These are interesting times in this nation, with some celebrating and others licking their wounds. Trust our politicians: they are ready to test our patience to the limit, even if it means destroying existing structures; it does not matter to them. And, to make matters worse, they will be looking for a scapegoat, the one that they will transfer all of the blames to.
They had already set the Supreme Court ready, like the lamb ready for slaughtering, but how disappointing did it turn out for them? The judgements of the Supreme Court in the cases of Bayelsa and Imo states governorship elections jolted the nation and the consequences will reverberate in the land for a long time to come. It clearly showed that our Supreme Court is the final arbiter, even if the people there are mere mortals like us; we must accept their judgements; whatever the outcomes, they must be accepted graciously.
Let us take it that things are happening in the name of democracy building; that is, our democracy is growing, the system is readjusting itself towards a better future. It might be unpleasant today, but it will be good for the future; that is, if our politicians are ready to learn from it. But why do our politicians find it so difficult to keep to the rules? What is in this politics thing that makes them want to subvert the process always and at all cost? Why must our politics be a do-or-die affair? We must remember that at a point in their history, the United States Congress had fighters in their midst. In fact, an article written by Andrew Delbanco, as recently as October 2018, describes the congress as “a den of Braggarts and Brawlers”.
We had real fighters who go about beating and assaulting people that held contrary views to theirs; people were taken straight to the hospital from the assembly; some would return later with braces on their necks, on wheel chairs and crutches. All of these were common incidents then, especially during the pre-war period. But, that is in the past, it has become history. Any politician who tries that now will ruin his career forever in the present day USA.
In our own case, we should be asking ourselves how to eliminate these tendencies. Thuggery and hooliganism have been part of our politics all these years; instead of subsiding, as in other civilized climes, ours appear to be on the increase. Our diverse cultural, historical and religious backgrounds have ensured that these sentiments remain in our body politics and politicians are taking maximum advantage of the situation to the detriment of the people; but if we choose to we can bring our democracy to the standard that is accepted internationally.
Our aim should be universal suffrage, free and fair elections devoid of cheating, hooliganism, thuggery, militarism and such like. It is possible in Nigeria and that is the direction that the Supreme Court is taking us to. If you read the judgements with detached and unbiased mindset, you will find the judgements useful for the overall growth of our democracy. What the Supreme Court is simply telling us is to go and put our houses in order, especially in the manner our leaders are chosen, the way candidates are raised to represent political parties.
If everyone follows due process, the rule of law, the electoral guidelines and party constitution, there will be no need for elections to be overturned in our courts on technical grounds; this must sink into the hearts of our party leaders. We must see politics as a game, a contest in which a winner and loser will emerge. We will, therefore, be ready to accept whatever is the outcome in the spirit of sportsmanship; that must be the beginning of reorientation for all of our politicians.
We have complained of impunity, especially in the selection of candidates; we hope that the Supreme Court judgements have put an end to that. Compliance with the process is the responsibility of everybody; decisions like that of the Supreme Court represent just one leg amongst several options. We have to strengthen our democracy, the executive and legislative arms of government still have to put their stamp to make the process perfect. Our electoral processes are flawed in both laws and execution; if laws are passed and nobody to execute same to the letter, things will not work.
If there are flaws in our electoral laws and they are not put right by correct legislation, we will still be stuck with bad democratic processes. That is why those responsible for this must go to work to put the necessary corrections in place. We must begin to take keen interest in the type of leadership we present from our respective areas, it must not be the one the godfather chooses or the one with the most monetary resources.
We must look at backgrounds and ability to deliver in line with the wishes of the people and manifestos or goals of the party to which they belong. People must have clear ideas of what path they want to tread, they must have vision and practical ideas that will give the people sense of fulfillment.
It is a reality check for all of us to begin to do the right thing. That only those that the people have selected from the grassroots level should represent them, people that they know have been involved in party activities with well-known antecedents. We must remove militarism from our political activities. On this score, soldiers must not be seen to be involved in election duties.
It is important for INEC to be truly independent to carry out elections without any fear or favour. They must not be starved of funds or materials to successfully carry out their given tasks. INEC must know that, from what happened in the Imo State election, all votes must count and if there are to be cancelled votes, the reasons for such must be clear to all, even to our courts if need be.
The lessons from the Supreme Court are very clear and straight forward: people should follow the rule of law, ensure due process in the selection of leaders; that way, our votes will truly determine who leads us at future elections.