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THE POLITICS OF ELECTION BOYCOTT: ANTHONY EZENWOKO

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!

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3 thoughts on “THE POLITICS OF ELECTION BOYCOTT: ANTHONY EZENWOKO

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  1. This writeup couldn’t have come at a more auspicious moment. The message is apt. I align myself with the reasoning.
    It is indeed stupefying that a group that wants to liberate its people would throw away a golden opportunity to so do. Election is a civilise and legitimate means for power acquisition and self liberation. Is the best opportunity to show one’s numerical strength or control over a given geographical space. A sane and serious people grasp and guard this opportunity jealously to determine their future by voting a candidate of their choice.

    Perhaps at this time IPOB do not have their ideal candidate which is quiet understandable. But if that is the case, why not go for a “lesser evil” among the candidates instead of a boycott? That would at least earn them a listening ear or a legitimate voice, or a bargaining power, or all either directly (by themselves) or indirectly through their elected representatives, if a government is eventually formed. What do they stand to gain with a boycott of a national election? It is fool hardy.

    A boycott to me is symptomatic of any or all of these:
    (1) Bankruptcy of strategy,
    (2) A decoy for ones political irrelevance,
    (3) Absence of wisdom in leadership.

    I see no wisdom in trying to stifle and restrict the voice and choice of a people through a boycott, when they are willing and ready to express themselves one way or the other in order to widen their sociopolitical opportunities.

    This is a clear case of lack of strategy. The same miscalculation saw them threatening the peaceful conduct of the 2017 Anambra state election. Consequent upon which the southeast governors publicly denounced the group, leaving them gasping for the breath of relevance.

    So politically irrelevant IPOB has become that, about a forthright ago, people trooped out in mass to welcome President Buhari on his campaign trip to the East, against the sit-at-home directive of IPOB given by its spokesperson one Emma powerful.

    IPOB lacks the authority or legal basis to autocratically dictate the direction of the Igbo nation. Such educated and industrious nation shouldn’t be shepherded by a bunch of semi illiterates, fugitives and outlaws. IPOB was declared illegal by a court of law, after the infamous operation Egwu-eke (Snake Dance) of September 2017. I urge my Eastern compatriots to go out and vote in order to shape their destiny, and disregard the call for a boycott. IPOB is a withered plant, weltering and fading into nothingness.

    1. This article is apt, persuasive and germane. This reminds me of similar article by one Dr. Mefor, delivered directly to Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. However, the trending news is that the IPOB has suspended the call for Election boycott on ground that its demand has been met. It’s possible that details will be made public in their subsequent announcement for public consumption.

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