FEATURE ARTICLE

Monday, December 2, 2019
ifeanyi_mmoh@yahoo.com
Jos, Nigeria
KOGI WEST SENATORIAL RERUN: CAN THE AGGRIEVED SEEK REDRESS AT THE TRIBUNAL?

t has happened finally and, just as many of us had predicted it would. Not a few analysts saw the coup against Senator Dino Melaye as a foregone conclusion. It did not matter the position that INEC took in declaring the outcome as inconclusive. For that was an indirect approach to returning none other than Senator Smart Adeyemi (SSA) as winner. Nor did it matter whether or not SDM had the electorates’ favor and mandate for having delivered to the constituency more profit of lawmaking than SSA had.

What mattered was the level to which either candidate was prepared to stoop in order to clinch the certificate of return. In this situation, INEC would not only be helplessly hopeless but saddled with the responsibility of having to crack its brains well in deciding who had won. In short, INEC’s presence in Kogi West was as potent as those of the foreign observers and as unimportant as those of the bystanders because it depended on SDM and SSA to conduct the election and produce a result that convinced the public.

This explains the brutal bloodbath that characterized the exercise to the extent that INEC’s officials that were sent to Olamaboro all came back alive while like SDM lost a nephew! It is possible that INEC had decided to follow to the letter the first law of life – the law of self-preservation – after the horror it went through during the general elections early in 2019 by adopting to henceforth leave the elections proper in the hands of the politicians while it just declares the most notorious as winner.

It brings me to my aim of writing this opinion. Over the years, election exercise in our clime has turned from the once peaceful MKO/Tofa ’92 Option A4 to PDP’s rig-if-you-can and on to APC’s take-the-state-for-APC-by-all-means and, during this metamorphosis the electoral umpire has also gone from independent to aiding and abetting rigging and on to trying to become a bystander. The average voter – who serves as catalyst for all these metamorphosis in the first instance – is now in fear.

When INEC becomes fully transformed into an ordinary bystander during election exercises – as the case of Kogi West has shown – and when the unrepentant politicians and their willing thugs refuses to give free and fair elections a chance to thrive; what becomes of good governance, accountability and the delivery of democratic dividends in our democracy? Again, what becomes of free speech and the freedom to associate? Our democracy is treading a dangerous path to its end that we are well too familiar with.

I dare not compare the sins of todays’ political leaders with the sins of those of the 2nd Republic. Yet power was forcefully taken from them by the military whose commander-in-chief then superintends over APC’s impunity and maladministration now. If we think that the world powers will be there to forestall the army from staging a comeback to power; we may perhaps be coming across as the best jokers of all times. The election that took place in Kogi West was supposed to be a rerun and not a theater of war!

The question is: Can the aggrieved seek redress at the tribunal after an election rerun? This is a dicey question; one that required a legal luminary to provide answers to. Now this rerun’s purpose is to get a clear winner and not a dilemma. Sometimes, one is tempted to blame the judiciary for certain kinds of judgments it pronounces especially when it seemed it does not consider the burden of cost on the taxpayer but should the judiciary had said ‘Award the judgment to Mr. B instead’ there will still be trouble.

For instance, I recalled the days of Senator David Mark as SP when Senator Joy Emordi got this kind of judgment but was not immediately sworn in by Senator Mark. You wonder if these politicians realized that democracy was to be nurtured and not stifled. The judgment here says ‘let’s have a rerun of that election’ and the turn out only stirs one to ask ‘Will there be another tribunal if the exercise fails to get a clear winner.

Now, in the first election in Kogi West there are wounded but no dead casualties and, it was nullified because – for me – the aggrieved (SSA) took for granted the fact that the electorate had a choice to make and actually made their choice. But in this rerun, he (SSA) is desperate and hiding under the APC; he employs violence instead of the electorates’ goodwill to show he actually won the election in the first instance. So I maintain that his grievance was more about the fact that he was out-maneuvered!

What will be the position of the law on a case as this rerun? Will this judiciary accept this even as palpable proof from INEC is there to aid in rejecting the outcome of the exercise? The inconclusiveness of this exercise should actually serve as proof that the exercise was far below acceptable standards but since the ingenuity of the law has no way out for what the next step should be; INEC now has the responsibility to either be bias or impartial in producing a result that is acceptable.

What irritates me – and which is my point of writing this piece – is the fact that this democracy is under severe abuse and threat with the tacit backing of those who once fought the military; talking about the likes of Tinubu, Fayemi and Oshiomole! The likes of General Ibrahim Babangida who believed in appealing to the interest of an opposition back then are now justified through time that those activists who refused to be bought over did not refuse because they had a good conscience for Nigeria but because they wanted power so they can also abuse it even more than their predecessors.

Why should Comrade Adams Oshiomole superintend over the destabilization of our hard-earned democracy or does he consider his show of heroism back in the 90’s as a solo trek? If the PDP had used helicopters and armed soldiers and police officers as mercenaries during the elections of yester years in the manner that the APC felt justified to do; do we think we would have had a democracy for the APC to inherit? I have heard people who claimed the PDP did far worse than what obtain now.

But are we in a democracy that is tested against impunity and notoriety or in one that should be tested against good values and personal integrity? I hope it’s not belated to make this appeal (because we all know that it doesn’t make sense for the aggrieved in a rerun election to resort to the tribunal) hence how to protect this democracy and make it work should preoccupy the thoughts and the actions of our politicians. The ship of governance has since derailed; all that remains now is for the group of soldiers with the lion heart to stage a successful comeback to power.

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