Sunday, April 29, 2007

Dariye – Supreme Court’s Pronouncement Proves the Judiciary’s Independence

The Supreme Court’s upholding of the Federal Court of Appeal’s ruling of the reinstatement of Dariye as governor of Plateau State based on his unconstitutional impeachment hints at the much-desired independence of the judiciary from the legislative and executive arms of government.

In as much as Dariye has been indicted for the perpetration of ignominious acts, namely embezzlement, money laundering and international bail jumping, the fact that his impeachment was effected by only 8 members of a 24-member house legislature nullifies the process and therefore renders the impeachment void. No matter how strong the evidence is against him, Dariye could only have been constitutionally impeached by a two-third majority of the house, that is, by a vote of at least 16 members of the 24-member house. This however was difficult to achieve, given the choke hold Dariye had on the members of the house by their complicity in the wholesale acts of graft pervading the Plateau State government and compounded by the defection of 14 members from their party (PDP), therefore automatically losing their seats.

As alluded to in previous posts on the blog, the right thing to do would have been for INEC to declare the seats of the cross-carpeting legislators vacant and conduct run-off elections to fill them. With the full complement of the house in place, the constitutionality of Dariye’s impeachment would not have arisen.

That Dariye seeks to return for the remaining one month of the term speaks to the depravity of the man and how dearly his sort holds the immunity protection of section 308 of the 1999 constitution as a shield against prosecution. From hiding, hunkered down, Dariye now bleats some cheap rhetoric whose banality is as Rabelaisian as it nauseating against the backdrop of the depth of profanity to which Dariye has plunged the office of Governor and the concept of democracy. Perhaps Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was right in his farcical contrivance of the etymology of the word “Democracy” from the Nigerian Pidgin English phrases – “Dem all Crazy” and “Demonstration of Craze.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Nigerian Elections – Politics of Thuggery and Chaos

This past couple of weeks has been illuminating for the non-initiate as regards the means and ways of politicking in Nigeria. Ballot boxes snatched, voters and security agents maimed and killed, riotous protests, arson, armed gangs of thugs, soldiers and police using coercion to force people to vote for their benefactors, polling booth officials maimed or killed, and an attempt to blow up INEC headquarters in Abuja. All these are scenes reminiscent of a D-rate Nollywood movie, except it was enacted in real life. One might sooner be safer it seemed, in Kabul, Mogadishu or Faluja.

Nigerian politics has become a do-or-die affair where the only rule of the game is survival of the fittest, regardless of crudeness or brutality. The extent and level of violence that marked the April 14 and April 21 elections is enough to have the elections canceled since they were not in any respect free and fair. The daunting security and logistical issues facing the INEC made the commission inept.

The Atiku Abubakar ruling of the supreme court came only a few days to the election, making it almost impossible to amend the 60 million ballots to include Atiku Abubakar on the list of candidates. In the end the commission settled for a sticker. Also, the hostile nature of communities in opposition strongholds all over the country, particularly in the Niger Delta made it a precarious endeavor for INEC officials to administer elections in these areas (indeed some were reportedly killed). Add to this, the dire transportation situation in Nigeria and what you have is a near impossibility to have the elections commence on time all over the country. There are reports of elections commencing as late as 5:00 PM in certain states and even an extension of voting into the next day, April 22, 2007.

In the end, INEC released a result declaring Yar’Adua as the winner and the elections as free and fair. Yar’Adua probably truly won the elections since the PDP has the largest following in Nigeria. However, the chaotic and violent conduct of the election gnaws at the legitimacy of this victory. If the elections were not free and fair, should the results hold? Some quarters believe it should since all parties were involved in the display of violence and chaos. What thinks you?