It is difficult to persuade Kenyans, exasperated by the shenanigans of their Grand Coalition (which many regard as the Grand CONFUSION) government that there is anything good in electoral democracy. However the recent rescue of the country from political implosion by the speaker of the national parliament has also rescued parliamentary democracy. Kenyans are much better off than many other African citizens though. One important area where this is true is that their vote now matters. They have made the cost of rigging, denying or robbing them of their vote so high, that politicians are more circumspect and fearful of the wrath of the electorate.
Nigerians do not have any illusions about voting. The masses have not lost hope that one day their vote will count but the politicians have no such hope. They fight the election as you would fight a war, for both nomination inside their party and the actual election against other parties’ candidates.
Nothing illustrates this point better than the recent re-election taking place in Ekiti state. On 17th February 2009 the Court of Appeal ordered a re-run of the governorship election in 65 wards in 10 local governments of Ekiti State. The effect of that order was that the ruling PDP Governor of State, Olushegun Oni, had his election annulled. Dr Kayode Fayemi of the opposition, Action Congress (AC), was the appellant. In the undisputed result he had a majority of votes. HE is believed to have won the April 2007 election outright, but the Appeal Court ruled that there were irregularities in the specified wards, hence the re-run instead of giving him his mandate back outright.
The Independent National Electoral Commission conducted the re-run election on the 25th of April 2009. As I write, the results of 5 local governments have been released and the two candidates are still neck to neck, but Kayode is leading if all the votes are put together. The re-run in one of the ten local governments has been postponed due to violence, which made it impossible for the election to take place.
No party is innocent of election violence or the threat of it, but the power balance is often in favour of the ruling party because of its control of formal instruments of coercion and control over the administrative and machinery of the judiciary presiding over the electoral and political process.
The build up to the election was anything but peaceful as both leading parties and their supporters engaged in ‘do or die’ efforts to get their candidate elected. There were all kinds of allegations and counter allegations of who was preparing for or orchestrating threats, stockpiling weapons and also accusations about the partiality of the security establishment. To guarantee the integrity of the process the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) decided not to use its Ekiti state staff in the conduct of the re-run election.
There was national interest in the re-run largely because of the great expectation by many that the near monopoly of political power by unfair means by the PDP would be dealt a blow in the state as it had happened through judicial decisions in two other states recently: Edo and Ondo states. The other factor is the fact that Fayemi has been a very active leader in civil society and the pro-democracy movement against the military. He is one of very few CSO activists that ventured into partisan politics and he therefore has a lot of goodwill from his former colleagues in the civil society. Over 800 election monitors from different CSO groups across the country, the National Human Rights Commission and other election monitors were in Ekiti State for the election. The state is very small; the election was not even taking place across the whole state therefore the monitors were more than sufficient to cover all the wards and polling stations. If any of the parties or their supporters wanted to violate the law, they had to do it in the presence of all these observers.
And this is what happened. According to a press release by Dr Jibrin Ibrahim, Director of the CENTRE FOR DEMOCRACY AND DEVELOPMENT (CDD):
“In the afternoon of 25th April, political thugs from the PDP attacked civil society observers monitoring the gubernatorial election re-run. They were attacked at Ifaki ward of Ido-Osi Local Government Area of Ekiti State, the home town of Olusegun Oni, former PDP Governor of the State. They were en route to the capital, Ado Ekiti. They are:
- Dr. Abubakar Momoh, Associate Professor of Political Science, Lagos State University and Centre for Democracy and Development;
- Dr. Azeez Olaniyan, Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti;
- Wahab Oyedokun, a lawyer on the staff of the National Human Rights Commission;
- Bimbo Olaniyan, Programme Officer with Action Aid;
- Babatunde Awodehinde from the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR);
- Olusoga Olusegun from the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR);
- Foudad Oki from the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR).
The assault took place at a police check point where four armed policemen watched in amusement while the political thugs attacked the observers with machetes, broken bottles, sticks and clubs. Dr Abubakar Momoh was beaten to a pulp and received numerous cuts from broken bottles. The police watched as they put used tyre around Wahab Oyedokun’s neck and were looking for fuel to burn him alive.”
But for the intervention of a senior Police Officer, CSP Samuel-Etaifo Erale of Mopol (MOBILE POLICE) who had arrived by chance at the scene and stopped the brutalisation of the observers.
As if the assault was not enough the police then proceeded to arrest the victims instead of the perpetrators!
They were locked in police cells and eventually driven to Abuja where they were released on bail on Monday evening after more than 48 hours of unnecessary suffering and gratuitous violence from PDP thugs and the police.
Those with memory will remember the politics of the annulment of the election of Chief MKO Abiola, famously known as JUNE 12 in 1992. It is a sad irony that Kayode actually became ‘state enemy No 1’ for his role in actualizing the June 12 mandate. Now he is facing a state level June 12 conspiracy!
When IBB and the other generals saw that the Chief whom they did not want to succeed them was winning, they halted the announcements and confiscated the mandate, subsequently jailing the winner who never came out of prison alive.
What is happening in Ekiti is June 12 at the State Level.
The issue is not whether one favours one candidate or the other, but the sanctity of the freely expressed electoral choice of the citizens of that state. President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua did not promise Nigerians any miracle on assumption of office as the beneficiary of a stolen mandate. He made two tangible promises: to lead by example as a ‘servant leader’ and follow the Rule of Law. What is happening in Ekiti State contradicts both. The guilty fingers are pointed at his party, his government and as President, the buck stops at his table.
“Forward ever, backward never”…..Kwame Nkrumah (1909 – 1972)