Election Fraud In Nigeria And The Way Out

Dr. Wumi Akintide


       I am making this article my first on this subject. The second one will address in depth what can be done in all its ramifications to end this problem or seriously neutralize it.. The first one fully addresses why electoral fraud, properly defined and analyzed, has become a terminal cancer that is never going to allow Democracy to thrive in Nigeria the way we all hope it should. It explores why the malady now needs to be classified as a heinous crime as deadly and scary as terrorism, treason or armed robbery, if you  take into account the damage it has done to Nigeria over the years and how it has continued to decimate and mortgage the future of our country, if we continue to ignore it or pretend as we have done hitherto that it will go away on its own. The other title I have seriously considered for this article will tell you how strongly I feel about this monster and how it has continued to pose a major threat to the economic security and stability of our country if nothing is done to elevate it to the very serious threat it has become. “Nigeria’s end is near, if the Igbos, the Yorubas and the Minorities in the Delta area and elsewhere in Nigeria now feel hopelessly alienated and forever marginalized by electoral fraud”  That would have been my alternate title because everything in this write-up fully speaks to that observation or conclusion..

 I have refrained from using the second title because I hate to sound like an alarmist or a prophet of doom while making a very valid observation that all our past and current rulers in Nigeria are far too much in denial to acknowledge and confront. They would rather sweep it under the carpet and move on The Military was better placed to confront the problem like Chukwuma Nzeogwu and Major Okar had wanted to do but they failed because the country had not yet been driven to the wall. It was one of the problems Jerry Rawlings has nearly succeeded in solving for Ghana. That was why it was possible for Professor Atta Mills of the opposition parties in Ghana to beat the ruling party and take over power.. I knew Murtala Mohammed, if he had lived could possibly have addressed the issue, given his no nonsense streak for the 200 days he governed Nigeria. He was a breed apart. I worked with him in the Ministry of Defense for two years before he took over from General Gowon. I knew he was quite capable of drastically minimizing election fraud in our country, just like he publicly admitted that the 1973 Census was a joke as forcefully debunked by Obafemi Awolowo in a speech I would talk more about in the later part of this article. Some have argued with some justification that Murtala Mohammed could possibly have been corrupted had he lived long enough to deliver on his promises to Nigeria. They say that based on how Obasanjo his number 2 man has finally shown his true colors, once he got what he wanted. Murtala Mohammed like Thomas Sankara of Central African Republic would have delivered what he promised. He was different from Obasanjo in many ways if you knew him as well as I do. Most of us now agree that Obasanjo, for all his God-given opportunities and luck in a country of 140 million has clearly created more problems than solution for Nigeria by what he did or did not do in close to 12 years as military and civilian Head of State.. Some have called him a colossal failure, all things considered. I will stop short of that, because he is still the best of all our past rulers, if you compare him with his other predecessors and minus Murtala, and those who followed him as heads of State. I still blame him, nonetheless, because he was the luckiest of them all but clearly the most dangerous and devilish because of his tolerance level for electoral fraud in three consecutive elections. His choice of Yar Adua whom he had clearly rigged into office as admitted by Yar Adua himself was one of his unforgivable sins as far as I am concerned. The constitutional stalemate Nigeria faced today was the brainchild of Obasanjo, if the truth must be told

    If you think my characterization of election fraud is hyperbolic or exaggerated, I must very quickly take you down memory lane and prove to you with facts and figures how much carnage election fraud has already done to our country in 49 years of independence. Remember the” Wet e” resistance or war in the defunct Western Region of Nigeria when the Akintola-led Democratic party (Demo) had tried to rig themselves to power by proclaiming their party the winner of the 1965 elections in the West with some help from Prime Minister Balewa and the NPC/NCNC coalition Government. We must not forget the hundreds or thousands of lives which were lost in that revolt of aggrieved voters talk less of property damage running into billions of Naira by today’s estimate. Human beings have very short memories, but historians will not forget because that is what we are trained to do. Those who fail to learn from History are condemned to repeat it.

     We all must factor into our equation the fact that it was the rioting and civil disobedience in the wild, wild West that eventually led to the first military coup in Nigeria led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and his gang of Majors. It can also be argued that the remote causes of the Biafran War was the fallout from the retaliatory coup that led to the assassination of General Aguiyi Ironsi and Lt. Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi at Ibadan not to talk of other Igbo officers in the Military who were either killed or retired or bypassed for promotion for no reason at all other than their tribe of origin, The first coup, which  had summarily led to the assassination of Prime Minister Balewa,  Premier of  Northern Region, Sardauna Bello, Premier of  Western, S.L.Akintola, Finance Minister Omimi Ejoor Okotiebor, to mention a few, was all caused by a reaction to the eruption in the Western Region and the powerlessness of the weak Balewa Government to deal with it. Remember the elimination of Brigadiers Ademulegun and Maimalari and other top military brass from the North and Western Region who had been trained in Sandhurst and other prestigious military Academies around the world at huge expense to our country.

    All those investments were thrown down the drain in large part because of what happened in the West. We must factor in the other coups that came after that and the number of years Nigeria was ruled and ruined by the Military.  If you convert that into Naira and Kobo and the incalculable damage the military has done to our country, you will agree with me that electoral fraud in our country has been the origin of most of our problems and a major draw back to our progress as a nation. Armed robbery did not rise to that level before the Military ordered anyone found guilty to be publicly executed by firing squad. I personally witnessed Oyenusi and his gang of robbers being executed at the Bar Beach in Lagos to serve as a deterrence to others who might want to follow their footsteps and it worked, If election fraud is so classified, more election criminals and riggers will take a hike. I can assure you of that. Petty thieves in Saudi Arabia often have one of their fingers cut off, and drugs and narcotic peddlers are openly beheaded for all to see. You can count the number of Nigerian drug dealers who had been so beheaded in Saudi in accordance with their Islamic Laws. Don’t get me wrong.. I am not suggesting that the Saudi model be followed by Nigeria. I am drawing attention to it as a step taken by Saudi authorities to fight a serious crime they were sure could mess up their country. You can sleep in Saudi with your doors open in any of the Saudi cities today because the Saudi authorities don't play If you are found guilty of electoral fraud and rigging in Nigeria, you should be made to pay a high price is what I am saying. Treating election riggers with kid gloves has never and will never work.

    I cannot help but recall the Omoboriowo election fraud in Ondo State which was stage- managed and foisted on the nation by the NPN. I remember the number of Nigerians, low or high who had lost their lives in that encounter, and how many buildings were torched or raised to the ground in Akure and other major cities in the State. Barrister Agunbiade was beheaded alive in a French revolution kind of style. So was late Honorable Olaiya Fagbamigbe,  Chief Sashere Robert Akesogie Agbayewa and Chief Tafa Balogun, the Akogun of Akure and many distinguished Akure sons and daughters were murdered in that conflagration. Imagine how many people had lost their lives protesting election fraud in 1999, 2003 and 2007, and the millions of Naira spent in setting up election tribunals and Appeal Court hearings in all of the 36 states of Nigeria and all the money spent on re-run elections as we speak in Ekiti, Edo,Anambra, Oshun and other states in Nigeria. Remember how much money has been spent filing election petitions and hiring Senior Advocates of Nigeria to prosecute most of those cases nation-wide. Remember lawyer Jonathan Adebisi Ogundere of Oyan, Odo Otin Local Government in Osun State, who was the lead attorney representing Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola at the election tribunal looking into petitions against his victory in 2007. For your information, lawyer Ogundere was set ablaze on December 24, 2009, and murdered in cold blood by aggrieved Nigerians who were very unhappy about his role in defending the indefensible by trying to subvert the cause of justice by using silly technicalities to uphold Oyinlola’s victory by all means. What is most disturbing is that many election riggers were often allowed to spend three to four years in office while the courts delay hearing the cases against them thereby subverting the cause of justice, The Law says election petition has to be filed within a time frame but quite often court registrars who are assigned to accept the filing go into hiding making it impossible for complainants to find them on time .Not one of our useless senators or parliamentarians ever consider sponsoring any legislation to correct the anomalies like legislators do in most civilized countries.  

   If you consider all of the above, you will understand why I conclude that election fraud has long risen to the level of armed robbery, treason and terrorist strike in Nigeria and should now be viewed and treated as such by our three arms of Government  namely the Executive, the Legislature  the Judiciary and members of the 4th estate of the realm, meaning the Press and the Media. If our sick President was serious in stopping election fraud, he would have done something in his close to 3 years in office by sponsoring a bill and using the overwhelming majority of his party in both houses of Parliament to correct the anomaly. The PDP dominated Legislature and Senate should have done something by now. Our Judiciary should have known that using silly technicalities to dismiss genuine petitions against election manipulators was nothing but a travesty of justice to say the least, Our News Media as a whole should have done more than they have done so far to prick the conscience of our political leaders, and Nigerians as a whole should have been up in arms against election manipulators in the nook and corners of Nigeria.

   A former Deputy Governor in a PDP Administration in Ondo State was caught snatching ballot boxes and the case was widely reported all over Nigeria. Our Law enforcement agents could do nothing to him because he was protected by the immunity provision in the Nigerian Constitution for elected officials like him, He remained in office until himself and his boss were booted out of office as election riggers by the Court of Appeal. One would have thought that the Law would have caught up with him once he left office but because he had rigged election to protect the PDP, nobody could touch him till tomorrow.. Only the Guardian Newspaper and their fire brand columnist, Reuben Abati seem to be doing something about exposing election manipulators in Nigeria. Some credit also has to be given to the Sahara Reporters in Nigeria, some distinguished Nigerians in Diaspora like Chuck Odili the President and CEO of the Nigeriaworld website, Martin Akindana, the founder and moderator of Naija Politics Forum, Dr. Chika Onyeani the publisher and CEO of Africansun newspaper in the United States and Mr. Kabba, the publisher and CEO of “Africans Abroad” newspaper in America all of whom regularly publish articles exposing electoral fraud in Nigeria and challenging the various Government to do something,  .    

  .  Ezeigbo Odumegwu Ojukwu  very wisely drew attention to electoral fraud in Nigeria when he delivered the keynote address to a colloquium on free and fair elections in Nigeria recently organized by Chinualumogu Achebe at Providence, Rhode Island to demonstrate, in graphic terms, how election fraud has continued to mortgage the future of Nigeria. Chinua Achebe who has received a good number of awards and recognition all over the world for his writing genius was among the distinguished guests at the occasion. 

   I got to know Chinua Achebe very well when he was associate professor of English for several years at the State University of Connecticut where I did my postgraduate studies. Chinua has added one more feather to his cap by holding the colloquium. The Literary icon should be commended for the patriotic gesture. He did not organize the project to publicize himself. He did it to reaffirm what distinguished academicians do in civilized countries. He probably chose America as venue to facilitate the safety and security of participants..

   .The Oxford-trained first class orator Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu had received a standing ovation when he used the occasion to put the issue of election fraud in Nigeria on the front burner for the whole world to see and hear. He had done so in pretty much the same way like Obafemi Awolowo had done in 1974 when he chose to use his commencement address at the University of Ife to express his views on the futility of the Nigerian Census of 1973 which has fraudulently fixed the population of Kano as far bigger than that of Lagos and the population of the North as almost double the population of the South.. Census fixing is one of the foundation of electoral fraud in Nigeria..

     I crave your indulgence to digress, a little bit, to compare the Ojukwu speech at the colloquium with the Awolowo speech at Ile Ife in 1974. I accompanied Chief Obafemi Awolowo to the Ife University convocation as part of his entourage from the Federal Ministry of Finance,. Awolowo, at the time, was the Commissioner and Vice Chairman of the Federal Executive Council and the number 2 man to General Gowon  as head of State..

     I was honored to attend that ceremony with Awolowo  in my capacity as Secretary to the Special Task Force on Students Financing in Nigeria with the icon as Chairman. I nearly collapsed the day I was picked from the laundry list of Senior Assistant Secretaries in the Federal Service to serve as Secretary to the Task Force. I was scared to death because I just did not consider myself competent to serve as a Secretary to panel headed by Awolowo, given my age and experience at the time. But it was one posting I was specially blessed to get and I owed my selection to my Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education, the one and only Alhaji Ahmed Joda from Girei in Adamawa State, Ahmed Joda as one of the fiver musketeers permanent secretaries comprising of Abdul Azeez Attah, Alison Ayida, Philip Asiodu, Eme Ebong was clearly one of the most powerful Permanent Secretaries from the North at the time. He believed in me more than I believed in myself, and he taught me much what I knew at the time..

    I had the honor of doing  the first draft of a speech that was passed thru the chain of command in the then Ministry of Finance which included Aminu Saleh as Deputy Permanent Secretary and Abdul Azeez Attah as Permanent Secretary. Our delegation had left Lagos believing that Chief Awolowo was going to read an edited version of the speech we bureaucrats had prepared. To our utter amazement, Awolowo did not take a single word from our draft, even though he had accepted it thanking all of us for the effort..

     I kept a copy of my draft and his own with me to this day because they both bore the signatur of Obafemi Awolowo in his own handwriting. Some of my priceless jewels from my days in the Federal Service of Nigeria.were copies of speeches or memos written by distinguished Permanent Secretaries I have had the privilege of serving under in the Public Service. The list include late Abdul Azeez Attah, the late Sunday Awoniyi, Ahmed Joda, Philip Asiodu, Grey Eronmosele Longe, Franisca Yetunde Emanuel, the first lady Permanent Secretary in the Federal Public Service, late Festus Adedinsewo Adesanoye who later became the Osemawe of Ondo, Oluyemi Falae, triple A Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji  and Ogbuefi Gilbert Chikelu. . They are all first class bureaucrats under whom I served my pupilage. They all in different ways made me  who I am today..

   Unknown to members of our delegation to the Ife convocation, Awolowo had prepared for himself the speech he wanted to deliver. We did not know that until he climbed up to the podium to deliver the speech as the first Chancellor of the University I am awefully proud to call my alma mater. I graduated there among the class of 1966. The Awo speech was a once-in-a-life-time speech that totally mesmerized his audience which included the graduating students and their professors dressed in academic gowns of many colors, their seven feet tall Agric Economics Professor from Michigan State University, Islington, late Hezekiah.. Oluwasanmi as Vice Chancellor and no less than 3 Heads of State, namely Yakubu Gowon, Leopold Senghor of Senegal and Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago and a long list of celebrities from all over the world.. By the time Obafemi Awolowo finished his speech, you could hear a pin drop. I have never seen anything like that in my entire life..

     Awolowo had single-handedly used that speech to kill and bury the 1973 Census. He probably gave the most potent ammunition in that speech as a justification for Murtala Mohammed and his colleagues to carry out the second coup that dethroned Yakubu Gowon roughly 6 months to the end of his 8 year in office while he was in Uganda attending an OAU meeting of Heads of State. How did I know that? I knew it because sentences from the Awolowo speech were lifted verbatim to justify the coup led by Muritala Mohammed with late Joe Garba of the Brigade of Guards as one of the  agent provocateur, given his closeness to General Gowon.. One of the first acts of the new Government was to immediately annul the 1973 Census as demanded by Awolowo who had declared in his address that “the 1973 Census had broken all known rules of Demography in the whole world” and should therefore be annulled with immediate effect which was precisely what Murtala did on taking office.

     I view the Ojukwu’s “allocutus” on electoral fraud in Nigeria in pretty much the same way because both Awolowo and Ojukwu have earned their wings not only to speak for their people but for the whole of Nigeria because of who they are, and what they stand for in Nigeria, believe it or not.

    I totally agree with Ojukwu and Chinua Achebe that Democracy cannot thrive in Nigeria until Nigerians are allowed to pick their own representatives and leaders in a free and fair election. I might also add that Nigeria cannot thrive until we also solve the problem of census fixing in Nigeria. The two problems go hand in hand, as far as I am concerned, because people rig elections in Nigeria in large part to justify or rationalize the fictitious Census returns our leaders from the North have always wanted us to accept as the gospel truth when we all know it was an abracadabra computation where census officials counted only one 410 people in one enumeration area in Nigeria but recorded it as 410,000.. I was a Census returning officer in Ijumu Local Government in Kabba area of the Kwara State in1973, and I saw how 410 at the local office suddenly became 410,000 on arrival at the collation center at Ilorin. The same thing was done not only in the North bout all over Nigeria because we all know the creation of Local Governments is often based on how many people were returned by the census in the area, That was how come Nigeria has a total of 774 Local Governments today. The total number could be less than 500 if it was based on an accurate census. In trying to rig elections the PDP as the ruling Party and the other parties in Nigeria use the false census returns as their base data to delineate senatorial districts and constituencies in Nigeria. That explains why the country is in dire trouble. Only Professor Peller or Houdini can explain some of census or electoral returns because they are based on.” The less you look the more you see”. Nigeria has had more than her fair share of problems that are always swept under the carpet. The country is going to implode or explode with electoral fraud unless we decide as a nation to do something about it. It ought to become an offense punishable by death by firing squad for anybody found guilty. It is that serious If Awolow and Ojukwu and the militants from the Delta are now speaking with one voice on an issue as critical as this, Nigeria must know the time has come to seriously address the problems of election malpractices in Nigeria.

The part 2 will explore why electoral fraud has become such a cancer in Nigeria because of our tolerance level for it, and the full ramifications of what can be done to end  or minimize it for the good of our country.

   I rest my case.. .