lines in Nigeria’s political culture, as few developments signposted an uncommon readiness to get the country back on track.
These election-related occurrences from November 16, 2014 when electioneering activities commenced till date, came at a huge cost to the citizenry as well. Indeed, records were made and long held myths shattered, leaving many with mixed tales concerning the activities heralding the election of Nigeria’s fifth executive President.
Some burning issues worthy of note include election-related violence, ethnic rivalry, North and South dichotomy, further collapse of the economy, depreciation of the Naira, drop in Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, fall of the stock market, mismanaged relationships, abandonment of governance and disenfranchisement of voters.
Those who spoke to Vanguard Features,VF, opined that these events and issues are too critical to be ignored whenever the 2015 general elections are discussed.
‘’What the nation saw in human, material, economic and even strategic cost, were in proportions never seen before. They are too critical to be ignored. It becomes very important that they are looked into with the view of ensuring more acceptable developments in future. Yes, it was not new that Nigeria was taken to the cliff because by all laws of social science, the country had always been on the edge. Every other thing experienced during the just concluded elections, came at price tags of varying degrees,‘’ the President, Federation of Election Monitors, Comrade Joseph Odi, told VF.
Ethnic rivalry/North and South dichotomy
Like Odi observed, the election divided the country along primordial, ethnic lines that had historically been a prominent feature of Nigerian politics. The millions of networks, family links, ethnic loyalties, religious bonds, among others, that make the country work in spite of often being on the edge, were destroyed. Regrettably, these social, political and economic connections that create leaders and ultimately prevent wars in an often volatile nation, were mortally threatened during the election.
At the expense of national unity, politics of brinkmanship was displayed by members of the two leading political parties, supporters and kinsmen of candidates. For instance, kinsmen of outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan, in a move that whipped up ethnic sentiments, threatened that should the President lose, hell would be let loose.
Notably among those behind such threats were Alhaji Muhajhid Asari Dokubo and High Chief Government Ekpemupolo. Also, the First Lady, Patience Jonathan reportedly made statements considered insulting to the sensibilities of the North. She was alleged to have said at a campaign rally in Calabar that: “People in the North breed more children than they can cater for. Our people do not give birth to uncountable children. Our men don’t give birth to children they dump in the streets. We are not like people from that part of the country (North)”.
She was apparently referring to the Almajiri system in the North, a lower stratum of children whose condition, her husband claimed to be addressing with the establishment of Almajiri schools in some states in the North. The combination of these scathing remarks got the polity overheated, leading to mass movement of people to their places of origin in the build up to the polls.
Depreciation of the Naira
The value of the country’s currency was another casualty as the Naira further lost its value against the United States dollar. Indeed, the development further impacted negatively on the country’s already struggling economy. A few weeks to the election, the exchange rate was N225 to the dollar against the official rate of N197.
Some Bureau De Change operators told VF at the peak of that crisis that the high demand for dollars by Nigerians, especially politicians, was responsible for the high exchange rate witnessed in the country. The preference for the dollar by politicians then was such that many feared that the dollar would replace the Naira as the country’s official currency.
Drop in Foreign Direct Investment
Prior to the commencement of the electioneering activities, the volume of trade with foreign nations was considered robust. But given the tensed political climate occasioned by politics of brinkmanship, Nigeria witnessed a sharp drop, leading to incalculable economic losses. Little wonder an international research firm, Standard Chartered Global Research, said in its report that the postponement of the election added pressure on the economy.
“The election delay puts at risk our call for further policy tightening at the March MPC meeting. With oil prices still languishing at low levels, resulting in minimal injections into the FX reserves, we expect the reserves to come under further pressure, perhaps dropping to about six months of import cover,” the firm stated.
Abandonment of governance
In Nigeria, the practice has always been to dedicate the second and third years in the life of an elected government to governance, while politicking takes a large part of the fourth year. This scenario played out in Nigeria as government activities practically took the back seat. VF checks showed that more time and resources were actually dedicated to election -related issues than governance.
In a few places and instances where the business of governance was attended to, policies were often moulded by political persuasions. Both governors seeking re-election and outgoing ones were more concerned with election matters at the expense of their primary statutory functions. The same thing applied to Federal and state lawmaking houses, as the legislators hardly met during this period.
For instance, President Jonathan in a move to woo voters in the South West, literally relocated to the zone for about two weeks at the height of the electioneering campaigns.
Numerous incidents of election- related violence took place in different parts of the country. Although electoral violence has been a recurring feature of electioneering campaigns in the country, it assumed epic proportions at the last polls. These improper conducts were common sights in all the geo-political zones. In fact, the National Human Rights Commission reported that no fewer than 58 people died ahead of the polls. The report which was released in February, said 61 incidents of election violence occurred in 22 states, resulting in the death of 58 persons.
There were other incidents of violence during the presidential and governorship polls. Apart from the human casualties, several people had their prized possessions and means of livelihood destroyed. This sad story is being told in Rivers, Ebonyi, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Plateau, Bauchi and even Lagos where killings and destruction of property featured prominently.
Ebonyi: Four killed, eight vehicles vandalised
In Ebonyi State, the political violence that took place during the governorship election claimed about four persons while over eight vehicles were destroyed. Although VF could only confirm four deaths, unconfirmed reports claimed that the death toll rose to seven. The violence recorded occurred before and during the election in 13 local government areas in the state.
The deaths occurred mainly in the North and Central senatorial districts. The violence was traced to the alleged decision of Governor Elechi to use an opposition political party to make good his vow that his Deputy, Dave Umahi, would never emerge victorious at the polls.
Harvest of deaths in Akwa Ibom
The elections in Akwa Ibom State were marred by violence. No fewer than six persons were killed, while eight were injured in Nsit Ibom and Nsit Atai local government areas of the state. In Ukpum Ete Ward 1, Ikot Abasi Local Government, sensitive and non-sensitive materials were snatched away by thugs.
The situation was the same in Mkpat Enin LGA where two Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, adhoc staff were injured. Election materials were also snatched in Eket and Ibesikpo Asutan local government areas. These materials were later recovered by the Police.
Monarch, four others killed in Benue
In Benue State, the district head of Utange in Ushongo local government area, Zaki Joseph Kumbur, and four others were reportedly killed. This came just as INEC offices in Tarka and Ushongo local government areas were attacked by suspected hoodlums who also snatched ballot boxes in several polling units around Makurdi and other parts of the state, in the wave of crisis and violence that affected the polls in the state.
A breakdown of the reported killings showed that two persons were shot dead in Zaki-Biam in Ukum local government area, one person was gunned down at the North Bank area of Makurdi while another person was killed in Gwer Local Government Area.
Party supporter shot dead in Plateau
In Plateau State, a young man at nearby Ali Kazaure polling station in Jos North Local Government Area was shot dead by a security operative. The deceased, alleged to be a supporter of one of the political parties, had engaged a supporter of another party in a scuffle before the security personnel standing by intervened to end the quarrel. The timely intervention of other security agents saved the situation and normalcy was restored in the area.
Councillor beaten to death in Bauchi
In Bauchi State, the Chairperson of Bogoro Local Government Area, Hassana Arkila, confirmed the death of the PDP Councilor for Gizaki/Badagari Ward, Mr Musa Daniel. He was allegedly beaten to death by angry youths while on electoral duty. Arkila described the attack on the Councillor as unfortunate and linked the incident to saboteurs of democracy. In Lagos State, two corpses found in Oshodi and along Apapa – Oshodi Road were linked to the polls.
Rivers of violence, blood
Heavy shooting was reported in Ozuoba and Rumuolumeni in Obio Akpor Local Government Area of the state. No fewer than six people were reported killed in various parts of the state. The State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, who was almost attacked by irate youths when he stopped over at Omagwu, in Ikwerre Local Government Area, to probe allegation that electoral materials meant for the area had been diverted, described the election as a sham.
Armed political thugs allegedly invaded a collation centre in Buguma in Asari Local Government Areae, killing at least five persons and burning some houses. A police patrol vehicle, the house of the State Commissioner for Women Affairs, Mrs Joeba West, and INEC polling centre in Kalabari National College in the town were razed by unknown arsonists.