We are all witnesses to the devastating history of electoral fraud in Nigeria. Since the first republic, elections have been, at times a violent, do or die contest for control of state power and public resources. Previous democratic experiments failed mainly because of disputed, flawed elections. We achieved some progress due to electoral reforms initiated by late President Yar’Adua, himself an admitted beneficiary of electoral malfeasance, based on recommendations of the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Commission.
By now we should have dispensed with false thumb-printing of multiple ballots, ballot box snatching and violence. However, some people entered politics playing these tricks. They climbed to the height of political power using these tricks. They now seek to capture the zenith of political office by returning to these old tricks and initiating a new generation of technologically sophisticated scams with the same objective: being declared the winner of an election without winning the most voted. The use of new technology to perfect new forms of election rigging shows that an old dog can indeed learn new tricks if those tricks will help him acquire the tasty bone that has heretofore evaded his grasp.
The events of the last few days have reminded us that election riggers are still primed to kidnap our democracy by shredding our votes into meaningless confetti. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the PDP Presidential Candidate, ran an uninspired campaign. Although an opposition candidate who could focus his entire attention on the presidential race, Atiku visited but 20 states. Meanwhile President Muhammadu Buhari visited all 36 states and the FCT. Many of Atiku’s campaign rallies were characterized by scanty attendance. His events lacked the energy and passion evident in the APC rallies. Most telling of all, Atiku’s campaign was an ineffective messenger. His campaign document, the Atiku Plan, was stillborn. It crashed from inattention and apathy before having a chance to take off. Barely a week after publishing it, Atiku never mentioned it again. Devoid of a positive message to give the people, his campaign team implemented their infamous Dubai Strategy, deploying lies and publicity stunts to gain public sympathy and distract the electorate from the fact that corruption is their most fitting epithet.
An example of these empty stunts was his visit to America. Atiku paid lobbyists and others over a million dollars for a two day visit to the place. If Atiku’s aim was to make history, He succeeded, but not in the way he wants. The man succeeded in purchasing the most expensive temporary visa in the annals of recorded travel between two nations. For him to spend such a lavish sum for such a meager visit portends his designs on the national treasury. He did not spend that much money just to lose it. If he gains high office, Atiku will much more than enrich his friends. He will make himself the supreme potentate. Money will bear his face and name because he will believe all the money is his. In short, the visit to America was an expensive attempt to convince the Nigerian people that Atiku was legitimate to the outside world. These are not the tactics of a winning hand. It is insulting to think a trip to America would convince Nigerians that the traveler should be their president. America cannot care more for Nigeria than Nigerians themselves. The things Atiku has done are the vain efforts of someone who knows that he loses a clean and fair election. But he covets the office beyond the bounds of healthy desire. He thus feigns at running the semblance of a campaign. However, the brunt of his resources and attention are directed toward a more subterranean and inimical setting.
In the absence of a focused and inspiring issue-based campaign, Atiku is relying on strange mathematics to win the presidency. From the events of the last few days, he has retooled and oiled the rigging machine of the PDP. This is not surprising. Late last year, Atiku spoke wistfully at a public gathering about days gone past when PDP freely rigged elections using state money and hired thugs. At a meeting with the Lagos PDP chapter, Atiku said:
“When we came to power in 1999, the entire South West was being controlled by AD and when we were approaching 2003 elections, I told my boss (Obasanjo), ‘give me the authority to take over the South-West’ and he gave me that authority and I took over all the states with the exception of Lagos.
“This is because Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and I came a long way from SDP, PMM, PDM to SDP and I felt I should leave Lagos for him. I could easily have taken over Lagos.
“My brothers and sisters, I want you to forgive me for leaving Lagos out of that arrangement. If I have another opportunity again, Lagos will go together with the rest. I can tell you that I know what I did to preserve Lagos.”
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo deployed federal might to skew elections in the southwest during the 2003 exercise. Atiku confessed that he was the tricky tool Obasanjo’s hand used to perpetrate electoral fraud throughout the southwest.
Atiku further vowed that if given another chance, LAGOS WILL GO TOGETHER WITH THE REST! This confession, coupled with revelations since the election postponement, demonstrate that Atiku and the PDP plan to rig again.
Nigerians should therefore be wary of Atiku and the PDP. They are addicted to rigging. It is the only way they know how to win elections. Ongoing investigations since the election postponement indicate that PDP and Atiku have deployed their evil cunning in an attempt to corrupt the electoral process. It appears that they had bribed some election officials to pre-program smart card readers so that they appear dumb and transmit false results to INEC headquarters. This is why the card readers have had to be wiped clean and reprogrammed. They have also spent heavily to buy the loyalty of some INEC staff and NYSC ad hoc staff. They have gained possession of ballot papers and have manufactured close counterfeits of the genuine papers which they thumb-printed in advance to pad the vote in their own strongholds. They had hired thugs and ruffians to make a mess of things and bring disorder where they know they cannot rig the returns. They used this exact same template in past elections, but they must never be allowed to do this again. Enough is enough. I am in full support of the President’s recent warning to ballot box snatchers. Ballot box snatchers are criminals by law and they deserve a criminal’s reward. Every Nigerian must be on high alert.
Adurogbangba is a retired foreign service officer. He lives in Ibadan.