“Please what’s going on? “Are we not going to be allowed to vote in this local government election?” “
“Please this problem should be solved so that we can vote for the candidates of our choice!” “There is no need to vote since only one political party will be in the running.”
“This is not an election since it has already been rigged in favor of a political party.”
Such were the anguished frustrations of the citizens of the Plateau State in the anxious days preceding these local elections organized by the Independent Electoral Commission of the State of the Plateau (PLASIEC), funded by the government of the State of the Plateau.
They feared that the ruling banning the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) from running in the October 9 elections would deprive them of their constitutional right to participate in this cherished democratic process.
But their wildest nightmares have become an overwhelming reality. PLASIEC conducts the elections without the participation of the main opposition party, the PDP.
The immense hopes of the people, some of whom have enjoyed the luxury of electing their presidents and advisers since 2015, have been mercilessly shattered.
Once again, Plateau State sets another heinous record of political ignominy for the world to see.
Those politicians and other Nigerians who take advantage of this parody because their conscience is long dead will tell you that it has happened at other times as well.
May be. But not in the way where a whole generation and millions of eligible voters are so blatantly deprived of their rights and other rights crushed in one fell swoop. Even in times of war, certain moral principles are upheld to demonstrate that man still clings to certain decency.
This is believed to be truer in the political arena where politics is to be seen as a passionate pursuit that seeks to improve and defend the general good and well-being of all citizens – without the undue influence of deleterious factors.
And even if something of this nature had happened before, does that make this massive deprivation of the right to vote permissible? Even justifiable?
Defending these actions with the past offenses of others only compounds the problem; makes it more knotty and deeply rooted.
Sadly, this has become the norm in the current dispensation where the Buhari government takes morbid pleasure in comparing the number of victims of the insurgency under its watch with what has prevailed in the past in a desperate attempt to solidify its abysmal record in this department and others. governance.
No wonder violent crime and lawlessness have become the order of the day across the country.
The judiciary / A governor in limbo:
Yes, the courts could be at the center of the arbitration that led to this state of affairs in Plateau State.
Certainly, we hold our legal system in high regard because we believe it to be the last resort and hope of ordinary people. And this is the pillar on which our democracy rests.
Yes, the judiciary, universally symbolized by this iconic blindfolded lady wielding the sword of justice, is no exception and strictly adheres to the cold letter of the law.
But sometimes the results of his judgments obtained through a serious, diligent, impartial and critical examination of the facts can be manipulated by selfish individuals and interests to the detriment of the people and society he seeks to serve and protect.
Could this be the case in Plateau State today where a local government election is being held with the majority of citizens being voluntarily disenfranchised?
As we reflect on this, we should ruminate on this statement from retired legal authority Judge Daniel Longji: “I can confidently say that the judiciary is just an appendix. People want justice to be impartial, but it cannot be impartial because it is an appendix of the government.
I say it very openly and I do not regret having said it…. And if you dare to pass judgment against the government…. I said I had no regrets, but if the wishes were horses…. »(THE CHALLENGE OF THE DAY, February 2020).
Having said that, even the most brutal law is sometimes corrupted by mercy. There is also what is called the spirit of the law. But the case that ultimately led to the PDP being barred from running for office was essentially sensitive.
He was sensitive because he had resounding political ramifications. And due to the volatile nature of Nigerian politics, it has had to be treated with the utmost caution.
But the interim president of the APC of Plateau State, beneficiary of this judgment, was delighted: “The PDP shot himself in the foot.
Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to him, it was the soul of Plateau State that was hit by a poisoned arrow. And the wound can take a long time to heal.
He began to paint the glorious scenario of his Party registering a landslide victory! In his view, the courts had finally paved the way for the CPA to dominate the political space.
Governor Simon Lalong then expressed the same sentiments when he addressed CPA members at a rally in Shendam to report the campaigns for the local elections.
He proclaimed: “I am very optimistic that we will sweep the election because we have no opposition in Plateau State.
For them, therefore, the fact that the main opposition party did not participate in the vote did not take away the joy inherent in winning a hotly contested election with worthy rivals on an equal footing.
It is this distorted sense of accomplishment and bragging that fuels the feeling among citizens that undue pressure may have been exerted on the judiciary.
In addition, it can go a long way in confirming the position of critics who have so far argued that the Lalong administration has always been afraid to conduct free and fair municipal elections for fear of losing miserably.
This is because, first, its performance in critical areas such as infrastructural and economic development and peacekeeping has been extremely dismal.
Second, his image as an appendage to the northern core, as evidenced by his actions as the so-called chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum and his selfish political maneuvers, pushed his estimate further to near zero in the eyes of the citizens who weren’t there. consider themselves unabashedly belonging to the Middle Belt region of Nigeria.
Third, the internal crises of his APC tore him apart so much that the person who always controlled his key structures had to separate himself from the governor and was well prepared to go against the APC if the local government polls had not been restricted.
Therefore, taking the PDP out of the fray turned out to be a massive saving grace for Governor Lalong, as it gave him a soft landing.
Jos North Discontent / Core North Agenda:
It should be noted that this deprivation of civil rights for citizens of the Plateau would especially worry the inhabitants of the local government areas of Jos Nord, Jos Sud, Riyom and Barakin Ladi.
While other parts of the state had the benefit of voting for their presidents and council advisers in 2018, elections have been suspended in those four LGAs due to security concerns. Since then, they have been led by faithful of the APC appointed by Governor Lalong.
As they optimistically awaited a massive participation in the ongoing electoral process, their hopes were once again dashed. But before that, political analysts had argued that the Lalong administration cited insecurity for not holding elections in those areas primarily as a ruse.
They point out that the state government has always known that it would not win the elections in these LGAs as they remain strong strongholds of the opposition PDP. They therefore argue that the current trend might as well be a continuation of this policy of denying them their right to vote so that the state government avoids a crushing defeat.
Still others believe that Governor Lalong displayed an acute lack of political acumen when he approved the elections in these four LGAs (and Bassa) even when their security situations were still very precarious, it is the less than one can say.
They point out in particular Bassa and Jos North who were rocked by eruptions of bloody violence in August that necessitated the imposition of a twenty-four hour curfew, which has now been relaxed between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. morning.
As it stands, four of these LGAs are effectively under curfew. However, Governor Lalong wants municipal elections to be held there mainly because the coast is clear so that his APC can have fun.
However, the governor faces stiff opposition to Jos North LGA within his own APC.
He is accused of having chosen and imposed a non-native, Alhaji Shehu Bala Usman, as the Party’s flag bearer above other members belonging to the three indigenous ethnic groups in the region who had also purchased forms for the presidency.
Apparently, the APC loyalists here are also suffering from Governor Lolong’s excesses, as are their opponents from the PDP and other state citizens.
The Jos Nord APC is now calling for free and fair primary elections to elect a standard bearer for the presidency in accordance with its constitution. In the alternative, they joined with other individuals and groups to demand the cancellation of the polls due to the state of insecurity in Jos Nord mentioned above.
But, against all odds, the governor is determined to install Alhaji Usman as executive chairman. Critics say he cannot go back now because he has to fulfill a pact he made with the Hausa / Fulani settler community to hand over the leadership of the council to them for the “favors” he received. returned.
There have also been unconfirmed reports that the long-term plan of the Hausa / Fulani settler community is to carve out an emirate in Jos North to serve as a launching pad for the Islamization of other parts of the country. State.
This is seen as part of the comprehensive northern core program, currently vigorously pursued by the Buhari government, to bring other parts of the country under the caliphate. The federal government’s open support for the litigation of the Fulani killer shepherds against the southern governors’ enactment of anti-open grazing laws is a clear point.
It is very evident from all of the above that the local elections proposed for October 9, 2021 in Plateau State served to shatter the hopes of Plateau citizens, even across political party lines.
The elections also exposed Governor Lalong’s penchant for subordinating the common good of citizens to his personal will and ego, regardless of the consequences for his own APC and the opposition PDP. But, above all, the elections will further polarize the good people of the state in an unprecedented way.
But it is heartwarming that the PDP has approached the Court of Appeal with its grievances. It is a positive sign that part of the political class still believes in the capacity of our temples of justice to uphold the rule of law and protect the integrity of our democracy. Despite the result, democracy still looks forward to better days.
Even in this thick atmosphere of discouragement, born of a collective sense of shattered hopes and mutual suspicion, brought about by our fractured unity, there is a glimmer of hope that out of all of this may still emerge a more democratic Plateau State. strong and Nigeria.
Chris Gyang is the president of the NGO Journalists Coalition for Citizens’ Rights Initiative JCCRI. E-mail: [email protected]