WEDNESDAY COLUMN by USSIJU MEDANER
The Kogi and Bayelsa elections have come, winners have emerged but the last has not been heard of the processes and the outcomes of the polls. What amazes me most about the actions and reactions of Nigerians to issues, not limited to the just concluded elections, is the indisputable manifestation of personal pre-desires and affiliations to courses. We naturally respond to our biases and not realities and facts of issues.
The disposition of the some High Court Judges before the elections in both states called for serious concern. When the Judiciary has begun the process of rebirth over the year, certain elements within the fold of the judges has chosen the path of dishonor, dishing out destructive and anti-development injunctions to highest bidders. In just a period of four days in Bayelsa, there were three injunctions disrupting the election process and creating discord in existing plan. The first was an injunction five days to the election instructing the court to disqualify the running mate of the APC candidate in the election; three days to the election, another injunction disqualifying the APC candidate in the election and an order for INEC to take off the party from the ballot. While we were still ruminating the extent of the court and individuals abuse of processes leading to the arbitrary dishing out of injunctions and abuse of the process, another injunction disqualifying the PDP candidate was served a day to the election.
Not limited to Bayelsa state, in the last ten days to the elections, INEC was forced withdraw already distributed election materials twice to effect changes on the ballot papers. These were to cancel orders of other courts that had earlier instructed the body to take off some candidates and parties.
This caricature cannot be allowed to persist; we need to as a matter of national urgency, the National Judicial Council must call some judges to order. This arbitrary and probably paid for injunctions would not only disrupt the elections processes and plans as in the cases listed but equally has the capacity to bring the name of the judiciary to disrepute; when it becomes a norm that when the offer is good enough, you can always get a judge sign the paper for you.
I suggest we establish that all pre-election litigations must be rested at least forty days before the election to allow both the INEC and the participating parties in the election concentrate in the preparations for the poll. This would serve us better as a nation.
Another major and very important issue arising from the two elections is the inherent tendencies of political parties, individuals and even the civil society groups to reel out accusations of violence and electoral manipulations without any palpable and verifiable evidence ascertaining same. It is unbecoming of the political parties and most especially the civil society groups who claimed to have monitored the polls.
The civil societies are not only formidably equipped for the election monitoring assignment, they are equally financially equipped considering the magnitude of fund most of them access from donor agencies. The civil society groups are legally allowed to be present both at the polling units and at the collation center and access hand-on and real-time evidences of events but all we hear after the election are oral dictations without formidable evidences. If the civil societies had had representations at almost all the polling units, how could they not have been able to get video and audio evidences as well as polling unit by polling unit results for comparison with the eventual INEC declared results?
It thus appear to me that most of the civil society groups monitoring elections in Nigeria are more interested in presenting reports of elections that are marred with violence and then come up with papers that call for reforms after reforms to be presented to their donor agencies for more released of fund to the groups. This seems like a reflection of several other institutions in Nigeria who have become more interested not in contributing to processes, reforms and development but personal aggrandizements from the processes. Just like most of our media houses would now easily report any news regardless of its authenticity if the brown envelop accompany it.
Just like almost every other Nigerians, who are boldly angered and commenting freely on the outcomes of the two gubernatorial polls, we were mostly far away from both states on Saturday, 16th of November. We have no first-hand information of happenings and events that characterized and described the elections. We were glued to the social media and from there got and built our personal opinions and stories of the events of the elections. We listened to politicians and actors in the battle fields and choose who to believe and our personal opinion strongly formed.
We are now equipped to discuss the Bayelsa and Kogi elections. We took and swallow whole information from the social and some mainstream media regardless of who posted them. When we rather should have armed ourselves with perfect understanding of the mainstream disposition of Nigerian political parties during elections and their perennial behavior during same; when we ought to know that based on the Nigerian ccontext the parties all come into the election to win by all means possible; when we ought to have allowed the processes of the parties primaries to dictate our beliefs and reactions, recollecting the violence, vote buying, distortion and ballot snatching that characterized the primaries and conclude that political parties and individuals who do not believe a primary election could be won freely without manipulating the process as we witnessed in both states would equally not come into the bigger poll without a comprehensive plan to effect a more grandeur manipulation
I presume that it is illogical for the civil society groups and individuals to boldly come out to ascertain that a certain party unilaterally undermines the electoral process without any proof of evidence.
In the course of the Kogi election, we watched the former Senator Dino Melaye playfully cast his vote at a polling unit that was calm; yet later the following morning, the same Sen. Melaye told the whole world how he was not allowed to vote; how his polling unit was enmeshed in violence and how his nephew and two other were shot at the same polling unit. Earlier, before these ugly narratives, the former Senator was at ease reeling out results via his tweeter handle; he didn’t deem it fit to report the situations at the polling unit until the unexpected began to happen and result from the field became unfavourable. Is it humanly possible that Senator melaye lost his nephew to the election and there is not a single photo or video evidence of it or of his burial till now. Yet so many Nigerians including these civil society groups would probably present that in their report as they magnify the extent of manipulations and violence in the elections while others just chose to stand by the words of these political actors
The social media has been agog with stories of manipulations, killings and what have you, but all we repeatedly see on the television are scanty evidences of ballot snatching in few polling units that are not enough to discredit the polls. I think it is high time we dissuade ourselves from perpetuating biased information that is capable of upturning the scanty peace we enjoy across states in the country.
I am not in any way submitting that the Kogi election was free of manipulations; I was not in Kogi state but I would not take a personal decision based on the account of any APC member or of Senator Melaye or any other PDP member, or even a recognized civil society group that would not present a backing palpable and verifiable evidences of widespread manipulation and violence enough to undermine the integrity of the election and necessitate it cancellation.
It behooves the INEC to make the final decisions on the outcomes of the elections. Peddling rumours of violence and manipulations without evidential proofs is a trademark of rumour mongers and defeated elements eagerly looking for something to hold on to.
If a political party had pre-empt the likelihood of manipulation by other players, I think the objective response should have been adequate preparation to gather evidences during the outing rather than littering the media space with propaganda and baseless accusations
For instance, there were claims that election did not hold at Okenne; that ballot boxes were snatched and stuffed and the security agents outrightly connived with a particular party to undermine the process. They ought to have prepared to obtain and present real time video or photo e of these events. Rather, what we saw on Television was elections taking place peacefully in polling units within the local government.
Anyone could come with the narratives that their party agents were not allowed access to the collation center but without evidence you cannot expect INEC to cancel an election totally or in part based on your word but not evidence. If you think the local government cannot have given a particular party the magnitude of votes it get from the local government, then you put your house in order, get your evidences and approach the court.
Everyone, across board says Bayelsa election result is the voice of the will of the Bayelsa people; so when a particular party got over one hundred thousand votes from southern Ijaw as against mere nine hundred plus for the rival party, we are not discussing the impossibility of the scenario and no one is raising eyebrow, yet it could not happen in Okenne.
Bayelsa state was wonderful over the weekend. I though those governors who are becoming “gods” would have learnt their lesson from the Ogun state Amosun and Imo state, Rochas, but it did appeared that another Dickson had joined the group. Nigerians are better for it and APC is the ultimate beneficiary As it is the case in Imo and Oyo PDP benefited from such blunders. For the very first time, Bayelsa had a very peaceful election thanks to the desire of the governor Dickson to play god
I boldly gave the Bayelsians a thump up. Well-done for a great outing and salute the political tenacity of GYB
THE PROPOSED DEATH SENTENCE FOR HATE SPEECHEES
I don’t need to research the topic of hate speech and its consequences in the political and social interaction system. It was the hard currency that permeates the campaign for the 2015 elections and has only grown in bounds since then.
In 2015, we threw caution to the wind and adopted abusive languages, derogatory statements and insinuations, lies and baseless propaganda as the basic elements of the presidential election campaign. The social media evolved a new dimension and become the most virile agent of dissemination of the hate speeches, lies and propaganda. The basic problem is that why the objective has been to discredit the personality and credibility of a particular political entity, it actually has gone beyond to deepen the hatred for, and disunity among ethnic nationalities and religion affiliations
The kind of statements that Nigerians now freely make and circulate has all the tendencies to undermine the integrity and unity of the nation, and that must stop. No law can and would be made to usurp our fundamental rights to speech; but we all need to know that the same right to speech has its limitations. Hate speech is not an element of free speech just as much as criticism of government can never be considered a hate speech. All over the world, government are criticized; not showering abuse on person of individuals; not maligning the person of individuals
If care is not taken, we will soon forget the concept of opposition and constructive criticism of government actions, projects and policies, if we continuously get sophisticated in building and propagating abusive, diminishing and destructive speeches that are unfounded
I chose not to give instances earlier but I should give one; weeks ago, we suddenly woke up to the news of the vice president alleged corruption to the tune of N9 billion. The social media went agog, certain nation dailies intricately described the corruption crime and even some international tabloids were not left out.
The office of the vice president responded; the media houses retracted the news, apologized for allowing their media platform to be used to spread the falsehood; and the source of the fake information only response was that if Atiku and Jonathan did not take anyone to court when they were accused of stealing Nigeria money, why would the vice president take it so serious to the extent of going to court.
This is one in a million scenarios; the vice president was not involved in any corrupt deal but this individual believe he has the right to talk, regardless of the implication of his speech on the nation or individuals. No one has the right to stop us from exercising our human right nor could stop us from constructively criticizing the government, but HATE SPEECH in our socio-political space must be stopped, whatever it takes.
Is it not funny enough and worthy of unequivocal legal reaction, that we woke up one morning and we see a purported wedding invitation of Mr. President and one of his ministers, and several follow-up of information. Is this the kind of country we want to degenerate to?
The hate speech bill is apt and needed but I do not support categorically death sentence for such ; we must pay for our statements if we cannot bury our hatred and criticize positively and constructively; and what is wrong in getting a serious punishment if it is proved beyond all reasonable doubt that your speech and lies are responded for the death of another citizen. Our tongue is a sword, if we kill with it, death sentence is just appropriate.
God Bless The Federal Republic Of Nigeria!