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RESPECTING INEC’S ELECTORAL PROCEDURES (1)

By NBF News

Those of us who see ourselves as belonging to every political party in the land as self-initiated members of their undefined 'Truth, Justice, Peace and Progress (TJPP) and Ways and Means (WAM)' Committees, will never agree that whatever is happening in any of them is 'not our business.' On the contrary, we are always on the look-out for opportunities to offer our services and ideas to them directly and, through them, to the country as a whole.

This is because we believe that since 'a chain is as strong as its weakest link,' whatever inputs are imperative to strengthen the Nigerian Union should be seen to have been made via the political associations/ parties which provide the manpower (and womanpower too), for national leadership at the executive and legislative governance levels, top to bottom of the existing power ladder, as outlined in the constitution.

That is why none of their members should ever feel that we are 'poking our noses' into their affairs by commenting, whenever we wish, on happenings within those parties. Indeed, under the ideal democratic settings, it can safety be argued that your nose ( with which you smell and do other things like breathing); your eyes, ears and mouth, should be invested in freely observing and commenting, whenever necessary, on the developments in public affairs upon which silence may not be regarded as 'golden'. If you do not respond early enough, you may well be 'caught napping' (as one Nigerian coach often warned), to the extent of being a political ignoramus and perhaps a victim of circumstances, because you chose to be a passive citizen.

All that was lengthy preamble to the current bone of contention within the People's Democratic Party (PDP), as to whether or not the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), acted righty or wrongly, in declaring that the party had no candidate yet for next month's governorship election due to be conducted in Bayelsa State.

Those of you who are more informed about and not indifferent to goings – on in the State's PDP affairs know that the incumbent Governor Timipre Sylvia, once the party's 'beautiful bride' (like the late NPP's late Presidential candidate, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe once was), has now fallen out of central favour, and a new choice presented (Rep. Dickson).

That decision led to litigation against substitution by Governor Sylva himself, which obviously compelled INEC to assert that until the PDP's top guys out there and in Abuja had sorted themselves out (and there are deadlines in filing nominations for elective positions by candidates and their political parties, you know), they cannot be regarded as having a candidate yet. The longer it takes, the greater their chances of being excluded from the race, pure and simple, because the calamity of one political party should not endanger a paralysis of the political order, basically.

And so, attention needs to be focused on an issue – whether or not the INEC has any right to temporarily or permanently exclude any political party from fielding a candidate to vie for the post of Governor of a State – Bayelsa or whichever else. The other pertinent issue is to ascertain whether or not anyone who had been thrown up as the candidate through the duly conducted primaries process, can be summarily replaced by another person who was not unaware of the primaries and had an equal right to participate in it, whenever, but apparently failed to do so, then.

As earlier stated, nobody or party can tell us to shut up; block our ears or noses and thus facilitate disruption within any of our parties, leading to results capable of adversely affecting political stability in the country. After all, those who are not too young to remember the fact, will recall that the brouhahas which arose from the general election in the Western Region in 1964, led to a chain of events including a coup d' etat on January 15, 1966, and later the civil war (1967 to 1970), the effects of which many families and individuals may never fully recover from, however hard they try to do.

Therefore, at times like this, rather than engaging in shouting and name-calling matches or issuing threats and perhaps resorting to terroristic tactics (which are unbecoming of democratic societies), the best step to take is to look at the rules governing elections, which no partisan can claim do not exist.

However, a restatement of some values and principles which any professed democrat must recognize and practicalize, seems necessary. And the first point here is admission of the critical roles of discipline; the rule of law and exemplary behavior in the democratic process, anywhere. People in politics cannot just talk or behave anyhow, as if laws do not exist and not worth respecting. There are defined roles for INEC in our statute books and any person, political party or associations acting contrary to their expectations, deserves to be regarded – if not treated – as a terrorist in the democratic arena, trying to force everyone into accepting different lines of thinking on issues, even when they are palpably wrong, from an objective perspective.

Such groups evidently deserve sanctions and contempt from the people and the appropriate correctional institutions. Secondly, INEC is meant or supposed to be truly independent, not just so on paper or verbalized, but absolutely actualized. So, aside from normally valid criticism, no person or group, however highly rated in the socio-political ladder, should set about trying to bully or arm-twist it to alter its operational principles and mandate demands, under any circumstances.

The PDP will undermine its credibility and respectability, if INEC should succumb to such manoeuvres. Decorum; humility, and good examples, are therefore expected of all persons and parties having dealings with the INEC, for those reasons. Put scripturally, they should let virtue garnish their thoughts, however attractive the temptations to do otherwise might be.

Now, to the supportive references for these categorical assertions. They are verified truths, the neglect of which may cost them and this political system dearly in the long run, if ignored. In short, people should not think that being politicians means their not respecting the truth; honesty, the laws as published to all, and the imperatives of peaceful co-existence in the land.