President Goodluck Jonathan’s suspenseful transitional government is gradually drawing to a close. His secret wish has been truncated. He expects Nigerians to simply reward his six-year government with another four-year term. It is a vain fancy gone awry. It is a sordid denuding way of dreaming away one’s incompetence in governance. His rule has undoubtedly ended. But he has other tricks up his sleeves. In primitive societies, authoritarian governments survive because a coalition of political and military elites stands ready and willing to employ violence to execute the Machiavellian version of politics. The scenario described above mirrors Mr. Jonathan’s government, and his propensity to perpetuate himself in power beyond 2015. He has been throwing several variables around to reinforce his fable hold on governance of the nation. Corruption in his government has decimated the middle class, dampened the prospect of power generation, ruined production industries, brought education to the precipice, and the nation to the edge. This version of in-your-face affront by Mr. Jonathan’s disingenuous politics of self-sustaining gimmickry cannot be disregarded. Beginning from 2014 in Ekiti governorship election, Nigerian democracy became militarised with the overt intrusion of the security bodies into the political arena, a process that reached its feverish peak before the August 9, 2014 Osun governorship election. The electoral dimension of Mr. Jonathan’s authoritarianism stems from the fact that if his government fails to hold elections as constitutionally stipulated, he is searching for an avenue to legitimised his hold on power so as to manipulate the elections for his own ends. The reign of terror in Ekiti and Osun elections was possible because of the symbiosis between the PDP and the security agencies, with Jonathan providing the glue that binds them together in pursuit of regime survival. The Ekiti and Osun elections’ heist marked glooming spots on the nation’s map of liberal democracy as practised in saner society. It has come to the open after a leaked audio recording of how the military was used to rig the Ekiti election. Nigerians who were alarmed at the Ekiti and Osun were not alarmists as claimed by the president and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Nigeria is symptomatic of a militarised state that reflects a broader mindset on the part of the government. International communities, civil rights groups, and media outlets have expressed concern about the role of the military in a democratic society, and even the Ministry of Justice has raised concerns about how to deal with the use of brutal force by the military towards unarmed citizens. Taking the long view, I can’t agree less that the militarised elections are a reflection of the evolution of government toward a police state model. Although, the nation has witnessed brutal repression of political opponents since the Fourth Republic, which was deeply rooted in former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government, this phenomenon evolved gradually, after the 2011 presidential election, which led to the death of many. Militarisation of the nation’s politics reflects the convergence of hostile and desperate political groupings and the policy of the government at the centre, which has been striving to remain in power for a hundred years. Now, its new found fang has been to eliminate “potential political enemies as terrorists”. It’s interesting to know that in essence, the justice system has indicted the military, police, State Security and their bloodcurdling cousins in a lawsuit brought before it in Kano by a group of concerned Nigerians. It’s interesting because the judgement came at a time the entire justice system was stacked against political opponents or those perceived to be the enemies of the president, or his political party. The drawbacks of the military naivety has been exposed which misconstrues faithful service to the nation and its institutional structures, as the actual service to the government at the centre. The crises that attended both Ekiti and Osun gubernatorial elections should have provoked more protests from Nigerians; thereby prompting altruistic reform in our electoral body, its independence, and of course, toward attainment of free and fair election; devoid of manipulation of any kind. Mr. Jonathan’s heavy-handed government has consistently used the state apparatus to suppress dissenting voices and break up protesting groups violently more than his predecessors. The gory scene in Ekiti, where the police shot an opposition protesting youth to death, where the military threatened to shoot Rotimi Amaechi, Adams Oshiomhole, both governors of the opposition party and others sympathetic to their cause is still fresh in our minds. The incident of Ayo Fayose, as the governor-in-waiting of Ekiiti ordering the merciless beating of judges handling his eligibility case in the Ado-Ekiti High Court has not dissipated. Mr. Jonathan can resort to engaging military hostility, given the history of his failed government, because under his watchful eye the state has crushed opposition elements or co-opted their followers in some manner that invariably includes superficial reforms. Nigerians didn’t hold much hope for institutional change under President Jonathan given the culture of militarised elections we have had so far. The subtle mass protests that attended Ekiti governorship election are not just about the frozen institutional structure steeped in military and police-state methods, it was obviously created by the PDP government. The civil rights groups actually came short of staving off the negative effects of military deployment in an election and the harm’s way such military engagement puts the nation and its toddling democracy. Such protests should have been properly channeled to address elections’ manipulation, violence and social justice. It is true that protests movements throughout Nigerian history have failed to change the status quo and there is no reason to be optimistic that the ones which led to the judgement in a Kano court a few weeks ago will amount to anything. Nigerians are not in high spirit that their president will order the implementation of the court judgement. Neither do we expect a revolution if the presidency used the military and other security apparatus to intimidate, manipulate and ultimately suppress Nigerian’ voices in the coming 2015 presidential election. The INEC chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega has in the past faulted the deployment of soldiers and hooded security men during Ekiti and Osun elections, describing it as abhorrent in a democracy. Besides, he spoke of how an attempt to rig the Ogun State governorship failed. Describing the trend as worrisome, he said “masked men would not be allowed for next year’s general elections”, as he also accused the security men deployed in Osun State of being “overzealous”. Department of State Security (DSS) spokesperson Marylyn Ogar admitted that some of the DSS men deployed for the election wore hoods. There may not be sporadic uprisings in urban areas in Nigeria that will dethrone President Jonathan overnight, but there will be popular protests that will continue for different reasons, all of them revolving around the issue of absence of social justice and of their children’s lives look very bleak, when they realize that society is becoming increasingly unjust to popular democracy. However, the cumulative effect of the protests that is to come, if the military lends itself to wrongful uses – as it were in 2011 – will lead to mass demonstrations with very serious consequences on the unity of the country. When the lives of the people are stagnated, and the prospects more and more people, and not just the very ordinary people and poor minorities, it is very likely that a segment of the more radical of them will take to the streets and others will follow. This is the danger militarised elections could bring, and had brought to many Third World Country.
Erasmus Ikhide, a Public Affairs analyst writes in from Lagos, Nigeria.
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