Nigeria and the unchanging face of politicians – Part 2
The confusion in Anambra State and indeed almost all other zones across the country is due to impunity, by which politicians do not believe in complying with the rules and procedures that they themselves laid down. Impunity reigns in any situation where rules are broken with reckless abandon, where an individual is exempted from the consequences of the breach of law or due process, and where a person holds out himself as above the law and is thus immune from punishment that should ordinarily have been the consequence of his action.
It is actually the bane of leadership in Nigeria, where some of those who hold power in trust for the rest of society take it upon themselves to impose upon the people, without giving a hoot as to the effect of such, on the general psyche of the people or even corporate governance. If people give due regard to the processes established by law for general human conduct, then there will be less crisis, less conflicts and indeed less court cases, although some of my colleagues have corrected me that this should not be the wish of any serious lawyer, since conflict in itself is part and parcel of human development and progress.
The Constitution in its section 221 has accorded the political parties the pride of place in the determination of candidates for any election. However, section 87 of the Electoral Act prescribes that “a political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Act shall hold primaries for aspirants to all elective positions” and that “the procedure for the nomination of candidates by a political party for the various elective positions shall be by direct or indirect primaries.” The Supreme Court has now put the matter of party primaries beyond controversy, as a matter purely for the internal affairs of the party and therefore not justiciable. In the recent case of APC v. Lere, the Supreme Court, on Friday, May 10, 2019, held as follows: “Candidates are expected to obtain expression of interest and nomination forms, present their certificates for verification and appear before a Screening Committee.
This is the stage at which the domestic or internal affairs of the political party are not justiciable. The court will not dabble into how a member of the party is screened, or why a member was not cleared by the party to contest the primary. Put in another way, before a member of the party is cleared, the party has the power to disqualify their member, and is answerable to no one including the courts. A dissatisfied member’s remedy is to leave the party and seek his political ambitions somewhere else.”
Politicians should organize themselves and allow some measure of confidence in the political space, as is applicable in other climes. The Supreme Court gave this admonition in the case of APC v. Marafa, as follows:
“The democratic system this country adopted was borrowed from the United States of America and other Democratic Nations of Europe. Those from whom we borrowed this system are steadily forging ahead in all areas of endeavour in order to create stress free and economically viable nations. For this great country, some politicians either are ignorant of what party politics is, or out of mischief, have continuously dragged this nation backward. If care is not taken, this class of politicians will drag this nation to the Stone Age, where all of us will be consumed. I once again, as this Court has consistently preached, urge this class of politicians to play the game according to law and guidelines which they themselves have enacted. It is only when this is done that sanity will take centre stage in the domestic and international affairs of this great nation.”
If what we currently witness in Anambra State is just the primary election, what then will happen during the main governorship election? It will be good that INEC should be on top of its game, in ensuring free, fair, credible and peaceful elections in the State come November, 2021. Good enough it is an isolated election, which means that security agencies will be less burdened and INEC officers will have the opportunity to deploy all its arsenals to ensure a hitch-free electoral contest. If politicians are unwilling to change their ugly faces, the regulator can help beautify them.
Adegboruwa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN.
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