IN a way, Professor Chinua Achebe was right. When he was offered the Commander of the Federal Republic, CFR, national honour for the year 2011 by the President Goodluck Jonathan regime he turned it down on the ground that the problems that prompted his rejection of same offer in 2004 still exist in the country.
Even though some praised him for saying no to yet another award in a country where politicians virtually empty public treasuries to get nominated even for the most mundane of awards, some thought that Africa’s most respected novelist had taken the “game” a little too far.
One of Achebe’s reasons for rejecting the Obasanjo Greek Gift was that the regime condoned the abduction of an elected governor and the destruction of public buildings by his local political agents. Surely, the governorship election in Anambra State in February 2010 was not even won by the candidate of the President’s Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. It was difficult to make the connection between what happened in Anambra under Obasanjo and what took place there under Jonathan.
In fact, Dr. Reuben Abati, the presidential spokesman, reminded Achebe that the Jonathan administration in 2011 supervised one of the best general elections in the nation’s history only in April this year, which were widely acclaimed locally and internationally. This regime distanced itself from the “do-or-die” methods of brazen impunity the Obasanjo regime used to conduct democratic affairs in the country.
But how does one describe the methods that President Jonathan’s PDP has adopted in the ongoing process towards the election of a new governor in his own home state, Bayelsa, in February 2012?
Only in October this year as the various governorship candidates warmed up to pick up forms from the PDP, the President assured them all of a level playing ground, urging them to go into the field and canvass for support unhindered.
It was based on this assurance that we saw an enthusiastic series of heavy politicking at the national secretariat of the Party when aspirants like Governor Timipre Sylva, media mogul Ben Bruce and former Labour Party candidate, Timi Alaibe, queued for forms.
One by one, all three were denied the forms under one pretext or the other, which showed the President was not willing to follow through with his pledge of a level field. By then, it had become clear that he had an anointed candidate, Seriake Dickson. Bruce and Alaibe took their exclusion without a fight.
The governorship primaries of the party that followed on November 19, 2011 conformed to a typical Obasanjo politics of exclusion. Not only was Sylva refused the opportunity to vie in the primaries, he was not even allowed by security agencies to leave the Government House while the exercise lasted at the Sampson Siasia Stadium, Yenagoa.
The Party ignored an order of an Abuja Federal High Court presided over by Justice Gabriel Kolawole, directing it to postpone the primaries until November 22. It was ordered to show cause why a fresh governorship primaries should be held by the Party in the state when the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had already been furnished with a ticket earlier given to Sylva after the January 6, 2011 primaries. PDP conducted the primaries and announced President Jonathan’s candidate, Dickson, as the winner.
After initially mulling the idea of seeking the renewal of his mandate on an alternative platform, Sylva decided to stay in PDP and fight it out.
The truth is that any political adventure in any other party other than the PDP in a state like Bayelsa is likely to flop. That of Bayelsa is even more so because it will be an uphill task to mount a campaign against the party of the President, a son of the state.
It is an emotional hurdle to expect Bayelsans to vote against their son in Aso Villa. When will Bayelsa produce another president of Nigeria? Which state has produced an elected president of Nigeria more than once?
Sylva knows that it is safer and smarter to fight the President’s candidate from inside the PDP than outside. Then it will be easier to continue to tell people that the President is behind him; it is only some evil people around him and in the PDP that are fighting him. Sylva is also pushing ahead with his campaigns to fulfill the provisions of the 2010 Electoral Act.
The Judiciary, they say, is the last hope of the common man. It would appear, as Sylva’s case seems to indicate, it is also the last hope of some high and mighty individuals as well. Especially, when such individuals are ranged against higher principalities and powers. Sylva is hoping that the Judiciary will see him as the persecuted underdog (as in the case of Chibuike Amaechi who has been very active in lending Sylva the Governors’ Forum’s helping hand). He is hoping that the judges will be irked by the PDP’s revival of its cult of impunity and give him favourable verdicts.
It is now for the courts to decide if his case deserves such favours. It is a major test case for the judicial regime of Chief Justice of Nigeria, His Lordship Dahiru Musdapher. Nigerians expect verdicts that will advance the course of justice in our democracy. Let the law prevail over politics. If any of the parties to this political dispute has done disservice to our democracy, the courts are now in a position to punish offenders and reward the injured.
Political parties need to be reminded that even though the law gives them wide-ranging powers to conduct their internal affairs without outside interference, they are, however, bound by the law and the Constitution.