Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Ekiti Crisis

Why has the nation ‘fountain of knowledge’ turned ‘fountain of anarchy’? Can we ever conduct a credible election in Nigeria? And if yes, how can it be done? Are we actually practising democracy in a true sense? And perhaps, is democracy the answer? Or should we explore alternative governance process? These are the questions been asked in the last few days following last Saturday Gubernatorial election re-run in Ekiti State. We may probably just need to remind ourselves that the election re-run was only to be conducted in 68 electoral wards (!). So why on earth has an election with only 25,000 votes for grabs turned into a ‘free-for-all’ violence? There has been report of widespread violence with political thugs are having a filled day. Journalists have also been attacked with machetes. We now understand that State Resident Electoral Commissioner has gone AWOL. We have also heard allegations and counter-allegations among the political parties of fraud. And as of Tuesday 28 April, elections are yet to commence in Oye-Ekiti, and therefore the gubernatorial election remains inconclusive.

The current situation is not an isolated case. These events are just a sad reminder of the ‘wild wild west’ of the second republic. Some of the older generation may remember the bloodshed caused by the political rivalry between the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). It is right to say that some of the victims of the mayhem have since not recovered. But the question remains, can there ever be a free and fair election in Nigeria?

The conduct of ‘free and fair’ elections is a collective responsibility of everyone. The government must ensure that it promotes an environment that will encourage a fair electoral process. And when I say ‘environment’, I mean the ‘electoral system’ in its entirety. Legislations and processes that support the electoral system must also be fair. The nation’s citizens and politicians are also charged with the responsibility of complying with the ‘rules of engagement’.

In Nigeria, what we have is a political system that is at odds with the principles of democracy. Our electoral process is devoid of any form of transparency. We have a democratic structure that is riddled with inherent conflict of interests. Our law enforcement agents have been compromised. The system grants enormous power to the incumbent. The electoral commission is not in anyway ‘independent’. How can an elected President be responsible for appointment of the INEC Chairman? The President is also responsible for the appointment of heads of law enforcement agencies. Now tell me, how can you unseat an incumbent who has all the state machinery at his disposal? We have seen situations in the past when law enforcements have been used to harass opponents of the ruling party. I remember Ex-President Obasanjo accused of using the EFCC to intimidate and harass opponents of his ‘third term’ agenda. I also need not to remind you of how ‘men in uniforms’ have colluded with the ruling party to snatch and stuff ballot boxes.

The effect of this obvious imbalance in our political system and democratic structure has rendered the opposition helpless. And that is why most of the opposition parties engage in thuggery, rigging and so on. The fact is, every political party in Nigeria is engaged in one form of electoral fraud or the other. The only difference between is that the ruling party is normally aided by other state agencies. The winner of an election is mostly determined by how much resources you have at your disposal to rig the election.

So how can we begin to address these problems? Until the principles underlying our electoral and democratic system is addressed, free and fair elections will only be a mirage. After 10 years of continuous democratic rule, I’m beginning to support the idea of a sovereign national conference. I used to believe that those clamouring for a sovereign national conference were doing so for selfish reasons. However, I have now come to realise that it is important that we start to redefine the structure of our existence as a nation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not agitating for the break up of Nigeria. In fact, I believe our diversity, which is often seen as a challenge, is one of our greatest strength. However, the ‘bolts and nuts’ of our constitution needs to be re-engineered. We need to engage in serious discussions about on our style of governance. If we want to practice Federalism, let us practice true Federalism. The current Federal structure does not make any sense. There is too much power vested on the President. We do not have clear separation of powers within our governance structure. Our electoral process needs serious overhaul. We need a genuine electoral reform. Not the one currently being proposed by the current government. It is unlikely that any ruling party will support such a true electoral reform. And that is why these issues have to be discussed at a non-partisan level.

Until these fundamental issues are resolved, the Ekiti crisis will be a child’s play. With 2011 elections around the corner, how this crisis will pan out over the next few weeks will of course be a matter of interest to everyone.

1 comment:

agaba said...

Talk it
That is the way it is. All hands must be on deck.
Nigeria must rise again.