When the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has never claimed to be a democrat anyway, was imposed on Nigerians by his retired military General-friends and civilian collaborators in 1999 straight from the Abacha gulag, Obasanjo soon manifested his anti-democratic credentials by exposing his dictatorial nature by the way and manner of governance. And in 2003 as his 4-year fake mandate got to an end he organised a sham general elections in which the PDP members were allocated positions. In 2007 as his third-term gambit hit a democratic brick-wall erected by the courageous Senate OBJ declared the presidential poll a “do-or-die” affair. Blood was shed, heads and bones were broken as executive thugs and miscreants unleashed an electoral war on the populace in order to ‘award’ undeserved victories to the PDP candidates including the late President Musa Yar’Adua.
Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), former Head of State with high moral capital, who contested the presidential poll against the PDP candidate fought the declaration of the PDP’s Yar’Adua as winner for years up to the Supreme Court refusing any ‘deal’ with the corrupt establishment having been convinced that a huge electoral heist was perpetrated by the ruling party in favour of their candidate. And in the states where the PDP stole victories the ‘losing’ candidates went straight to the Election Petition Tribunals for justice. Some were successful in their quests and others were not!
Ever since the Ota godfather left Aso Rock for his hometown of Abeokuta after May 29 2007 there have been calls for the establishment of the Electoral Crimes Commission (ECC) charged with the responsibility of trying electoral crimes and criminals. Like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) the ECC should be consitutionally empowered to make sure that election riggers and their cohorts do not go scot-free as is the case now. Ever since the EFCC was set up (about the only positive thing OBJ did while in power) economic and financial criminals are becoming jittery of laundering looted funds.
The truth is that when someone stole an election and benefited from its fruits without any sanctions extended to him after he was caught, others are encouraged and emboldened to do even worse in order to have the ‘key’ to the state treasury. In Nigeria, politics having descended to the lowest level of being seen as a sure way of becoming a millionaire or billionaire overnight, it is very easy to see otherwise roundly-educated gentlemen becoming more desperate and brazen in their electoral banditry than say Lawrence Anini.
The charismatic performing Governor of Lagos State Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) was the first top official of the present democratic dispensation to voice out the need for the establishment of the Electoral Crimes Commission. He was speaking after the historic victory of the ACN candidate in the Ekiti electoral conundrum Dr Kayode Fayemi at the Ilorin Appeal Court. Governor Fashola who through imaginative resourceful leadership has transformed the ‘modern jungle’ of Lagos was not the very first prominent citizen to advocate for the setting up of the commission. Civil society and human rights campaigners have been advocating for same for quite sometime.
And after Gov. Fashola the former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu equally magnified the call for the commission to be put in place since electoral robbers should not be allowed to go unpunished. Many Nigerians admire the Asiwaju for his courage and political organization. By choosing Fashola to flag the AC flag in the guber polls of 2007 in Lagos State Bola Tinubu demonstrated that he loved Lagos and Lagosians and was not out for selfish parochial interests that usually characterise such ‘annointing’ phenomenon in Nigerian politics.
We have heard and seen electoral brigandage before in Nigeria even in the second Republic. Then, politicians were content with stuffing the ballot boxes and recruiting thugs to intimidate voters at the polls. But since the advent of this nascent democracy in 1999 (when a prisoner miraculously became President without contributing anything to the outcome as he was deficit in character and bankrupt) politicians have devised new methods of rigging elections and ‘winning’ power through godfatherism and godmotherism. To do that we have since been introduced to the ‘do-or-die’ culture of an ex-President (Olusegun Obasanjo) in which power and its acquisition amounts to a ‘war’ involving killing and bribing and bombing of opponents and institutions.
As we move inexhorably towards the 2011 general elections the stakes are getting higher and the PDP may implode forcing Mallam Nuhu Ribadu of the Action Congress of Nigeria or Gen. Buhari to emerge the President of Nigeria deservedly next year. Between President Jonathan and Ribadu I believe majority of Nigerians may not give a damn if any one wins the presidential poll of next April. In Ribadu we are seeing a radical whose patriotism and ‘newbreedism’ are not in any doubt. As the former pioneer Chair of the EFCC Mallam Nuhu achieved a lot and showed the way towards battling economic and financial crimes in Nigeria. Today his legacy remains a sound one despite the charges of selective persecution and prosecution.
But the above is not the major issue that provoked this commentary though it is still relevant to the subject-matter. I am concerned about electoral robbers roaming the streets and enjoying the illicit fruits of their robbery with the law looking the other way. In Anambra State Dr Chris Ngige, no matter how well his stewardship might appear, was rigged to power by a retired godfather by name Chris Uba. And when he refused to dance to the tune of the barely-educated godfather he devised means, sometimes crude and fetish, to ‘overthrow’ him. At a bizzare point the embattled Governor was kidnapped in the government house in Awka and taken somewhere where, with pistol pointed to his head, he was made to sign a ‘resignation’ letter to be read on the state radio and TV.
Though Ngige was later rescued from his abductors (thanks to the then VP Atiku Abubakar) arson took over as many government properties were torched including the government house itself. This democratic abomination happened under the Obasanjo presidency when animals (like the late Lamidi Adedibu) wielded power because of connection to the Ota monster or his acolytes. Chris Uba had a brother then in Aso Rock, Andy, who was OBJ’s domestic assistant. The rightful owner of the mandate Ngige and co stole, Peter Obi, only assumed his mandate after battling Ngige and his collaborators right through the Supreme Court where justice was done after many years of trial and error.
Ngige did some good things in Anambra State as Governor but that does not stop him from being among the electoral robbers who ought to be judged and jailed. After all he knew he never won the election but assumed office under a ‘deal’ reached between him and his estranged sponsor. We were not consulted when he was allegedly taken to Okija shrine to swear an oath of allegiance. We only knew about his ‘travails’ when the bubble got burst and things fell apart. When things were good and the godfather was smiling to the bank none of us was in the sweet picture.
In Edo State, Governor Adams Oshiomhole, a former radical Labour Union leader, won the gubernatorial election in Edo State under the AC political banner in 2007. But the father of do-or-die politics ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo thought otherwise by awarding the governorship position to his in-law in the person of Prof. O. Osunbor. Oshiomhole, a dogged fighter, refused to be intimidated or silenced; so he approached the Election Petition Tribunal for judicial remedy. After many months of judicial ‘go-today-come-tomorrow’ Oshiomhole was able to reclaim his stolen mandate from the PDP rigging criminals. The Tribunal did justice to his cause by proclaiming him the rightful winner of the election.
Ditto in Ondo State where Olusegun Mimiko alias ‘Iro
ko’ was cheated out of his gubernatorial victory by the same PDP rigging machinery aided and abetted by Maurice Iwu’s INEC. Like Obi and Oshiomhole ‘Iroko’ refused to bow and tremble to the PDP. Mimiko of the Labour Party battled his way through the courts until his victory was recognised. The usurper of the people’s mandate, Olusegun Agagu was therefore shown the ‘red card’ by the court as his phony victory was overturned. Mimiko has since assumed duty as the legitimate victor in the Ondo State guber poll. And Agagu is shamelessly enjoying his loot!
And recently in Ekiti State Segun Oni was sent packing from the Government House he was illegally occupying for years now. The Appeal Court ruled that his opponent, Dr Kayode Fayemi, convincingly won the election in the state. Oni and his famous phony Awo cap were kicked out thus from the illicit position of power he had enjoyed for years. Oni belongs to the same party that has fixers and riggers of elections, the PDP. The Ekiti gubernatorial imbroglio was really exceptional in the sense that the Ekiti people, reputed for their academic rigour and excellence, saw in Fayemi an accomplished democrat who would re-position their state for rapid development and voted for him. Frustrated by the rape democracy was subjected to in the state some old women bared it all in protest at a time drawing global attention to the Ekiti conundrum. They marched on the streets in Ado Ekiti, sagged and sagging breasts et al, cursing those that stood in the way of change they had voted for.
It is scandalous and counter-productive for ‘mandate-snatchers’ to be indicted by the Tribunals therefore discharging them of the purloined mandate they illegally wielded only for the’ robbers’ to go scot free enjoying their loot. If Nigeria must get it right this time next year in the general elections then the Electoral Act must be re-inforced to bear certain punitive measures tailored against those who ‘steal’ others’ victories exercising power (sometimes for years) at the expense of the real victors and democracy itself. Allowing these modern-day Lawrence Anini of ballot-stealing variety to be free after committing recognisable crime is to say the least unconscionable. When an example is not made of say an Ngige, an Agagu, an Oni or an Osunbor then the trend continues compromising any hopes of a free, fair and transparent polls next year.
President Goodluck Jonathan, as a proponent of a free and fair and transparent polls, owes it as a duty to work towards establishing the ECC. But as the national leader of the PDP one wonders whether he can muster enough courage to move against the interests of his fellow partymen and women most of whom came to the PDP because the party can manipulate election results in their favour. 2011 may turn out to be their terminus unless they change their rigging ways.