By Charles Kumolu
FOR some who saw the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 as being emblematic of Nigeria’s resolve to deepen democracy, the contentious issues surrounding the recent re-run elections in Rivers State constitute a setback to the modest improvement the President’s emergence represented.
To them, the somewhat reluctance in conducting the elections and the aftermath that followed questioned the commitment of the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, and other relevant authorities to the tenets of democracy. One of such people, who strongly holds this opinion, is Mr. Isaiah Osifo, who served as a Chief of Staff to Gov. Osehreinmen Osunbor of Edo State.
The All Progressives Congress, APC chieftain, in an appraisal of the elections and its attendant aftermaths, cautioned that democratic ideals were being eroded by INEC and other concerned authorities. Osifo in a piece entitled: President Buhari: The Rivers Police Men and Democracy in Nigeria, questioned the manner in which some police officers hitherto attached to Rives State governor, Nyesom Wike, were dismissed on alleged electoral offences.
Strengthening his argument with scholarly examples, he stated: “In less than two years of President Buhari leadership of Nigeria, as a democratically elected President, there have been many examples of abuse of political power and a clear disregard for the efforts of Nigerians to enthrone Democracy in Nigeria. In other words, democracy in Nigeria is increasingly threatened under the leadership of President Buhari. My first degree project at the University of Nigeria was titled: The Military and the Survival of Democracy in Nigeria.
“The thesis attempted to develop a theory that can justify military intervention in politics and the role of the military in the enthronement and sustenance of democracy in Nigeria. My project critically examined the role of the military, the reasons and conditions for 1966 military intervention in Nigeria. The purpose of referring to my 1991 thesis is to establish my long study and research of the political behaviour and pattern of the commitment of President Buhari to the enthronement of democracy and its sustenance in Nigeria. My conclusions did not discredit President Buhari and my recommendations emphasized the need for a democratically elected government of Nigeria to uphold the tenets of democracy.
Tenets of democracy
“With the perceived background of President Buhari and the popular expectation of the electorate for an improvement and sustenance of democratic governance in Nigeria, it is surprising and disturbing that democracy is speedily and arrogantly abused under his leadership. The conduct of INEC and a foundation for free and fair elections laid by Prof Jega under President Jonathan is fastly being eroded. Nigerians are aware that the Rivers State re-run elections were reluctantly scheduled by INEC after the open intervention of the Senate. I have written several papers on the ability of the electoral commission in Nigeria to conduct free and fair elections.
“In addition, my papers have equally identified factors that can militate against the conduct of free and fair elections in Nigeria. The constitutional pattern of the composition of INEC in Nigeria does not give room for opposition political parties to participate in the conduct of an election. For the Nigeria Police, INEC or any agency to accuse opposition parties of irregular or fraudulent conduct of the election is most irresponsible and an admission of the incompetence of INEC or a propaganda to deceive Nigerians.
“I watched on Nigeria Television Authority, (NTA), the spokesperson of the Police Force Headquarters with pity when the six Police orderlies attached to the Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Wike were handcuffed, paraded like criminals announcing their dismissal from the police force on the alleged misuse of firearms during the Rivers State re-run elections. The Police totally got it wrong and those using them were too dull to appreciate the ridicule and abuse of democracy in Nigeria”.
The issues that should agitate any reasonable mind are as follows: In a federal system, with state Governors, can the Police Force finalise a disciplinary action against Police orderlies that are attached to the Chief Security officer of a state without hearing or obtaining a formal report of the governor they are assigned to protect?
“Is it responsible and reasonable that the internal Police disciplinary procedure will be exposed to such high level of publicity with Policemen handcuffed when they are not accused of armed robbery or murder? In a democracy can the verdict of Police Force Headquarters be the final for an alleged offence of the Policemen?
Does it not amount to an abuse of the fundamental Human Rights of the Policemen by presenting them to the public in a handcuff, and attempting to prejudice the public and the judiciary against them?”