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Imo guber verdict, blame the system

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Supreme Court

The verdict by the Supreme Court on January 13, 2020, which nullified the election of Governor Emeka Ihedioha of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and declared Senator Hope Uzodinma of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), as winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship election has, expectedly, attracted much vituperations from different quarters.

By the INEC results in the 2019 guber election, Ihedioha polled 273,404 ahead of his closest rival and candidate of the Action Alliance, Uche Nwosu, who the electoral body said scored 190,364 votes. The candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Ifeanyi Ararume, came third with 114,676 while Senator Hope Uzodinma of the APC, polled 96,458. A total of 70 candidates representing various political parties took part in the election. People are asking how the Supreme Court declared Uzodinma who was 4th as winner of the election in place of the Ihedioha who was first.

There is shock and anger in many quarters. The overturning of the election was least expected. Legal pundits I spoke with expressed dismay saying they could not understand why the apex court reversed the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over the discounted votes from the contentious 388 polling units, as well as the decision of the Election tribunal and Court of Appeal. They argued that the Supreme Court hardly overturns the decision of the two subordinate courts except there is manifest injustice to the contrary.

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Blames are being thrown to the right, left and centre. Protests have been staged in Owerri, Abia and Abuja against the Supreme Court decision. The Supreme Court that gave the verdict has been put on the front burner for blame. The PDP has asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad to resign, saying that the court under his watch is heavily compromised.

Some are blaming INEC for not countenancing the rejected votes from the controversial 388 polling units. INEC, reports say, rejected the votes because they were falsified. Others are blaming the ruling APC for being out to capture Imo State at all cost. There are still others who blame the legal team of Ihedioha for failing to file a counter motion to nullify the 388 polling units that are the bone of contention.

The role played by Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka of the Adoration Ministry, Enugu is not left out. Mbaka is blamed for making a contentious prophesy many thought was part of the plot to sack Ihedioha. Where do we stop in this blame game after the milk has been spilt? I don’t blame any of the above sub-entities for whatever they did that might have led to the verdict.

My blame goes, unequivocally, to the corrupt Nigerian system. Once the system is corrupt, all the sub-entities of it are affected. It is the corrupt system that gives leeway to individuals and entities to do whatever they like, whether good or bad, knowing that “nothing will happen” as is often expressed.

The judiciary of which the Supreme Court is part cannot afford not to be clean in a corrupt system. The pervasive systemic corruption affects every fabric of our society, indeed, every thread. That is the reality we face.

A Chinese adage says an honest mind needs honest time to survive. It is hard to be a lone honest man in the midst of corrupt people. Once the system is tainted, it permeates deep in such that there is little or nothing any individual or entity could do.

If, for whatever reason, you choose not to be corrupt, you are seen as a fool (mugu, mumu). The system, more or less, forces everybody, entities, to conform to the prevalent culture. Consequently, there is no part of the Nigerian system that is not tainted.

In an attempt to raise the bar, INEC, along the line, decided to engage university Vice Chancellors as returning officers to make a difference. It was as if to say that these men and women are saints from heaven. But the 2011 elections disproved the general perception after allegations of compromise by some of the Vice Chancellors rent the air. The integrity of the academics was put to question.

I have mentioned representatives of the academic system in part because of the involvement of some Vice Chancellors as returning officers. Whatever the Vice Chancellors did still boils down to the corrupt system. INEC as an institution manages the electoral subsystem. Nigeria’s flawed electoral system is to blame for whatever happens at the polls.

For instance, blame an electoral system that permits politicians to move from one political party to the other without sanction. Senator Hope Uzodimma, the new Governor of Imo State was a staunch member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and was indeed a member of the board of trustees of the party until he decamped to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the wake of the 2019 general elections to contest for governorship under the party. His sudden switch over to the APC pitched him against Governor Rochas Okorocha, who wanted his son in-law, Uche Nwosu, to be the APC flag bearer in the election. Uzodinma snatched that position from Uche Nwosu and the rest is now history.

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Blame the corrupt electoral system that cannot freely elect leaders at the poll except by the courts. If statistics were taken of governors, senators and lawmakers at the federal and state Houses of Assemblies, who are there based purely on electoral poll win, it would be discovered that more than 80 per cent of our leaders are there by judicial virdict. The courts have replaced the voice of the people. Even President Muhammadu Buhari is occupying the seat by Supreme Court judgment.

The courts would have no business in election matters if the system were good. Once the courts are involved, there is no guarantee, anymore, that the peoples’ will would be respected. The few judges use their power to decide the outcome the way they want. The will of millions of voters is thwarted. The wicked system deliberately created the gaps in the electoral system so that poll outcome could be manipulated to suite the whims and caprices of politicians.

Blame the corrupt electoral system that knows what to do to make things work but refused to do it. This system has refused to institute proper enumeration and voting system. Nobody knows how many eligible voters are there. An attempt to give Nigerians national ID cards that could serve as voters’ card has been frustrated by the system. An attempt to institute electronic voting that would completely remove thuggery, ballot box snatching, fictitious vote counting and other forms of electoral malpractices was overturned by President Buhari who refused to sign into law the 2018 revised electoral bill that could have saved us from these troubles.

Blame a corrupt electoral system that more or less recognises political thugs that perpetrate violence on Election Day, intimidate and harass voters, snatch ballot boxes, thumb-print ballot papers and write fictitious results to favour their paymasters. During the last elections, the offices of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Kogi State were set ablaze by political thugs. Natasha Akpoti, the party’s governorship candidate was harassed and intimidates by the same thugs.

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Blame the system that compromises security personnel – army, police, civil dense, etc, who are engaged on Election Day to maintain law and order. Allegations of army and police being compromised in many states abound. Governor Nysome Wike of Rivers State and Henry Dickson of Bayelsa State accused the army of being compromised in the election in their states.

Blame a system that accommodates greedy and selfish politicians who seek power by all means. Blame a system that makes elections a do or die affair instead of a civil contest to elect responsible leaders to govern the people.

Blame the wicked system that “captures” votes instead of wining them. This corrupt system has no place for the people. The elections merely throw up greedy political oppressors who lord it over the helpless masses. Unfortunately, the corrupt wicked system cannot be changed by those fueling and benefitting from it. They have no love for the father land. They are not patriots but political hit men and women.

President Buhari should, without further delay, sign the 2018 revised electoral bill into law to save the country’s democracy.

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