Cover Story: The Shame Of A Nation

The dust raised by the conduct of the Presidential and National Assembly elections, held on February 23, 2019, was the reason the National Peace Committee went into frenzied meetings with leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, last week. Former head of state, General Abdusalami Abubakar and his team of peace makers did not have to do that after the 2015 general elections, not just because former President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat but because, in spite of apprehension ahead of the polls, cases of election malpractices and violence were not as horrendous as were witnessed in the first half of the 2019 polls. A group of local and foreign election observers said in a preliminary report that 25 people lost their lives during the election. That is different from those who died before the elections, particularly during the campaigns. The observers said the number was higher than the 12 casualties recorded during the 2015 general elections.

The groups include Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness, Pan African Women Project, Republic of South Africa and International Leadership Initiative. Mphoentle Keitseng of the Women Project and Stafford Bisong of the Leadership Initiative expressed sadness at the level of brigandage, sharp practices and killings. According to them, they observed that in Cross River, Imo, Akwa Ibom and Rivers states, the military ordered the electorate, some party agents and observers out of collation centres to effect falsification of results, while in other places they fired into the air and snatched ballot boxes. Not only that, the observers claimed that election officials were intimidated against the use of Smart Card Readers. They said, “It seems to us that Nigeria is transiting backwards to the dark ages of a near anarchy situation.”  In a country where human life is accorded little respect, it is not surprising that there is no official and accurate figure yet of those who lost their lives during the exercise. Yet the passion with which politicians went into that election is still on the boil, awaiting the Governorship and State Assembly elections scheduled for this Saturday, March 9, 2019. So, there are fears already that violence could be accentuated where matters went out of hand during the last election and, in fact, in places where the people felt cheated one way or the other. That is even more so because the campaigns are still laden with innuendoes capable of generating fresh conflicts during the second round of the elections. This is instructive, because in this case, leaders who should be the touch bearers for a peaceful atmosphere are the lodestars for what seems a war between sworn enemies. Our worry is that

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