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Edo/Ondo: Right to life or right to vote?


By Issa Aremu

WED, JULY 01 2020-theG&BJournal-  It was  a mark of statesmanship for  President Muhammadu  Buhari  to have steered the ruling party leadership from a potential mutually destructive brinkmanship and  imminent “ politicide” defined as additive acrimony and deafening collapse of compromise, comradeship and cooperation.

Once again, it’s time for an urgent quality control of the country’s democratic process. There should be a strategic and systematic inculcation of “national ethics of Discipline, Integrity, Dignity of Labour, Social, Justice, Religious Tolerance, Self-reliance and Patriotism” within the ranks of the political class as envisaged by Chapter 11 of the 1999 constitution dealing with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy. Godliness is the details!

Against the background of the mutual suspensions, serial protests at APC secretariat and eventual defection of Governor Godwin  of Edo state from APC to PDP, President Buhari on Tuesday 23rd June presided over an emergency meeting of NEC of the party during which he advised members of the party to bury  hatchet, warning that “mutating disagreements have dire consequences and could lead to party self destruction”. The APC NEC eventually approved the immediate discontinuation of all pending litigation involving the party and its members; ratified the primary election conducted in Edo State; dissolved the current National Working Committee, and appointed a Caretaker/Extra-ordinary Convention Planning committee for the party, with the Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, as Caretaker National Chairman, and Senator John Akpanudoedehe as designated Caretaker National Secretary.

Any crisis within a ruling party must be of grave concern because of its adverse implications for good governance. A ruling party in crisis means actually a nation in “governance haemorrhage”. I  recall that the internal crisis which rocked the ruling PDP  created an atmosphere for deepening security challenge, the worst expression being the kidnapping of Chibok girls in 2014 by Boko Haram militants, worsened corrupt practices and reversal of economic growth of earlier years from which  Nigeria had not yet recovered.  To this extent, President Buhari has not just saved his party from self destruct (his words!) but has commendably inadvertently refocused the attention of all Nigerians to the current challenges of governance the worst manifestation being the huge spikes in COVID-19 infection and fatality rates.

With the crisis tamed, party members and other parties are enjoined to support the ongoing commendable interventions of Presidential Task Force (PTF)on COVID:19, constructively interrogate the newly announced complementary Economic Sustainability agenda among other recovery measures. The point cannot be overstated: despite the ongoing political discordant voices within the  ruling parties at national and states levels, Nigeria remains the largest democracy destination in Sub-Sahara Africa:  80+ million registered voters, 18 political parties (after the  Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had deregistered 74 political parties) thousands of political actors, legislators and governors.

However it’s is regrettable that political entrepreneurs and insular political warriors had since replaced genuine patriotic farsighted politicians of the first and second democratic republic. Most today’s politicians stood for no principles making them vulnerable to everything dysfunctional, inclusive of self destruction. It’s time, for “quality democratic process” in which values and ethics in terms of ideology must return to politics and politics must return to ethics and ideology.

Larry Diamond (1988) had documented how bipolar intra Party battle, with serial abuse of court process by actors within the ruling Western region’s Action Group (AG) between 1962 and 1963 set the stage for the failure of the First Republic. 50 years after, there is still abysmal insufficiency of tolerance, blind ambition without vision. Of course there is absence of the much needed compromises, patience. And huge unacceptable deficits of patriotism and cooperation needed values for nation building. There is an urgent need for a new political movement for a truly progressive Nigeria. Nigeria is deserving of a new Democratic culture that serves the people, before self.

Let’s give meaning to the first stanza of the national anthem: “Arise, O compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey, To serve our Fatherland, With love and strength and faith.” As a comrade, I have been inundated with partisan banters and innuendos about the failures of comrades in politics citing perceived failings of Adams Oshiomhole in politics. On the contrary, the challenges which overwhelmed Oshiomhole- led APC show that democracy is too important to be left to any group or class of political actors.

Democracy is about inclusion, contestation and those who win after asking for equity must come with democratic clean hands, failing which they face the consequences regardless of who they are. The recent events are not unexpected but certainly far from being inevitable. Precisely because yours comradely is involved in Edo project, my partisan bias is predictable for partisan observers. Since 2008, my commentaries on Edo could make for a chapter in a collection of Reflections on Good Governance and Democracy. With benefits of hindsight today, it is self-evident that good politics and good governance makes for good partisan commentaries.

Conversely acrimonious and polarized politics even with good governance makes best of commentaries and reflections an uphill task. But even at that I saw it ending in this peculiar mess. (See Daily trust February 10th 2020 entitled Edo: Politicide or Political Renaissance?). Earlier on  June 25, 2018 in my reflection entitled Adams’ APC: An Agenda, I was the earliest enthusiastic supporter of Oshiomhole as the second chairman of the ruling APC, in the firm belief in his capacity  as a former Union organizer, bargainer, negotiator and statesman, globally adjudged two term successful Edo Governor, with  rich background in art of  consultation, democracy, team work,  persuasion to reinvent APC from being another  special purpose ladder for office  but a platform for new developmental politics .

However all progressive forces are saddened that Oshiomole would preside over a ruling party the trademarks of which are  whimsical recourse to extra- constitutional legal pursuits with conflicting judgements, (not justice!), commercialization of nominations and candidatures, routing candidates through sensational findings on  certifications even when Supreme Court had pronounced on the stupidity of  papers fetishism. There are so much whispers that all politicians are corrupt after all, without credibility. There is even a perception that comrade Adams who commendably prevented an erection of a status in hounor of a Godfather in Edo literally had his “kneels on the neck” of his successor Governor begging “for breadth”.

Nigeria and Africa need more tested non-state civil society actors in governance to uplift Africa from underdevelopment and inequality into prosperity and equity. South Africa just elected Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa, as the new South Africa President having also won as the Deputy President of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), the oldest  political movement  in Africa.)! Great pioneer unionists like late Michael Imoudu and Wahab Goodluck were active partisans who fought for independence and democracy with great politicians like Nnamdi Azikwe in NCNC.

It was gratifying that immediate-past National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomhole, has accepted the decision of the party’s National Executive Committee which dissolved the ever rowdy clumsy National Working Committee which he chaired. It’s now time for a bipartisan governance to fight the scourge of COVID=19, damn the Virus and ensure sustainable livelihoods through the new economic sustainability plan. Which then raises the critical question: what manner of election can hold in an atmosphere in which a notorious Virus has infected almost 1000 and 276 potential voters in Edo and Ondo States respectively?

Certainly 36 and 19 dead potential voters in Edo and Ondo states would definitely not vote in September and October. 1999 constitution alludes to right to life, public health and safety more than the right to vote. Please don’t get me wrong. It’s neither vote nor life. For a developing country that has suffered military rule and militarism, deepening democracy is a fundamental imperative. But only the living vote or be voted for! INEC has commendably launched a Policy on conducting Elections in the context of Covid-19. But the commission’s spokesman Festus Okoye accepts as much that we are into “uncharted waters” where few countries dared.

As many as 61 countries in Europe, North America and Asia had put off various provincial, local and national elections in an atmosphere of pandemic which has claimed over half a million fatalities worldwide . Of course some countries like Burundi and Malawi had controversial elections under COVID-19. In the case of Burundi, the authoritarian president, Pierre Nkurunziza, died from COVID 19 complications few days his party’s candidate, Evariste Ndayishimiye, was declared winner of May Presidential nations. Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, (and APC candidate in October polls) has been reported Positive For COVID-19, barely he was cited in a political crowd unprotected, without face masks.

So much for INEC’s Covid-19 policy! He even sneezed without elbowing with repeated handshakes. A single sneeze, we are told releases about 30,000 droplets, with droplets traveling at up to 400 kilometers per hour, “the droplets in a single cough or sneeze may contain as many as 200,000,000 (two hundred million) virus particles which can all be dispersed into the environment around them”. Can anyone imagine a prospect of candidates campaigning from isolation centres? What manner of election is it that campaigners and voters had to socially distance to convey social messages? Who listens to a campaign under the stress and discomfort of face masks? God forbids, can we imagine INEC officials in isolation, to count whose votes?

Issa Aremu is Member, National Institute, Kuru Jos.

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