Monday 20 August 2018

Nigeria 2019 Elections: Threat, Political Risk Assessment

S/election seasons in Nigeria are synonymous with war situations, a do-or-die affair. Barely six months to Nigeria’s defining 2019 general elections, governance and business activities are almost at a standstill. Machiavellian intrigues, seismic political stunts, inter-party defections, impeachment plots are now the new normal in Nigeria. The political wheeling and dealing playing out in Nigeria is having a butterfly-effect on the already fragile economy, volatile political climate, security, geo-political risk, instability.
For the second year in a row, the Fragile States Index, FSI, released by the Washington DC-based think-tank, Fund for Peace, FFP, ranked Nigeria as the 13th least stable country in the world. Similarly, Nigeria ranks 148 out of 168 on the 2018 Global Peace Index (GPI), by the Institute for Economics and Peace.
Assault on Nigeria’s Democracy
In what can be described as a blatant and embarrassing assault on Nigeria’s democracy, Tuesday, August 7, 2018, operatives of Nigeria’s Secret Police, the Department of State Services (DSS), sealed off the entrance to the National Assembly premises in Abuja. Hitherto, the National Assembly entrance is manned by policemen and internal security operatives. Angered by Gestapo style invasion, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim who was denied access into the National Assembly premises by the DSS operatives asked them, ‘’Has the military taken over?’’ Quoting a ranking National Assembly member, Pulse reports that, “30 APC senators allegedly met with the sacked Director General (DG) of the DSS, Mr. Lawal Daura at midnight of Monday, August 6 at the DSS headquarters’’. The meeting was reportedly aimed at strategizing how to impeach the senate president and the deputy senate president on August 7, 2018. Recall that prior to now, precisely on Tuesday, July 24, Policemen and EFCC operatives simultaneously besieged the official residences of the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, and that of his deputy, Dr. Ekweremadu. Reacting to the siege at the National Assembly, a former Department of State official, in a tweet, Mr. Matthew Page says, ‘’keep in mind that DSS is Nigeria’s lead counterterrorism agency. Instead of focusing its attention and resources on combating one of the world’s most vicious terrorist groups, it is toying with Nigeria’s democratic institutions (flawed though they may be)’’.
Insecurity Threatens 2019 Elections in Nigeria
There’s a raging debate for and against the militarization of elections in Nigeria. While some people extenuate this penchant on the grounds of insecurity in the country, others say it is an aberration. A while ago, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in the 17 Southern States bemoaned the unrelenting insecurity pervading the country, particularly in the North Central zone. The Christian body believes that insecurity poses grave threat to the conduct of the 2019 general elections. The Irish Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr.  Sean Hoy says the international community, particularly the European Union, EU, is concerned over the threat to peace and the rising cases of violence in some parts of Nigeria ahead of the conduct of the general election in the country. In a related development, the recently sacked Director General of Nigeria's secret police, the Department of State Service DSS), Lawal Daura agrees that insecurity is a major threat to the 2019 general election in Nigeria. A case in point is the recent Ekiti gubernatorial election where 4,390 soldiers reportedly complemented 30,000 police officers deployed for the election. Interestingly, the massive deployment of security operatives neither stopped nor dissuaded the brazen vote-buying witnessed during the Ekiti election. If 30,000 policemen were deployed in one state for a gubernatorial election, then more than one million policemen would be needed during the 2019 elections which will be held simultaneously across the 36 states in Nigeria. Snag is, Nigerian security agencies are currently stretched to their elastic limits as the country grapples with a near collapse of its internal security mechanism. The Chief of Army Staff,  Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai says troops are deployed in 32 out of the 36 states of the federation battling terrorism, kidnapping, cattle rustling, pipeline vandalism, communal clashes, and other forms of insecurity. The erstwhile Chairman of Nigeria's Police Service Commission, Mr. Mike Okiro, a retired Inspector-General of Police, opines that of the approximately 400,000 police personnel in Nigeria, 250,000 were attached to private individuals and unauthorized persons, leaving just about 150,000 to secure close to 200 million people. This is one of the reasons insecurity persists in Nigeria and why insecurity may jeopardize the 2019 general elections. The implication is that should there be an external aggression or breakdown of rule and order simultaneously in parts of the country, the security agencies will be overwhelmed.
2019 Elections Heightens Political Risk
As said earlier, electioneering in Nigeria is akin to warfare. The National Assembly is yet to reconvene let alone deliberate on the N254 billion budgeted for the 2019 general elections. There are fears that the 2019 presidential election would be rigged or declared ‘’inconclusive’’. Nigeria’s former spy chief, Alhaji Abdulrahman of the National Security Organization, NSO (now DSS), made this assertion in an interview. The prevailing cloud of uncertainty in Nigeria is having a knock-on effect on Nigeria’s economy and on political risk. Business Day Newspaper reports that, ‘’Businesses are putting critical investment decisions on ice ahead of the 2019 elections amid rising uncertainty over the outcome of the elections and its economic impact’’. Dangote Cement and IHS towers reportedly postponed their planned initial public offerings on the London stock exchange and Nigerian stock exchange respectively, until after the election. Nigeria’s Guardian Newspapers argues that, ‘’amid growing concerns over the 2019 general elections and its economic impact, developers in Nigeria’s real estate sector are slowing down constructions and apprehensive of new business deals’’. Another report put it this way: ‘’political intrigues ahead of the 2019 general elections have made stock market investors lose N729 billion in three months of decline’’. The Chief Research Officer of Investdata Consulting Limited, Ambrose Omodion, says investors are currently walking in fear of political risks, believing that violence in the country could trigger panic and massive dumping of shares. Apparently, stock market investors and traders, especially foreigners are concerned about the political risks associated with the 2019 elections and some of them may have resorted to massive sell-off of their shares. It’s unlikely that the moribund Nigerian economy will recover anytime soon, probably after the 2019 general elections. It’s going to be a long wait!
Risk of Electoral Violence in Nigeria in 2019
Electoral or political violence, ethno-religious conflict are recurring decimals in Nigeria. History, prevailing goings-on in Nigeria, and open-source intelligence prognosticates electoral, political violence prior to, during or after the 2019 general elections. 
Recall that more than 800 people were killed in three days of deadly post-election demonstrations and communal violence in 12 northern states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara aftermath of the April 16, 2011 presidential election. Similarly, a 2015 pre-election violence report compiled by Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) says 58 people were killed in 61 incidences of election violence in 22 states. It is not surprising that a recent pre-election assessment by the US-based National Democratic Institute (ND) and the International Republican Institute (NRI) warn of security threats to the 2019 election in Nigeria. An electoral violence risk assessment carried out by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) suggests possible escalation of electoral violence in Nigeria before the 2019 general elections. USIP’s fellow, Mr. Aly Verjee posits in a paper titled, “Nigeria’s 2019 elections: Change, Continuity and the Risk to Peace, Summary of Key Findings’’, that ‘’the spade of political instability and internal crisis, especially in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), could worsen the enduring democratic system before the elections’’. Similarly, while presenting the findings of its 2019 ‘’Election Security Threat Assessment’’ pilot study conducted across twelve states drawn from Nigeria’s six geo-political zones, the CLEEN Foundation listed hate speech, drug abuse and biased security agents as potential threats to the 2019 general elections. To forestall possible violence during the 2019 general elections, in his ‘Report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS)’, presented to the UN Security Council, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hints about plans to reactivate the National Peace Committee of Nigeria, which played critical roles in ensuring a violence-free presidential election in 2015.

Nigerian States At Risk of Political Violence
Some of the dynamics that could give birth to political violence include: incumbency factor or desperation to impose a successor, federal ‘might’ and bent to ‘capture some states, antecedent of electoral violence, ethno-religious fault-lines, internal party wrangling and defections, proliferation of illegal weapons and existence of bandits, terrorists/militant groups, godfatherism, brazen monetization of electoral politics and trend in vote-buying, partisanship of government security agencies, amongst other factors. States at the risk of political violence, upheaval in Nigeria in 2019 include:

(1) Kano – Statistics shows that while Lagos state boasts of the highest number (6 million) registered voters in Nigeria; Kano comes second with about 5 million. These two states are vote-banks and election battlegrounds that can make or mar the chances of a presidential candidate. Buhari polled nearly two million (precisely 1,903,999) votes in Kano in the 2015 presidential election. Now the dynamics have changed and it’s unlikely that Buhari will be able to re-enact such a feat in 2019 because his top challenger will also be a northerner. Secondly, a grass-root politician and former governor of Kano state, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso, now a serving Senator together with the Deputy governor of Kano state, 6 ‘Kwankwassiya’ members of the Kano State House of Assembly recently defected from the ruling APC to the PDP. Kano is arguably the capital of ethno-religious violence in Nigeria. Knowing how volatile Kano is, any attempt by the ruling APC to manipulate events in Kano state is an invitation to violence.

(2) Benue – The passage of anti-open grazing law in Benue by the state House of Assembly led to orgy of violence and sporadic killings by suspected herdsmen. Elected in 2015 under the APC, the Benue state governor – Samuel Ortom recently defected from the APC to the PDP. Ortom fell out with the APC over the inability of the federal government and security agencies to rein in the brazen bloodletting in his domain. Interestingly, aftermath of Ortom’s defection, Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency – the EFCC froze the account of the Benue state government. Matthew Page says, ‘’there is a strong correlation between leaving the ruling party and being suddenly investigated for corruption – and a strong correlation between staying in the ruling party and such investigations failing to materialize’’.
The situation in Benue state remains volatile, dicey and any attempt by the ruling party to ‘capture’ the state by all means Benue state will not augur well.

(3) Kogi – There is tribal rivalry and pent-up anger between the various tribes in Kogi state. Governor Yahaya Bello is the first minority from the Ebira tribe to govern Kogi state. Word out there is that Bello has performed below expectations. Civil servants in Kogi state are reportedly owed upwards of sixteen months salary arrears. Governor Bello is also enmeshed in a long-drawn-out feud with Dino Melaye, senator representing Kogi West who has now defected from the APC to the PDP. Bello’s reelection bid hangs in the balance and any attempt to manipulate the electoral process in his favour will boomerang. As a prelude to what to expect in Kogi state in 2019, the August 11, 2018 bye-election to fill the vacant Lokoja /Kogi seat in House of Representatives was reportedly marred by vote-buying, ballot box-snatching, and violence culminating in the death of two persons.

(4) Rivers – Otherwise known as ‘’Rivers of Blood’’, is a crime, and political violence hotspot in Nigeria. Massive proliferation of illegal weapons and militancy contributes to this trend. No fewer than 150 people were reportedly killed in politically-related violence that enveloped the state during the build-up to the 2015 general elections. Notwithstanding the deployment of 1,500 policemen for election security during the August 8, 2018 bye-election for the Port Harcourt Constituency III State Assembly seat, heavy shooting, attack on election officials and hijack of elections materials were reported in Port Harcourt. The Independent Electoral Commission subsequently suspended the election due to widespread violence. The two major political parties – the APC and the PDP are currently finger-pointing as to who was responsible for the mayhem. Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, accused the Police of sabotaging the bye-election. In his words, “Instead of providing security for voters and INEC officials the Police brazenly colluded with political thugs of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to subvert the democratic process and denied the people of Port Harcourt Constituency (iii) their rights to free, fair and credible elections’’. Wike questioned the ability of the police to guarantee security during the 2019 elections. He said, “This situation is worrisome. If the Nigerian Police cannot secure and guarantee the peaceful and successful conduct of election in a single State Constituency of 8 wards, then what will happen in 2019 when they would be contending with 319 electoral wards and 4,442 polling units across 23 Local Government Areas of the State?” The political violence that marred the by-election in Rivers State is a foretaste of what to expect in 2019 as the two political gladiators – Wike and Amaechi will likely lock horns for political supremacy. There is also another angle to events playing out in Rivers State. The Buhari administration’s much-talked-about skewed anti-corruption posturing and sleight of hand in stifling Opposition strongholds is patent in Rivers where Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency - the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is currently investigating Zenith Bank CEO, Mr. Peter Amangbo, over alleged financial irregularities involving Nigeria’s second-largest bank. The EFCC avers that Zenith Bank disregarded suspicious transactions carried out on behalf of the Rivers state government which amounted to about $323 million in the last three years. Word on the street is that Governor Wike is the chief financier of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Hence there’s a robust notion that Abuja is using the EFCC to rein the financial nerve centre of the opposition. 

(5) Imo – Governor Rochas Okorocha is fighting the political battle of his life. His bent to foist his Chief of Staff and son-in-law, Mr. Uche Nwosu to succeed him have polarized the APC in Imo state. Uche Nwosu is from the same Orlu senatorial zone with Rochas and Orlu zone has produced the state governor in the last sixteen years hence many people say it is unconscionable for Rochas to contemplate imposing another Orlu son to succeed him. A conglomeration of APC stalwarts known as the ‘’Allied forces’’ comprising Senators Ifeanyi Ararume, Benjamin Uwajumogu, Osita Izunaso, Hon. Nwajiuba, recently impeached deputy governor – Eze Madumere, amongst others, are opposed to Okorocha’s gambit. Rochas was outsmarted by the ‘’Allied forces’’ during the first APC ward, state congress Imo state. The PDP or APGA is poised to benefit from the in-fighting in Imo APC.

(6) Kaduna – Apart from Kano state, Kaduna is another notorious flash-point for communal, ethno-religious or political violence. The tribal, cultural and religious dichotomy and rivalry between southern (predominantly Christians) and northern Kaduna (largely Muslims) is often exported to the political terrain. The by-product of the struggle for power, territory, economic and agricultural resources is sporadic electoral, inter-communal violence, and reprisal attacks. The Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir El Rufai is having a running battle with all the three senators from the state namely; Senators Danjuma La’ah, Uthman Suleiman Hunkuyi and Shehu Sani. El-Rufai’s campaign chief in 2015, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi and the deputy Speaker of Kaduna state House of Assembly, John Audu Kwaturu have dumped the ruling APC to the PDP. Prior to his defection, the Kaduna state government demolished a building belonging to Hunkuyi. Governor El Rufai is rumoured to have masterminded the demolishing of Hunkuyi’s house. Domineering El Rufai cursed the three senators representing the state for opposing a $350 million loan being sought from the World Bank by his government.

(7) Taraba – An indigene of Taraba state, erstwhile minister of defence and Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen TY Danjuma (retired) is one of the prominent retired Generals seemingly opposed to the reelection bid of president Buhari. A while ago he accused the Nigerian Armed Forces of aiding attacks by bandits on communities across the country. Danjuma says, “The armed forces are not neutral…They collude with the armed bandits that kill people, kill Nigerians. They facilitate their movement. They cover them’’. Adamawa, Borno and Yobe – Continued Boko Haram attacks on soft and hard targets, mass abduction in northeast Nigeria similar to the Chibok or Dapchi schoolgirls abductions, could jeopardize elections in those climes. 

(8) Plateau – The Plateau State Government recently imposed a dusk to dawn curfew in three local government areas – Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Jos South, following the escalation violence in that axis. A deadly and sporadic cycle of political and ethno-religious crisis over the rights and political representation of ‘indigenes’ (predominantly Christians) and ‘settlers’ (predominantly) in Jos, the capital of Plateau State, has morphed into a long-drawn-out violence that has spread to many parts of the state. Plausibly 7,000 people have been reportedly killed since late 2001 due to the intermittent wave of violence within Jos.

(9) Zamfara – Nearly 3,000 persons have been reportedly killed and 682 villages, towns were sacked by so-called ‘bandits’ in Zamfara State in the last two years. Incessant attacks in Zamfara state is unlikely to be reined in before the general elections.

(10)                    Akwa Ibom – In 2011, more than a dozen people were apparently murdered when election-related violence erupted between supporters of the Peoples' Democratic Party [PDP] and the opposition Action Congress [AC] during a political rally in Akwa Ibom state. The cold war between the erstwhile governor of Akwa Ibom state and now a senator, Godswill Akpabio, and his political godson, governor Udom Emmanuel may dovetail into full-blown political violence. Akpabio has since defected from the PDP to the APC.

(11)                    Sokoto – The Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, along with the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Alhaji Salihu Maidaji, and 17 other members of the assembly defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). There are insinuations that the Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar supported the defection of Sokoto state Governor from the APC to the PDP. The Sultanate Council of Sokoto recently dissociated itself from a post. A political face-off is brewing between the Sokoto state Governor, Tambuwal and his predecessor in office, Senator Aliyu Wamakko after Tambuwal defected from the All Progressives Congress, APC to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

There is no gainsaying the fact that lack of transparency is an invitation to violence. In its report, “Deepening Democracy: A Strategy for Improving the Integrity of Elections Worldwide,” the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy, and Security defines elections with integrity as “any election that is based on the democratic principles of universal suffrage and political equality…and is professional, impartial, and transparent in its preparation and administration throughout the electoral cycle.” In the light of this, the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) must ensure and improve the integrity of elections in Nigeria. Similarly, perpetrators of election violence or electoral offences must be prosecuted to serve as deterrent. As Obama rightly said, Africa needs strong institutions not strong men. Democratic processes, institutions and the security/anti-corruption agencies must be strengthened to be independent, neutral.

Written By:
© Don Okereke, security consultant/analyst, researcher, writer, active citizen.

August 20, 2018
Twitter: @DonOkereke

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