Ekiti Re-Run: Hanging to a Void or Hunting for a Voice?

by L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu

An election is a popular voice, actualized by peoples’ choice and drawn by a vote- cast. It appears as if no governorship election ever took place in the state in April 14, 2007, the reason being that the dangerous tactics, strategy and stratagem being deployed by contenders to achieve their desired target have remained worrisome. Many Nigerians wonder why a mere re-run poll is about a quarter of the area (14 wards) could trigger much venom and animosity in a state that prides itself as a ‘Fountain of Knowledge’.

As the conduct of the April 25 governorship re-run in Ekiti State approached, traditional rulers in that state warned against violence and electoral malpractice during the poll. They called on politicians, especially parties in the election, to ensure free, fair and credible rerun that would be based on the principle of one man one vote. The position of the royal fathers was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of their meetings with leaders of the three political parties including Action Congress (AC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the United Nigeria Peoples Party (UNPP).

There was the need for the politicians to play the game according to the rules. The meeting which was held at the Conference Hall of the old Governor’s Office, was prompted by acrimony and violence that had trailed electioneering campaigns. Oba Emmanuel Adesanya Aladejare, the monarchs warned that they would not tolerate any form of violence, ballot box snatching, vote rigging and other malpractices. They also warned politicians to stay away from the polling booths so as to allow law-abiding citizens to cast their votes freely without fear of intimidation. They noted that the use of thugs by political parties was inimical to the conduct of free, fair and credible election. While warning that mobile police or armed escorts should not be attached to any politician during the conduct of the election, the monarchs further advocated that “armed policemen and security men be kept in their stations where they could be called upon whenever there is threat to breakdown of law and order”. “The police and other security agents should maintain peace and be impartial in the discharge of their duties before, during and after the election,” the royal fathers maintained.

The traditional rulers also warned the political leaders in the state to stop issuing inciting utterances, verbal and physical attacks, just as they further urged them to educate their followers on the need to conduct themselves peacefully. the people from the wards where election could not take place were asked to steer clear of polling units in order to forestall electoral fraud and other malpractices. They also warned that strange and faceless politicians planning to foment trouble should stay away from the state, saying their roles would not be in conformity with the conduct of free and fair election.

Despite all these forewarnings, vows and town-crying for peace, there was such drama, before the Ekiti re-run election, around the issue of whether the peoples’ mandate would send its observers. Besides these groups, a domestic observation effort was also organized; it was half-domestic and half-foreign rather. “Nigeria4betterrule” reported a day or two before the election that an army, ten thousand, seven hundred in total, of different civil society group persons was going to saturate all the polling booths. The ruling party is desperate to use total intimidation by all means to subdue the Ekiti people. What is cheering is that the people cannot be made to chicken out from its civic responsibility of casting their votes. The system is wide open to fraud and any would-be political fraudster knows that. This effort was going to be financed by the presidency in place of the ruling party. Now, there is a problem here. Nigerian analysts were feeling that the ruling party under the Yar’Adua administration got heavily involved trying to control the election process. And here we have election monitoring to be funded by a PDP institution! There is a serious conflict of interests involved here. What Mr. President said in Ekiti that Segun Oni has four more years to rule is tantamount to former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s election statement that it would be a ‘do-or-die battle’. And the nation saw what he really meant it ,there is another aspect to this issue. Various civil society groups were involved in supporting the Ekiti interim government backed by the ruling party and a part of these civil society groups were going to observe as domestic observers. Why would they be neutral observers?

After the collation of the results from five local governments (Gboyin, Ekiti South-West, Irepodun-Ifelodun, Ise-Orun and Ijero), on Saturday, the AC had 15,026 and the PDP 15,420 votes without counting AC‘s existing credit of 11,000 votes. Realizing the PDP‘s deficiency with results from just four local governments remaining, the collation was suspended till Sunday and finally kept hanging. Overnight, however, the cooked results, said to have been collated in a police station without the AC agents in attendance, surfaced with the PDP winning 15,939 in just one local government! That result simply cannot stand. First, it shows that the PDP, in collusion with INEC, simply worked from answer to question, having realized there is no way the PDP could catch up with the AC. Secondly, the improbability of the figure from one local government alone more than all the total votes scored by PDP in all the five local governments areas whose results were collated on Saturday.

Critics have expressed other reservations regarding Ekiti State re-run poll. And it’s not as if it is a ‘genuine’ election we are talking about. This is a set-up affair, a fake and phony election result arrange to get announced in Ekiti State against popular will, but good riddance the residence electoral commissioner is disciplined. Many years in power already but the lust for power remains as strong as ever, for that ruling party, why?. What does it matter if the nation, heartily sick of PDP’s lackey status to the Nigerians Council-of-States , wants a change, any change as long as it is a bit different from the dispiriting performance of the last eight years. Self-interest decrees otherwise. What’s it with PDP and democracy? Why is our preferred model always someone like IBB or Obasanjo? Why does the autocratic mode of governance hold sway over most of the lands of Opportunities; Nigeria? The developed world may have embraced democracy – indeed democracy being one of the hallmarks of its progress – but why does the meaning of democracy elude our grasp?

The right of Nigerians to live, vote, be recognized and treated as a Nigerian is guaranteed in the 1999 Constitution which states that: subject to the provisions of this Constitution, a person born in Nigeria after the coming into force of this Constitution, shall become a citizen of Nigeria at the date of his birth if either of his parents or grandparents is or was a citizen of Nigerian. This constitutional provision applies equally to all Nigerians irrespective of where one resides on this planet. The same 1999 Constitution, again, made provisions for an Electoral Commissioner; to compile the register of voters and revise it at such periods as may be determined by law. This government has created a machinery for all Nigerians at home to exercise this constitutional right to elect leaders of the country but the ruling party’s (PDP) Law, which stipulated that such party must garner t6he majority vote, by gang, game or gun, effectively barred Nigerians who have the right to vote and exercise their franchise at will from contributing to vote in a people command elections. The voters register in question, first compiled in 1987 and subsequently revised in 1991, exchanging the rightful way of franchising to thuggery and organized rigging that has not seen the face of a bill put in place by our scrupulous law-makers to counteract i

n that direction.,

When the PDP government introduced the Representation of People (Amendment) Bill in parliament under a certificate of emergency a few months before the 2007 elections, many of us suspected it was a vote-grabbing venture. Consequently, several organizations including the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) called on government to suspend the Bill until broad consultations were held with stakeholders. The minority parties in the National Assembly cited logistical constraints on the Electoral Commission ahead of the December 2007 polls as justification for its call for postponement of the bill. The elections are over and National Assembly is doing what critics suggested (consulting Nigerians about the Bill) and yet some are doing everything to stop the Bill from becoming a Law. Why would a Nigerian oppose the extension of voting rights to fellow Nigerians in the Diaspora?

The most basic responsibility of any government is to provide law and order, yet no government has been able to provide that for us in this country. No Nigerian can go to bed feeling sound and safe because of insecurity. We have the problem of non working infrastructure; in fact, they do just not exist. Are there working social institutions in this country? Our educational sector is almost dormant, no electricity, our railways system is down, airports are mere structures, we cannot boost of a single national carrier, the roads which we depend on for transportation are in very bad shape; nothing is working in this country, even our democracy is not working well. We have no strategic investments policies. So if we are not a failed state, what are we? What is a failed state? We are a failed state because our institutions have failed. Even as we claim to practice democracy, it is obvious that our political parties are run by godfathers and rascals who are into politics to make money for them at the expense of the electorate. If our political parties are dysfunctional or in the hands of corrupt people, the institution that is called democracy would also fail, which is the condition we find ourselves in this country.

In Nigeria, the Presidency is headed by person(s) who seem(s) overwhelmed. Mr. President never on his own wanted to contest for presidency; we all know how he was imposed on us by those who feel they can manipulate the polity to suit their interest. What we are witnessing today, is because we have failed to do the right thing in this country. Therefore, if people think Nigeria is a failed nation, they are right. What matters most to any man is his personal security, that we don’t have in Nigeria. You travel with fear because armed robbers are always on the highway to take all you have worked for, yet government spends billions of naira on security each year. In fact, very few of our current political leaders would be at post if we were to disqualify people on the basis of party affiliation. Our first president, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was neither of the majority party to lead Nigerians into independence. With a history full of returnees in politics, it would seem Nigerian politicians would whole heartedly welcome attempts being made to extend voting rights to those in the minority party who, like Dr. Azikiwe, are prepared to participate in party politics.

Another question with an eye to allegations against Abiola (over post-June 12, 1993) and Buhari (over post-April 19, 2003): does it matter, should our support for or against rigging depend on whether the person who won or lost, that is the victim of rigging or a beneficiary of the rigging was a prior business crook, a womanizer, a coup plotter, an Islamist bigot or a cruel tyrant? It should not.That is what our former Head of State and military dictator IBB did in 1993, when he unilaterally annulled the June 12 elections. But quite frankly annulments are in the firm province of dictators, so we should not have been too surprised that it happened at all. After all, several annulments had happened just leading to the June 12 annulment – not at the same scale, of course – even though that does not mean that we should simply accept each new dastardly thing that has happened before.

Some have argued that votes from Nigerians in non-ruling party could exert a significant influence on the outcome of elections at home-front and that such an influence from citizens abroad could cause problems and even lead to political unrests. Forgetting they are talking about inalienable rights of fully-blooded Nigerians who may be temporarily absent from the country, the critics speak about Nigerians in non-ruling party as if they are aliens from another planet who will suddenly inject themselves into our electoral process. It is sad to stretch the truth this way to make a point we know is not true. Who in Nigeria honestly believe Nigerians in non-ruling party exert no influence on our elections. Don’t the agents of major political parties in the country receive tax from Nigerians in non-ruling party to help them win elections? It would interest our fellow Nigerians to know that it has become fashionable nowadays for Nigerians in non-ruling party to form political groupings outside their traditional ethnic organizations to support party politics, perhaps the looming mega-party project. What is different between members of these political participants in the ruling party and their counterparts in non-ruling party? is that those at the PDP participate in the elections and therefore benefit directly from efforts they put into the political process while those Nigerians outside the PDP circus are denied that opportunity. For those Nigerians inside non-ruling party who make numerous contributions to the local political process but do not have the opportunity to affect the collective choice, the possibility of self determination is seriously jeopardized.

What an historic opportunity we in Nigeria have wasted. With our British legacy of parliamentary democracy, we could have been different, a model and beacon for the rest of the third world. But driven perhaps by an all-consuming sense of insecurity, we systematically went about destroying the foundations of democracy gifted to us by the British and instead raised monuments to greed and incompetence. Greed and incompetence becoming our national gods, it was perhaps natural that we sought comfort in dictatorships, whether civil or military. Greed and incompetence can flourish under a democratic umbrella inside PDP too (remember some of our democratic heroes and heroines) but if one is really serious about looting national wealth, nothing like a shabby dictatorship to make it happen.

The residence electoral commissioner has confirmed our fear that there is every likelihood that the Ekiti State re-run is on the verge opf being hi-jacked. Nigeria is still lamenting the poor performance of our last, so-called election. Small wonder, then, that Ekiti re-run election has been all about acid test for the 2011 polls, with Segun Oni and Mr. Fayemi competing to sell themselves as best equipped to tack away from Obasanjo’s legacy, end Ekiti partisan squalor and confront enormous challenges. Not only must the next governor calm the economic storm and successfully end the the crisis he inherits, he also must — finally — come to grips with the looming crises in Security and health care brought on by the aging system Simply “changing Ekiti,” as compelling as the idea always is, won’t be enough because the most poisonous byproduct of PDP’s politics — its ceaseless peddling of the delusion that our problems can be solved at the expense of someone else — has seeped deep into the national psyche. The next governor’s toughest task could be persuading the state to rediscover the sense of responsibility that led it to greatness.

The temptation here — and the tradition at most newspapers — are to tally the candidates’ prescriptions for these problems, add opinions about character and judgment, and tell you how to vote. But that has never felt quite right for us. We’re centrists, n

ot partisans. More important, we don’t think one size fits all. We’d argue, for instance, that the top priorities for any governor are peace, prosperity and protecting the Constitution. But we would not presume to tell a woman coping with an unwanted pregnancy that abortion law should not matter more to her. One would have thought that we have learnt our lessons, but we are far from it. While we are praying for peace and tranquility to reign in the country, desperate politicians are praying for war, which is an ill-wind that blows no one any good.

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