We have returned to forceful elections again — Bello, ex-Kogi acting gov

Alhaji Abubakar Bello, a former speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly and one-time acting governor of the state, proffers the way forward on the emerging scenarios

“We now witness judicial governors in our country as against electoral governors who are and who should be the most ideal and acceptable as provided by the 1999 Constitution. I’m afraid that we’re about losing all the gains between 2007 to 2015 electoral reform; that is, if we indeed have not lost them.

“In 1999, election process in Nigeria was brutal, and the outcome for the strongest. Winners emerged all over the country not because of decent campaigns, and peaceful voting and excellent overseeing conduct on the side of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The 1999 election symbolised war in another form.

By the next election cycle, which was in 2003, those who were beneficiaries of the previous election increased their efforts towards self-sustenance in office.

We now witnessed the excessive ballot box snatching all over the country in 2003 general elections coupled with burning of homes of opponents even before the commencement of the polls itself.

By 2007, the country graduated into more violence and deep involvement of the judiciary during elections. Two things became obvious from these elections. One, cheat your opponents anyhow and wait for him at the courts; after all the complaints need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the winner outsmarted him during the polls.

Two, judicial officers became too involved in making pronouncements either wrongly or otherwise. Don’t forget that these learned characters, as they want us to refer to them, are Nigerians too, who are in an unending race towards greater materialism anyhow.

The introduction of electoral reforms during the 2011 elections did give hope to some of us. Strangely by 2019 elections, we were back to 1999 with its much consequence with pains. Judicial decisions now prevail and produce our elected officials instead of the voters. ‘Kill your opponents and bribe the courts to sustain you’ became the norm.

We have returned to forceful elections again. How did we get here once more? What caused the sad reversal? We need constitutional reforms, which must be geared towards the followings: the winners of elections must come to court with the burden of having to prove that, indeed, he won decently based on the provisions of our law.

That is, the burden of proof should be shifted from the loser of elections. Elections should be conducted in such a manner, with greater
space to the extent that enough time is available for all litigation before inauguration and assumption of office. A situation where winners are in office, using public resources with intimidating connections to outdo his or her opponents is unhealthy for our democracy.

Let’s make it explicitly clear that electoral victory can only become valid through the ballot, and where any abuse did occur during the cause of the polls, the contestants must return back to face the electorate.

The failure of the executive to accent to the last Electoral Act amendment was fatal, and thus urgent efforts be made in this regard. This setback alone was what worsened our situation and thus took us back to pre-1999 dark era. The failure of the highest court in the land to uphold the gains of 2011, when it rejected the concept of ‘Card Reader’, especially in the case of Governor Nyesom Wike, created the huge loss on our efforts towards a better election and thus emboldened the political actors to unleash their excessive and destructive energy in all
the elections that followed the 2015 general election till now.

The Supreme Court, as final court and a policy institution, must help in building our disintegrating democracy by upholding some reforms like card reader, even if it hasn’t been entrenched in the Constitution.

Decisions based on technicalities must be
avoided and discarded forthwith. Technology must be brought into our electoral system. We should be encouraged with the support of our laws to vote from the comfort of our homes using technology.

This will reduce so many costs and dangers faced by voters during elections where violence is now becoming increasingly the popular option. Our political leadership recruitment efforts must be reviewed. Out of the three arms of government in our country, only the judiciary has an established standard in terms of how judges emerge. The executive and the legislature have poor standard in the manner through which leadership at these levels are recruited. A complete failure can be president, governor, senators, speakers or House of Assembly members,
and so on.

It’s equally harmful to allow a system where the law closes its eyes against characters of individuals seeking leadership in our country. Thus, ritual killers and armed robbers as far as they are not caught can if he wins and he is declared so by INEC becomes an instant mate of an erudite Professor who gains electoral victory from his or her constituency too. We need urgent reforms in both character and content.

Finally, we must reject the idea of “the end justifies the means” and rather uphold the most acceptable mode of “the means should and must justify the end” in all our conducts. At home, in public and in all our institutions.

 

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