By Felix Balogun
It will do our Democratic experience a whole lot good if concerted efforts are made not only to raise caution against surreptitious dissipation of energy that seeks to revert the gains of the electoral processes but to also ensure that records are put in the right perspective for the sake of tomorrow. While congratulating Nyesom Wike, on the Supreme Court judgement which ‘validated’ his election as governor of Rivers state, a victory the erudite Professor Itse Sagay described as won over corpses of Rivers citizens, it’s of utmost importance that his current verbiage and vituperations against institutions of state, no less the body that conducted the bloody elections he won, be checked .
Having secured this landmark but controversial judgment, Mr. Wike had commenced sustained verbal attacks against the INEC which is gearing to conduct very important elections into the annulled seats in the state assembly . In his usual cantankerous and loquacious way, during the occasion of a “Thanks giving” ceremony, he didn’t spare the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in his misplaced diatribe as well as its Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, alleging ,among so many other claims that the chairman of INEC was being used to grant electoral victory to the opposition APC in the impending elections.
Before the judgement, Wike insisted that the INEC conducted the elections in the state in line with laid down guidelines and vigorously defended the results of the elections that brought him in as governor. Since his victory, he now sings a different tune. What changed?
As a lawyer, the Governor of Rivers State should know that INEC doesn’t just fix dates for elections, but is guided by provisions of the electoral act and in re-run elections, by pronouncements of the courts. So why take umbrage at the announced dates by INEC which has not run foul of any laws? INEC didn’t make the laws, it only implements the laws as passed by the National Assembly and as interpreted by the judiciary. We agree that our laws are not perfect, shifting the blame and seeing INEC as one that is compromised is uncalled for.
The Rivers State Governor’s statement on the days fixed for the rerun of State Assembly Election smacks of mischief as the time for such exercise are stipulated in the electoral acts. It is unthinkable, ridiculous and uncalled for to accuse the Chairman of INEC of wrongdoing . One expects him to consult the electoral act which is very unambiguous on whose responsibility it is to fix election dates. If he had clear knowledge of this, he wouldn’t have made such comment concerning the INEC Chairman.
At this point, one wonders if all the accolades poured on the immediate past Chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, who supervised the last elections are justified! The number of elections that have so far been cancelled by the courts are unprecedented in the history of elections in Nigeria. The case of Rivers State is a dirty and embarrassing reference point. Here is a state where all elected members in its state assembly had their elections annulled for flagrant disregard and a use of electoral processes. That governor Wike had his election validated by the Supreme Court raises a lot of eye brows but that is a matter for another day. Perhaps, Wike senses that another opportunity to cut short his victory is around the corner leading to his current rant and allegation of compromise against the leadership f the INEC. Conscience, indeed , is an open wound. Is the burden of the atrocities committed against poor masses of the state in a bid to secure this “bloody” victory beginning to prick Wike’s conscience?
There is a need to build and strengthen our institutions including INEC. Public office holders should make themselves familiar with the law as enshrined in our constitution and electoral act and walk and act within its fine lines. The change that we desire is only possible when people act within limits of decency and abide by the rule of law. The gunboat tactics which characterized the last elections in Rivers state must not be allowed to repeat. The INEC and indeed , Prof. Mahmood Yakubu ,must not be intimidated, blackmailed or railroaded into allowing the existing statusquo of sham elections to continue. We are particularly pleased that all elections conducted since the assumption of office f this new INEC leadership have seen a departure from the norm. Where substantial malpractice had been witnessed, affecting the eventual outcome of elections, such elections had been cancelled or declared inconclusive, a practice that was alien to the old order. Rivers state will and should not be different. Elections and its outcomes must be determined only by the will of the people as expressed in the number of valid votes cast. For governor Wike, it’s time to stop his present campaign of calumny against the INEC and appeal to the people of the state for the election of his preferred candidates.