Edo,Ondo Guber: Right to life or Right to vote ?

Edo,Ondo Guber: Right to life or  Right to vote ?

The point cannot be overstated: it was  a mark of statesmanship for  President Muhammadu  Buhari  to have steered the ruling party from a potential mutually destructive brinkmanship and  imminent “ politicide” defined as additive acrimony and deafening collapse of compromise, comradeship and cooperation. Which again, calls for an urgent quality control of the country’s democratic process.  Section 23 of  Chapter 11 of the 1999 constitution dealing with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy recommends “national ethics of  Discipline, Integrity, Dignity of Labour, Social, Justice, Religious Tolerance, Self-reliance and Patriotism”.

There should be a strategic and systematic inculcation  of  of these values within the ranks of the political class in particular! Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni as the new caretaker Chairman  and the designated Caretaker National Secretary  Senator John Akpanudoedehe are happily tasked to be up and doing on arrival. Any crisis within a ruling party must be of grave concern because of  it’s adverse implications for good governance.

A  ruling party in crisis is a nation in “governance hemorrhage”. I  recall that the internal crisis which rocked the ruling PDP  created an atmosphere for deepening security challenge, the worst expression being the kidnapping of chibok girls in 2014 by Boko Haram militants, worsened corrupt practices and reversal of economic growth of earlier years from which  Nigeria had not yet recovered.

President Buhari has not just saved his party from  self destruct ( his words! ) but has commendably inadvertently refocused the attention of all Nigerians to the current challenges of governance the worst manifestation being the huge  spikes in COVID:19 infection and fatality rates. With the crisis tamed, party members and other parties are enjoined to support the ongoing commendable interventions of Presidential Task force(PTF)on COVID:19, constructively interrogate the newly announced complementary Economic Sustainability agenda among other recovery measures. Notwithstanding the ongoing political discordant voices within the  ruling parties at national and states levels, Nigeria remains the largest democracy destination in Sub-Sahara Africa:  80+ million registered voters, 18 political parties (after the  Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had deregistered 74 political parties) thousands of political actors, legislators and governors.

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However it’s  regrettable that political entrepreneurs and insular political warriors  had since replaced genuine patriotic farsighted politicians of the first and second democratic republic. Most  today’s politicians stood for no principles making them vulnerable to everything dysfunctional, inclusive of self destruction. It’s time , for  “quality democratic process” in which  values and  ethics in terms of ideology must return to politics and politics must welcome ethics and ideology. Larry Diamond (1988) had documented how bipolar intra Party battle, with serial abuse of court process by actors within the ruling Western region’s Action Group (AG) between 1962 and 1963 set the stage for the failure of the First Republic, military adventurism and eventual tragic civil war. More than 50 years after, there is still abysmal insufficiency of tolerance, blind ambition without vision. Of course there is an absence of the much needed compromises, sobriety and patience.

There is a huge  unacceptable deficits of patriotism and cooperation needed values for nation building. Nigeria is deserving of a new political movement for a truly progressive Nigeria. New   Democratic culture must serve the people, the people, the people before self . Both Edo and Ondo elections are handy acid tests for a new political renaissance. The critical question begging for an answer is : what manner of election takes place  in an atmosphere of a plague which has infected almost 1000 and 276 potential voters  in Edo and Ondo States respectively?  It is self evident that,   36 and 19 citizens already certified dead  in Edo and Ondo states due to Coronavirus would definitely not vote in September and October elections. Of course the immediate past Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi and former Deputy Chairman (South)   APC who was buried last Sunday after his death due to Coronavirus complications, would not witness the two elections. 1999 constitution alludes repeatedly to right to life, public health and safety  more than the right to vote. Please don’t get me wrong.

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The issue is not the right to  vote or life. It is  both. In any case  the constitution underlines both rights. For a developing country that has suffered military rule and militarism, deepening democracy through regular elections is even a fundamental precondition for livelihood. Never again should anybody or any group governs without our freely given mandate. And no elected person should stay a day longer beyond defined tenure. As a global citizen, I can’t wait to see the back of the 45th and the current president of the United States, Donald  Trump as American voters exercise their right to vote out the “Sound and Fury” presidency in the forthcoming November election despite the pandemic.

But all said, only the living would vote or be voted for in the coming states elections! INEC has commendably launched a Policy on conducting Elections in the context of Covid: 19. But the commission’s spokesman and my friend,  Festus Okoye accepts as much that we are into “uncharted waters” where  few countries  had dared with varying tensions, fatalities and recoveries. As many as 61 countries in Europe, North America and Asia had put off various provincial, local and national elections in an atmosphere of pandemic which has claimed over half a million fatalities world wide.

Many international and national organizations that value lives had put on hold indefinitely meetings and elections that involve mass physical contacts.  Of course some countries like Burundi and Malawi had controversial elections under COVID:19. In the case of Burundi, the authoritarian president, Pierre Nkurunziza, died from COVID 19 complications few days his party’s candidate, Evariste Ndayishimiye, was declared winner of May Presidential nations. On Tuesday Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, announced that he had tested positive for covid-19.  Witness his  words: “I am currently self-isolating and supervised home management will be administered by the wonderful team at our Infectious Disease Hospital.’

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The full disclosure was after a video of his  went viral caught sneezing  without elbowing with political friends,  all unprotected, at least without face masks. So much for INEC’s Covid: 19 policy! The INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu had repeatedly bemoaned the behavior of the political actors. That was before the present era in which a dry cough is the new trumpeter of mass death. A single sneeze of the afflicted, we are told, “releases about 30,000 droplets, with droplets traveling at up to 400 kilometers per hour, “the droplets in a single cough or sneeze may contain as many as 200,000,000 (two hundred million) virus particles which can all be dispersed into the environment around them”.

Can anyone imagine a prospect of candidates campaigning from isolation centers? Can anyone imagine voters spreading the scourge or returning with infections two weeks after casting their votes? What manner of election is it that campaigners and voters had to socially distanced to convey social messages? What is the integrity of elections with possibility of banned rallies and ever dancing entertaining contestants? Who listens to  a campaign under the stress and discomfort of face masks? God forbids, can we imagine INEC officials in isolation, to count whose votes?

Whence INEC’s difference to the new normal if in both Edo and Ondo there would not be virtual voting and electronic vote counts and yet no safeguards against the bug of fast spreading Virus beyond the policy which will definitely be obeyed in the breach without sanctions? If we can rightly shut down schools because on the living kids can learn, what about postponed recruitment of only two  applicants for Governorships in Edo and Ondo?  Are we living to vote or voting to live?

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