Democracy next casualty of Nigeria’s security crisis

Many papers and scholarly panels have exhausted the many impacts of the terror in North Eastern Nigeria. There’s hardly any forum that does not spend at least an hour talking about girl child education in the continuing pillaging of Nigeria’s giveaway region especially in Borno where the insurgency has lasted more than eleven years. In every war effort, people suffer. Properties suffer. Generations after suffer the immense impact that may take at least a century to fully heal.

However, the post war development discussions are yet to factor in and stress a key issue that is affecting lives today. Over the weekend, it was revealed that contrary to the federal government claims that Boko Haram has been technically defeated and holds no territory, Guzamala local government area is firmly under the control of the Insurgents. Humangle’s report states that it is one LGA in which the daring governor Prof Babagana Zulum is yet to visit since his election in 2019.

For context, Boko Haram and the military were locked in a cat and mouse game over control of that entire stretch of land which is over 2000 square kilometres and originally housed 90 000 people, until the final assault by the terrorists in September 2018 which left 144 soldiers dead. Ever since, the Insurgents have set up shop in. Gudumbali the headquarters of Guzamala LGA and has become the defacto government over residents trapped and needing permission to get out.

The main thrust of this piece and the revelation by Humangle is the fact that the speaker of the Borno state house of Assembly is from that LGA. Speaker Abdulkareem Lawal has repeatedly refuted claims by the military that none of Borno is under Boko Haram control. However, the curious thing here is that a man from a terrorist controlled local government area is elected into the state’s parliament. And not just that, he’s currently speaker of the same parliament. How is this possible? The morning of the 2019 general elections witnessed spate of attacks on a couple of locations in Borno, especially Maiduguri.

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Humangle reports that the leadership of Guzamala LGA has set up shop in nearby Nganzai local government area, and thousands of people who were originally from Guzamala have been scattered across IDP camps in the state and beyond. How then did they elect their representative into parliament? Apparently, elections were held in IDP camps with a semblance of peace.

There isn’t many of such in the state. Electing a representative to both federal and state parliaments would have meant a voting population that is significantly less than the amount of registered voters. As a matter of fact, the speaker, Lawan defeated his main challenger in the polls by polling 28 000 votes, as against the PDP’s 377.

This (28 000) is the same amount the state governor Babagana Zulum won the LGA in the gubernatorial elections of that year. It is very difficult, if not impossible to get the total breakdown of registered voters by local government area in a state that allegedly boasts of 2.3 million voters as of 2019. As established earlier, the local government boasts of 90 000 people and the total turnout for the house of Assembly elections was not more than 29000.

This statistic presents a worrying sign that even in areas such as the north where voter turn out is usually above the dwindling national average, officials are elected by less than half of registered voters. Attributing this to the insurgency is like stating the obvious. Before events in the South East ballooned into mindless near daily violence the past few days, the recent local elections in the region witnessed no more than 3% of registered voters turning out to vote. This is in peace time. There’s no imagining what can happen during war time. It is rather interesting that Nigeria’s election budget for every election cycle is higher than the other, yet voter turn out during the election itself is alarmingly low, indicating causes being a lack of trust in the process as well as accompanied violence at the polls.

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In war, truth is the first casualty. A geometric progression of events ultimately means destruction at every turn. The human and property casualties are mounting, but with Nigeria’s security crises reaching a boiling point, the Borno and South Eastern examples are prime time warnings that our nascent democracy is well on its way to join truth in the list of casualties.

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