Recent developments in Nigeria indicate that the Nigerian electorate is much more alert today than in previous elections and that they can no longer be taken for granted. Obviously, social media has contributed to this increased sense of awareness.
In this current issue, we have two interesting articles on the Nigerian elections: one entitled, ‘The Whirlwind of a Democracy Coming to Nigeria’ by Osuolale Alalade and the other, ‘Nigeria After the 2015 Elections’ by Ejeviome Eloho Otobo. As indicated in the article on “Nigeria After the 2015 Elections”, Ejeviome Otobo states that Nigerians are now more aware of their civic rights and what to expect from their leaders. The more reason why there is apprehension of the aftermath of the presidential election if the election is seen not to be free, fair and credible or in Nigerian parlance, if it is seen to have been ‘rigged’. While Otobo argues that “much effort has been exerted in ensuring that post-elections violence is averted, regardless of the outcome”, it is our opinion that violence is inevitable regardless of the winner of the presidential election, notwithstanding the peace accord which was signed with fanfare among the political leaders in February 2015. The onus is therefore on the authorities to ensure that measures are in place to avert violence or should it occur, to swiftly bring the situation under control.
There have been counter arguments on the deployment of the military to maintain security during the elections. Reactions are mixed regarding previous deployments of the military during elections in Edo, Anambra, Ekiti and Osun states. Regardless of the merits of such deployments, the fundamental question is the propriety of involving the military in the electoral process. While noting that some courts in Nigeria have ruled against the use of soldiers during elections, it is our opinion that in order to ensure an enabling environment for the conduct of peaceful elections, and for Nigerians to be able to cast their votes, it would be in order to use soldiers for security purposes during the forthcoming elections, so long as they maintain reasonable distance from polling stations. In addition to the usual political thuggery associated with elections in Nigerian, the crushing of Boko Haram in the current military campaign in the northeast will not remove the spectre of violence in the aftermath of the elections as the terrorist group will still have the capacity to continue its asymmetric warfare to disrupt and undermine the electoral process within and beyond the northeast.
Under normal circumstances, the use of the military for elections is untenable. Certainly, the situation in Nigeria is far from normal. Therefore, our support for the military to be used for the current elections is a qualified one and should not be in perpetuity. We do not subscribe to the various ‘prognostications’ that Nigeria will unravel after the elections. Nigeria is greater than the individuals aspiring to power and at the end of the day, cool heads will prevail.
Shola J. omoregie