We should not be surprised if beginning from 2014 governors, senators, House of Assembly members, etc emerge by endorsement and not by election. I am not saying Nigerians will not go to the polls to cast their votes as INEC must be kept busy, it is just that at the end of it all someone will appear from somewhere to say, “Sorry, fellow Nigerians, we endorsed Ogbeni/Mallam/Eze ABC to be the governor/senator of this state/senatorial district a week ago.” And that will be the end of it all provided Nigerians do not insist on establishing the truth on the NGF saga.
The only hope for the masses, I mean the judiciary, has been constrained. The ruling class has restricted the judiciary in view of the clause in the Electoral Act that election petitions must be resolved within a certain number of days. They knew from the outset that no meaningful resolution would be arrived at on most of the election petitions within the stipulated period and this explains why in most cases petitions filed against elections conducted in the past hit the brick wall. Examples abound of genuine petitions that were struck out because the prescribed days for their resolution in the constitution elapsed.
I am just beginning to connect the dots on the NGF matter. Last year it was widely reported that a sitting governor who is among those that want endorsement in place of election in our constitution short-changed a candidate that won the primary election of one of the senatorial districts in his state by replacing him with another candidate who did not participate in the primary election. Do you know what? After he made the revelation, nothing happened.
Therefore, having successfully done that in his state where thousands of voters were involved, he was very sure that repeating the same feat would be easier amongst 36 voters. That could only explain the arguments being put forward by the Governor Jonah Jang group that he was endorsed by all the governors from the north. If this group is allowed to replace election by endorsement, the masses will be worse hit.
To me, this is the time to worry because it appears the politicians have garnered enough confidence to openly canvass endorsement instead of election. And I am afraid they will repeat in Osun and Anambra States, where governorship elections are imminent, the same thing that they wanted to do with the NGF election, which is why we have to be more vigilant.
Political officeholders keep throwing anything at us because they know that we do not have a mind of our own. Come to think of it, why would someone anchor his victory on endorsement and not election? The earlier we can read meanings into this NGF election, the better for us.
We can’t be too sure, they might have already put a clause in the yet-to-be released amended constitution that says “whenever a dispute arises as to who actually should occupy a seat between an elected candidate and an endorsed candidate, the endorsed candidate takes precedence”. The ruling class has successfully done this before because we were not a party and privy to the composition of the 1999 constitution, and yet the opening statement says “We the people of Nigeria…” We all know that they will include only the provisions that favour them in the constitution. They vehemently opposed the Nigerian masses when we had the opportunity to protect our interest. Have we suddenly forgotten that some governors and senators openly opposed the granting of autonomy to local governments in the country? This means that should Nigerians accept this endorsement debacle, the country will become a fiefdom as only those who are close to the people in power will be made future leaders.
Now that major elections (governorship) are a few months away, we should collectively put our hand together to nip the crisis in the bud so that they do not extend the “doctrine of endorsement” to all major elections. The first thing the NGF Secretariat will have to do is to prove to all Nigerians that en election took place. Secondly, that all the thirty-five governors in attendance voted in the election. Once these are established, we would know who is playing to the gallery.
Electoral disputes, especially at the governorship and presidential levels, have wreaked havoc on the Nigerian people. In the process, families have lost property and members, and some have not been able to recover till today. We should not forget “operation wetie” in the south-west, June 12 crisis and the 2011 presidential elections alongside their attendant destructions.
When compared with other democracies, elections in Nigeria are the most expensive in the world. So, how can we spend so much to conduct elections only for a group of individuals to ridicule the whole exercise? For us not to start having parallel local, state and federal governments as demonstrated in the just concluded NGF election, we must insist on establishing the truth. In other words, if we just fold our arms, what we are witnessing now will provide a platform for the next thing to come, which is the formation of parallel government if an endorsed gubernatorial/presidential candidate loses an election. A stitch in time saves nine.
Sule is an analyst in the BusinessDay Research and Intelligence Unit (BRIU).
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