In this interview with Paschal Emeka in Abuja, Jaye Gaskia, an Abuja based civil society organisation leader said the inability of the government to upgrade its transmission capacity has repeatedly led to collapse. Excerpts:
How Would You Describe The Whole Election Process?
In summary you would say the outcome was an anti climax; the process leading to the election itself and the amount of tension that was generated in the polity; theintensity of the contestation and competition between the ruling party and the opposition. The way and manner in which people throw caution to the wind, threw away decency, threw away the rules and just went mudslinging and went after their opponent’s jugular, it almost seemed as if we were walking a script towards the implosion of the country and I would say that we were really at the brink.
Three forces played a significant role in stepping us back from the brink One of the biggest issue as in every election in Nigeria has always been the way and manner political parties play up ethnic and religious divide. And this reared its ugly head in the 2015 general elections as there were attempts to play up certain parties as been Islamic parties, certain candidates as being Islamic candidates, who had a project of Islamising the country. At a point, you had a situation where parties were beginning to compete for which party was the most Islamic or the most Christian.
Then there was also the North-South divide. I think by and large the biggest source of tension for the election for the first time in our political factor combined at the same time. The presence of a viable nationwide opposition platform as the ruling party. In the past we have always had oppositions that were as strong as the rulling party but the significant difference is that we had n integrated united opposition. It was a single party, not an alliance of parties. It meant that there was an opposition that could defeat the ruling party. Second factor that came into being was an electoral umpire that asserted itself in spite of the challenges.
That was a significant first, in the past you have always had strong commission chairman but the institution was weak. One of the things that had happened during the last five years was that the institutional reforms within the Commission repositioned the agency in a way that are strong leadership could translate into medium strength and could carry along middle level officers and electoral commissioners around a common vision. Because you had an electoral institution that was more assertive and committed to reforming itself and because it was committed to reforming itself, there was quite a number of things it was able to push through at a time when the intensity of the contestation were still low and at a time when political interest could not override the reform. For example some of the reform in the electoral process, the use of PVC, it became contested later on but at the time when it was being approved, it was quickly approved because nobody saw the political advantage or disadvantage at that time. Because it was able to quickly push that through at the right moments, at a time when these decisions could not be able to made on the basis of whether there would technical efficient or not. Later on when the political consideration now came, it was easy to override them. This led to a situation where for the first time in the forth republic votes actually counted. Which does not mean there was still no problem because people still found a way round the machine.
In some states, in significant number of pulling units, the human factor deliberately made sure the machines did not work so that they could resort to the use of manual method. This happened significant in Rivers State and Akwa Ibom and there is no way you can generalize it without it leading to a crisis. You can see that technology helped to mitigate and minimize electoral fraud.
In the past everybody allocated result to you according to your area of strength. If for example, registered voters in Kano is 6 million and in Rivers it is 4.5 million. What they are going to do for you is that you will have 90% turnout of that 6 million and then you will win 90% of that 90% turnout. But that is impossible now with the card reader because accreditation with the card reader meant it was only what was accredited that will count. Where they used to pad it was no more possible. And we saw that turnout was about 52%.
The third factor was that you now have a politically aware and conscious population. In the past, what we have achieved is that we had a politically aware citizenry but it was usually very partisan. For example, in the first and second republic the political contestation outside the political parties extended to die hard supporters of the parties. So it was still like an expansion of the sphere of influence of the parties. But in the 2015 general elections, citizens who were not die hard supporters of the parties were also active. One of the things that worked for the party (APC) that emerged was that most of the people the ordinary citizens voted for were In this interview with Paschal Emeka in Abuja, Jaye Gaskia, an Abuja based civil society organisation leader said the inability of the government to upgrade its transmission capacity has repeatedly led to collapse. Excerpts: Inside Abuja in that party. So far example in Kaduna State it was a combination of the personality of a Buhari and an Elrufai not necessary the party APC. Because they got that; ordinary citizen who were active also played their own role-thanks to the social media. And apart from the role of active citizenship is the role played by youths. The 2015 elections is significant also for the fact that it is the election where youths played the most significant role.
They were active in all the sites and social media, They were also busy organizing and mobilizing people to rallies but the unfortunate thing is that it was an emerging youth. So they were engaging the process but they did not specifically define and develop a youth platform that they could negotiate with the parties. And one of the things I have said to youths is that ‘though you play a significant role in this election, but if you are not careful, your issues might not be addressed. What you have done is that you have just played a role without defining your platform’. Most of the challenges or burden is on youths. When you talk of unemployment, poverty, the burden is on the youth and there is no youth agenda that you can negotiate now with all the parties. And that requires having a youth pressure group that can be all in the parties. But you are saying that in each of these parties we are going to, this is our minimum demand. That is the kind of thing that youths needs to do now because very soon the issue of youths will be lost among the mirage of issues. This is the time to do it because that is the only time they can consolidate on the electoral process by ensuring that there is a significant outcome for youth as a category of the population.
Also Civil Societies played a significant role particularly in defending and protecting the integrity of the electoral umpire as a lot of attempts were made to discredit the electoral umpire as an institution and the chief umpire as a person. And also defending and promoting the innovations that the institution had brought in. We believed that the institution had its challenges but it was on the right trajectory and we saw the result. In the past that institution would have collapsed, This created a very intense focus of the international community on Nigeria, It made sure that people who wanted to cause crisis were also placed under intense international scrutiny. One of the issues I also took up was the issue of hate speeches. The mode of campaigning largely because of the direct casual linkages between hate speeches and electoral violence. Thankfully the media also took it up. And because that was done awareness was raged. If we do a analysis of election that witnessed the most significant rate of international inflow. At every step of the way, they were there, meeting the principal actors and warning that if there is a crisis, we are not going to go after the errand boys you are going to take responsibility for it.
This now put significant pressure on these leaders. For example Jonathan could concede defeat. While the president might not have been too worried whether he lost the election but his party, the remnant and the hawks within the party were interested in preventing an outcome that amount to a defeated. And it took the pressure on the president to say that the buck stops at your table. That is why I said the outcome is an anti-climax because the process leading to all of it was stoking so much tension and the end result would have been violence. But those other countervailing activities and pressure ensured that we could be pulled back from the brink. This was what eventually happened.
Some have said it was a gang up to push the president out of office by the International Community?
Some have also said it that voting pattern is a gang up to push away the president. In 2011 when PDP was still a very strong party and it won across the country nobody said it was a gang up against the opposition that now that the opposition was before what the PDP used to be because if you look at the map for the result for 2011 just deserve the names. The PDP has become the regional party while the APC is now the national party that the PDP used to be.
But we saw how that process happened. The hemorrhaging of the PDP, the fact that all the powerful blocks within the party were leaving. That at the internal level at the international level, it may well be a gang up but a gang up of that nature cannot succeed without it, the material condition that support it. The material condition is that look you lost the election.
To say that there is a gang up to now stop you from refusing defeat and plunging the country into crisis is actually a positive gang up. That as the kind of intervention that we need because in the past people have reframed from actually intervening that way and the consequences have been far higher. And just imagine the consequences of that Tuesday morning when the plan B was being unfolding, the Orubebe show and had not recommenced and then the election had been announced at that time. Imagine the current state of the country and of the region in terms of the crisis.
Yes, there was a gang up to prevent crisis but the gang up was also to also prevent an injustice, the overhauling of an election that has been so clearly and transparently done in spite of all the challenges. And there was also a reason why the international community is happy with result.