THE PROBLEM WITH THE JUDICIARY

THE PROBLEM WITH THE JUDICIARY The judiciary, by and large, has also not been independent of the federal government from the point of view of all previous federal elections petitions in the country. When the ANPP presidential candidate, (the largest opposition party in the country) Muhammadu Buhari complained of malpractices in 2003 election, the ruling party was confident in demanding that he should go to court.

THE PROBLEM WITH THE JUDICIARY

The Nigerian judiciary is saddle with the responsibilities of upholding the principles of social justice, interpretation of the law as well as protection and guidance of the constitution. However, recent activities of the judiciary or weaknesses as a result of certain factors associated with corruption have made the public not only within the country but also the international community to doubt about the independent nature of the Nigerian judiciary. THE PROBLEM WITH THE JUDICIARY

The recent controversial verdict by the Court of Appeal in upholding the elections of Yar’adua, came with shock in the minds of many Nigerians and election observers who witnessed the April 2007 polls. The ruling was welcome with wide criticism as many lost hope for the success of democratization process in the country. Balarabe Musa called it a “compromised Judiciary” that the Nigerian Judiciary is against all expectations, proving to be a handmaiden in the nefarious stratagem of the ruling government and leadership. That it remains the only conclusion that can be arrived at by any reasonable person from the unpatriotic, patently corrupt, dishonourable and contradictory judgements that have so far engulf the 2007 general election (CNPP 17th June 2008).

 

An investigation by Sahara reporters based in New York, reveals that, the panel of judges were not only massively bribed by operatives of Yar’adua government but that the circle of compromised actors reached wide – to top editors and columnist, traditional rulers, politicians and religious leaders. (www.saharareporters.com New York 01/03/08). In his bitter remark, reacting to the ruling, the counsel to Buhari, who earlier argue for fear of an ambush due to a gentleman agreement made between the counsels and the panel, Mr. Mike Ahamba(SAN) said “the tribunal erred in law when it failed to valuate the plethora of evidence legally admitted in the proceedings before arriving at the conclusion that he did not prove his case”. It is widely believed that the controversial verdict undermines democratic process in Nigeria as many people have lost hope for the judiciary in promoting Democracy and justice in the country.

 

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 GODFATHERISM AND CREDIBLE ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA

One other factor that greatly undermines democratic governance and threatens national security in Nigeria is the issue of ‘god fathers’ and ethnic militias thus:

The concept of godfatherism is firmly establishing itself as a guiding principle in contemporary Nigerian politics. The question is whether such guiding principle is a positive one, encouraging democratic consolidation, stability and development most earnestly desired by a nation starved of hope. The activity of godfathers, their use of violence to achieve control of government machinery make clear that the contrary is the case that the godfathers is the boss of an organised political crime outfit against the Nigerian people (Ololade in the Constitution vol.7 No.2 June 2007:33).

 

 

Godfathers are “men who have the power personally to determine both who gets nominated to contest election and who wins in a state”. (Ibrahim 2007). Generally, in the context of power relations in politics, godfathers are the persons who direct the affairs of politics. They are seen or termed as the king-makers. However, available evidence suggests that the concept (godfatherism) in the past was not merely for personal gains, it was never a personal investment, rather the major concerns of godfathers was to ensure good governance. But the concept in contemporary Nigeria has become a dangerous phenomenon simply because of greed, resulting to all sorts of violence and throwing most of Nigerian state into anarchy. The case of Oyo and Anambra is a good example.

 

The most absurd display of the power of godfatherism in Nigerian politics took place in Anambra state, where the bitter fruits of Nigeria’s 2003 electoral sham came to harvest. This bitterness virtually threw the state into anarchy, where ethnic militias took control of the state, in a factional form rather than the instrument of legitimise violence causing the state to lose public property estimated to the tune of 10billion Naira to various atrocities and arson (cited in The Constitution vol.7 No.2 June 2007:18-26).

 

The most disheartening and heart rendering story is the evidence which shows presidential connection to the crisis in Anambra state, in which the president (Obasanjo) in a media chart remarked that “the breach of agreement between the (conflicting) parties in Anambra crisis was beyond constitutionality and legality”. The president was also alleged to have openly identified himself with one side of the conflicting group (Tel, Lagos, 13/12/04: 22; 20/12/04: 13-14). Was more, in both cases of Anambra and Oyo state, presidential, security and judicial backing was alleged to be behind the removal or dismissal of the respective state governors (Victor 2008:68), “simply because they breach the agreement made earlier between them and their godfathers”.

 

It is pertinent to note that the role of godfathers in Nigerian politics has impacted negatively on democracy and political development of the country. Their activities have eroded the electorate’s belief and confidence in the electoral process, the notions of consent, popular mandate and sovereignty are devalued and the basis of democracy grossly eroded. The discovery of six voter registration machines in the house of one of the so-call godfathers in the South-West city of Ibadan is a clear sign of democratic failure with no single action taken by the government. These scary scenarios put the question of integrity on the 2007 general election, which clearly portends the danger for the survival of democracy. (Thisday news online, 28th 01 2007). In other word, Sidel (2007) remarked that:

 

these ‘local strongmen’ work to achieve position of local monopoly, in which the term of exchange between ‘patron’ and ‘client’ lean heavily in their favour, and in which control over economic and coercive resources facilitates the preservation and manipulation of the scarcities and insecurities experienced by the local populace (The Constitution vol.7 No.2 June 2007:39).

Thus, the major source of threat to Nigeria’s democracy and under development is in no doubt traceable to the door steps of godfatherism. Election in Nigeria at political level shows all the characteristics that correspond to economic structures, particularly visible in what is termed as primitive accumulation of votes. By this OkechukwuIbeanu means the wining of vote both through objectives and structural violence, and disregard for the rule of law. And it is justified in the name of communal interest, religious and other interests by legitimizing political office through stolen mandate (Ibeanu in Jega and Ibeanu 2007:6).

Ibeanu went further to blame the Nigeria politicians for their failure to play a role in national integration, rather placing much emphasis on voting behaviour along ethnics, religious and other cleavages including corruption and misadministration of election by electoral and judicial bodies as well as ideological confusion among the voters and the political parties. He went further to suggest for an electoral reform, and the need for voters who believe in the process of election and not voters who just cast votes without knowing its importance.

He seem to have forgotten or missed the point that Nigeria does not lack voters who believe in the process of election; more especially given example with high participation of voters during the 2003 election; and whose mandates were believed to be denied as remarked by many foreign and domestic election monitoring groups (BBC news hourly of the 2003 election eve). Other evidence can be linked to 2007 election, a situation which shows a high turn up of voters with no adequate provision of voting materials, with several report of intimidation by the instrument of legitimise violence to deny voters participation.

The lingering issue behind electoral development can be traced to the origin and development of election during the colonial period, where emphasis was more on selection and nomination by the colonial authorities than by popular mandate with restrictive election principles on an income-based adult male suffrage. More specifically the problems with election in Nigeria include ethnicity, leadership crisis, and the census crisis leading to electoral violence and malpractice among political opponents(Nnadozie in jega and Ibeanu  2007:45). Ethnicity and sentiments have remained the major platform of the election campaigning up to 1983 election. A situation were the leaders of the major political parties were known to have made slips during the campaign by calling their parties by the names of the former parties in the 1st Republic as noted by Uba (1989:72) and such actions with the emphasis of maintaining status quo by the incumbency triggered a massive rigging and all sorts of electoral fraud. As well, ethnic identity has been the basis of most voting in the bottom billion (Collier, 2009:26).

 

It is very clear that the Nigerian election of 1983 is a sham election. It was massively rigged and nobody can honestly, trustfully and scientifically state that Shagari and his lieutenants in the state capital were democratically voted into office. A massive collusion involving the NPN, the FEDECO, the Police and some section of the judiciary had produce government that could not claim legitimacy by dint of even the most rudimentary requirement of bourgeois democracy. (Kyari,1986 cited in Jega and Ibeanu  2007:65)

Similarly the 1993, 1999 and 2003 elections were rather an up shoot of the previous elections characterised by ethnicity, political thuggery, threat and intimidation, kidnapping and assassinations; manipulation of electoral bodies as well as the use of security personnel against political opponent with particular reference to the 2003 general election which witnessed a civilian to civilian continuation.

 

Falola nd Ihoumbere while making a Marxist critique of Nigerians 2nd Republic, they were able to highlight the economic reasons for the catch-as-can-catch tendencies of political elites…as a major factor to 1983 electoral disaster. That attempt by status quo to maintain power has been a major source for electoral malpractices and electoral violence (Junaidu 1990:110). Thus, he blamed the political elite as selfish class, blinded by the lust of power and the spoils of office are ready to violate the constitution, democratic institutions and the electoral process. As well as pointing at persistence of ethnic politics and religious as well as administrative and security problems, associated with lack of adequate personnel training.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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