Former president Olusegun Obasanjo reinvented the phrase “do or die” shortly before the general election in 2007. On a whistle-stop at Abeokuta, Ogun State, three months to the election, he told a crowd of supporters that the election was a do-or-die affair for his party because it was the only way to stop “criminals” from emerging as leaders. It was a telling irony that Obasanjo, the leader of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, which has more than its fair share of criminals, was leading the campaign against criminals. It was lip service at its monumental best, but the irony was not lost on Obasanjo.
The message was not about criminals a number of whom would dare him to cast the first stone. After suffering serial humiliations in his south-west base in 1999 but benefiting from the treachery of 2003, Obasanjo was prepared to throw the nail box, if necessary, to repair his ego and reclaim the PDP’s lost footing. They did it for a bit, deploying their rigging machine to claim two south-west states. But the opposition soon clawed the states back through the courts, beating back the do-or-die army.
I say “beating back” because from what is going on in Ekiti today – seven years after Obasanjo proclaimed that do or die was the only route to power – it appears that the offspring of his brand of politics has come of age. And even Obasanjo, the mastermind, now looks like an amateur. The PDP appears determined to win Ekiti at all costs, with the security services lending a hand.
President Goodluck Jonathan has promised not to interfere. He said recently that he would do all that he could to ensure that the governorship election in Ekiti tomorrow was free and fair. That sounds nice, except that the level of deployment of security forces in Ekiti, the ramping up of an atmosphere of terror and the malicious prosecution of key members of the All Progressives Congress days before the election do not suggest that Jonathan meant to keep his word.
Nor does the news that planes conveying APC governors – Adams Oshiomhole and Rotimi Amaechi – to Ekiti State were abushed by airport authorities. Are Jonathan’s men so foolish to think that grounding the governors’ planes or delaying their convoy would prevent these determined travellers from reaching Ekiti?
I can’t remember the last time dozens of police dogs were moved in such numbers for an election. And not only were the dogs moved big time, we have also been told that at least 12,000 policemen, led by IG Muhammed Abubakar and 15,000 members of the Civil Defence Corps have also been moved to Ekiti. This is not counting the number of other services deployed already.
You could say these are sensible steps to keep the peace. Yet, the threat to peace is not the absence of dogs and policemen and soldiers in the streets. It is the quality of preparation by Attahiru Jega’s Independent National Electoral Commission that determines that more than anything else. We saw it in Anambra during the governorship election last November. Election materials either arrived late or didn’t arrive at all in many places.
And they were not accidents or linked to any logistic difficulties. In most cases, Jega’s men connived with politicians to rig by undersupplying or cutting off voting materials. And they got away with it. For example, the electoral officer in Idemili North, Okeke Chukwujekwu, a veteran of this shambles, was shielded for a long time, paraded briefly, and then quietly let off the hook. This was in spite of promises by Jega to punish electoral offenders. Often, it is when voters feel badly let down by INEC’s preparation and they suspect it was done to give one party the upper hand that they take the law into their own hands.
Jega cannot pretend not to know this. He cannot pretend not to know that it is pure provocation to bait voters with shambolic preparations only to send in soldiers and dogs to “keep the peace” on election day. The statistics in Ekiti are particularly interesting: The state has 766,132 voters, 16 local government areas, 177 wards and 2,195 polling units. When the polls open tomorrow, there will be at least 12 security men at each polling unit, that is, counting only the police and Civil Defence corps members and leaving out the dogs.
If the money voted for this large-scale deployment of terror had been invested in preparations, perhaps we might not be as anxious about the outcome of the elections as we are today. And why does Jega think that a ring of terror around Ekiti will produce the result he needs anyway? We have an idea of the number of boots and dogs deployed but know very little about what INEC has done to ensure that the vote is truly free and fair. That is wrong.
Some have expressed the fear, perhaps justifiably, that the whole point in the massive security ring is to scare off voters and give the PDP a chance to install its candidate and a man with a sordid record, Ayo Fayose, as governor. Even Obasanjo, the mastermind of do-or-die politics, must be wondering what kind of error in his party’s DNA produced the current breed of desperadoes. It must be pretty clear by now, though, that Ekiti will not turn back to its dreadful and miserable past under the PDP.
No number of policemen and soldiers and dogs can – and will – turn back the hand of the clock.
Of Dutch Delight And Spanish Sorrows
This is a World Cup like no other. The Dutch team is living up to its seeding. Twice it has come from behind to win (against Spain and against Australia), and is now the first team to qualify for the round of 16. On the other hand, Spain, the European and world champions, has left the world reeling in shock and disbelief.
It has not only fallen to the Dutch, it has fallen disgracefully to Chile, with only one penalty goal from two matches. Nigerian Super Eagles fans who comfort themselves with the fall of Spain should be asking themselves if the Chileans have two heads.