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Monday, March 4, 2024

Judiciary: An Election Victory Snatching Machine – By Sanusi Muhammad

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In his opinion on the operational model of democracy in Nigeria and how to defeat the cancer of rigging elections, electoral corruption and judicial banditry against electoral victory for true democracy to thrive.
According to a renowned British political scientist James Dickson:“In developing or raw and crude politics spiced with corrupt practices, uprooting a sitting president, prime minister, governor etc through conventional election in Nigeria has always been a daunting task but probably that can be achieved through the judiciary
“Those to be uprooted for failure to deliver what is expected from them while in power, always perfect plans to scuttle every effort deployed by those in the struggle including the use of compromised security agents, INEC officials and the judiciary either to rig the elections or declared victory by the relevant body snatched on strength of rhetorical judgments and same awarded to rejected loser by the judiciary that has been the albatross of credible governance in Nigeria
“They have gone the extra mile by imposing their stooges in critical sectors and on the local government administration to serve as their easy rigging machines while hooligans and vandals are sponsored to rig the results in favor of their pay masters. We have witnessed several of such cases and still witnessing many more unless the system is changed
“For the 2023 elections, Nigerians woke up to counter any rigging strategy and to nip the problem in the bud for the good of the democracy no matter the threats from compromised security agents and INEC ad-hoc staff but that was near impossible”.
Our electoral history is full of proofs as also the 2019 electoral victory of President Buhari, Governor Lalong in Plateau State and several others. We have never succeeded in removing a sitting president or state governor minus the late Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa of Kaduna State in the second republic in our electoral history. In fact, we have never succeeded in stopping any of their anointed successors except in few cases.
A onetime governor of Bayelsa State in the South-South, Timpreye Sylva was defeated at the 2011 reelection when he sought for a second term and Muhammed Abdullahi Abubakar of Bauchi state in 2019 and Bello Matawalle of Zamfara state in 2023. That was only possible because they hadn’t the required support of the presidency, which controls the forces of rigging along with the judiciary.
It was also the case in 2007 when the outgoing governors of Adamawa and Bauchi States could not see their anointed through. The only new developments were those of Governors Ali Modu Sheriff of Borno State, Ahmadu Adamu Mu’azu and Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State, who were defeated in 2007, 2011 and 2015 senatorial elections. Sheriff had wanted to return to the senate from where he earlier fired the shot to Borno Government House.
This was historic nevertheless but can change the total picture. There was also the defeat of Akala Alao of Oyo, Shinkafi of Zamfara and Aliyu Akwe Doma of Nasarawa States. Positive developments for sustenance!
Shehu Shagari, Obasanjo and Buhari have all proved the theory beyond any doubt. Indeed, the results of the election for their second bids turned out to be more outrageous. Consider Shagari’s ‘landslide victory’ in 1983 which necessitated a military coup, Obasanjo’s near perfection of a one party state in 2007 and Buhari’s secret support to Tinubu for the 2023 presidency.
Look at the questionable votes received by Jonathan in 2011 from the South-south and Southeast respectively. What of his clean sweep of the South-west that same was not repeated in 2015, the 2011 victory will remain topical for years to come!
But what informed those victories? Take the PDP victories of 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011. All came at a time when Nigerians were thoroughly fed-up with its alleged incompetence, poor performance and unprecedented corruption that APC the new breed supersedes today with pride.
There was also the case of an almost completely destroyed infrastructure and rising insecurity courtesy of the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents but now in APC era, it is combined with banditry and kidnapping for ransom. With these obvious facts, it was easy to conclude that no person with clear conscience could ever think of returning PDP to power in 2011 but it won the election with expertise. The opposite was the case.
What could be responsible? The answer remains the incumbency factor. It consists of free government funds, deployment of compromised security agencies, state-controlled electronic media etc all at the beck and call of the president and/or the state governors, which they misuse and deploy to their exclusive and personal advantages.
A Nigerian president and state governors do not spend a dime from their personal resources to fund their campaigns. Rather, they use public funds, facilities and instruments against other contesting opponents.
During the 2011 presidential election, governors seen to be in ‘problematic state’ were allegedly given N2billion each to facilitate Jonathan’s return to power in their respective states that worked out.
Five or so prominent Northern so called elders were reportedly dispatched with billions of public funds to bribe Northern traditional rulers and some selected leaders of thought in the region. One of the delegates was a well known critic of Jonathan, who suddenly changed color as an ardent admirer in a most dramatic manner. But why the sudden change? Because he was bribed and lost his pride!
The NTA completely transformed to a megaphone and propaganda machinery of the PDP and Jonathan as was the case in PDP-controlled states which few are now maintained by the APC with crudity. Opposition parties were completely blacked out and denied a mention in those state-controlled electronic media. Not only that even their paid advertorials were out rightly rejected by those compromised stations for fear of the obvious.
In such states, it was problematic for opposition parties to secure campaign venues. The police reportedly, murdered six CPC members in Jos, Plateau State during the presidential campaign visit of Muhammadu Buhari in 2011. In Abia, Adamawa, Niger States etc, the story was the same while in Bauchi, it was a post election violence that erupted even as Muhammadu Buhari had won in the State against Jonathan with nine Youth Corp members as INEC ad-hoc staff innocently murdered.
Using state funds and resources, traditional rulers, religious leaders, opinion leaders etc were allegedly induced and quickly joined the Jonathan train. It was a total conquest of those who mattered through the corrupt use of government resources from several channels.
When we put all these together, the clear picture was pre-election rigging on a most corrupt scale as several media reports indicated which APC has turned to a child’s play today. Never was huge public funds pumped into electing a Nigeria president on a scale unprecedented in corruption, this was how the 2011 presidential election was partly rigged and said to have been won and affirmed by the Supreme Court. As stated, this has been the case with elections in Nigeria since independence.
The obvious fact is that no matter how poorly a Nigerian president performs or how corrupt or immoral his regime is, he will always emerge victorious in any election as would also someone anointed by him, as in the case of the late Umaru Musa Yar Adu’a (2007) and Bola Ahmed Tinubu (2023). Our electoral history has proved that.
It has similarly demonstrated that where an outgoing incumbent wasn’t keenly interested in his successor, electoral outcome has been relatively free and fair. Check the list: 1959, 1979, 1992-93 and 1999. The lesson here is that incumbents, especially their common greed, are central to the corrupt nature of our electoral democracy and this would remain so until the situation is reversed or resisted with violence.
How? The Kangaroo Constitution Review of the National Assembly failed to include that the president and governors plus some of their key appointees, especially in the security service, vacate office at least six months to election and in the interim, a presidium be constituted to oversee affairs until after the elections and after the usual series of litigations.
Doing that, may deny incumbent access to FREE STATE FUNDS for waste, which they might have squandered for their campaigns and settling accomplices and lapdogs
The counter argument to this proposal has been that no country practices such a formula or that it is not practiced in advanced democracies. That may be true. But then, no sitting president, prime minister or governor in the said advanced democracies dares touch a dime of public funds for his personal benefit or campaign. In Germany for instance, the Chancellor fuels any official vehicle assigned to him/her from his expenses anytime he/she is on any private trip. This reminds me of a former Brazilian president who was on an official trip to a certain town where his political party executives were having a meeting. He called briefly at the venue of the meeting and continued with his official trip. Some activists dragged him to the court for misusing official hours to attend to his party affair. He was consequently found guilty of using state facility for his private interest. He was ordered to refund the cost of fueling the state aircraft, which conveyed him to the town where the meeting was held. In Nigeria, you would be eaten raw by sycophants and compromised security agents if you dare drag the president or any public official to court for such an act.
Our laws or dos’ should not be measured viz-a-viz practices elsewhere but against the background of our queer and raw democratic mannerism. You can talk of so called equal and even playing field when incumbents have limited access to state resources and facilities for their companions, while other contestants don’t by any standards. Such disparity is immoral and above all corrupt and evil.
In conclusion, the so called incumbency factor is the most corrupt element in the Nigerian electoral system, tactically and tacitly sanctioned by law such as for us to conclude that they were drawn up to corruptly favor incumbents. When PDP officials beat their chests that they were going to rule Nigeria for 60 years, it was because the corrupt rigging machine under the control of the presidency backed by a corrupt judiciary would always be deployed in their favor, as happened during all the past presidential elections. Without that, there was no way Obasanjo could have returned to power in 2003, Yar Adu’a in 2007, Jonathan in 2011 and Buhari in 2019 and Tinubu declared winner in 2023 on APC platform. We should look critically into how incumbents corner public funds for their personal campaigns. If we are sincerely committed to strengthening the ethos of our democracy, we should do the needful. That can best be handled by the national assembly but unfortunately the 9th National Assembly was a huge mistake. We had more of contractors than lawmakers. We had more of sycophants to the executive than patriots. We had more of semi-illiterates than the educated with exposure.
Remember the famous legislative comedian Gudaji Kazaure, Yakubu Shehu, Lawal Gumau, Halliru Jika and several others that were mere seat warmers in the national assembly. The situation was worrisome and has not improved especially from most northern states where motor park touts and likes are sponsored to win elections or awarded victories to represent their people for easy control by their sponsors. Such nonsense deserves immediate change.
Lest I forget, the recent judgments delivered and affirmed by the Court of Appeal in election petitions are generating the possibility of an ugly situation in certain states not comfortable with the judgments and no matter how objective they might be, there are several allegations of bribe taking against the judges including the judgment of the Supreme Court in the presidential election petition that affirmed Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the rightfully elected president.
Particular emphasis is now on Plateau, Kano and Zamfara states judgments now gathering dust before the Supreme Court for the final whistle.
As disciples of true democracy, ours is to say; God Save Nigeria from the grip of our undertakers in the political field, security agencies and the judiciary!
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues

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