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INEC and Dino Melaye Must Each Avoid the Slippery Avenue

By Prof R. A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria

It is now on record that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC,  of Nigeria is about to embark on a new journey by investigating a recall petition against Senator Dino Melaye of Kogi western Senatorial District. Such an exercise should be the first of its kind in Nigeria. The democracy in Nigeria would need the success of the  process, not just for an academic exercise, but for the public to have some hope in the entire electoral system. It is a mere coincidence and unfortunate that Senator Dino Melaye is the first of such a candidate. It could have been any other lawmaker from any state or federal constituency.

One of the major lessons is to do the  exercise professionally and avoid introducing extraneous factors, emotional factors, or even going down a slippery slope by the players. The notion of going down the slippery path  is that when you take a step down a slippery slope, you are at risk of losing your footing and can end up sliding all the way down the bottomless pit. The term is relevant to this episode because too often one is at the  risk of  sliding further than anyone would have envisioned in a situation like this. Already the news media are saying that INEC may not be able to carry out this function due to court intervention whereas the 1999 Nigeria  constitution didn’t say that. The lawmakers must submit themselves for public scrutiny or investigation from time to time, or resign immediately otherwise. Obstruction of justice is another class of various offences.

There are few occasions when a politician can be assessed and seen more clearly than in their relationship between media, the public and noise making at campaigns. If a Dino Melaye can handle this episode with maturity, through allowing the process to run its course without his interference directly or indirectly, his popularity is more likely soaring up. Similarly if INEC would be transparent, objective and fair the public confidence in the election system and democracy could improve greatly. Unfortunately going to court and shopping around for lawyers to do the unexpected wouldn’t help either party.

We have no doubt that INEC has enough testing machines at its disposal. It must be emphasized that investigation does not take you to interviewing every electorate but carrying out a valid random sampling of a few. Secondly by now the names of the close to 190,000  who signed on the petition list ought to have been gone through to separate valid votes and invalid votes. It is just like an election when you throw away some due to incomplete,  or mutilation, or others.

It is only then a Dino Melaye may go to court if he has been unfairly or unjustly treated. At that stage he may demand access to the information indicting him. We didn’t expect it to get to that stage instead we had expected honourable members to voluntarily step aside to avoid running down their image or the institution they hold. For example we didn’t expect Senator Saraki to remain the Senate President while the case against him lasted to give adequate respect to his person and to the institution of democracy. This is another style of going down the slippery slopes and they rub on personal integrity and bringing down the tenets of democracy.

Hence let the Nigeria Senate House no longer make itself a subsidiary of individual members but allowing each member to slip out or to stay. The whole episode is not about Senator Dino Melaye or the Senate House but about whether or not a constituency can make a recall and about a functional working democracy. INEC is to unmask the truth and for now give initial full support to the aggrieved constituency by telling them it’s findings in a humane way. Already INEC’s image in the eye of the common man on the street is very low and that another money making avenue has been opened to the officials handling the case. Similarly the public is suspecting that the money that Dino Melaye ought to have used to develop his constituency may be used wrongly to bail himself out. The dynamism in the system can be directed to actual fact finding professionally rather than allow rumours to run ahead of facts. Unfortunately INEC that couldn’t develop its education department  to bring people out to cast their  votes at its elections is now to pay the price of investigating nearly 190,000 in just one constituency and Dino Melaye that got elected by mere 41,000 votes now has nearly 190,000 rejecting him. All these can be true and not a misuse of figures.

Whether the entire process has been stage managed or state sponsored is not our primary interest. The Kogi western Senatorial District must be praised for such a huge task. We wished they had invested their efforts in seeking for the creation of additional local government area, or Okun State or going for a bigger price from the nation. Of secondary note here is whether the intrigues for the future control of the state power are in interplay, or candidates trying to outsmart each other. INEC should engage incorruptible officials who can also get to the bottom of the case. No doubt it seems that Senator Dino Melaye may have exposed his future political ambition too early on in the game, and right from the time Prince Abubakar Audu died. Nigeria public through INEC should make someone to pay for this unnecessary extra cost of democracy in a poorly governed state.

At the end APC must tell us if their party is alive or dead because it has seemingly neglected it’s role as an umpire and a manager of its members. The party is concealing needed public information about its members, including about the health status of Mr President, whether the parry is maintaining normal relationship with its state chapters, etc. Members of political parties are actually directly responsible to their respective parties. A situation where every member fights on its own, every member can do as they will, where there is no respect and obedience for part order, rules or regulations, is anarchy. Democracy must break away from military coup tactics or behaviour similar to students’ unionism  and move to engaging professional politicians in a coodinating manner; rather than allowing political hijackers or Evans the CEO in the kidnapping industrial dark world run their parties. We are probably witnessing the  lack of party discipline or the nonexistence of party structure and fabrics, not only in Kogi State but in the entire nation.

Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi


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