Like Fayose, Nigeria’s Democracy Has Serious Neck Pains

Casmir Igbokwe

The build-up to the just-concluded Ekiti governorship election was highly dramatic. Act One, Scene One: Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, urges the electorate to vote for Governor Ayodele Fayose.

At the All Progressives Congress (APC) rally in Ado-Ekiti, Ngige, in Pidgin English, blunders, “If you marry two wives, you go know which one wey better. Fayose is the better wife. E dey cook, e dey give husband food. E no dey give am trouble. You must bring back Fayose on Saturday.”

Of course, it is common knowledge that Fayose was not the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The PDP’s candidate is Prof. Kolapo Olusola who happens to be Fayose’s current deputy. The APC’s candidate is Dr. Kayode Fayemi. Ngige apparently mistook ‘Fayemi’ for ‘Fayose.’

Act One, Scene Two: Fayose weeps like a baby. A day after Ngige’s act, precisely at the PDP rally in Ado-Ekiti, Fayose sobs, “They (the police) are beating anybody who has any sign of PDP on them. They are not picking our calls; they’ve made up their minds to do this evil.

“I am in pain, I am in severe pain. (sobs) I can’t turn this neck anymore. If anything happens to me, the Inspector-General of Police should be held accountable.”

Like Fayose, our democracy has serious neck pains. It needs urgent treatment. One of the maladies happens to be the security agencies. They tend to show bias for the government in power. Before the above scenario painted by Fayose, security operatives had reportedly dispersed supporters of the PDP from the popular Fajuyi Park in Ado Ekiti, where they had gathered for the rally.

They reportedly thwarted every move by Fayose to lead his supporters back to the park. Moving the rally to the Government House did not help matters. The outgoing governor claimed that the police manhandled him and many PDP members there. He cried for justice and pleaded for the intervention of the international community, lamenting that Ekiti State, nay Nigeria, was in trouble.

In 2014, when the PDP was in power at the centre, Fayose was the beneficiary of the invasion of Ekiti State by security agents. He moved about like an emperor and later won the election. Then, he did not lament that Nigeria was in trouble. As the saying goes, the measure you give is the measure you get.

Nevertheless, two wrongs do not make a right. The problem is that most of our politicians consider our elections a do-or-die affair. Just consider this: the Federal Government deployed 30,000 police personnel, armoured personnel carriers and some other security hardware for the Ekiti election. Commanding the security operations was a Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG), assisted by an Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), and three commissioners of police (CPs). The DSS was also there in full force. And please note that Ekiti is not an isolated case. Similar security build-up had occurred in the past in such states as Anambra and Ondo.

This type of scenario only creates unnecessary tension and verbal warfare in the polity. After the alleged assault on Fayose, for instance, the PDP and the APC traded accusations to no end. In Abuja, Anambra, Imo, Nasarawa and some other states, members of the party protested and condemned what they saw as an assault on the nation’s democracy.

The national chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, described it as a civilian coup. As he put it, “We are aware and we have been reliably informed that INEC and a section of the security agencies are preparing to rig the election in Ekiti. That is why Ekiti today has been militarised and policed. Over 30,000 policemen are in Ekiti. The citizens of Ekiti are afraid, they are traumatised, they are harassed and they are being guarded not to come out of their homes.”

The APC didn’t waste time to defend itself. It rejected the claim by the PDP that policemen were drafted to Ekiti State to harass PDP supporters in Saturday’s governorship election.

The APC further noted, “With PDP’s claim in its press statement, it is obvious that its leadership does not have the facts of the actual events in Ekiti State or it is deliberately attempting to divert public attention from the comical performance put up by Governor Ayodele Fayose on Wednesday, which was clearly contrived to give the impression to the public that he was being persecuted.”

Nigeria’s democracy has become a potpourri of tragicomedy. In some cases, it provides comic relief. In some other instances, it makes you sad and troubled. Or how do you explain police rationalisation of what they did. They said they prevented the PDP rally from holding to forestall the outbreak of violence between the two leading political parties; and that they acted because the two parties intended to have their rallies at the same date in Ado-Ekiti metropolis.

Incidentally, the APC had a successful rally the previous day in Ado-Ekiti. Nobody molested its supporters. No tear gas. No fracas. So, how the police came about the story of two leading parties holding rallies the same day remains a matter of conjecture.

The PDP sustained its allegations against security agencies even on Election Day. Its candidate, Professor Olusola Eleka, said his party contested against security agencies and that there were plans to tinker with the results of the election.

Democracy suffers when security agencies that are supposed to be neutral begin to show open bias for a particular political party or individual. People not only lose confidence in such security agencies, they begin to take the law into their hands.

They begin to use financial muscle to buy their way through. This was what happened during Saturday’s election in Ekiti. The PDP reportedly dispensed its cash from Government House, Ado-Ekiti. The APC, according to media reports, set up its own money base in a hotel along University Road.

At Government House, the PDP allegedly gave voters, excluding civil servants and pensioners, between N4,000 and N5,000. Civil servants and pensioners reportedly got theirs through the banks.

On its part, the APC was said to be distributing cash and rice at different centres through authorised agents.

President Muhammadu Buhari would do well to stop these anomalies. He should start by calling security agencies to order. Observance of the rule of law is the cornerstone of democracy. When that is breached, what you have is a jackboot democracy.

The other day, the Department of State Security (DSS) whisked Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe away while he was attending a function at Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja. Abaribe was with them for five days. Former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, has been in detention for over two years despite different court orders that he should be released.

Different agencies of government, especially the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the police, have continued to violate the rights of Nigerians. In some cases, they kill people for no just cause.

Besides, the President should also caution himself. The other day, he issued Executive Order Number 006. This permits security agencies to freeze the assets of persons standing trial without recourse to court order.

Little wonder the Senate, last Wednesday, condemned what it sees as a continuous assault of the Nigerian Constitution and worsening anti-democratic activities by the executive. It resolved to summon the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to explain the reasons behind the alleged violations of human rights of Nigerians by the executive.

Happily, Nigerians are beginning to build confidence in the electoral process. People are now conscious of using their voter cards to either elect or remove a government. Currently, Nigerians queue for hours and stand under the sun just to obtain their permanent voter cards (PVCs). It will be a tragedy if, after all the sacrifices, they still face half-hearted democracy.

Soon, campaigns for the 2019 elections will start. The usual intrigues, alignments and realignments have started. Will political parties observe the rules of the game? Will their campaigns be violence-free? Will the President allow the electoral processes to flow seamlessly without interruptions from any quarters? Will the incumbent leaders concede defeat if their opponents win election? Have past suspects of electoral crimes been tried and punished?

Is the Ekiti experience a signpost of what to expect in the elections coming up in 2019? If we have to deploy 30,000 policemen in one state for a governorship election, how many will we deploy in all the states in 2019? In simple terms, will there be free and fair election in 2019? Will the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) be an unbiased umpire?

These and many more questions are on the lips of many Nigerians. The answer lies with the Federal Government, the INEC, and security agencies.

 

Re: Nigeria’s embarrassing gold medal in extreme poverty

The last paragraph of your article titled “Nigeria’s embarrassing gold medal in extreme poverty” is very interesting. All hands must be on deck in fighting corruption. I have personally secured convictions in the Anambra State local government system. I ensured three months suspension of an officer who mutilated a cheque of N600,000 to the tune of N1.6m and banned him from holding any financial position till his retirement. I also ensured the demotion of an officer from GL.16 to 15, removal as a local govt treasurer and ban from holding any financial position till his retirement.

These will be deterrent to others.

  • Chinedu Ekwuno (JP), 08063730644

Our leaders are the architects of our poverty because they refuse to do the needful in governance over their selfish interest of looting the fund.

  • Gordon Chika Nnorom, +2348062887535

 

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, July 16, 2018.

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