Scholarly and popularly speaking, the fundamental causes of civil wars and violence around the world particularly in Africa are political exclusion and systematic undermining of socio-ethnic identities particularly of minority populations. The 2015 general elections’ handling styles informally adopted by the Independent National Electoral Commission are clearly laid on the foregoing premise. The fundamental feature of a plural society is its ability to protect at all times the rights of the minority populations particularly their inalienable rights to participate, vote or be voted for in national elections.
To ensure this, democratically advanced countries with plural settings have gone extra miles in adoptingproportional representations and other favorable pluralistic measures in their national elections to lay to bare all encompassing democratic practices. Countries like Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium and even South Africa are typical examples. In the United States, the two dominant national policies in the country as of date are issues ofvoting and immigration rights. At a point in the contemporary history of the USA, it became evident that a favorable national policy must be devised to accommodate and legalize the rights of approximately eleven million unlawful immigrants in the country as at 2013.
In the country under reference, a Hispanic (Mexican American) or Chinese American or African American is fully empowered by law and morality to vote or be voted for in municipal, State, legislative or presidential polls. As a matter of fact, the country’s current President has a trio of Kenyan, Indonesian and American descent. He earned his electoral value and popularity leading to his triumphant presidential emergence in 2008 as a celebrated minority voters’ rights advocate.
It has always been calamitous in the histories of countries that stuck to their guns on majority superiority at all times electoral governing styles. From Burundi to Rwanda; Africa’s Great Lakes region to Sierra Leone and Liberia; the list is too long to be exhausted. The most typical example is Ivory Coast; the former Paris of Africa. Most of the 30 ongoing civil wars and insurrections (intra State conflicts) in Africa are waged following fierce protests againstpolitical exclusion and ethnic cleansing of the minority populations, considered as antithetical to their social existence and values. Dangers and consequences of political exclusion targeted at the minority populations are tangibly and intangibly catastrophic and age long. Civil wars premised on economic/resource and political disagreements can easily be overcome; but certainly not those triggered off by ethnic and religious suppression. In other words, value oriented civil wars are age long and unquenchable; except where the political actors act swiftly and arrest same at early warning levels.
Our step by step pre election advocacy with respect to the 2015 general elections in Nigeria has openly revealed that it will very difficult for present INEC leadership to exonerate itself from the strong accusation of running an informal policy of political exclusion targeted at Nigeria’s minority populations particularly in its distribution and issuance of permanent voters cards (PVCs) to all registered voters in the country.
The socially disastrous policy under reference appeared to have been designed in two folds (registration of voters and issuance of permanent voters’ cards). During the Commission’s voters’ registration, millions of citizens of voting age belonging to Igbo and minority nationalities were informally denied registration through discriminatory and hash policies and actions of the Commission. In the distribution of PVCs, the Commission applied lopsidedness to further disenfranchise millions of registered voters of minority populations or entities in Nigeria. The disastrous policy under condemnation appears to have been put in place in 2011 general voters registration exercise in the country in a clannish bid to maintain and hold unto the age long northern population superiority over the south and born to rule principles dated back to post 1955 premier census. Interestingly, of the 15 standing committees of the Commission, Prof Attahiru Jega, apart from his headship of INEC, also chairs the three most sensitive and powerful committees of Information Technology & Voters’ Registration, Finance & General Purpose as well as Security.It is likely correct to hold that Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun powder at the instance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Our findings following our careful watch over the country-wide PVCs distribution clearly showed that greater number of voting citizens of ethnic minorities in Nigeria particularly the pastoral segment of the referenced populations did not get their PVCs. The INEC’s informal disastrous policy under reference and condemnation also introducedreligious and ethnic identification into the PVCs distribution handling styles. With this, it became easier to identify Christians, Muslims and their ethnic origins and locations. The unwanted populations and their locations were easily figured out and demographically cleansed.
In our latest findings, most of the uncollected PVCs in the Northeast, the Northwest, Niger and Plateau States in the North-central as well as Lagos State are PVCs belonging to registered voters of minority and Igbo backgrounds. In other words, over 98% of registered voters of majority, Islamic and sedentary populations have received their PVCs as 17th March 2015. In sedentary population PVCs distribution, we mean host Yoruba voters at home in the Southwest particularly in Lagos State, host Hausa-Fulani Muslim voters at home in the Northwest and the Northeast and parts of the North-central particularly in Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Borno, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfrara, Bauchi, Niger and Plateau States. Most of the guest and minority populations in the area are denied PVCs. We challenge INEC to prove us wrong publicly by making public statistical breakdown of the names or identities of those it has given PVCs in the referenced areas.
In Kaduna State, most of those who did not get their PVCs are minority Christians of the Southern Kaduna and guest Igbo population; likewise in Kano State particularly in Sabon Gari and Nasarawa LGAs or areas. In Plateau State, most of the non-recipients of the PVCs are guest Igbo registered voters and Plateau Christian indigenes. In Borno, Taraba and Adamawa States in the Northeast with sizable Igbo and Christian populations, the story is not different. Instead, the Commission said it has made adequate arrangements for Muslim IDPs of Borno and Yobe States to vote in strange voting centers the Commission created for them.
The Commission said it has no resources and provisions to allow their Christian counterparts outside the area to vote. In Lagos State, out of 2,022, 933 registered voters that have not been given PVCs by INEC as at 17th March 2015; 70% or more are Igbo and other guest residents. In all these, the PVCs of the referenced citizens were deliberately misplaced or mis-located/mis-distributed, or impersonated or officially hoarded or cleansed.
Further, our findings from the pattern of PVCs collections in the 36 States and the FCT as well as the country’s six geopolitical zones as at 17th March 2015 showed that there have been no PVCs collections particularly in most States of the Northwest zone since February 26, 2015. For instance, in Kano and Kaduna States, no single PVC was collected between 7th March and 17th March 2015. Their collection figures remain 3, 174, 519 out of total registered voters of 3, 407, 222 for Kaduna State and 4, 112, 039 out of total registered voters of 4, 975, 701 for Kano State respectively. Same thing applies to Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara States.
In the Northeast zone, similar situation applies except in Bauchi State where there was alarming PVC collection allocation of 188, 701 in ten days (7th to 17th March 2015). In all these, it simply shows that all Muslim populations said to have been registered to vote including under-age voters have all been allocated PVCs leaving Igbo and minority Christians in the referenced areas without PVCs. While the former are kingly issued with PVCs, the latter are tortuously dribbled and denied same by INEC.
In all, as INEC finally closes its grossly lopsided PVCs distribution across the country tomorrow 22nd March 2015, its latest update of 17th March has clearly indicated that 12. 482, 700 registered voters dominated by Christians, Igbo and ethnic minorities `have been disenfranchised by the Commission and denied participation in the referenced crucial polls particularly the presidential, owing to the inability of the Commission to issue them PVCs. With this alarming number of registered voters technically excluded and disenfranchised by INEC, it is likely correct to hold that the Commission’s perceived desperation to return power to the core North is coming to fruition. Like we earlier said, the 2015 Presidential Election is long rigged demographically and kept in coolers waiting for its legitimatization date called “28th March 2015”; except God divinely says otherwise.
For instance, in the Commission’s referenced PVCs distribution of 17th March 2015, nothing has changed. The Commission said it has distributed total PVCs of 56, 350, 776 or 81.87%, out of the total registered voters of 68, 833, 476; leaving 12, 482, 700 registered voters dominated by Igbo and minority Christians and populations without PVCs and disenfranchised. This includes over one million PVCs not yet produced and delivered to the Commission till date; 500,000 of them awarded to a local firm in Abuja. In four days from 12th March to 17th March 2015, by our careful calculation, a total of 450, 901 PVCs were distributed across the country, out of which the North (Bauchi State 188, 701) got 202, 723 and the South 252, 178.
In the geopolitical breakdown, the Southwest got 199, 720 (Ogun 148, 583), the South-south 46, 851, the Southeast 5, 607; the Northwest 1, 388, the Northeast 189, 264 (Bauchi State 188, 701) and the North-central 12, 071. In all, the North now has a total of 32, 244, 050 PVCs as of date while the South has 24, 197, 023 PVCs. The staggering gap between the North and the South in current PVCs distribution and possession in Nigeria is 8, 047, 027. In Lagos State, a total of 2, 022, 933 registered voters dominated by non indigenes particularly the Igbos have been disenfranchised and denied their PVCs and voting rights by INEC.
The recent public comment of the INEC Chairman justifying the possibility of his Commission not giving every registered voter in Nigeria his or her PVC before the referenced national polls, using low voters’ percentage in the recent staggered gubernatorial polls in Ekiti and Osun States as a defense, is most regrettable and condemnable. The INEC leadership under Prof Attahiru Jega must be reminded by all and sundry that in the Presidential election involving multi ethnic and religious groupings like in Nigeria, denying a whopping 12.4m registered voters their rights to vote by way of non issuance of PVCs to them; is tantamount to ethnic cleansing and political alienation. It is important to inform that 12.4m registered voters denied PVCs in Nigeria is more than the population of a sovereign country.
In law, he who asserts must prove! That is to say that since INEC insisted on using PVCs for the referenced elections, the Commission must give every citizen registered to vote PVC to enable him or her participate and vote in the referenced crucial polls. The Commission having failed woefully in this regard must be ready to face the consequences including moral, legal and social. The 2015 General Polls are already corrupted and tainted courtesy of INEC’s grossly biased handling styles. We will not be surprised if their outcomes particularly the presidential are rejected roundly by any party or candidate that is the target of the despicable informal policy of the Commission under complaint and condemnation. From every indication, we dare say that INEC’s ethnicized 2015 electoral midwifery is equivalent to a declaration of war against Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities and minority populations.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, B.Sc. (Hons.) Criminology & Security Studies
Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Uzochukwu Oguejiofor, Esq., (LLB, BL), Head, Campaign & Publicity Department