Once in a while however, we encounter exposure of an exceptional dimension that appears to strike at the very root of Democracy, questions the validity of an entire electoral system and even erodes confidence in the integrity of the state. Such an event need not be regarded as a repudiation of the formal mechanics put in place by an electioneering agency such as INEC, but nonetheless extends the scope of its responsibilities, including its projection of looming hazards of future electoral exercises.
The “Advertorial” – full front page of Punch“ Feb 23, 2015 - sponsored by Mr. Ayo Fayose (aka “No Apology”) deserves to succeed in its aim of putting an end to all dispute surrounding the Ekiti elections of June 21, 2014. After all, its entire page is dedicated to a Press Statement from the US Department of State, which purportedly endorses the results of that election, congratulates the electoral organization, the winner/loser duo, not forgetting the security forces – all for their laudable contributions. The release could not be more timely, what with the governor’s own exhortations on the virtues of credibility, avoidance of violence, and its special appeal to “ALL THOSE WHO HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE”.
It is that last item in the advertisement to which I am especially drawn, in view of an audio recording that has now become the latest marvel of democratic exposes, internationally. For those who have nothing to hide, disrobing lies and forgeries and reinforcing truth is regarded as part and parcel of the obligations we owe democracy.
The audio could well be one of such forgeries. We are daily inundated with allegations, evasions, distortions, image plundering and image laundering, all under the permissive canopy of electoral proceeding. Once in a while however, we encounter exposure of an exceptional dimension that appears to strike at the very root of Democracy, questions the validity of an entire electoral system and even erodes confidence in the integrity of the state. Such an event need not be regarded as a repudiation of the formal mechanics put in place by an electioneering agency such as INEC, but nonetheless extends the scope of its responsibilities, including its projection of looming hazards of future electoral exercises.
This is why, in the absence of a Constitutional Court or its equivalent, one is left with no other course than to call on INEC to also take formal charge of the recorded incident of this alleged conspiracy to pervert the course of Democracy. For those ‘who have nothing to hide’, it is a call that deserves unstinting support. They should not hesitate to assist in calling on the same US expertise to assist us in exposing a forgery. We are speaking here of a development that implicates not only products, beneficiaries or would-be constitutional guardians of the electoral process – that is, an elected governor, a governorship aspirant, but also state agencies – the military, two serving ministers – that is, members of the Executive arm of government, one of them in charge of the nation’s defence portfolio – and others. In addition to the logical role of the police, the nation’s electoral commission should undertake an independent investigation and make its findings known to the nation. Is this perhaps something INEC can undertake while the nation waits out its suspended electoral sentence? It only requires repudiation – or validation – of the findings of an already advanced forensic enquiry.
So also should the two anti-corruption agencies – the EFCC and the ICPC – since material corruption is also implicit in the present instance. At the fount of all electoral manipulation is the grim facilitator – Money! Here, for instance, is a lesson drawn from the travails of a former Inspector-General of Police in recent history.
That scandal happened to coincide with a barely concluded electoral exercise, considered by some as a strong contestant for one of the most blatantly manipulated election in the nation’s history. A number of bulging accounts had been traced to that Inspector-General. During private discussions, I exhorted the then Director of EFCC to go beyond the sensational monetary finds and track each of them painstakingly back to source. “If you succeed in that”, I urged Nuhu Ribadu, “you would have done more than merely expose institutional police corruption, you would have done inestimable service to the cause of Democracy. The I-G,” I insisted, “was a mere bag holder for electoral manipulators inhabiting the most rarefied levels of governance!” I therefore pleaded with him not to stop at the prosecution and conviction of the sacrificial face – in effect, a scapegoat, albeit most willing - of that operation. This was equally my prayer to the Nigerian Bar Association during an Abuja lecture at the time.
Anyone who disputes a robust connection between material and political corruption should reflect on the mild slap on the wrist that the I-G received for charges of misappropriation of such staggering dimensions. Now it is the turn of the Army as facilitators for the alleged political crime. Allied to this elite criminal corps – again, as alleged - was a former Chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee turned governorship candidate. The evidence resides in the recording of a conspiracy against free and fair elections, later reinforced by a televised interview with the whistleblower - a military intelligence officer. That recording has been heard by millions all over the world – governments, Human Rights Organizations, election monitoring groups, business individuals, even those merely seeking real-life variants on improbable Nollywood fare. The alleged crime is in global domain.
Let no one attempt to facilitate the rampaging course of Impunity by brushing this aside as just another electoral malpractice – no, in my layman estimation, this approaches criminal subversion and treason. The accusation is blatant and the demand for rigorous investigation must remain unrelenting. The accounts of the inculpated General and others should be subjected to the same scrutiny as those of the earlier cited Inspector-General of police. And so on, and so clamorous! Those who have nothing to fear can sleep easy.
If the formal agencies fail, then citizens must learn to assert their right of access to Truth. As is the practice in other societies, a Citizens Trial can be instituted, experts co-opted, and both accusers and accused invited to testify. Even the venue does not have to be internal, since witnesses may require protection. Democracy does not begin or end with the ballot box, nor is it confined to national boundaries. There is no assertion anywhere yet of a “Case Proven”, no rush to judgment, simply a craving - as urged in the said governor’s advertorial - to let “facts Speak for themselves!”