One concept that has been a subject of great distortion is democracy. It has suffered manipulations in the hands of scholars, dictators, tyrants, despots and rulers. Democracy is always conveniently bastardized in favour of parochial considerations against the interests of the majority. The contents and morphology of democracy is sacrosanct with universal recognition. Many anti democratic forces has attempted redefining it to accommodate their brand of tyranny but ultimately it cannot stand the litmus test of democracy. What then is democracy?
Simply defined as the right of the people to elect their leaders. This right is usually guaranteed in the Constitution. The Nigerian Constitution provides that power belongs to the people exercisable in periodic elections. The period calendar is four year tenure renewal at the ballot. The weapon for validation of legitimacy of mandate is the ballot system. To safeguard usurpations of the democratic rights of the people from tyrannical tendencies, the 1999 Constitution as amended also states in Section 1(2) which is to the effect that no power shall be exercised by any body or groups in Nigeria or any part of it except as provided by the constitution.
Therefore, deploying any means to access power outside the purview of constitutional mechanisms is not only treasonable but also anti-democratic. The procedure to occupying political offices in Nigeria is clearly defined in the legal regime in accordance with the spirit and letters of the constitution. Any act which circumvent procedures recognize by law in democratic traditions is illegal and must be rejected in favour of democracy. To entrench durable democratic culture, the principles of rule of law must be imbibe by every citizen.
Meaning that every conduct of the people must be subject of legal regime. Everybody shall be held accountable within the parameters of law for acts committed in breach of the law. Even governments are not exempted from liability of actions or omissions in discharge of constitutional responsibilities.
But why has constitutional practice since 1999 remains infantile? There is so much motions without action especially with regard to Local government elections. The only commendable efforts was in Kano state during Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, where opposition political parties contested and won different positions including Chairmanship, they were inaugurated and served their full tenures according to Kano State Local Government law. What has been happening is all over the federation is caricature of grassroots democracy. The party in government in the state must win all the seats by fire by force, the opposition can go to hell, that has been the new norm.
Contesting Local government elections does not require popularity or acceptability rather your capacity of thuggery in defence of non performance or acquisition of new academic credentials in hero worship, praising singing and blackmail of imaginary enemies of the Governor. Loyalty here does not means patriotism but the creativity in lying, insulting people opposed to failure. The Local Government is the personal estate of the occupant of the Government House with a family member or trusted surrogate appointed as manager officially designated as commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. To compensate mediocrity, attack dogs of the Governor are carefully selected, anointed and imposed in a discredited electoral process against the will of the people. Force is then deployed to quelled any resistance against electoral robbery by the government.
The political economy of Local Government elections is to generate severance packages for lame duck institution the State Independent Electoral Commission officials, even though created by the constitution but has been effectively hijacked for hatchet political jobs by State Governments. The Commission in connivance with the party in power in the will exhort monies from prospective aspirants/candidates through sale of nomination forms. After this successful revenue drive the life style of the Commission members will change, subsequently there will be a political charade where the so called anointed list will be announced as winners. This has been the circle since the beginning of this democratic experiment in 1999. Little wonder, the autonomy for local governments is considered an affront against state control.
Another nostalgic dimension of rape to local governments democracy is the recently inconclusive primaries of All Progressive Congress in Plateau State, where elections has been scheduled by Plateau Independent Electoral Commission for October 2021. The party sold forms at rates beyond the reach of common people yet people struggled to acquire forms. Before the scheduled date for party primaries, speculation was ripped that anointed government candidates will be imposed without any primaries or the main elections. On the date of the purported primaries, people waited under sun and rain till dawn before Electoral Committe members were sighted in some places. The exercise was inconclusive in most of the places, however names of some people have secretly been smuggled as candidates of the Party.
To add salt to the injury, PLASIEC has disqualified the main opposition party, People Democratic Party from participating in the forthcoming Local Government elections based on crisis in the party. According to a press statement issued by the commission, their decision is backed by law. With this, the coast is set for the coronation of so called anointed government candidates as Local government officials. There is no doubt PLASIEC has thrown caution to the wind and ever ready for paid master dirty deal. But does electoral umpire possess such powers to do and undo except it cannot turn a woman into man?
Certainly, not under our laws, except mostly likely in reckless tyrannies. What is disgusting is the conduct of the would be tyrants, who shamelessly parades nomination forms smuggled and filled in the dark cover of the night by the State Electoral Commission on the social media. If they were that popular and possessed some modicum of integrity let them submit themselves to credible electoral processes.
Ironically this electoral coup against internal democracy in our party was perpetuated by beneficiaries of democracy who conspired against the will of the people. Most of the APC electoral committee members are prominent members of the party who had been once elected but chose to betrayed democracy for parochial benefits by working against the cohesion of our party.
This singular act is threatening the unity and by extension the prospect of the party. Those involved in these shameful rape of democracy will live with trauma of this conspiracy that has reversed our civilization many steps backwards. Those congratulating beneficiaries of crime against democracy must have injustice waiting for them either now or latter.
There was no reason for all is political jamborees that ended up dividing us, there are better and neater way to go about it which still would have still been below democratic standards. Now that this has happened, the state government must take steps to rescue the situation. It is a coup against democracy, so an in-house reconciliation committee is merely another way to compensate neglected family members. How can such a community cue an injury on our collective democratic psyche?
My recommendation is that government should take full responsibility, apologize to the people, stop the process and direct APC to refund all the monies collected from Aspirants, then as usual used security reason to announce the anointed candidates as Management Committe chairmen. Thereafter, plan and organize credible primary elections or adopt consensus method of nomination then the APC will win all or but one as it is the practice.
It should be noted that no power can overwhelm the will of the people. If we take Plateau people for granted, they will definitely administer the vaccine they have been using against despotic virus. We needed to employ reconciliatory administrative method as we wind down to 2023.
This tyranny in democratic settings must be resolved to save local governments system from extinction. Currently the Local government system is under siege struggling with knees of the state Governor’s on their necks screaming “I can’t breathe”.
May the Lord grant state Governor’s the grace to remove their knees on the necks of suffocating Local Government system amen. Happy Sunday.
Dalung is a former Minister of Youths and Sports.