This originally appeared in NEXT newspaper on June 29, 2011
2011 Elections: The battle continues
By Tolu Ogunlesi
Muhammadu Buhari, Tunde Bakare and Nasir El-Rufai were at Chatham House, London, on Monday, to speak at an event, “Nigeria’s 2011 Elections: Reflections on the process and prospects for Nigeria.”
A member of the audience asked Buhari why he cried at his final campaign event, days to the presidential election.
“I don’t remember ever coming to tears in public, until then,” the retired General said. Then he told a story.
As a teenager in 1961, he was selected by the shipping line, Elder Dempster, for an expenses-paid holiday trip to the United Kingdom. By the standards of today’s Nigeria he wasn’t the likeliest of candidates – he was an ethnic minority (Fulani origins in Daura, a Hausa Emirate), and classmates with persons who had influence-wielding parents (like the late Shehu Yar’Adua, whose father was a Federal Minister).
But Buhari, the orphan, got the single slot allocated to the Northern region that year.
“That was when there was social justice [in Nigeria],” Buhari told the Chatham House audience
Back in April the media made a big deal out of the crying-General incident. No one seemed to notice that it was actually – according to Bakare – a CPC weepfest.
“It wasn’t the General alone who wept that day,” the pastor confessed. “I did [too], and I rarely weep in public. I turned around and saw my friend El-Rufai weeping. We were not weeping for ourselves, we were weeping for a nation called a giant, but which has remained in a coma.”
The story of Nigeria is no doubt a tragic, tear-deserving one. The future that awaited the orphaned Buhariand the shoeless Jonathan is far brighter than that which awaits today’s un-privileged hordes.
There is no doubt that there is a link between that tragic state of affairs, and the quality of our electoral process. Flawed elections throw up the sort of candidates who go on to pave, with utmost dedication, a country’s road to perdition.
“The 2011 election, on the surface, appears to have been free and fair until you begin to dig in and discover that a lot more happened than meets the eye,” Bakare said. According to him, the accreditation of voters, voting proper, and counting of votes were largely “free”.
“But that’s about where it ended,” he said. The CPC’s view is that from then on the devil took charge of the collating.
And so, in protest, the party has hired forensics experts, and gone to the election petition tribunal.
It will be Buhari’s third presidential election tribunal journey, after 2003 and 2007.
The CPC accuses the PDP of recklessly manipulating (inflating) electoral results, and using violence to intimidate its supporters during the presidential elections. It is also holding INEC responsible for a software error (during the collation of votes) that caused CPC votes to be “short-changed” by forty percent. It says INEC, while acknowledging the error, has refused to correct it.
Two messages seemed to crystallise from what Buhari and Bakare were saying: One, the PDP massively rigged that election, and Goodluck Jonathan is an illegal occupier of Aso Rock. Two, this is not merely about getting the flawed elections overturned; it is also a quest for true electoral reform.
“Our concern is not with winning [the] election, but with the future of our country,” Bakare said.
Both goals are admirable, and connected. Proving allegations of rigging against the PDP (as the ACN successfully did in Ekiti, Edo and Osun states) will certainly go a long way towards serving the overall quest for electoral reform.
And the CPC does indeed have a case when it argues that PDP voting patterns raise eyebrows in many instances – especially in the South-South, long notorious for its logic-defying voter turnout numbers, and its ‘landslide’ allegiance to the PDP.
But in its shrill cry for justice it does often seem though that the CPC is imputing a form of sainthood – blameless electoral conduct – to itself, something not in any way borne out by the facts on ground.
For instance, the famous ‘last words’ of youth corper Ukeoma Ikechukwu, murdered while on INEC assignment in Bauchi:
“Na wao! This CPC suporters would hv killed me yesterday, no see threat oooo. Even after forcing underaged voters on me they wanted me to give them the remaining ballot paper to thiumb print,” he posted on Facebook the day after the elections.
A few days later, he was dead. Those who sought to kill him eventually succeeded.
Asked if the CPC can vow that it didn’t use underaged voters in its strongholds, Bakare said: “To be honest with you, I don’t know.”
He went on to insist that underage voting, whether by the PDP or the CPC, is “illegal”, and that it raises disturbing questions about the integrity of INEC. “If underage voters voted, who registered them?”
Buhari sought to cast doubt on the PDP’s counter-allegations of widespread underage voting by the CPC. “The forces of coercion are at the disposal of the ruling party,” he said.
For what seemed to be an opposition-party event, the Jonathan camp was well represented. Presidential aides Oronto Douglas, Ken Wiwa, and Von Kemedi attended.
After the event, Jonathan campaign consultant, Reno Omokri, enthusiastically handed out hardback copies of collections of Goodluck Jonathan quotes and campaign photos.
I wonder if he made any offers to the CPC chieftains.