By Hon. Josef Omorotionmwan
So near and yet so far away. This simple oxymoron, typical of the biblical Moses who saw the Promise Land but did not enter into it, now presents itself more and more in our daily lives – more so in the lives of election seekers. Indeed, nothing is done until it is finally done. The political sphere is such that advisedly, no one should rejoice over an election victory until he has been inaugurated. That may be the very beginning of many rivers to cross and hurdles to surmount.
True, you combed those difficult terrains, sometimes at the most unholy hours of the night – at your own risk – and yes, you drank all the ogogoro, sometimes from the same cup with natives whose mouths have never known the tooth paste – all in an attempt to show yourself man of the people.
Rejoice not for the millions of votes that may come from these unwholesome practices may not count except the judge so declares.
The current trend in Nigeria is as intriguing as it is interesting – the judge has the power to veto the collective choices of those millions of voters in a single fiat. So, don’t celebrate the victory at the field until the court awards it. It presents its own problems – in a game of football, how do you ask the goal scorer not to immediately jump for joy because, after all, that goal may have been scored from an off-side position?
Come to think of it, this has been the trend for a long time. In the old Western Region, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and the NCNC which he led worked hard enough to win the election but their gallant gamble ended in the dust. Between the election and the inauguration, so much water passed under the bridge. On the inauguration day, Azikiwe had been probably attired to be sworn in as the Premier of Western Region.
After the House was called to order one after the other, many NCNC members-elect crossed over to the Action Group, AG, side. The NCNC side was hopelessly depleted. That was how Chief Obafemi Awolowo was sworn in as the Premier of Western Region. That was Nigeria’s first experience in carpet crossing, which has remained in our political life ever since.
The current situation in Edo State walks logic on its head. The party is the same – All Progressives Congress, APC. At the last general elections, it had a perfect score – they called it 24 over 24 in the House of Assembly.
Only 9 out of the 24 members-elect have been sworn-in. The others are in limbo. Unknown to them that what they had in their hands was a pyrrhic victory, some of the yet-to-be-inaugurated members celebrated hard on the Election Day. In view of the humongous salaries and allowances ahead of them, or so they thought, it was not fool-hardly for some of them to borrow further to celebrate the victory. Will they ever be inaugurated? Time wasted is irrevocable. All may not be lost. One day perhaps they may be sworn-in and, of course, they may reap the windfall what will atone for the lost representation of the people? May the time fly faster?
Again far into the 21st century, Edo proceeds in utter illegality – standing on one-third of its legislative legs when a war-torn state like Borno stands on all its legs.
What a pity!
Our electoral process is still largely a rumble in the jungle. An electoral process in the jungle. An electoral process in which virtually every winner or loser is decided in the court room simply suggests that either the Independent National Election Commission, INEC, has abandoned its duty post or it is sleeping on duty. The system has been one in which political party bosses instructed their field officers to go and bring winning results by all means and at all cost; and let the opponents go to court. Every election has been a world war of sorts.
There is a school of thought that in such a confused state, judges could simply sit down to allocate results and give victory to whoever they want. After all, they are final.
In a system that is not intent on punishing the people, INEC’s role would have simply been to collate all the application forms from the candidates and submit them to the Supreme Court for allocation.
Lead us not into absurdity. We have tried. No one will accuse us of not trying, having experimented on every form of election known to civilization and none has worked for us. We have maintained elsewhere that when we arrive at the situation where we lack enough wisdom to do, wisdom must consist in not doing at all.
Rather than running around the same circle every four years in the name of elections, the time has come to do away with elections. We may have stumbled on the best prescription for the peace that has eluded us all these years. Nigeria without election will be less acrimonious, non-combative and, indeed, it may soon become the most peaceful place in the entire world.
A rabbit that escaped from Asaba has not crossed the River Niger. It is still in Delta State. That’s the chess game to which we have sentenced ourselves; and the Supreme Court is still final, after all.
What the PDP lost in Imo State, it has gained in Bayelsa, no thanks to the Judicial Award System! In Owerri, we suddenly realized that millions of votes were stocked somewhere; and they must now be brought down to decide a real winner – almost a full year into the four-year tenure!
In Yenagoa, a man had apparently meandered through the Creeks to come for his inauguration. A few hours to the inauguration, the finalists handed in a devastating verdict that he is no longer the winner because they suddenly realized that his running mate entered the race with forged papers.
Another person has since been sworn-in. there can be no better invitation for a cardiac arrest. Thank God, we have men with strong capacity. In such a situation, some would slump and die. Of course, life continues. Nigeria we hail thee!
Meanwhile, no one is asking any question on the Owerri million winning votes. Neither is anyone doing anything about how the Bayelsa man slipped through the system with forged papers to the end. What a wasted generation!
Justice Chukwudifu Oputa (1924-2014) remains relevant, “We are final, not because we are infallible; but we are infallible because we are final”.
They are perhaps final not because they are incorruptible; they are incorruptible because they are final. Those are the benefits of finality, which nobody can take away from them. But if we get our acts together and truly refine our electoral process, the potency of that finality can be greatly reduced. Herein lies the challenge before us.
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