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The problem of retrogressive politics in Nigeria (1)

By Douglas Anele

The Ekiti State governorship election which held on July 14, 2018 has once again brought to limelight the failure of key actors in the political process, including the institution saddled with the responsibility for organising and conducting elections presently, the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), to learn from previous mistakes and deliver better performance with the passage of time. A coalition of independent election observers both from Nigeria and the United States claim that the Ekiti election did not meet global best practices and electoral standards. Consequently, they not only criticised the deployment of over thirty-five thousand security personnel for the voting exercise, they also complained that the conduct of some police officers and INEC officials leaves much to be desired.

Moreover, the despicable practice of vote buying during which voters cunningly allowed party agents to know which parties they voted for was so rampant such that the outcome of the entire process does not necessarily reflect the true or genuine democratic choices of Ekiti people. Indeed, the level of electoral manipulation was so brazen, the desperation to win so palpable, that voters went behind voting venues, in some cases to buildings outside the voting area, to collect bribe from party agents. The observers further disclosed that there were sporadic shooting, ballot box snatching, driving away of some party agents, together with oppression, intimidation, and undue influence on voters while voting was going on.

Although they noted that the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) tried its best and that the heavy presence of security officers helped to mitigate incidence of violence, the despicable phenomenon of “see and buy,” (that is, voters showing their ballot papers to party agents in order to be paid either immediately after voting or shortly afterwards) was in full swing, but unfortunately the law enforcement agents present did not do anything to stop it. There were reports that several stalwarts of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP} were arrested, thereby giving undue latitude to supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to do as they pleased. Some shameless Nigerians try to justify these political shenanigans by claiming that what happened to the PDP was a case of nemesis or karma for the party given the alleged audacious manner it deployed federal might to rig Ayo Fayose into office in 2014, forgetting that during the 2015 election campaigns, APC promised to do away with PDP’s impunity and usher in a new era of positive change.

Of course, after more than three years in office, only those suffering from intellectual kwashiorkor would claim that APC has delivered on its promises. I am not a member of the PDP (and even if I were so what? It would not affect the veracity of my claim), but the truth is that this government has been a profound disappointment to millions of Nigerians who ignored the lessons of history and entrusted power in the hands of some of the most outdated, clannish, wicked, revanchist, corrupt and viciously bulimic individuals in our chequered political history. The escalating social anomie is the heavy price those of us at the receiving end of misgovernance by the APC are paying for that error of judgment.

Back to the Ekiti election: I must say that despite Dr. Kayode Fayemi’s facetious rejection of allegations of rigging because he is the governor-elect on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and consolatory claims by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that APC masterminded the electoral malpractices that occurred, it is likely that the two major parties engaged in electoral malpractices, although APC probably out rigged the PDP. It is interesting to note that when the incumbent Ekiti governor, Ayo Fayose, defeated Dr. Fayemi in 2014, the APC alleged that Fayose triumphed because federal power in terms of security agencies was deployed in his favour and that, being the candidate of the ruling party at the federal level he had enough money to manipulate the election in his favour. Now that the situation had been reversed with the APC controlling the federal government and its candidate victorious, some of the party’s stalwarts claim pretentiously that the party has no money for rigging and that it was the PDP that had stolen enough funds to buy voters, security personnel and INEC officials.

One of the main reasons why the practice of democracy is not improving in Nigeria is that former leaders who ought to be good models of exemplary leadership qualities such as wisdom and integrity tend to respond impulsively to issues and events without thinking them through first. Consider for example the hasty congratulatory message former President Olusegun Obasanjo reportedly sent to Dr. Fayemi in spite of the electoral malpractices independent observers identified during the election.

By his action, Chief Obasanjo has endorsed an election marred by irregularities whose outcome might be upturned if the opposition proves its case successfully at the election tribunal. A wise elder statesman would have waited a bit for the matter to be settled conclusively before congratulating Dr. Fayemi, based on the knowledge that in such matters it is better to err on the side of caution. But Chief Obasanjo is not the legendry King Solomon of the Holy Bible, which is why he made several unforced errors as President. Remember, Chief Obasanjo orchestrated the October 16, 2006 impeachment of governor Fayose which was reversed later by the Supreme Court – a subtle rebuke of Obasanjo. In 2014, Ayo Fayose contested and won the governorship of his state again.

Therefore, it appears that Obasanjo’s congratulatory message to Fayemi was to jeer at and embarrass Fayose. On the other hand, Fayose boasted too much before the election, and the imposition of his deputy as the PDP candidate alienated some prominent members of the party. It is fair to conclude that PDP lost the Ekiti governorship election probably for two main reasons: the imposition of Prof. Kolapo Olusola Eleka, which caused resentment among some members of Ekiti PDP, and alleged rigging and falsification of results by the APC in collusion with INEC officials and security officers. On a general note, former Nigerian leaders cannot be trusted to provide moral guidance when things are going wrong in the country because they seem to lack the right combination or blend of wisdom, honesty, integrity, courage, moral stamina and selflessness which are the hallmarks of transformative leaders.

I have observed that Prof. Itse Sagay, chairman of President Muhammadu Buhari’s otiose committee on anti-corruption, seems to have forgotten the fundamental legal principles he learnt as a law student and taught at the university for many years. According to reports, Sagay offered Fayose the unsolicited advice that the PDP should not contest INEC’s declaration of Fayemi as the governor-elect in the court or election tribunal. It is amazing the extent a little snippet of power can befog the mind of certain types of human beings, including some individuals that have reached the zenith of academic and professional achievement. Prof. Sagay’s advice, if analysed critically, implies that no matter the quantum of irregularities that might be unearthed by serious investigation into the election, it is pointless to challenge Fayemi’s victory; that it is a waste of time to use legitimate processes prescribed by the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act to ascertain the veracity of the results declared by INEC.

The I-know-it-all stance of APC leaders, especially the presidency, on national issues tend to confirm the impression that this government is firmly in the grip of characters easily intoxicated by transient political power, which is dangerous because such immature attitude leads to overbearing arrogance, condescending attitude to the citizens, vindictiveness towards critics, obdurate refusal to take responsibility when top government officials fail to perform creditably and, worst still, desperation to cling to power at all cost.

Why should Sagay advise aggrieved persons or party not to seek legal redress without first examining thoroughly the cases of electoral malpractices reported by election observers? Is he afraid that the opposition might succeed? Anyway, given that he did not discourage Buhari and other APC kingpins who lost elections in the past before the formation of the party from seeking legal redress, a plausible explanation would be that he is convinced that somehow the court or tribunal, intimidated by the rampaging triumphalism of the ruling party, would rule that “although there were irregularities, the election was in substantial agreement with stipulations of the relevant laws and, consequently, the result declared by INEC stands.”

To be continued…

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