After many years of military rule in Nigeria, the year 1999 finally birthed the return to civilian rule in the country with former military head of state Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP defeating the opposing candidate of Olu Falae of the AD.
For many, the process may not have been perfect but the fact that we are back to democrat rule was just enough reason to overlook the imperfections that brought on a new dispensation in governance.
Fast forward to 2023, Nigeria has had series of elections in between the years with Yar Adua, Goodluck Jonathan, Mohammodu Buhari and with Bola Tinubu joining the list of ones to lead the country.
Elections in Nigeria has always been plagued with irregularities and invested interests from powers that be. For a country with divisions along the lines of religion, ethnicity, and tribe, it is not really a surprise that the interest of the citizens is well divided. With a largely Muslim populated North and Christian South, the structure of the country is well placed to encourage rivalry and competition.
In local parlance they say “Soldier go Soldier come, barrack go remain” that is the story of Nigeria in one sentence. Elections in the country has never been declared as free and fair. Matter of fact, the only election adjudged to be free and fair was that of MKO Abiola the winner of the 1993 general elections that never made it to power as the election result was annulled.
To get power a lot of politicking must take place. Forming alliances, building bridges, putting in place structures, acquiring followers and loyalists, making compromises, giving assurances and making promises, investments in human capitals and physical structures. These are many things are the basic fundamentals In ensuring victories at the polls and all these can only be achieved through major financing. And as the saying goes, Money is the name of the game.
A candidate invest and spend billions to actualize the dream of holding a political office, it is expected the candidate will reap the reward of such when in office so therefore how do we expect the candidate to not do all it takes to achieve this dream?
Elections and rigging in Nigeria are like siblings. They are five and six. The whole political structure of the country is built on the foundation of corruption thus, rigging is just part of the existing structure of impunity that is engraved in the very fabric of political institutions. Election rigging in Nigeria is part of the existing order, from security agencies, the judiciary and electoral body that is expected to be neutral and be an unbiased umpire, the whole establishment has been structured in a way that rigging is not only assured, it is safeguarded and encouraged.
Characters can be mended and adjusted. Institutions can only be broken and rebuilt. This is the case of election rigging In Nigeria. Institutions in Nigeria are the building blocks upon which the societal rots are built and continue to thrive on.
The mindset of entitlement, usurping the will and desire of the majority in favor of the minority and the greed to follow through in pursuance of achieving such undemocratic wish is the reason why the use of thuggery, ballot snatching, financial inducement and vote buying still persist in the “political wrestlemania” of Nigeria.
Poverty is a major tool of weapon deployed by the political elites to weaken the resolve of the people to challenge and fight the status quo. A man that can barely afford to eat will accept stipend to sell his conscience.
Illiteracy is the biggest nuclear weapon of all. A man who doesn’t know the depth of his ignorance will never realize the consequences of his actions. They say a zombie only hears go and never come. Once the order is given and an inventive added, there is no turning back.
An unsuspecting victim will make himself available for use at the whimp of the greediness of another man with Ghana must go bag of cash and sent on destruction and disruptive actions to jeopardize the good of many and the result will be intimidation and destruction of citizens and social infrastructures just for the achievement of the desire of few.
The question that can rigging be stopped is like asking if a clown can be stopped from dancing in a circus.
The circus is built to accommodate the clown.
Until there is genuine restructuring and reforms of the security armed forces, restructuring and reforms in the judiciary, true federalism fair and patriotic election umpires, and patriotic desires by the presidency to see the nation as first and personal desires as secondary, election rigging in Nigeria will persist and the illusion of otherwise will continue to be a farce.
Can election rigging in Nigeria be stopped? Yes. But it will take the pulling down the strong hold of institutionalized structures that over the years has ensured the survival of the mechanisms that support rigging. The most important element is the people coming out strong and powerful to defend and demand for strong institutions that protect the core values of the society which is accountability to the people and not the government. Till this a done, Nigeria will continue to be a tale of Alice in Wonderland.
By Kofoworola Kayode J.