By Idayat Hassan
As the day of Nigeria’s rescheduled elections approaches, tension continues to pervade the polity. Vitriol pours into the air from partisan political actors and everyday even greater quantities of propaganda are released.
This ranges from death threats on a presidential candidate to rumours that members of the opposition party will be implicated if the Boko Haram kingpin, Abubakar Shekau, is captured.
Press conference after press conference takes place, held by both ruling and opposition parties to spew propaganda or paint dire scenarios waiting to unfold.
Rather than limiting the vitriol to the country, the political gladiators are shifting their focus abroad, such as at the recently held Chatham House event in London, where the opposition APC’s Presidential candidate, Muhammad Buhari, delivered a lecture. Protests were held there both in support and against both of Nigeria’s two major political parties.
What is becoming obvious is that the six week delay has heightened the stakes in what was already a tense contest – rather than engaging in issue-based campaigns, emphasis is being laid on propaganda.
First, the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs), the incomplete distribution of which was a key reason given for postponing the elections, is turning into an albatross hanging around the neck of the electoral commission (INEC).
It was alleged, several weeks ago, that millions of Nigerians had not collected their PVCs and would, consequently, find themselves unable to vote on election day. But the latest thinking on this is that is the PVC and the resultant use of card readers constitutes a form of electronic voting, which Section 52 of the Electoral Act 2010 states is “for the time being prohibited”.
Protests are now being organised both for and against INEC’s decision to use the PVCs and card readers during the elections anyway – legal cases have been instituted in courts calling for the non-usage of the PVCs.
The use of the military in the forthcoming elections is also another scenario waiting to unfold.
There are presently two court judgments precluding the use of Nigerian Armed Forces in the security and supervision of the election until an enabling act of the National Assembly is passed.
The opposition party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), has already written a letter to INEC and other relevant stakeholders requesting that the aforementioned court orders should be strictly adhered to. Will these judgments be adhered to? And, if not, what implication will this have on the electoral process?
Many Nigerians are already upset that the elections were rescheduled at the behest of the military.
The high level of militarisation witnessed during the Ekiti and Osun by-elections was controversial and the newly-released audio #Ekitigate of how the military was used to the advantage of the ruling party puts the supposed impartiality of the of the security agencies in doubt. Some have argued that a new and increased role has been afforded to the military, in particular, and other security agencies by the ruling party.
The real fear is not in the use, but rather in the misuse, of the security agencies in these elections, particularly in light of outright partisanship displayed by some of their members.
On the ongoing judicial war, there are presently over ten cases instituted in various courts in Nigeria, ranging from suits to disqualify the opposition party’s presidential candidate on grounds that he was not able to produce a certificate of high school graduation, to the eligibility of the incumbent president and PDP presidential candidate, Goodluck Jonathan.
Nor is INEC excluded – it is being sued over the decision to use PVCs and card readers to boost the credibility of the elections.