Wednesday 29 April 2009

Nigeria: Ekiti elections, a case of conscience before responsibility

Ekiti is not in the kitty

An election rerun took place in Ekiti State in Nigeria and it seems to have sunk into a morass of confusion and chaos. It is amazing that South Africa conducted national elections just last week, the results were released within days and one has not heard of any serious disputes concerning how free or fair the elections were.

The question then becomes why Nigeria just cannot seem to conduct elections successfully without it being mired in some controversy no matter how small the constituency.

However, I would not concentrate on that but on another aspect of public service, responsibility and character.

A resignation to review

It has now transpired that the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Ekiti State has resigned [1] and the less than respected chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has halted the polls indefinitely.

The NEXT news organ obtained a copy of the letter of resignation and it would be the subject of my blog.

The ex-Commissioner, if the President to whom she addressed the letter accepts the resignation goes by Chief (Mrs) Olusola Ayoka Adebayo, I would not deal with the significance and prominence of titles here.

The letter

The text of the letter reads thus:

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to inform you of my resignation as the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Ekiti-State.

IN accordance with the rule of law, the on-going election in Ekiti State was suppose (sic) to be the election that will enhance the image of INEC, electoral process in our dear country Nigeria and the whole black race. Unfortunately, the circumstances changed in the middle of the process; therefore, my conscience as a Christian cannot allow me to further participate in this process.

I thank you and my great country Nigeria for giving me the rare opportunity to serve.

Yours sincerely.

Heavy hearts

It might be a turn of phrase but I am sometimes concerned when a seemingly formal letter begins with an emotive introduction, however, to follow in the same sense of levity I have decided to consult the Urban Dictionary rather than the usual references for a definition of “heavy heart” [3]; it offers – melancholy, depressed and sad.

Melancholy [4] applies to the mental or emotional symptoms of depression and despondency; the other meanings for depression and sadness are generally clear and accepted.

Now this is the Resident Electoral Commsioner for Ekiti State whose duty it is to conduct elections and return results reflecting the will of the people. In Nigeria, this can be considered a very serious and onerous task; only the bold should take it and they should in my view stay the course unswerved, incorruptible and resolute till they have delivered that will, no time for melancholy, here.

The rule without reference

I cannot really appreciate the context of the second paragraph, if a letter of resignation from a public official should use the phrase “In accordance with the rule of law”, I expect to see the reference to the constitutional provision that underpins that rule allowed for that public official to offer a resignation.

The elections in Ekiti State are still ongoing as it seems and one picture of eligible voters [5] as reported by the NEXT news organ gives a lie to the idea that proposed by the government press that the elections were in any way peaceful.

It also appears the most disturbances and disruption [6] to the electioneering process is in the home city Ido-Osi of the candidate of the ruling party – not good at all.

Great expectations

The Electoral Commission seemed to have great aspirations for her job, she really did think that the elections in Ekiti State would enhance the reputation of INEC, that is naïve in the least considering as the polling descended into chaos and the results were withheld, the INEC Chairman announced the Resident Commissioner was indisposed, which does not seem to have been the case.

To suggest that the election would be an opportunity to improve the electoral process in “our dear country” Nigeria is fallacy, the whole system is flawed, the chief executive of the organisation is discredited and serious reforms to INEC are still lacking, it was unlikely with the highly charged situation in Ekiti State that things would turn out well, but one can give marks for trying.

I am quite affected by the qualification of Nigeria as “our dear country”, maybe it shows a love for motherland, a desire for greater things in the fatherland and quality of patriotism, we all love our country, only if we could love her more to really get lasting change for the better.

The addition of the phrase “the whole black race” is superfluous and delusionary as it is representative of Nigerians generally given to hyperbole. How anyone could aspire to creating examples for a race when we could not successfully implement a process in a tiny region escapes me.

The examples to the whole black race are those in elections conducted in Ghana and South Africa, if we cannot reach that baseline standard; we have no business in delusions of grandeur.

When the going gets tough

And unfortunately, what she set out to achieve seems to have been disrupted and was about to be derailed so she absconded the process and basically has now left the situation to degenerate into what she was primarily there to prevent.

Any person who takes office as an Electoral Commissioner should be under no illusions about the pressures they would be under to skew the process in favour of vested interests, when the going gets tough in a position like that, the tough stand fast, they do not bolt.

It is in the power of official to declare the fair results and leave the rest to legal contest if need be – it simply helps open the whole electoral process to proper scrutiny and the facts would help declare who really won.

This resignation left the whole process in limbo and it has handed the initiative to interests that would definitely move into dictate their will rather than the will of the people, it is interesting that the Electoral Commissioner in now wanted by the police as announced by the Inspector General to substantiate her allegations probably concealed in the phrase “the circumstances changed in the middle of the process”. Nigeria is a place of intrigue.

Conscientiously objecting to responsibility

The letter ends with “my conscience as a Christian cannot allow” this is the part that really gets me; your religious convictions should be of no consequence in the execution of your tasks and responsibility as a public official.

Your integrity and character is not derived from your religious convictions and should not be a feature of formal representation even if your religious convictions give you a moral baseline from which you operate.

We need to separate our religion from our legal responsibilities, especially if our responsibilities are not in the clergy. We get blind-sided by religious references such that we end up not enquiring deeper about the character and intentions of the person.

I do not need your religion

I am not interested in a Christian, Muslim or pagan Electoral Commissioner, I want a commissioner who in the face of pressures and inducements is about to use the conscience they portend to possess to overthrow nefarious activities and sue for the truth to be exposed and upheld in the office that they have been called to serve in.

Nigeria cannot have any progress when people with great aspirations and goals buckle under pressure and cop-out with the excuse that their conscience precludes them from fulfilling their duties and seeing those responsibilities through to an honest, just, fair and truthful conclusion.

In the worst case, the Commissioner should have worked to release results she believed to be the true reflection of the will of the people regardless of what the national commission might have decided to do.

Chief (Mrs) Olusola Ayoka Adebayo was given a “rare opportunity to serve” and I would not be waiting for history to judge that she failed to seize that opportunity and make something of it, the resignation complicates matters but it is also a reflection of religious convictions that constrain people from resolutely and courageously assuming and fulfilling their responsibilities.

In that, I am disappointed for our dear country, Nigeria.


[1] NEXT: Why I resigned, by Ekiti State Commissioner

[2] Nigeria: Ekiti INEC Resident Commissioner Resigns Under Pressure | AfricanLoft

[3] Urban Dictionary: Heavy Heart

[4] Melancholia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[5] NEXT: Tense Ekiti chooses a governor

[6] Resident Electoral Commissioner Resigns | Sahara Reporters

[7] Channels TV News : Police Declares INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner Wanted

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