OPIN­ION

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

judges dis­be­lieved INEC of­fi­cials who swore un­der oath that the elec­tions took place and were free and fair. Cred­i­ble ev­i­dence had also been laid be­fore the courts that once again, po­lice and even mil­i­tary of­fi­cers were used to rig the elec­tions. My ques­tion to­day is that would the im­punity con­tinue and would of­fi­cials who rig elec­tions be al­lowed to get away with it af­ter a court of com­pe­tent ju­ris­dic­tion has shown that they lied un­der oath. In a nor­mal regime of the rule of law, wouldn’t all the INEC of­fi­cials who lied un­der oath that th­ese elec­tions were free and fair, while they had been rigged be sent to jail at least for per­jury. In ad­di­tion, shouldn’t the lead­er­ship of INEC im­me­di­ately dis­miss th­ese of­fi­cials for breach­ing their pro­fes­sional in­tegrity and bring­ing the name of an im­por­tant State in­sti­tu­tion into dis­re­pute? I chal­lenge Pro­fes­sor Mah­mood Yakubu and his team in the new Elec­toral Com­mis­sion to im­me­di­ately take up th­ese is­sues. There were news re­ports that the Nige­rian army has de­cided to show lead­er­ship by in­ves­ti­gat­ing its of­fi­cers who were al­leged to have played a role in or­ga­niz­ing elec­toral fraud in last year’s Ek­iti and Osun gov­er­nor­ship elec­tions. I be­lieve that other State in­sti­tu­tions should take a cue from what the army has ap­par­ently de­cided to do. Elec­tion tri­bunals should also learn to pun­ish those who come to lie un­der oath.

In 2005, we car­ried out a re­search project on Nige­ria’s elec­toral ge­og­ra­phy and the key find­ing was that elec­toral re­al­i­ties were very dif­fer­ent as you move from zone to zone in the coun­try. In some zones, there has been a strong tra­di­tion of de­fend­ing the elec­toral man­date and peo­ple in­sist on ex­er­cis­ing their fran­chise and raise hell when their elec­toral man­date is stolen. It was in that con­text that all hell broke loose in Ondo State when FEDECO three away the gen­uine elec­toral re­sult and in­vented and an­nounced com­pletely false re­sults. In some other zones of the coun­try, we found out peo­ple had never ever voted in elec­tions and re­sults were sim­ply writ­ten in favour of in­cum­bent gov­ern­ments. It is im­pos­si­ble to deepen democ­racy when elec­toral tra­di­tions vary so pro­foundly. What is emerg­ing from the elec­tion tri­bunals is clear ev­i­dence that while the elec­tions in most parts of the coun­try were free and fair in the 2015 gen­eral elec­tions, there are still strongholds of anti-demo­cratic forces that con­tinue to deny many Nige­ri­ans the fran­chise that the Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides. Mov­ing for­ward and con­sol­i­dat­ing democ­racy re­quires that im­punity in the com­mit­ment of elec­toral crimes must stop.

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