The Evangelist News edition, March 21, 2023. By Adeze Ojukwu
Since Tuesday, social media has been awash with viral videos of some nationals in Diaspora, who destroyed their Nigerian passports, over the shambolic 2023 elections.
Most of these foreign-based citizens, particularly, youths were, so enraged by polls that they renounced their Nigerian citizenship.
For them and indeed most people, the exercise was “a mere charade, that fell, abysmally, short of democratic expectations.”
The entire scheme was unlike any, before it, both in conduct and execution.
Fully armed party thugs, in a gestapo style, besieged several polling units threatened and beat up voters.
In some instances, they captured officials of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), snatched ballot boxes and destroyed election materials.
Decorum was thrown over board, while irregularities, vote-buying and voter-suppression, as well as, manipulation of figures and violence held sway.
Never in history, has Nigeria witnessed, such flagrant demonstration of impunity, at its democratic course.
Past editions, also featured pockets of skirmishes and disruptions in some quarters.
But this year’s outing was horror personified. The mess would have been averted, if INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, had applied more dexterity and candor.
The commission’s inexplicable failure to electronically, upload results, through the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System(BVAS) and INEC Results Viewing (IReV) portal, as expected, has earned it nothing, but criticisms and knocks.
Despite glaring deficiencies and violations of electoral laws, Prof Yakubu, speedily, declared a winner. Had he considered the far-reaching implications of his action, perhaps, the raging furore, in many sections of the country, would have been averted.
This woeful performance, vividly indicates that the electoral umpire refused to pick up useful lessons from the past. As a result, the nation has been, inevitably pushed into a precipitous plunge.
His terrible blunders remind one of an irate dancer, in a village square, who kept dancing, even when the music had long ceased and the musicians, as well as the audience had exited.
The commission promised much, but delivered little, thus raising questions about Yakubu’s role in the convoluted process.
In other climes, INEC chief and his co-travellers would have been sacked, because the integrity of the entire project is under scrutiny.
Billions of tax payers’ money, spent on the exercise, especially in disseminating information against violence have become a colossal waste.
Incidences of conflict were observed in most states, but the mayhem was extreme in Lagos, as sheer barbarism and brutalities engulfed many areas.
Politicians came fully prepared for war. They gathered and equipped a ragtag army of idle fellows for the battle.
Terror was glamorized, while poverty was weaponized. Thousands of jobless youths were lured into the ruthless corps.
Frenetic mobs, intoxicated with narcotics and alcohol, were let loose to murder without remorse.
Few notes of Nigeria’s devalued currency, were enough inducement for the carnage.
Violence was the operational tool. Nothing was left to chance. The prize was worth any price. There was no consideration for any form of reasoning, logic, decorum nor standards. Human life lost its value. Depravity spread like wild fire. The sacrilege was gruesome. Desecration of the temple of democracy was total.
The offensive, has left many nationals and foreigners, swirling in shock and dismay.
Democracy and its basic principles, were brazenly toppled, as politicians savagely trampled on citizens’ franchise.
The law makers became law breakers, as they bulldozed their way to the coveted trophy, by crude force and corruption.
Some staff of INEC and security officials were accused of compromise.
Media reports, showed pictures of military and police officials, allegedly watching idly, as ballot boxes were snatched and destroyed.
Standards were lowered to suit the ridiculous demands of political gladiators. These unpatriotic individuals, deployed their entire war chest, in their outrageous race for power.
For them, the Machiavellian doctrine was the best route to victory. With the mantra, “to win at all costs,” every form of resistance was either silenced or crushed.
Popular Arise Television host, Rufai Oseni likened the fracas to a song by famous Afrobeat musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, where he described the country’s democracy as “a demonstration of craze.”
According to him, what played out, during the recent gubernatorial elections, “was nothing but craze.”
Nigeria’s inability to organize a credible and transparent election, as pledged by President Muhammad Buhari, has further blighted its tainted image and made it a laughing stock among nations.
Today, Africa’s acclaimed giant has earned another dark badge, in the world’s hall of shame, as a hero of electoral fraud.
This flop is not only a disgrace, but an international embarrassment of monumental dimensions.
With the controversies surrounding the credibility of the inglorious outing, the battle has shifted to the courts.
Invariably, this move has placed a huge burden on judicial officers.
Inadvertently, the judiciary is also on trial, though most citizens accord little or no confidence in the courts.
Without doubt, this profligacy will continue to haunt the nation in time to come.
Additionally, it will also deflate its modest unity and peace, which are pivotal elements for any meaningful progress and development.
No society thrives on bloodshed. It is both immoral and evil, to murder people, for selfish ambitions and transient power.
The killing spree, witnessed in most states were unnecessary.
It is unfortunate, that Lagos, by its status, as the country’s commercial nerve center and former capital recorded the most acerbic onslaught.
The hostility was quite virulent and vicious, as unscrupulous individuals attacked their opponents.
“Lagos was among several states disrupted by multiple incidences of thuggery, ballot snatching and intimidation of voters, polling officials, observers and journalists.”
The Chief Observer in European Union Observer Mission Nigeria, Barry Andrews, who stated this during a news conference on Monday, confirmed that “21 people lost their lives in election-related violence.”
Hooligans had a field day, as they unleashed terror at prime targets. Dangerous weapons, such as knives, machetes, whips and stones were brandished.
Akin to a horror film, innocent citizens were butchered, injured and maimed vehemently. The guerrilla army descended on their prey, like blood-thirsty predators. The force was ferocious. Tension was every where.
Pandemonium and trepidation gripped many. Men and women scampered for safety. Security operatives were overwhelmed.
Adrenaline levels rose excessively. Hearts raced unusually. Fear toppled the zeal. Men sighed and grieved passionately. Women wept uncontrollably. Shouts, lamentations and wailings resonated across many neighbourhoods. Kids abandoned their playgrounds to join the mourning throng.
Impunity had a free reign. Gunmen ran amok. Survival was at stake. At the end of the brutalities, voters abandoned their passion to vote. Those that sustained serious injuries were rushed to hospitals. Others were not so fortunate, as they bled and died. They were dispatched, ruthlessly, to early graves.
Champions of ethnicity were thrilled by the massacre. The mission was accomplished. The bandits rejoiced at the booty. Drums were rolled out, while the conquerors danced on the graves of their victims.
No suspects were apprehended. No official was booted out of office. No evidence was picked! For these murderers life continues. At least, so it seems.
Which country does this? A society that kills its citizesn, is certainly a failed state. This depravity must be tackled with urgency, for the country to move forward.
These gory incidents should not be swept off. The offenders must be brought to book, because murder is a capital offense and a human rights violation, punishable by law. The Holy writ, also warns that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”
How did Nigeria get to this monstrous tangent? What is the motivation for this barbarism. Will this reign of terror continue endlessly? How will the nation forge ahead with this horror? Why did law enforcers not respond to warning signals and tribal invective by prominent political leaders and traditional rulers?
One thing is clear. The ethnic profiling of citizens, particularly of Igbo origin, is highly provocative and an open call for war.
Such unjustifiable threats heightened voter apathy and disenfranchisement. Residents of Lekki, Mafoluku, Okota, Amuwon Odofin, Abule Ado and other parts of the metropolis, were harassed and prevented from voting.
The perpetrators of these heinous acts must be apprehended and punished to serve, as a deterrent.
It is quite shameful that such xenophobic activities can occur in the country.
Lagos, has no doubt degenerated into monumental bigotry, that may affect its configuration and economy.
Indeed, the escalation inflammatory rhetoric, by notable political figures in the state, is capable of triggering conflagrations, across the country.
The descent into such anarchy is really abhorrent and every effort should be made to stop this dangerous decline.
If left unchecked, these criminalities can metamorphose into ticking bombs, capable of consuming society.
Nigeria is really troubled on many fronts, as it contends with a barrage of forces against its quivering unity and tottering future.
How it navigates, through these stormy waters is of keen interest.
With the proclivity for jaundiced inclinations and primordial cleavages, the clamour for self-determination or perhaps, regional governance will continue to heckle the land.
•Ojukwu is a journalist, author and Fellow of Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship, a US sponsored Fulbright programme. Kindly send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org