”“The way politics is played in this country frightens me every dawning day. ”It is a fight to finish affair. ”Nobody accepts defeat at the polls.” Late Hon. Justice Niki Tobi of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
”The Committee has found that election mindsets are one of the critical elements that determine the success of electoral practices; and the election mindsets of Nigerians are not only largely negative; they are also largely irrational.” The Hon. Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais, CJN retd.
Those two views expressed by two prominent Nigerians are worth recalling as the opening to this treatise. As Osun State goes to the polls to elect a governor that will run the affairs of the State for four years effective November 26, 2018, (all things being equal) a number of issues arise. And they have to do with our preparedness to embrace true democratic conducts as embraced by the advanced countries whose constitutions we have copied wholesale at different periods.
Let us agree that there is no society that is perfect. Even the foremost democracy, the United States has occasionally been enmeshed in controversies arising from flawed elections. However, citizens of those climes that we imitate have been able to at least enforce their fundamental human rights. Regrettably, democracy has been the greatest loser in this sad development. The two electoral review committees put together in the last 8 years have rightly suggested that there must be impartial arbiters in electoral contests.
This means that we must have umpires that are not partisan as in INEC and law enforcement agencies. In supervising elections, these bodies must clearly conduct themselves objectively and without fear or favour; ill-will or affection. Arguably, manipulation of the will of the people is wrong. But it is even more wrong and unacceptable for political actors to engage in acts that undermine the laws of the nation.
In the past, elections have been accompanied by termination of human lives and damage invaluable property simply because of disagreements arising from electoral contests. There are some posers: Why has the political class always thought and behaved differently, against all known principles of patriotism and national development? Is it compulsory, for instance, that I win an electoral contest if I vie for any elective position? Why can’t we just respect the wishes of the electorate
THE MASSES/ELECTORATE & VULTURES WAITING FOR BRIBE: The culture ”cash and carry” politics, for which the masses now mortgage their rights and future, upon receiving miserable amounts to sell their votes is rather disturbing and shameful. If the truth must be told, we have indeed gotten to a crossroads in the arena of politics. People now hover all over, waiting like vultures to collect bribes to vote. There are no indications that voters are prepared to free the entire citizenry from poor governance culture.
It is very sad that all that matters now is money; as meagre as five thousand naira (N5,000) for the poor to sacrifice their inalienable rights to freely elect their preferences. Will this sad trend ever change? Will the trend of literally using ”Abu’s money to entertain Abu” ever end? YES, it could, if we are all determined to play our roles well in accordance with established norms and principles. But for the fact that one might be breaking bribery, I dare ask the masses to collect the money and still vote for your preferences. But I will not do that in order not to run afoul of electoral regulations.
INEC has continued to warn the electorate NOT TO COLLECT MONEY or BRIBE in order to vote. Security agencies have also appealed to all and sundry not to flout laws and regulations. Will security agencies live up to expectations by ensuring that the law does not respect anybody participating in the election? Will the rule of law that makes all equal before the face of the law apply? Will next Saturday’s election in Osun State be a litmus test for the 2019 general elections?
Has it ever occurred to us elites that by conducting ourselves illegally, we are building weak structures for younger elements who will take over from us? Will all who come out to participate in the election or are at the background respect laws guiding electoral contests? Posterity is waiting to judge all of us, ELITES, for our individual and collective roles in our attempts to build a greater Nigeria. Let us all cooperate with INEC and law enforcement agencies to hold a credible election with law enforcement agencies enforcing and applying the full sanctions and bring the full weight of the law to bear on culprits.
SAY NO TO MISCONDUCTS & VIOLENCE: The essence of putting this piece together is to assist all of us in restoring sanity on the political terrain of our dear country. We enjoin you to please circulate this piece as widely as possible, in order for wisdom or common sense to prevail on our political arena. Experiences have shown that the so called conservatives and progressives perfect the art of rigging. But one has not read, in the history of political development in Nigeria, occasions where national figures and great patriots — Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, or Tafawa Balewa perfected the art of rigging elections and sponsored violence. Those were indeed very neat Nigerians that should be emulated.
Finally, our dear brothers and sisters, the questions remain: Will pervasive poverty and corruption still influence the choice of the electorate in Osun State this Saturday? Will the poor masses allow themselves to be used again as cannon-fodders who are expendable in political battles while we, elites retire to the comforts of our homes with our wives and children untouched? Prospective voters are warned to note that ignorance is not an excuse in Law. May God help Nigeria.