It is amazing how in most of the things that ought to matter to us as a people, as a nation, in a hurry to be what we want to be, we are always neither here nor there. I am talking about how we adopt practices and often conventions of the modern western world and yet deliberately refuse to implement such practices and conventions to the fullest.
This our malformed democracy, that we keep holding down with our condescending reference to it, as a baby, a Nascent Democracy, refuses to, and will not grow. It won’t grow because of its obviously deliberately warped implementation. That is what struck me a week or so ago when I heard INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu’s announcement that it was not yet time to start campaigning for the Presidency.
Prof. Yakubu, the election umpire spoke in reaction to a declaration by colorful Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State that he was kick starting his campaign for the Presidency on the platform of his political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). I don’t know the INEC Chief’s discipline. But I have a feeling it can’t be political science or any of the social sciences. I do know he was Executive Secretary of some agency of the Federal Ministry of Education. So he may be pardoned his perception of what INEC is or should be, a perception that is clearly a carry over of the Militarisation of the Nigerian polity, a process that has become deeply entrenched in all spheres.
That is why we are blighted by governance that refuses to let go of practices of military administrators. How else do you contextualise the warning, stern warning to politicians that they should not politick?
Mark you, the business of politicians is to canvass support for whatever they believe in, year in year out, 24/7 as the saying goes. It is the business of politicians in and out of government to always put forward their best faces. It is their business to make their very best to make sure their opponents are painted as unacceptably ugly as possible.
While in Government they tell the world, their constituency, they are the best thing that has ever happened to them. They campaign day in day out, using our collective resources. This they do even where the votes that get them into office are almost always an insignificant percentage of the totality of the overall population figures on the national census roll. In fact, normally a microscopic percentage. And a lot less too than what we have on the electoral register.
My point here is even when the number of votes don’t truly support the absoluteneness with which the rulers rule us, they rule us with undue absolutenness. And what is more, they use the opportunity and the paraphernalia of office to campaign on a continuous basis. Yet, we now have our outdated politically neophytic INEC allowing itself to be hamstrung by some archaic militarist laws rolled over to the post 1999 practise of Nigerian democracy.
How else do you address this INEC Prof’s warning like some parade ground Sergeant-Major barking orders that this easily irritable PDP Presidential hopeful, and any other politician should wait until this INEC tells him or her, to start to campaign.
And Mr. INEC Chairman seems to believe the politicians will wait and keep still. And on their marks, until he says so. Haba! Where did the learned Professor learn his politics? I’d have thought he had studied abroad, and severally too. Is that how it is done in other climes? He’d sure have seen that his agency type in such states is mainly involved with ensuring voters cast their preferences and their votes count. And that political parties and all political actors operate within rules of civilized conduct.
I can’t imagine anyone telling a Donald Trump that it is not time to start campaigning, or a Hilary Clinton or whoever are the other sets of aspirants warming up ahead of the next elections eyeing the Presidency of the US of A. Nor, can I imagine anyone calling on any of the MPs in the British Parliament that they can only start campaigning to get in or get back in, when someone blows some starter whistle.
Anyway assuming in Britain and the US, such inexplicable rules exist doesn’t make the rules any more palatable. My understanding is rules are made for our comfort and convenience, not the other way round. Where they don’t conform to what is right nothing anybody can do or say can make them right and acceptable.
Here we have an INEC that has made us proud only two years ago. Under Prof. Jega after the false start of 2011, the elections of 2015 were adjudged the fairest ever held by any election agency in Nigeria. This lift, that INEC got is one that did not come easy. That is why one would wish to see INEC under its current Professor head, consolidates and improves rather than get into non issues that have no real bearing on its primary assignment.
Anyway to go back to that campaign ban, having said campaigns can only start when INEC says so, I hope the Prof will work up enough guts to go face the President, who appointed him, or any of our Governors and Lawmakers to stop campaigning. And it is obvious they are all campaigning everyday. They are showcasing what they say they are doing with our collective wealth. They are blowing grammar, telling us what they think will make us feel good so they get retained and returned.
Only last week, a leading member of the National Assembly from Kano called on the people of one of the metropolitan LGs in Kano to reelect their member at the 2019 polls, because as he claims the Legislator who is a second termer deserves to be rewarded for bringing dividends of democracy to the LG. If this is not campaigning I don’t know what campaigning is. And INEC and Prof. Yakubu who will soon have to go cap in hand to the same assembly to seek approval of their budgetary allocations have said no one can campaign before they lift the ban to do so.
Even if there are rules that ill-advisedly say there should be no campaign until INEC lifts its imaginary ban, as it is irrational and impossible to enforce, evenly and fairly, the election umpire should rather keep quiet about it and ignore any breach. Such a breach can’t have any more negative impact on the process and the elections than what already exists with the archaic rules that govern electioneering and the analog and convoluted processes leading to the elections.
In fact, allowing a breather for political actors may solve the problem of all agitations by sub-political actors, that always surface and wildly heat up the polity when elections are no more than two years away.
If campaigning is allowed, and all politicians interested in any elective post go on the hustings anytime they want to, while they are busy canvassing for votes and those in government are busy in office, we would have that proper check and balance we need for the kind of quality service we deserve. All politicians, in and out of office, would thus be forced to keep a good focus on what they do and what they say to us, the people in whose names they reign.