Ekiti Bye-elections And Nigeria's Relentless Pursuit Of ending Electoral Violence

By Momoh, Emmanuel Omeiza
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I watched with keen interest how gun men and marauders disrupted the bye elections in Ekiti State during the weekend. I watched how violent thugs shot sporadically into the air which made voters take to their heels and seek for shelter. I observed how human bodies littered electoral environment and how the smoke of fires literally ascended into the sky as though there was a sacrifice.

The above were some of the experiences recounted by eyewitnesses at the last weekend bye-elections in Ekiti State which were captured by various news media outlets.

While watching the events of the elections, several questions ran through my mind like different wires connected to an electric pole. The main one being the desire to know if free and fair elections could really be a realistic call in Nigeria.

Often time, we hear media houses encouraging Nigerians to promote free and fair elections by discouraging despicable activities which undermine elections. Overtime, I engaged myself in some reflections and found out that conducting credible elections was more of a myth especially in Nigeria considering the various circumstances that have incessantly beguiled our electoral processes overtime.

In the first instance, elections under any setting or mode of governance are avenues through which voters select candidates of their choice to represent their interest in any tier of government. By this, one may not be wrong to assume that elections are within the purview of a country's legal framework since a lack of administration or management translates to the birth of anarchy and violence.

Since election is a process, it translates to the fact that adequate and prior preparations must be made. This include but not limited to fixing election timetables, procurement of electoral materials, accreditation and registration of voters and what have you.

With all the above being put into place, what then could have birthed the existence of electoral violence especially in Nigeria? Electoral violence on a frank note is an attempt to disrupt electoral processes by engaging in malpractices such as vote buying, ballot box snatching, intimidation of voters among others.

Coming back to Nigeria, electoral violence are common sights that we see virtually on all electoral days. This overtime has infused fear into the minds of voters making them weary of coming out en masse to vote on electoral days.

Electoral violence entered into Nigeria's political diction shortly after the nation was snatched from the hands of military dictatorship. Not long after this, was the Independent National Electoral Commission given birth to. Since then, Nigeria has worked assiduously and struggled towards ending the scourge of electoral violence of which the consequences have being the loss of irreplaceable lives, destruction of quantum and valuable properties, irregularities in electoral processes etc.

We would not be quick to forget the 2011 general elections which was marred by violence and conflicts especially in the northern territory. Other areas across the country have experienced one tale of electoral violence or not.

The Nigerian political environment have been constantly regarded as a tensed one which is most times based on a win-win approach. Many political candidates work tooth and nail to ensure they gain access to power.

Their failure to achieve this translates into the use of force to incite violence. The saddening part of this is that innocent voters who are there to perform their constitutional duties are made to pay for crimes they haven't committed.

Many youths and young ones are used as instruments to unleash mayhem and cause intimidation. This they do by stealing ballot boxes, maiming and killing opponents and in extreme cases forcing electoral officials to manipulate results in the favour of their political parties.

Would we feign ignorance about the fact that there werepolitical campaigns where youths who had different political orientation and inclinations faced one another in defiance and hostility and in the end resulted in severe clashes where some have and to lay the supreme price with their lives.

Interestingly, not one of these youths have family ties with the politicians who used them as instruments to incite violence. Wouldn't we term this as unfair or unreasonable? utilizing promising Nigerian youths who are unemployed as mercenaries or ready made tools to destroy the health of a nation.

Now tell me, with all these happening and gaining grounds without restraint, can we really envisage a system void of electoral violence or a system where electoral integrity is practised? Absolutely no. We can't keep utilizing the same approach and continue to wait for different results. We can't use old bottles continually and expect new wines to spring forth.

As long as Nigeria fails to be her priorities right and do the needful with respect to conducting value based orientation and strengthening the nation's security architecture, encouraging citizen based and all-inclusive system of governance, then ending electoral violence will continue to be a myth. Our journey to promoting peaceful elections will be a debacle.

We all must put our hands on the deck to ending electoralviolence especially as the echoes of the 2023 elections continue to draw near. Our failure to achieve this may be the bane of our national progress and development.