By Leo Sobechi
It has come to that: To be or not to be! Nine months to the 2019 general election apprehension and anxiety have become the order of the day as both politicians and citizens look forward to another trying time in Nigeria’s political evolution.
The situation is more worrisome when viewed against the background that while at the inception of this republic, a former military head of state was President, democracy went through thick and thin. Now that another former military head of state is serving out a first term as civilian President, sundry threats have come to test the love Nigerians have for democracy.
Already, as if the party and President in power are resolved to take the country’s democracy through another rough and hard highway, the 2019 general election seems to be in a clasp of thick fog.Apart from the aura of uncertainty that is beginning to surround the safety and sanity of the country’s democracy, there have been manifest threats to the 2019 poll. Some of the nervous situations in the current dispensation include, the serial affront on the separation of power and unrelenting attacks on the legislature, the inappropriate elevation of security agencies and personnel, as well as, abuse of the judiciary.
Attacks On Judiciary
OF all the deleterious outcropping in the polity in recent times, the assault on the Judiciary is about the worst threat to democracy and by extension, the 2019 poll. It all started with the so-called sting operation, when the residences of serving judicial officers were invaded at unholy hours in search of evidence of corruption.
While most Nigerians agree that there is need to fight corruption, the manner in which masked operatives of Department of State Services (DSS) violated the places of abode of some Judges riled the people. Some of the Judges’ residences where the search for evidence of corruption took place include, Abuja, Kano, Gombe, Enugu and Sokoto. Although the DSS were said to have submitted their initial findings to the National Judicial Commission (NJC), the body charged with the discipline of judges, the secret police decided to take the law into their hands after the NJC “merely recommended the retirement of just two judges.
But, in their overzealous display of native force, the state agents forgot the place of laid down procedure and the rule of law. Worse of all, the gathering of evidence must be in such a way that it accords probative value on data. However, the attack on residences of Judges pales into insignificance when compared to what happened recently in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, when hoodlums working for a particular political interest, barricaded the premises of the court to prevent it from pronouncing on a matter before it.
The scary episode went a long way and elicited the condemnation of many Nigerians. Most of the commentators seem to be enraged at what was fast becoming a pattern in the attempts to pre-condition or breach the country’s democracy.For instance, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), through its President, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, condemned the attack, saying the attacks represented the “primitive instincts of the hoodlums and the desperation of their promoters.”
Stressing that any attack on any court constitutes a violation of the sanctity of the judiciary and an invitation to anarchy, Wabba declared: “Our democracy can only make meanings as well as stand the test of time with strong institutions. Accordingly, we should eschew undermining them, as that will only render them prostrate and amenable. We say no to the intimidation of the courts and judicial officers.”
On his part, a former governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, said the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) seems to have seen the handwriting on the wall that Nigerians adjudge them as having failed and was therefore doing all in its power to abort the enabling environment for free, fair and credible democratic elections.
Expressing outrage at the affront on the judiciary, the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) saw the Port Harcourt court invasion as “an attempt to ridicule the judiciary and, also undermine the integrity and powers” of the judicial arm.
The NBA in a statement by its General Secretary, Isiala Olagunju, also urged the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to set up a high-powered investigation team and bring the perpetrators to book.However, the main opposition party, PDP, through its spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, expressed dismay that no arrests have been made: “We are particularly alarmed that since the attack, no arrest has been made,” regretting that the “Federal Government has not taken any concrete steps to bring the perpetrators of the treasonable act to book.”
Insubordination Of Security Personnel
PART of the threats to the 2019 election and democracy is the unusual elevation of some security agencies and their personnel above constituted organs of government. Further act of compromise of the systemic organogram is the predilection towards partisan patronage of security personnel.
A ready instance is the recent adornment of promotional materials for President Muhammadu Buhari’s reelection by the chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu.By virtue of his office as policeman and head of a specialized unit, Magu was not expected to be a card-carrying member of any political party or expose his partiality to any in any way.
Perhaps, wearing the pinup and campaigning for the party could be Magu’s way of reciprocating the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Presidency for encouraging his continued stay in office despite the rejection of his appointment by the Senate.Although the Presidency clutched on Section 171 of the constitution as a wet blanket against the fire of the Senate, it amounts to an after thought when placed side by side the fact that it submitted Magu’s name on its own volition.
But most worrisome is the grandstanding and presumptuous arrogance of the IGP, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, against the upper legislative chamber. On three occasions the parliament invited the IGP to sound him out on what his department is doing in response to the unrelenting killing spree and mounting insecurity in the country.
Three times the IGP shunned the Senate and instead chose to impugn on the intelligence of the Red Chamber with the claim that the invitation was specifically to make a case for Senator Dino Melaye, who has been a source of irritation to the Presidency and the Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.
The IGP’s resort to subtle blackmail fails to hold water when viewed against the background that he submitted himself to Senate screening before the ratification of his nomination and appointment. Furthermore, had he attended the Senate session, there is no way he could be compelled to answer questions or accede to requests about Senator Melaye.
As such, instead of winning the sympathy or understanding of the people, Idris’ disdain for the Senate seems to buttress popular sentiment that the current administration is propping the security apparatus, especially the retention of service chiefs beyond their terms; for undemocratic activities that could mar the 2019 election.
Could it be then that the security agencies of the country are being programmed to serve undemocratic purposes? That appears plausible, if the general perception of Nigerians is anything to go by.
Calls For Abrogation Of Legislature
THE attack on the legislature started at the onset of the Eighth NASS through the attempt to programme it by handpicking its leadership. When that failed, the institutions of state, including its coercive structures were arrayed against the leaders.
Some of these underhand attacks on Nigeria’s democracy include the trial of the President of Senate for a retrospective infraction allegedly committed on the asset declaration form in his former office.
Pointers to the possibility that the democratic space could be further inveigled include the use of criminal elements to ambush lawmakers with dissenting opinions on the performance of the current administration.Some of these instances include the interrogation of Senator Shehu Sani for the confession of suspected murderers, Senators Dino Melaye, Nwaoboshi and Ahmed Marafa.
Intriguingly, while all those were going on, little did Nigerians suspect that similar association with crimes would be extended to the President of Senate, Bukola Saraki. The Senate President, acting on information received from his home state governor, revealed that some cultists engaged in armed robbery and hired killing were being prepared to implicate him.
Although President Buhari has waded into the alarm, the fear remains that the 2019 poll and Nigeria’s democracy would undergo severe trials in the days to come. And just as the President recently recalled how he was removed from office 35 years ago, Nigeria’s are apprehensive that his nonchalance towards the excesses might torpedo the country’s democracy as in 1983.