New Telegraph

November 29, 2023

Election Petitions: ‘Uncertain Justice’ in the ‘Storm Centre’ of Political Controversy (2)

Kleptocratic electoral culture Britain bequeathed Nigeria since 1951 has defined Nigeria’s democracy. Being so entrenched in Nigeria’s politico-legal order, the only clean election (the June 12 Presidential Election result) that departed from that system was annulled by General Babangida at the insistence of anti-democratic forces then led (according to Prof. Omo Omoruyi in his Tale of June 12) by the elected governors, the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Aliyu Mohammed and National Republican Convention Senators who preferred diarchy under General Babangida.

These anti-democratic forces led by these persons and groups later coalesced under a more portent military groups that had bought into the agenda of the earlier civilian groups ranged against the weak group supporting unfettered democratization which President Babangida had referred to in his November 17, 1992 address and later addresses of March and May 1993 as “two sides of the democracy barricade.”

The anti-democratic forces had instigated a stalemate in the presidential nomination processes of the parties in 1992 but due to the United States’ diplomatic pressure, President Babangida allowed the resuscitation of the transition programme to the chagrin of the anti-democratic forces.

This dissatisfaction of these anti-democratic forces with the resuscitation of the transition programme led to their embracing what Prof. Omoruyi calls the “geo-ethno- military clique” or “Northern Hegemonists” as identified by Bishop Hassan Matthew Kukah in his Religion, Politics and Power in Northern Nigeria with their determination to truncate the Babangida’s transition programme. And they succeeded!

Ever since the truncation of June 12 Election, kleptocratic electoral culture has become ruling culture as electoral bandits seized Nigeria by the jugular robbing with impunity electoral mandates to the consternation of hapless Nigerians. In 1951, Britain countered the nationalist activities of the National Council of Nigerian Citizens by getting the two main ethnic groups, the Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba to form political parties to break the NCNC nationalist appeal and fervour in prosecuting the nationalist quest for independence.

The Northern People’s Congress (NPC) sprung out of tribal unions British secret service agents had inspired and hijacked for the British neocolonial agenda. In the 1951 elections, the NPC with the help of Britain rigged the North- ern vote to take control of the region while independents and minority parties were strengthened by Britain against NCNC in Eastern region.

In Western Region, which Britain had considered the joker in the contest for power between its Northern protégé (the NPC) and NCNC-based Southern nationalists ranged against its neocolonial agenda. In Western Region, the coalition nature of NCNC wherein civil and community associations rather than individuals constituted its membership such as Ibadan Peoples Party led by Adegoke Adelabu with other Ibadan stalwarts such as Meredith Akinloye, Richard Akinjide and other independents was a loophole Britain exploited against NCNC.

These Western political associations were allied to the NCNC but that was the loophole and subterfuge Britain exploited against the NCNC by counting the electoral victories for the allied parties instead of NCNC. Based on this artifice, the NCNC was not counted as having scored majority of seats in the Western House of Assembly.

This was the trick Britain played against the NCNC to deny it electoral victory in the Western Region thereby kicking up tribal sentiments against Azikiwe to control Western Region. This political artifice enabled Meredith Akinloye, Richard Akinjide and other legislators to cross carpet to AG thereby enabling Awolowo to form government in Western Region.

Sir Udo Udoma wrote in his History and Law of the Constitution of Nigeria that Britain celebrated this victory over Azikiwe with the exultant exclamation that they got him at an inescapable point of forcing him into tribal cocoon where he would be forced to shed his garb of nationalist ‘pre- tensions’.

Azikiwe fell for the bait by leaving Western Region to his Eastern homeland whereupon Britain regained its neocolonialist agenda largely scotched, disorganized and at the point of being scuppered by the NCNC and the Zikist Movement between 1944 and 1948. From 1951, Britain recovered from the blistering nationalist activities of NCNC and the Zikist Movement and seized the momentum of its 1951 victory to entrench its neocolonial agenda in the 1954 Constitution and cemented it in 1957 Constitution.

Having achieved this coup de grace against the nationalists led by Azikiwe and NCNC, Britain posted Sir James Robertson who had executed similar British neocolonial agenda in Sudan to Nigeria to accomplish the concluding part of British decolonisation programme.

All the constitutional, legal and electoral praxis were properly laid down and so the 1959 elections were fait accompli to achieve a seamless patenting of Nigeria as a British neo- colonial state on the agreed date of October 1, 1960.

So, in the election, like all other elections since 1951, Britain did not leave anything to chance. Sir Robertson, to make assurance doubly sure mobilized British colonial civil servants as managers of the election and compromised many of them with humongous allowances and promise of royal privileges in Britain at the conclusion of the decolonisation programme.

Many British colonial civil servants accepted the offer but one conscientious Briton; 29 year old Cambridge- trained Harold Smith rejected the offer and pointed Sir Robert- son to the danger of subversion of a young country the World legal order had placed in the care of Britain as trustee.

But Sir Robertson would hear none of this young man’s plaintive cry not to sabotage the new country’s future happiness and well-being. Robertson did browbeat Harold Smith and rigged the 1959 general election in favour of Northern People’s Congress where- upon even before the complete returns of the vote he privately briefed Sir Tafawa Balewa and told him clearly that he has not satisfied the law to be called upon to form the government but that he would nevertheless call him to form the government.

Azikiwe and Awolowo reacted against Sir Robertson’s hasty judgment in calling Sir Balewa to form government even when the complete results of the election had not been declared. No legal challenge was taken against this-electoral subterfuge but Awolowo’s AG and Azikiwe’s NCNC held discussions to form alliance which would have resulted in Azikiwe becoming the first indigenous Prime Minister while Awolowo would become his deputy.

Britain sabotaged this scheme and this British subterfuge was helped by Michael Okpara and other second rate politicians’ ill-advice as confessed in Okpara’s biography that Azikiwe and Awolowo forming government would make Ahmadu Bello to break up Nigeria. After Azikiwe had rubbished his first rate politicians such as Mbonu Ojike, Mokwugo Okoye, AC Nwapa, RA Njoku, Prof. Eyo Ita, IU Akpabio, etc) between 1948 and 1958, Okpara and other second rate politicians had stepped in.

The problem of rigged elections became an albatross after Britain had left with Northern People’s Congress put in power and having inherited the kleptocratic electoral culture utilized the system to remain in power. So, in the 1964/1965, this vicious power system was utilized to rig the election in the North, East and particularly in the West where the anti-democratic forces from the Northern People’s Congress made electoral banditry a political instrument of control and subjugation.

The constitution and law were helpless and so nobody went to court to contest the electoral malfeasance of that period. Every electoral malfeasance was settled in the field by electoral violence as typified in the Western Region’s ‘Operation we tie’ whereby suspected election riggers were burnt or their houses torched.

This electoral problem led to gargantuan crises which culminated in the January 15, 1966 coup d’état which ignited the July 29, 1966 counter coup and leading to the Biafra War (1967-1970). The military remained in power till 1979 when it conducted 1979 elections which were defined by Awolowo and Shagari fiercely contested presidential election with the result disputed by Obafemi Awolowo and ended up at the Supreme Court where it determined the constitutional question of what constituted 2/3 of 19 states. The interpretation of that constitutional mathematical question did not go down well with significant number of the political class.

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