President Goodluck Jonathan has vowed to take decisive action against troublemakers before, during and after the 2015 general elections. Two frontline election monitors, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) and CLEEN Foundation have come out with early warning and election security threat assessments in the build-up to the 2015 general elections.
By EDEGBE ODEMWINGIE
The 2011 post-election violence that followed the announcement of presidential election results has remained a sore point in that years election. Murderous thugs invaded some northern cities, maiming and killing hundreds over perceived rigged votes.
President Goodluck Jonathan in his 2015 New Year broadcast to Nigerians, said the kind of violence that followed the 2011 elections would not be allowed to repeat.
“After the 2011 general elections, some unpatriotic elements embarked on an orgy of violence, resulting in the destruction of lives and property,” Mr. Jonathan said. “That will not be allowed to happen this time around. This government will act decisively against anyone who disrupts the public peace, before, during or after the 2015 general elections.”
Tough words from Jonathan, but the threats still lurks in the lead-up to 2015.
As part of its Election Security Management Project, CLEEN Foundation submitted that elections in Nigeria have been plagued with incidences of violence and irregularities, often involving officials of the electoral commission and security agencies.
In the seventh edition of its election security threat assessment towards 2015, the Foundation highlighted major threats to peaceful and credible conduct of the elections. The assessment which was released early December covers such issues as level of preparations by INEC and security agencies for the elections, activities of political parties, aspirants/candidates, their supporters and other non-state actors that might breach the public peace before, during and after the elections, if unchecked.
Key Risk Factors
Boko Haram insurgency in the north east: Until the situation in the north east is addressed we cannot rule out the possibility of more attacks across the country. In the last three years, all the states in the north east and some parts of North West (Kano, Kaduna and Jigawa) have been attacked by Boko Haram. It is even more likely now that electioneering is fast picking up. Criminal elements and political party thugs can disguise as Boko Haram to perpetuate mayhem on opposition groups;
Partisanship of security institutions: There are strong cases of partisan control of security institutions in the country. The federal government has been partisan in its use of the police and the state security service. This could be major threat to security. As we get close to elections, the feeling of political repression could be major risk factors. The incidence of police invasion of the national assembly and how police supported a minority group to impeach the Speaker of Ekiti State house of Assembly is not only clear reflection of partisanship that also indicates the possibility of security agencies being compromised during the 2015 elections. In reaction to this, opposition states are setting up their own security outfits which could serve as counterforce to the federal security agencies. The leadership of APC led a peaceful demonstration to the police Headquarters in Abuja in respect of this.
Electoral manipulation: Vote rigging or perceived rigging will be the major trigger of violence in the region especially the gubernatorial and Presidential elections. It was perceived vote rigging that triggered the 2011 post-election violence. It appears certain that vote rigging or perceived manipulation of the electoral will trigger violence in Kano, Kaduna and Katsina state.
According to CLEEN Foundation, the presence of non-state actors is increasing in the north-east and this could be potentially dangerous in the long run.
CLEEN: “A group of hunters are presently being hailed for the liberation of Maiha and Mubi towns previously controlled by Boko Haram. There is also the sudden rise of the civilian JTF in Yola, a replica of the situation in Maiduguri. Members of Vigilante in Borno State have beheaded about forty-one Boko Haram fighters after a failed attempt by the insurgents to attack Gur village. The gun battle between the insurgents and the Vigilante jointly with the military lasted for about two hours. These two groups have played significant roles in counter-insurgency operations in Adamawa but it is unlikely that they will remain apolitical during the 2015 elections especially when they are currently being supported by politicians.
“…In the same light, newspapers have reports that the Governor of Adamawa State Bala Ngilari, has engaged 10,000 hunters and vigilantes to assist the military in fighting Boko Haram Insurgents. When this adds to the already existing pool of active non-state actors already present especially in Borno, Bauchi and Gombe states discussed in previous STA reports, the 2015 elections in the northeast may be quite difficult to conduct or manage.
“Series of bomb blasts and suicide attempts in Gombe, Bauchi and Yobe states are indeed danger signals. In Gombe State, there is the recent reemergence of ‘yan kalare’ a group set up by former Governor of Gombe State, Danjuma Goje and used as political thugs during his tenure are alleged to be responsible for rising scale of pockets of violence in the State. The group is also said to be responsible for the recent pelting of Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo in the State.”
In a State of the Nation address “Flirting With Anarchy, Elevating Impunity To An Art Of Statecraft” delivered by the Chairman of Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Comrade Zikirullahi Ibrahim on November 27, 2014, TMG, a coalition of over 450 civil society organisations raised alarm over “violent and inciting rhetoric” from political actors.
“TMG notes with concern that the polity has been fouled up by violent and inciting rhetoric. We note concern that political actors who should be at the vanguard of stabilizing the system are openly pushing people into violent acts by their extreme posturing.
“In this regard, we flay the “crush the cockroaches” hate speech as credited to the Governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shema. We also call on the Rivers State governor Rotimi Ameachi, who has been talking about forming a parallel government should the elections not go the way of his party to tread with caution.
“On the whole, we are convinced that now is the time for all actors in the political terrain to be mindful of their utterances especially as the country is already stretched by dastardly reality of political and sectarian violence. All those making inflammatory comments capable of stoking passions and causing disorder should know that they would be held accountable for whatever heinous roles they play.
TMG called on the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) to be more forth coming with explanations about its preparation for the 2015 general elections.
“It is not enough for the commission to say its preparations are in top shape. The commission must be willing to share the details of its plans, so that Nigerians can be carried along well enough.
“We note with concern the problems that dogged the distribution of the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) and the Continuous Voter Registration ((CVR). TMG notes that a number of these critical processes have not been concluded so close to the elections.
“As we speak, we await the final voter register for the 2015 elections, just as we wonder when those who are registering now in the CRV will get their PVCs. Knowing that it took several months, if not years for those who registered in 2011 to get their PVCs, we wonder how those just registering now will get theirs’ weeks to the elections. Bearing in mind the fact that without the PVCs, eligible voters will be denied the opportunity to exercise their franchise, we call on INEC to ensure that no eligible voter who has registered is denied the opportunity.
“We believe Nigerians are itching to know how far the commission has gone with printing of ballot papers, the state of card readers, preparations for logistics amongst a host of other issues. While we have no cause to doubt the commitment of Professor Attahiru Jega to conducting a free fair and credible election, we call on the INEC leadership to be much more forth coming regarding progress so far, and the challenges ahead. This way, Nigerians can better appreciate what is on the ground, and how to adjust in the face of eventualities. In the end, free, fair, transparent and credible elections are non-negotiable in the eyes and minds of all Nigerians.
Plans For 2015
Nigeria’s flagship election observation and civic education coalition, TMG said it would be actively on ground to observe the 2015 elections.
TMG: “In the run up to the polls, we have been engaged in monitoring the pre-election environment within the context of our early earning system for violence prevention. Reporting cases of violence or early indicators that a situation may become violent during the 2015 electoral process and receiving early responses from relevant authorities is expected to mitigate electoral violence and facilitate peaceful elections next year. The first report from our monitoring of the pre-election environment in the build up to the 2015 polls will be released next week.
“For the Presidential Elections of February 14, 2015, TMG will be deploying the Quick Count methodology. The Quick Count methodology, also known as the Parallel Vote Tabulation, is a gold standard for verifying the accuracy of elections. TMG will verify the outcomes of the 2015 polls using this widely tested method. Processes to be assessed include; opening of polling units, voter accreditation, voting, sorting, counting, announcement of results amongst other aspects of the Election Day procedures.
“Through the TMG Quick Count, non-partisan citizen observers will deploy to a random, representative sample of polling units across the country to report on the opening, accreditation, voting and counting processes during Election Day, as well as collect voting results. The heart of the Quick Count rests on establishing a representative, random sample of polling units. TMG will thus deploy observers to all 774 LGAs – whether this means traveling to the most inaccessible riverine areas or to the most remote desert villages – to maximize geographic coverage to analyse the election.
“All of these, we believe will help ensure transparent elections, which would allow for the supremacy of the voices of the Nigerian people come 2015.
For now, the Department of State Services (DSS) in the lead-up to 2015 general elections has warned politicians to desist from making inflammatory statements or face the full wrath of the law.