By Elizabeth Kendal
|Nigerians vote: 23 February 2019|
“Massive, consistent, and comprehensive, deliberate manipulation and distortion preceded, attended, and followed the Nigerian Presidential and National Assembly elections of February 23, 2019, and gubernatorial elections of March 9, 2019.”
So reads the opening paragraph of a Staff Report entitled, “Options for Africa and Nigeria Moves into a ‘Post-Democratic’ Phase” in issue 4/2019 of Defense & Foreign Affairs (D&FA) Strategic Policy magazine (the official magazine of the International Strategic Studies Association).
Shocking they might be, but these words would come as no surprise to anyone who has been closely monitoring Nigeria over recent years.
As noted in Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletins 488 (6 Feb) and 489 (13 Feb) – written to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer – Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) came to power in 2015 promising to tackle corruption, improve security and revive the economy. Instead, the opposite has occurred.
Corruption has flourished. In particular, as has been revealed, there has been massive fraud in military procurement. Government funds have been secured on the basis of fake contracts for provisions and equipment which were never delivered – “everything from food and ammunition to firearms, helicopters and Alpha jets, totalling as much as US$15 billion”. “Armsgate” is the reason why soldiers are being deployed into conflict zones with insufficient rations and malfunctioning weapons; and why those who survive return defeated and demoralised. It is why insecurity has escalated to crisis levels. It is why Boko Haram / Islamic State of West Africa has not been defeated. It is why soldiers mutinied in Maiduguri in August 2018 not long after Buhari’s APC party suffered a string of defections to the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP). It is also why a catastrophic Christian crisis persists throughout Nigeria's North and Middle Belt.
|Pleading for assistance, Rev. Ezekiel Dachomo|
World Watch Monitor, Sept 2018
For more news on persecution see Morning Star News / Nigeria
Of course corruption and insecurity are major reasons as to why the economy has stagnated and why there is such widespread disillusionment, displacement, poverty and despair.
Unsurprisingly, Buhari’s first term was widely believed to have been an unmitigated disaster. Indeed, any progress that was made, was made in Buhari’s absence – during his 170-days of “medical leave”.
Consequently, it seemed the risk was not that Buhari would win the presidential poll, but that his loss would trigger widespread religious violence, just as in April 2011 when Buhari lost to Goodluck Jonathan.
Buhari declared winner of presidential poll.
|President Muhammadu Buhari,|
winner of 2019 presidential poll.
As the Council on Foreign Relations remarked (18 March): “Nigeria’s latest presidential election cycle has been bad news for democracy in Africa’s most populous country and across the continent. Though President Muhammadu Buhari won the election, it was marred by historically low turnout and credible allegations of rigging.”
In March, in an editorial in D&FA issue 2/2019 entitled “Democracy as Farce is the Prelude to Tyranny”, the president of the International Strategic Studies Association, Gregory Copley, commented that Buhari, “knowing the electorate had turned against him, could only sustain power by the direct, deliberate, and planned manipulation of voting mechanisms. Buhari controlled the levers of legalization: he ensured that the management of the ‘Independent’ National Election Commission (INEC) was no longer, in fact, independent, ensuring that the delivery and counting of ballots could be manipulated in the most blatant terms . . .
“Knowing such fraud would become known to the electorate, and that those defrauded would seek redress in the courts, Buhari unilaterally, unconstitutionally, and pre-emptively replaced the Chief Justice of Nigeria, on January 25, 2019, with Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed . . . presumably to position the highest Nigerian court to ratify a Buhari/All Progressives Congress (APC) victory in the Presidential, National Assembly, and probably state gubernatorial elections.”
According to the Staff Report in D&FA (4/2019), “The incumbent Government of Pres. Muhammadu Buhari, through manipulation of the electoral, military, and administrative processes, achieved the effect of a coup d’etat, institutionalizing corruption to a degree unseen before even in Nigeria, while all the stage settings of democracy appeared to continue in situ.”
According to D&FA (4/2019), the known steps undertaken by the cadre around President Buhari to co-opt the elections include:
1) The unconstitutional replacement by President Buhari on 25 January 2019, of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) – Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen (a southerner) – with Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed (a Muslim from the North) presumably to position the highest Nigerian court to ratify a Buhari win;
2) The now exposed and substantial under-delivery of ballot papers to voting stations around Nigeria. This means that even if 100 per cent of the delivered ballot papers were completed in favor of opposition candidates, there would still be sufficient ballots which could be illegally and secretly completed in favor of Buhari and the APC;
3) The disruptive postponement of the election from its scheduled dates (possibly to “test the waters” should a state of emergency or even martial law be declared), and
4) President Buhari’s threats against foreign governments if they “interfere” in the Nigerian elections.
The Staff Report in D&FA (4/2019) also noted that by 7 April claims were emerging that the “Presidential election result could be canceled due to the fact that INEC still was unable to produce full result sheets from the election, despite having called the Presidency in Buhari’s favor shortly after the election.”
D&FA (4/2019) laments that while Buhari “is ill, indecisive, and vindictive, and has become financially and morally corrupt”, he is “surrounded by officials who, to cling to their own wealth, are prepared to go to any lengths to sustain his Presidency”.
The report concludes: “Thus corruption continues in Nigeria with the notable compounding factor: there are no checks and balances left to constrain an administration which has essentially abandoned democracy.”
Court Challenge Commences in Abuja
|Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar|
Atiku faced immense pressure to drop the case as stakeholders warned it could trigger violence. However, former President Olusegun Obasanjo defended Atiku's right to seek legal redress, noting that, if Buhari were permitted to seek redress over past losses (as he did in 2003, 2007 and 2011), then Atiku should be entitled to do likewise, as should any Nigerian who feels they have been denied justice. According to Obasanjo, those warning the case would trigger violence are simply those looking for an excuse to unleash violence.
On Wednesday 8 May, a panel of five judges at Nigeria’s appellate court fixed 15 May as the date to begin hearing a total of four petitions filed to challenge the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) party in the 23 February presidential poll.
On Wednesday 15 May, security was high around the Appeal Court in Abuja, venue of Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, as the pre-hearing session on the 139-page petition filed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar commenced.
Claims INEC server was hacked
It seems that Atiku Abubakar, having been alerted to the fact that President Buhari was preparing to rig the election, took precautions. At his instigation a whistle-blower from the INEC hacked into the INEC server and download the election results before they were announced.
In his submission to the Presidential Election Tribunal, Atiku Abubakar has supplied the “unique MAC address and Microsoft product ID of the INEC server” from where the results were allegedly obtained. INEC_PRES_RSLT_SRV2019 and its unique Mac address 94-57-A5-DC-64-B9 with Microsoft Product ID 00252-70000-0000-AA535.
According to the results downloaded from the server, Atiku Abubakar won the presidential poll by more than 1.6 million votes (and this was before the results from Rivers in the deep south – traditionally a PDP state – had been transmitted to the INEC server).
During the election campaign, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Festus Keyamo served as the Director of Strategic Communications (Official Spokesperson) for the Buhari Campaign Organisation. Upon hearing of Atiku’s claim, Festus Keyamo (SAN) wrote a petition to the Inspector-General of Police calling for Atiku Abubakar’s arrest for allegedly hacking the INEC server.
But this is self-defeating, as Atiku’s guilt would only prove Buhari’s fraud.
In his petition, Keyamo echos the INEC’s false and ludicrous claim that the data Atiku allegedly downloaded from the INEC server is data he first smuggled onto the INEC server. For according to the INEC, there was no data on the INEC server as all election results were transmitted manually, not electronically.
Unfortunately for Keyamo and the INEC, Atiku Abubakar’s petition also includes affidavits from 13 presiding officers, who, in their sworn statements, testify that during their training the INEC had instructed them on how to electronically transmit the results to its server.
An investigation by Nigeria’s THISDAY revealed that, “as Atiku publicised the INEC server ID to prove that he had genuine election results, operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) arrested workers in the commission’s IT department for leaking information on the server.” THISDAY also revealed that “when the wives and families of arrested INEC staff threatened to protest publicly, the DSS quickly released the INEC staff”.
As public affairs analyst, Hamma Shehu, remarks: “INEC was clever by half. They played themselves, they think they can use technology and jettison it crookedly, unknown to them, everything digital has a footprint and cannot be deleted.”
Some of the most scathing commentary has come from popular columnist and social commentator Femi Aribisala. “I am of the opinion,” he writes in his weekly column, “that no election in Nigeria has been as fraudulent as the one we just witnessed. Fortunately, no stolen mandate has also been so conclusively documented as this one. . .
“This blatant rape on Nigerian democracy must not be allowed to stand.”
[Commentary by Femi Aribisala: “The Courts Must Declare Atiku As Nigerian President,” Part 1 (7 May) and Part 2 (14 May).
President Buhari will be inaugurated in a “low-key” ceremony on Wednesday 29 May. Celebrations will be held on 12 June, the day President Buhari wants recognised as National Democracy Day.
As PDP spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan remarks, no many how many global leaders are invited to this big event, it “cannot confer international recognition for a stolen mandate”.
These are watershed days for Nigeria. The future is anything but certain.
Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.
She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).