The National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has come under intense bashing for saying that politicians were the biggest problem of Nigeria’s electoral process.
The criticism is coming from the major opposition parties in the country and other stakeholders in the political landscape.
Recall that Ganduje last week said politicians were the biggest problem confronting elections in Nigeria and not the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as some people may want to believe.
But opposition parties have continued to flay the APC leader, saying he was rather admitting that the APC and its leaders were a stumbling block to the success of elections in Nigeria.
Daily Trust reports that there have been recorded cases of electoral violence, insecurity, manipulation of figures, ballot box snatching, rigging and other forms of electoral irregularities since the return to democracy in 1999 after many years of military rule.
Many lives have been lost due to electoral violence perpetrated by political thugs. Others have been maimed or injured in the process. The trend has gained traction over the years as many politicians battle for political offices or their party’s tickets ahead of elections. Even on the day of elections, several killings are being recorded despite deployment of security agents to the polling centres.
Analysts have listed key issues fuelling the crisis to include, fake news, inciting rhetoric, hate speech, activities of divisive and intolerant clergy; ethnic and religious profiling; intra-party fighting and legal tussles in some states.
Since the return to democracy in 1999, seven general elections have been held. Reports showed that in 1999, 80 people were killed; in 2003, 100 lives were lost; in 2007, 300 persons lost their lives and the country had the worst of it in 2011 when 800 persons were killed. During the 2015 and 2019 general elections, 100 and 145 persons lost their lives respectively. Recall that many deaths were equally recorded in the 2023 elections.
Daily Trust reports that from February 2019 to December 2022, the country’s electoral body recorded 53 attacks on its facilities with the South East geopolitical zone topping the chart.
Ganduje should apologise to Nigerians – PDP
The leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said with Ganduje’s comment, the APC has officially “confessed” to Nigerians that its members were responsible for election violence in the country.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba told Daily Trust in a telephone interview yesterday that following this, Ganduje should apologise to Nigerians.
He said, “Ganduje should apologise to Nigerians and should be remorseful instead of being arrogant about it. The challenge for us is, having confessed, Nigerians now know where the violence is coming from. There was a statement by a prominent APC leader in Lagos that Igbos should be thrown into the Lagoon if they did not vote in a particular way.
“This is the confession of the activities of the APC. They are the ones that brought thuggery and violence into our electoral system. Some leaders of the APC said so. Now that the APC chairman is confessing, it is left for the security agencies to investigate what has been said, what APC leaders have been saying is on record.”
You’re stumbling block to democracy – NNPP
Also reacting, the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) described Ganduje as a stumbling block to democracy.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Yakubu Shendam said it was ironic that “Ganduje who has proven over the years to be a stumbling block to democracy would turn round and blame politicians.”
He said the former governor cannot exonerate himself from any political malfeasance as “he is neck deep into it. Maybe it is self-confession that he is doing.”
Similarly, the Labour Party (LP) said Ganduje spoke for himself as a politician.
The LP’s National Publicity Secretary, Obiora Ifoh, said, “That is his thought and he is entitled to it.”
INEC is the problem – Ex-presidential candidate
But while the opposition parties were bashing Ganduje, a presidential candidate in the 2015 election, Martins Onovo, said politicians can’t be blamed for what is happening in the land but INEC.
In a telephone chat with Daily Trust yesterday, Onovo said, “The experience we have is not that politician did anything, the experience we have is that INEC is fundamentally dysfunctional. INEC cannot be independent to be doing what is wrong. It is the independence to do what is right, not what is wrong.
“So, if INEC is not able to conduct elections, will you blame politicians? Politicians try to bend everything to their own advantage that is not new. It is your responsibility to put the systems in place; electoral management systems, which will follow the standard format of any management system globally, best practice.”