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Edo 2012: Reducing electoral terrorism
The comrade governor was, several weeks ago, endorsed for second term by the good, united people of Edo State. Broom-wielding Adams Oshiomhole, posting a sweeping performance, inflicted a crushing defeat on ethnic politics and electoral gangsterism, tearing apart the stranglehold of a most intimidating combination of fearsome political godfathers. And the ‘Heartbeat of the Nation’ erupted in spontaneous state-wide jubilation, unhindered by the inclemency of weather.
Some observers, though, sought to despise the governor and his landslide victory with some sarcastic reference to his “unnecessary alarm” on the integrity of the electoral process in the early hours of election day. Recent media reports also described some helmsmen of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as contemplating legal actions against the governor for making uncomplimentary remarks about them on the same occasion. On the surface of it, one would have been tempted to take up the gauntlet on the side of both groups. But from hindsight, Oshio Baba could hardly be faulted after all.
Once bitten, they say, twice shy. Recent history of events in the electoral terrain in the country is also a hard teacher. The mind-boggling and disgraceful tragic-comedy that was the judiciary-ordered governorship election partial re-run in Ekiti State in April, 2009 was instructive. If you can’t win it, capture it!
That precisely was what was achieved in the programmed electoral ambush, the vote-ware programmers capturing the exact number of votes they had boasted to amass in each of the 10 local governments in dispute. That was in spite of the conviction of 74-year-old REC, Mama Ayoka’s “conscience as a christian.” The endless drama trailing that inglorious incident would occupy a place of primacy in Nigeria’s Hall of Infamy. The build-up to last July 14, 2012 Edo State governorship election followed similar path. Independent media reports first quoted state Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairman, Dan Orbih, as announcing that the party had a duty to “do everything possible” to “reclaim” the state. He insisted on such because President Goodluck Jonathan, on account of his 2015 ambition, could not afford not to have his entire South-South in his pocket.
Political juggernaut, Chief Tony Anenih, also on the authority of independent media, was reported to have rolled out the exact figures and percentages of votes that would be captured in each local government area and senatorial district. It is instructive to note that PDP bigwig and Niger Delta leader, Chief Edwin Clark, sensing another disgraceful perpetration of electoral terrorism, and in a rare demonstration of statesmanship, cautioned against anyone moving to rig the election for the President.
Then election day came, with INEC coming up with some seeming revolutionary and reassuring steps. But curiously, electoral materials started the day putting up some theatrical hide-and-seek performances, especially in those areas where the big chief had programmed the highest number of votes. So why would the one who went through excruciating torture to reclaim his initial stolen mandate not raise an alarm, necessary or unnecessary?
What was not only unnecessary but also reproachable, however, was the recurring over-celebration, by presidential aides, cabinet members and party stalwarts, of President Jonathan’s “generosity” in over-seeing what was close to a free and fair election. It is disheartening the way we make so much bravado in this country about “feats” which in other climes are not only matters of course but also taken for granted. The minimum expectation of the office of the President is to organise credible elections. In two of the last three presidential elections in neighbouring Ghana, an incumbent president had presided over the defeat of his own party.
Presidential media aide, Reuben Abati, celebrated the presidential “feat,’ carpeting, along the line, most Nigerians who, according to him, were wont to see an election to be free and fair “only when the PDP has lost.” That was a rigged truth. The 2011 presidential election which the overwhelming majority of Nigerians, including the press, observers, commentators, activists, most political opponents and road-side analysts, adjudged to be free and fair was won by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP.
Information Minister, Labaran Maku, in his own celebration, would want Nigerian to swallow his sermon that “the most important aspect in the electoral process is the acceptance of defeat.”
No, sir! That was a rhetorical homily to prepare the ground for coercing the people into submission after possible future electoral abracadabra. The most important issue in the electoral process is the organisation of free, fair, credible, transparent and acceptable election, shutting out ignoble operations of what could be labelled “Local Electoral Terrorist Organisations.”
The overall status of the Edo governorship election 2012 was only a testimonial to our capability to organise credible election if only we could muster the political will. But it was a thing of damning shame that we still needed to deploy thousands of World War-prepared soldiers for a civil programme which in other climes are accomplished in the course of normal daily routine of personal and national life. So the credit in this particular case goes to the good people of Edo State and their resoluteness in rising, in one accord, in stout and uncompromising defence of democratic ideals.
Equally of soothing interest was the overall conduct of INEC which was beginning, gradually, to assert its implied independence. It was to its credit that it admitted there truly were disturbing lapses on election day which need to be fully investigated and addressed, especially as we close in on the October 2012 Ondo State governorship election.
The ruling PDP, just like all other ruling parties at lower levels, including the “marginalised” ones, has every moral, political and constitutional right to win and lose elections in Nigeria.
But whenever anyone makes a claim to electoral victory, let it be victory won, not victory captured.