The Kogi State governorship election which was largely expected to be the first real test of President Buhari’s commitment to credible electoral process in Nigeria has come and gone, yet the outcome of the election which has been greeted with a cascade of court cases and commotion has made it very difficult to establish whether the new administration of President Buhari has added value to or deducted integrity from Nigeria’s electoral process.
Nevertheless, what is now clear is that the manner of conduct of the Kogi election and nature of result as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has really made any view on the Kogi election not to be out of bounds.
Sadly, the Kogi political environment remains highly charged and such has introduced a peculiar kind of upheaval into Kogi politics that goes beyond both inter-party squabble and partisan political disagreements. Specifically, what INEC did by granting electoral victory to a person with the least number of votes in an election remains a questionable democratic triumph and if not well managed, may not only be a black eye for the Buhari’s administration but a mammoth dent to Nigeria’s electoral process.
But the power to clear off this anxiety lies in the hand of the judiciary which is construed as the pantheon of constitutional democracy and bulwark of the people against infractions and deprivations of their rights and privileges. The judiciary remains the only public institution that is mandated to provide essential checks on other public institutions as a fair and efficient judiciary is the key to ending electoral malfeasance, corruption, impunity and absurdity.
Presently, three major interest groups have advanced good logic on their respective suitability for the number one position in Kogi state and this is really where it becomes more complex to say which makes the best sense especially given that a review of all the situations and arguments rest on a common denominator which is who profits from a mix of flawed constitution and Prince Abubakar Audu’s sudden death in the middle of an inconclusive election.
On the Kogi leadership tussle, for the ease of analysis and not merit, the first camp is the APC as a party which the late Prince Abubakar Audu emerged from. For this group, their claim is that Kogi voters mandate extended to the late Prince Abubakar Audu and his running mate are assets of the party. Thus, for the APC, it is the party that has the sole authority over who inherits such and the APC settled for Yahaya Bello, its first runner up in the party primary election that produced the late Prince Audu Abubakar as its nominee and beneficiary of Prince Audu Abubakar’s political efforts.
The second interested group are the supporters of James Faleke, the running mate of Prince Audu Abubakar, in the said inconclusive election. Their claim is based on the logic that the votes acquired from presumably the joint ticket of the late Prince Audu Abubakar and Faleke make them eligible with due compensation extended to the late Audu’s family since according to them, the election was 95% completed, this again is certainly logical.
The third interested party in the Kogi electoral debacle is the PDP which insists that there is no law that allows for the substitution of a deceased candidate after commencement of polls. The PDP and its candidate, Idris Wada also contended that, apart from the fact that there is no provision in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) or Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) permitting amalgamation or merger of votes of two different candidates in the same election as well as the failure of Mr Yahaya Bello to nominate a running mate to contest for the Office of Governor of Kogi State contrary to the mandatory provisions of Section 187(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) .
For any PDP loyalist like me, the argument advanced by my party makes the best sense but for common good of the Kogi people, let me recognise that in reality many credible analysts believe that all the claims from the two of the three major camps may just end up as a chain of broken dreams because none is absolutely backed by the constitution except that of the PDP and none of the two camps outside the PDP have the capacity to address the furious rage of Kogi voters against INEC’s decision to ignore their fundamental rights through imposition and naked impunity. Indeed, that INEC’s decision has attracted loud screams from Kogi voters remains a disturbing constant but at the base of the Kogi issue is what next? Would the INEC’s infamous and unconstitutional decision be upheld or reversed by the Supreme Court and what would be the consequences thereafter.
With all sense of modesty but frankness, several good logic have been advanced by all parties with interest in the Kogi governorship election but regrettably, all of them promote the inevitability of death of a candidate as an advantage in an electoral process. Though all their arguments appear healthy and highly defensible but on proper examination besides their good intentions, upholding any of them without due recognition of the danger that confronts all, may give room for some criminal minded persons to easily hijack and use death of a candidate to advance the temptation of killing a candidate that is seen as their hindrance to victory.
Thus, the Supreme Court must take necessary caution while reviewing the Kogi situation, place common good as first priority and avoid a situation which will make the death of a man in the late Abubakar Audu’s situation, an attraction for political rivals.
Without fear or favour, it is natural for all the interested parties in the Kogi number one position to be nervous over their political future but we must keep the focus squarely on what is best for Kogi democracy despite the fact that what INEC has already done barely smells like democracy because its only benefit will be for contestants to kill each other. For instance, within a party fold, should a person be the first runner up in the party primaries, his best option to upturn the situation will be to sit, wait, watch and allow the party nominee to coast to near victory then plan his death for automatic succession.
On the other hand, if one is the running mate, but with great hidden agenda to be governor, then the major focus would be to work hard for victory but closely monitor the election results, then at a point that it becomes obvious that victory is assured, his cohorts will strike with a Brutus stab.
On the side of the rivalry party, the candidate that is tending to emerge second in the race will only have to wait for the collation day, engage a few brutes in an insecure state like Nigeria, then do what he considers apt for his immediate ascension to power. Whether we like it or not, these are potential realities if any of the above circumstances of the interested parties is upheld and this is why we must take decisions that will always make politicians ask their supporters to put their guns on safety as no direct gain would emerge from killing.
Indeed, the Kogi inconclusive election if it were to be a movie, has all the actors described above, so should a law be made that encourages any of the situations to ascend immediate victory, then such will make criminality very attractive.
Thus, we must avoid all these negative possibilities by not entrenching a dangerous precedence in national politics that will permit a little bunch of people that will see death of a rival as attractive venture for self gain. This is why we must admit that the law, though assumed blind must see beyond today’s declaration of INEC on the politics of who governs Kogi state in the interim and focus on the realities of what confronts our democracy if INEC’s mishandling of the situation is sustained by the apex court in the land.
The bottomline is that the INEC declaration must be short-lived as we must take into cognizance the reality of our society’s insecurity especially on the ground that Nigeria’s history has shown that politically exposed persons can be wasted with ease as there exist too many unresolved politically induced murders. As such, any electoral process that obscures our collective quest for peace and the sanctity of human dignity must be wholly rejected.
For now, Kogi state election remains Nigeria’s recent biggest challenge in a democracy and If we have to go by what the INEC has applied in Kogi state it may advance political criminality to an extent which will encourage the abrupt elimination of candidates of great potency for victory with many disastrous consequences on our politics.
Realistically, for Kogi election to reflect apt democratic process, a candidate that deserves the mandate of the people must be subjected to general and transparent election not controversially inherited votes. Thus, it must be stated that in untangling the web over Kogi election, the esteemed justices of the Supreme Court must recognise the need to desist from making any new law that will be a clear attraction for political miscreants and greedy men to kill.
It is apparent that so many sensational analyses have cropped up on Kogi elections, some expanding the argument for quality democracy, others diminishing it for self interest but what is of urgent significance is that the cases before the courts is a good opportunity to stop INEC’s conscious attempt to promote political criminality and mute the capacity of the electorate to determine who rules them.
Let the courts rule but in the interest of our democracy, preservation of voters mandate and safety of contestants. INEC has certainly done a dirty work but it remains for the Supreme Court to set correct this wrong. The justice that is much needed here should really not be on the sentiments of who rules Kogi state but that which will help promote unshakable commitment to electoral credibility, peace and security to achieve a developed democracy.
Phrank Shaibu is a public affairs commentator. He lives and works in Abuja.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.