By Josef Omorotionmwan
For forms of government; let fools contest
That which is best administered is best
– Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
WHEN will our hearts stop bleeding for Africa? Where is the big pot that is calling the kettle black? The other day, a friend of ours in Ivory Coast overheard Laurent Gbagbo complaining to another friend in Gold Coast that he was already planning to step aside peacefully when he suddenly noticed that the loudest voices on his plight were from the Oil Coast and they were a lot guiltier than him.
Truly, one Jega cannot do everything for all of us. One Jega can only do what one Jega can do and in the Delta re-run, that Jega did his level best. But we now know that one Jega’s best is not enough for all of us. When we were heading for the Delta, we all agreed that the Delta re-run was going to be a good foreshadowing to the 2011 general elections.
By nature, the human element is basically hedonistic – he seeks pleasure and avoids pain. That explains, in the main, why instead of writing a law, our lawmakers would write themselves into the law. To be effective, the law must be swift. Reward and punishment must be as immediate as possible.
Similarly, electoral misbehaviours can only be corrected if they are promptly punished. In the particular case of the Delta re-run, there were reported cases of snatching of ballot boxes. There were reported cases of ballot-stuffing. There were still cases of thuggery and other forms of electoral violence. Yes, Prof. Jega quickly moved in and cancelled the elections in such identified areas.
That was the limit of Jega’s action. Some of the offenders might have been handed over to the police but what the police did with such offenders after that, Jega wouldn’t know. In the main, they might have been promptly released to their principals.
If such offenders were promptly arraigned before the courts, whatever way the judiciary handled them would not be within the control of Jega.
Whether the cases get consigned to the waste basket or whether they drag on indefinitely in the judicial maze are matters completely outside the purview of the INEC boss. The irony of it all is that these are the same elements that go into the equation in judging whether the Delta re-run was a success or not. These are the same ingredients that go into the blend that lead to the cumulative build-up of the success or otherwise of Jega’s tenure.
Let us accept Jega as a good metaphor for the Nigerian case. If Jega had a free hand to handle our elections; if Jega had his own police system in which case he would have made electoral offences non-bailable; and if Jega had his own judicial system, all the offenders in the Delta re-run would by now be serving appropriate jail terms, then we would be talking of deterrence; and by now, all those planning to derail the 2011 general elections would have cause to have a rethink. But that is not the case.
To the extent that what we now have is simply a system in which the major actors benefit from their own iniquities – those who would have made laws to ensure that election cases are disposed off before inauguration so that only actual winners get sworn in are the beneficiaries of rigged elections; and those who would have made good laws to punish election offenders are the very sponsors of the offenders, we may as well kiss free and fair elections bye-bye. We should also kiss bye-bye to credibility.
Yes, if Jega were solely in charge of our elections, there would perhaps have been no challenge to credibility but we all know that the very beneficiaries of these elections are also the overseers of the elections.
In the Delta re-run, we were dealing with one of the 36 (or 37?) states of the Federation. So, the INEC, the Police, the Army, the SSS and perhaps the Navy and the Air Force, all virtually relocated to Asaba. The President and the Presidency; the PDP and all the heavy politicos have virtually been there since Christmas. Yet, we could not contain the major challenges that erupted.
The shaky results we got out of the Delta re-run could at best be regarded as mere pyrrhic victory. Can we really beat our chest and announce to the world that we have truly arrived? Remember Laurent Gbagbo is watching us. While we accept the result as of the 2007 level, what is more worrisome is that in a general election situation, we cannot put up with the type of misdemeanors and malpractices that emanated from the re-run, multiplied by 37!
Great Ogboru has proved a number of points, including the fact that, after all, the PDP is not as invincible as it may pretend to be; and that as far as electoral violence is concerned, Nigeria is still in the thick woods. All the same, what Ogboru has brought out of this re-run is a great victory compared with the 2007 situation, where fake election results were announced in faraway Abuja while genuine results were yet being collated at the polling centres back home.
Rather than head for the tribunal to challenge Uduaghan’s five-month victory, Ogboru and his team should now go home and begin to prepare for the real gubernatorial election that will come up about five months from now, that is if the two months that Uduaghan spent at home cannot be credited to his annual leave. And sad enough, judging by the Delta re-run, Nigeria has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing!