8th July, 2014
By Adeyemi Ikuforiji
The just concluded Gubernatorial election in Ekiti State may have come and gone but some of us believe that it has left in its wake certain ghosts that have to also be interred if it would truly be said to have come and gone. Just like in every other election held elsewhere, it is worthy to note that sometimes issues are thrown up which must be addressed by the bodies charged with administrating elections at least to ensure that the processes keep evolving to remain congruent with emerging realities.
Sustainable democracies have always been those that conform to the fine tenets and time tested principles anchored on democratic traditions. The desire of over 98% of the nation’s citizenry at all times is to live within a society that operates within the ambits of the precepts and dictates of this tradition. This is an expression of the acceptance of the global manifestations thus far of the beauty of this socio-economic framework in relation to other models especially at the backdrop of our recent experiences with military dictatorship.
It is therefore the civic duty of every responsible citizen whether in or out of public life to take actions that guarantee the entrenchment of democratic culture and traditions. It thus means that such individuals must also be determined to ensure that threats to this construct are immediately exposed and nipped in the bud before they undermine our collective patrimony. This entrusts in every citizen a dual civic responsibility whatsoever position or rank we occupy in life. These are;
To ensure that our actions are those that will build and entrench democracy within our country
To ensure that we creatively engage and interrogate every action or forces that oppose democracy and are capable of destroying its practise in Nigeria.
The premium which we place on this understanding has made it compulsory that we make contributions to the debate on how to build our polity not just because of the position we occupy but as a result of our antecedents and the over-arching need for strengthening our democratic culture and practises whenever the opportunity presents itself.
That Ekiti gubernatorial election presents such opportunity for us to seek to advance the cause of our democracy. It did indeed present challenges and high points that ought to be x-rayed to allow us to continue perfecting the various processes upon which this governance framework hinges. The more we refine and restructure our democratic processes the more they are deepened thus become strongly rooted both in culture and in practice determining the capacity and capability of governance to deliver on its historical avowals to the citizenry. The character and the nature of citizens’ benefits from every indication are therefore dependent on the dynamics and health of the prevalent democratic practise in the nation.
While I toe my party’s line in stating that if the outcome of that election was truly a reflection of the desires and aspirations of the wonderful citizens of Ekiti State, so be it but some of us are somewhat against some actions that preceded that election; during the election and after it. Some commentators may have hastily concluded that such actions may not have been so significant as to have had an overbearing impact on the eventual outcome of the election.
My retort to such conclusions has always been a resort to the eternal postulation that justice must not only be done but must be seen to have been done. In essence, the import of this maxim within the context of that election is that strict adherence to due processes and fair play must be observed especially in such matters as sensitive as that involved in our leadership recruitment processes. The Machiavellian construct that sees the end as justifying the means has often been criticised for undermining due processes with the potential for destroying the hallowed institutions of society.
One of the basic ingredients of sustainable democracy remains complete reliance on only transparent and open processes which must guarantee that whichever segment of the citizenry that is desirous of participating in the various democratic processes finds adequate grounds for the attainment of this expression.
Did the Ekiti gubernatorial election meet this eternal principle? NO. The reason is that there is no room for serious error whether intentional or otherwise as that would compromise the outcome in a most dangerous way and especially when these errors are curiously stacked against the perceived side that lost while the source of mistake remains an appointee of the opponent in the election. It therefore becomes difficult for one to come out openly thumping his chest that the election was free and fair devoid of every manipulation.
Where some APC stalwarts in Ekiti State had their residences surrounded by agents of the PDP controlled Federal Government days before the election smacks of harassment and intimidation and does not allow for freedom of the individuals concerned. We still do not see any law that allows this to happen in Nigeria. If members of the PDP in the state were meted the same kind of treatment, one would have said ok, let us bear this but when they were allowed to move freely as it ought to be, that leaves serious room for doubt as to the total commitment of the PDP Federal Government to its avowal to ensure a free and fair elections not only in Ekiti State but also in Nigeria.
That some persons especially a sitting Governor was not allowed to move freely within the nation’s space under any guise is unacceptable. We are not just worried because some ministers and big wigs from the PDP were allowed to move into Ekiti State but also to parade about it with gusto unmolested and unchallenged but we are worried that the right of a citizen to this very fundamental principles could be abridged so brazenly in a democracy. One of the reasons why we are where we are today as a nation is our penchant for abusing due process even in the pursuit of a stated good intention. The pathway to hell they say is strewn with good intentions. Good intentions are good but that is not how democracy is practised. It is hinged on the Rule of Law no matter the situation. It is not built on our feelings and what we want to or not want to do and this is the beauty of this construct. Once this is removed, it becomes “dictatocracy”.
It is an abuse of the power for the institutions that ought to ensure that the various rights of the citizenry enshrined in the constitution are protected and guaranteed at all times should be used to truncate same. When we deploy the instruments of governmental forces of coercion whose tools ought to be directed against powers that are targeted against the manifest and latent freedoms of the citizenry against same citizens, that becomes a tragedy.
The gradual but persistent impact of this is not only on the rights of the citizenry that have been truncated but that it consistently exacerbates and deepens the undermining of our various institutions. Institutions that go through this distortion later turn into tools for undermining the state itself and also make itself unavailable to the state in its quest to delivering its promises to the citizenry. It is therefore foolhardy for some of us to pretend to be indifferent to what happened in Ekiti State while others rejoice outrightly because they felt that the eventual outcome favoured them but they should remember that the chicken, one day will come home to roost. At all times, the maxim that insist that instead of punishing one innocent man, it is better that hundreds of guilty individuals are allowed to go scot free should guide our institutional behaviour and individual activities as a nation. That explains why the military will excise due caution in attacking identified targets because of civilian casualty that may arise. We ought to be careful in the way we undermine our institutions in the process of doing some rather questionable good.
It is important that the law which guides all of us is implemented to the letter at all levels and nobody should at any time make his own laws whimsically for I know that there is nowhere in the constitution or in the electoral act that allows such short-circuiting of citizens’ rights days preceding an election. The electoral act may have limited the movement of individuals during elections but definitely not in days preceding the election. However, if such laws or need arises, it becomes incumbent on those whose duty it is to make such laws to also inform all concerned so that its precepts will be adhered to. In the case of Ekiti State, this was not the case as people, especially perceived supporters of the APC were hounded about in the state while still others were prevented from entering the state. This is completely unacceptable in a democracy and ought to be condemned by all lovers of our beautiful democracy and indeed all lovers of this nation no matter the party they may belong to or support.
Level playing field is central to the conduct of free and fair elections in any democracy and it is upon this pillar that democracy thrives as it affords the people unfettered rights towards participation – a key ingredient in any democratic activity. We know that what happened in Ekiti did not offer a level playing field to all the parties involved in the election as movement of key personnel of APC to carry out their legitimate duties of monitoring the election and overseeing logistic supplies to their agents in the field were seriously hampered by the agents of the Federal Government. This offered undue advantage to the PDP thus negating the basic principle of equity in electoral processes.
The President of the Federal Republic under whose watch these incidents of abuses and gross violations occurred will not but be blamed. Some may claim that he may not have issued such directives, but the question that we ask is: given the channels of communication open to the top brass in the society, we are sure that he was notified when the matter was on-going and ought to have intervened to stop the madness; If he was not reached or the NSA and other relevant authorities were not contacted, the media has thus far written and the matter has become a public issue; we then ask what has the presidency done or what is it planning to do in the coming days to bring the individuals involved to book and to ensure that such perfidy is curtailed in the future? Nigerians need to know.
This incident has presented an opportunity for Nigeria to address the eternal issue of strict adherence to the Rule of Law. Those who make laws and execute them must live above board as that is the only way the law becomes a moral force. The Federal Government encourages disobedience to the laws of the land when it decides to break laws that it ought to protect. This is not a way to build sustainable institutions and societies. All that will be achieved through this rather aberrant pursuit of fair elections within the ambits of unfairness is but anomie – a Hobbesian state of nature; a free for all. This I am sure is not good for the stated mission of the President to transform the nation, that is, if it is serious about such quest.
We are convinced that the best laws are the ones that assume a moral force which compels all and sundry to compliance through the sheer weight of its morality rather than its legality or technicality. For such laws to assume such a high moral standing, its operators at all levels must assume a moral high ground which can only be attained if they adhere to the same principles as enshrined in the same laws which they operate. But, where they fail to allow themselves to be directed by the same dictates as found in the law, they create doubt in the minds of the citizenry thus whittling down the hold which it may have on the larger society.
…To be continued
•Ikuforiji is Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly.