If we want to be honest then we cannot but admit that Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio, is not the only leading political figure in Nigeria indictable of manipulating electoral process in his party and in the country. All our major political parties from ACN to APGA from CPC to PDP and their leaders have had to deal with the suspicions and even outright accusations of conducting irregular primaries and rigging of elections. When it comes to electoral process, the cleanest of our ruling parties is a leper.
Given such reality, a question arises: Should we just accept things the way they are and try to adapt? Some people say yes because they truly feel overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness and all they can do is hope for a miracle to change the system. Some people say yes because they are cunningly and ferociously waiting for their own turn to do the same (like senior boys do to junior ones in school) or to have some one from or friendly to their ethnic or political tribe in power to manoeuvre things in their favour. I say no. That will turn us into a S.T.A.D Nation (So They All Do); we must resist such trajectory.
When confronted with the mess in the country, many of those in a position of authority or responsibility seem not to know where to start. With his now notorious exuberant mode of operating and lately speaking, Governor Godswill Akpabio has done us all a favour by giving a possibility and a challenge to those who really understand what democracy and commonwealth mean and care about these ideals to stand up and act in their defence.
With his self-incriminating declaration and consequent clumsy attempt to deny that he personally overturned the results of party primary senatorial elections in his State, many now have the opportunity to explore the essence of our democracy, and fix some essential far from perfect components within the system.
For anyone that missed it, and just to be clear for all, we now have Governor Godswill Akpabio on record (audio and video) saying:
“I used my own hand to strike out the name of the person who has won before, and I said it is important for me to give that [Ikono and Ini Local Government Areas] region a Senator in 2007, and I produced Senator Aloysius Etuk for you; that’s where he comes from.”
Thanks to Governor Godswill Akpabio, activists, analysts, public commentators and teachers if worthy of such designations now have the opportunity and duty to explain to Nigerians the importance of primary elections and how they should be conducted in the country. Contrary to the nonsense some are saying either out or sheer ignorance or with a conscious effort to deceive many into believing that primary elections are just mere internal party rituals, the whole of process of representative democracy actually starts from and depends a lot on primary elections and caucuses. These processes are in fact the essential condition without which we cannot have the emergence of a capable and committed political class that is not involved in or compromised by corruption disguised as generosity or servilisim misconstrued as loyalty.
It is not by accident that under the electoral acts that governs political parties and with which INEC functions, the regulator’s monitoring powers over political parties allows the commission to observe primaries and as it deems fit, either to accept or reject the outcomes.
The deafening silence of INEC on this issue is to say the least unbearable.
In a normal country, the organisation officially charged with regulating electoral matters should by now be investigating an election about which someone in the position of the Akwa Ibom Governor has made such statements. Governor Godswill Akpabio has done us all favour by giving a possibility and a challenge to examine the role and function of INEC in our democracy and see how fit it is for purpose.
Where do the judiciary and our security forces stand on this matter? Don’t they read the papers? Where is the press? After Governor Akpabio reported himself, we should be now have feature stories on whose name he struck off that list, how did such candidate react, and what is he doing now and intends to do?
It must be said that in making these incriminating declaration, the Governor’s intent was to demonstrate his fairness and generosity to the people of Ikono and Ini Local Government Areas by righting a wrong and putting one of their own into power. Now let us for a moment blindly and dangerously assume that Governor Akpabio is a completely righteous and exceptionally competent politician whose actions are solely dictated by the good of his state and that he genuinely meant well, even in such scenario, what he should have done is to openly canvass for and make a case for the candidate he deems best for the post.
Elected officials ought to remember that their tenure in office is only for a limited period of time. They ought to bear in mind that after them, a self-serving scoundrel or a lucky imbecile might just come into power and consequently, it is their duty, today, to create precedents and discontinue patterns that, for any reason in the world, might allow others to abuse power.
Governor Akpabio has done us all the favour of reminding us of the need to remind them of this duty.