As political parties and political gladiators wrap up campaigns for particularly the presidential elections the need to take a last minute look at the merits or otherwise of the IPOB boycott campaign becomes imperative.
Election boycott simply means abstaining from voting.
Scholars and political analysts have continued to wonder why an individual, or group, would choose to forgo a chance at participating in elections? Why stifle one’s own voice? This query is important in the light of the fact that voting can rightly be seen as a fundamental right in a democratic process.
Research on this subject of election boycott by Frankel Mathew of Booking Institution discloses that Overall, evidence shows that giving up a vote — ironically to “voice” a larger grievance — is a gamble that has worked for very few groups in 4 out of 100 instances. A dismal 4%!
Recent history is rife with ruinous electoral boycotts. In 1992, Lebanese Christians, which at the time controlled one-third of the parliament, decided to boycott parliamentary elections to protest excessive Syrian influence. As a result, Shia Muslims greatly upped their representation – most notably a nascent hardline Muslim group called Lebanese Hizballah, which burst on to the political scene with devastating consequences. The decision of the Serbian opposition to boycott 1997 elections paved the way for the re-election of Slobodan Milosevic, leading to the war in Kosovo. The Iraqi Sunnis are still recovering from their ill-conceived boycott of the 2005 elections.
Generally, boycotting may be used as a form of political protest where voters feel that electoral fraud is likely or that the electoral system is biased. It may also be used to protest the fact that the polity organizing the election lacks legitimacy.
History amply demonstrates that while the threat of boycott in high profile elections sometimes- seldom actually- yields concessions, the boycott itself is usually disastrous for the boycotting party.
Now, with regards to the much publicized call for boycott of the elections by the Nnamdi Kanu led IPOB, the following questions become pertinent: what are the expected concessions? What are the expected advantages to the principally affected south eastern region of the country? While these questions beg for answers, another, perhaps much more perplexing question has been thrown up by the news recently gone viral in the social media that brother Nnamdi Kanu’s boycott call is actually a strategy to sabotage elections in the south east. Who stands to benefit from this dubious campaign?
Nmadi Kanu is reported to have reached a pact with President Mohammadu Buhari and his ruling All Progress Congress. The party’s side of the deal is to allow Kanu escape from the country, assisted by a military operation. In consideration, Kanu will employ his teeming IPOB supporters to frustrate the elections in the south east. It sounds too much like a Nollywood script to be true. In this era of reign of fake news, any story is possible. I personally find it difficult to believe this story. But there is a little problem here. Neither Kanu nor his group has come forward with a rebuttal. Kanu was able to mysteriously slip through the hands of the Nigerian military in the midst of a strong military operation. His “escape” has effectively frustrated his ongoing trial for treason.
Mazi Kanu’s boycott can only have one predictable result: the south east would be disenfranchised en mass. It is a notorious fact that the president does not have the support of a vast majority of voters from the east. His opponent and main challenger, Atiku Abubakar is clearly the preferred candidate here. A no vote here is a loss for Atiku. The president clearly gets the advantage of an easier win if less people vote for his challenger. It takes us to the inevitable conclusion that by boycotting elections, the south east would be indirectly handing victory to Mohammad Buhari and his APC.
As earlier stated, studies show that it is threat to boycott that sometimes yields concessions. Boycott itself only spells disaster . IPOB has threatened well enough. We are yet to hear of the gained concessions. Yet, whether or not some concessions have been achieved, election is here. The time for threats has lapsed. It is time to vote. As a matter of fact, concessions are usually granted to persuade or encourage the threatening party to participate in the electoral process. Concessions are never made to encourage a boycott. Therefore, whether or not Kanu and his group got any concessions, the only thing to do now is to vote.
Research on this subject offers one unequivocal advice: threaten but participate. Vote!