Saturday, 23rd September 2023

Who represents me in the Senate?

By Asikason Jonathan
18 January 2017   |   3:42 am
For going by the commission’s decision, Chief Victor Umeh will be the only candidate for election since PDP and APC will not participate. Then will it be called an election or coronation?
Senator Uche Ekwunife

Senator Uche Ekwunife

The beauty of democracy lies on its propensity to recognise and guarantee the people’s right in determining how they are governed or in the words of Harold Lasswell “ who gets what, when and how”  in a polity. This accounts for the general acceptance of the system of government as the best in the world.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in the year 1989 and the concomitant dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in the year 1991, American political scientist,  Francis Fukuyama wrote his thought-provoking book, The End of History and the Last Man, where he observed that the fall of the USSR illustrates the victory of democracy over socialism. He prophesied that, soon, autocratic regimes would give way for democratic ones.

This is how he put it: What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalisation of Western as the final form of human government.

The practice of democracy in the world today is restricted to its model of representation which among other things is blamed on the nature of the Westphalian state system which made it impossible for all adult citizens of a given country to gather in one place to make decisions and policies as it was the case in the Greek city-states. This therefore gives room for people’s election of their representatives. This is called Representative or indirect democracy.

How does it work? Countries are divided into electoral constituencies in which people living there, elect one of their own to be their representative in their country’s parliament. Notwithstanding the model of representation adopted, the be-all-and-end-all of the system is that the representatives are the mouthpieces of the people they are representing.

This brings us to the question that formed the basis of this piece: Does it mean that the people of Anambra Central Senatorial District are voiceless in the Upper Chamber of the Nigerian parliament?

This is 13 months and some days since Appeal Court sacked Senator Uche Ekwunife as the senator representing the Anambra Central Senatorial District and almost 11 months since the obnoxious decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deny the good people of the senatorial district not just their franchise but also their voice as well as entitlement in the Red Chamber. This is seen in the commission’s indefinite postponement of the district rerun and from the look of things, the commission might be considering conducting the election alongside the forthcoming Anambra State gubernatorial election, thereby making the vacancy last for a long time.

According to the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Dr. Lawrence Azubuike, the indefinite postponement was a direct  result of an order from a Federal High Court in Abuja that the commission should include the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as one of the parties to contest the election.

INEC had barred the PDP from participating in the rerun poll following a Court of Appeal judgment of 7th December, 2015 nullifying the election of the party candidate, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife in the National Assembly election held on March 28, 2015 and directed INEC to conduct the rerun within 90 days.

In the course of preparation for the rerun, PDP announced that it will conduct a  fresh primary and this led to the defection of Senator Uche Ekwunife to APC and made way for possible  emergence of new candidates in both aforesaid parties. INEC in the nick of time issued a statement barring fresh candidates for the rerun but PDP approached the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, praying INEC to include it in the rerun. The prayer was granted, thus necessitating the postponement of the poll indefinitely by INEC.

This very action calls to question the role of INEC in organising election in Nigeria and the spirit of law.  Taking cognizance of the fact of the matter, can we say that the commission is on a mission to foist a single electoral choice on the good people of the constituency?

For going by the commission’s decision, Chief Victor Umeh will be the only candidate for election since PDP and APC will not participate. Then will it be called an election or coronation?

The primary function of INEC is to conduct election and never to limit electoral choices of the people! By barring the duo of PDP and APC from participating in the said election, INEC did not just acted ultra vires but unknowingly flouted its neutrality principle by leaping into the murky waters of partisan politics.

That a constituency stayed for more than a month without a representative is in itself an indictment of our Constitution and mode of governance.
While INEC should be blamed for keeping the constituents of Anambra Central Senatorial District for so long without a representative, the incumbent members of the National Assembly should know that it is incumbent upon them to enact laws that will help in transcending problems like this.

• Asikason, a public affairs analyst and constituent of Anambra Central Senatorial District, wrote from Enugwu-Ukwu, Anambra State.