By Josef Omorotionmwan
THIS lame-duck Governor, Kayode Fayemi, has brought to the fore, the obvious fact that a fundamental premise of the democratic system of government is the capacity for peaceful leadership change through the ballot box. This implies the right of the people to choose who governs them. It presupposes that a defeated government will automatically relinquish power. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan is right that American democracy did not become effectively operational until 1801, when incumbent President John Adams was defeated by Thomas Jefferson and he relinquished power peacefully.
But in Nigerian, it hardly happens that an incumbent government either loses an election, or on losing, that it accepts defeat and relinquishes power. That explains why the attainment of democracy is still a mirage in this country.
Some of the comments on Fayemi’s acceptance of defeat have been as intriguing as they were interesting. They range from the complimentary to the mundane.
Enter Patrick Ikhariale (PDP-Esan Central/Esan West/Igueben): On an AIT live programme, he openly asserted that Fayemi was not the first man to accept defeat at an election in Nigeria . He proceeded to insinuate that Professor Oseriemen Osunbor relinquished power to Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
His memory failed him to remember that Professor Osunbor enjoyed a stolen mandate for 18 months before he was finally forced out by the courts.
Perhaps the nearest we ever got to the ideal in Edo State was in 2003, when Senator Roland Owie was the ANPP gubernatorial candidate against PDP’s Lucky Igbinedion. Owie was widely believed, in unofficial quarters, to have won that election but he did not want to put up with all the rigour of the election tribunal of that time. As soon as the results were announced, he vamoosed from Edo State and remained incommunicado.
Yinka Odumakin captured the total essence of Fayemi’s capitulation: “The crushing defeat of Fayemi is equally unprecedented in the annals of elections in Nigeria. A sitting Governor not winning in one LGA in a free and fair election gives no room for contest.”
The moral message here is that if you must beat your opponent, beat him comprehensively. For sure, Fayemi would not have capitulated if the defeat was just marginal. But Fayose won in all the 16 local government areas of Ekiti State. With Fayose’s total score of 203,090 votes to the incumbent’s 120,433, from where would a protest begin? As they say in criminology, if you must do it, do it big.
From President Goodluck Jonathan and his PDP, the message was clear: “Fayemi exhibited the spirit of sportsmanship propagated and practiced by the PDP and President Jonathan”. We concede this to them. From Edo to Ondo to Anambra states, wherever the opposition won, President Jonathan was always quick at congratulating the victor, sometimes to the chagrin of the party leadership.
In all honesty, they almost beat Fayemi to it. We still remember how the PDP abandoned its gubernatorial candidate, General Charles Airhiavbere at the court process after the 2012 contest in Edo State. The same thing happened in Anambra State after the 2013 gubernatorial election there.
We are, however, not quite sure of the point at which President Jonathan must be separated from the party for proper acknowledgment and due credit. We know of the pre-Jonathan PDP. That party was synonymous with the aphorism, “why pay a lawyer when you can buy a judge?” It encouraged members to go to tribunals and courts even where they had the worst cases, with the belief that where money talks, nobody walks. In that era, justice belonged to the highest bidder.
Where law ends, tyranny begins. Who can really talk about a changed PDP when in Ekiti State they are praising Frayemi’s democratic credentials to the high heavens and in Edo State , they are the very authors of the rumble in the jungle at the State House of Assembly? For all we know, injustice in Edo State is injustice the world over. A situation in which we are all now on our knees, begging erring legislators to obey a simple court order and they are holding everybody to ransom, is not only a slap on the Edo State judiciary but also on the entire Nigerian judicial system.
If with the instrumentality of the so-called federal might, a microscopic minority is able to sack an overwhelming majority in the Edo State House of Assembly, we want to call only four living witnesses – Generals Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, to appear concurrently, to demand how what is now being fueled in Edo State is any different from what they were accused of doing in their days, except, of course, that they did theirs in khaki uniform while the current players are performing in resplendent agbada.
Regrettably, we are in a state of anomie in which we have all abandoned our duty posts. Our courts have virtually sacked legislatures through the instrumentality of the black market injunctions. Equipped with the injunctions, highly favoured sacred cows in government now browbeat everyone and dilly-dally until their tenures expire and they are free forever! Someday soon, it will be possible to commit murder and rush to the court to restrain the police from questioning you.
In what looks like a quick role reversal, many Houses of Assembly have ousted the courts and taken over their major functions. For example, the Public Petitions Committees have become courts of first instance. At first, citizens petitioned their parliament after all available remedies had been exhausted and they still felt justice had not been achieved. But now, a man whose wife has not treated him well at night rushes to parliament in the morning to report. Any wonder, then, that the thousands of wishy-washy resolutions they reel out are better in the waste baskets?
At the citizens’ level, we have not fared better either. We are only interested in playing to the gallery. In the face of all our complaints about the abysmal performance of elected officials, when are we going to start putting the RECALL procedure to test?