Those who say that Nigerian politicians are poor students of history cannot be faulted. They are perfectly right. Nigerian politicians are indeed, an excellent example of this brand. They forget the past very easily and often recourse to those things that they had condemned and consigned to the dustbins of history as inimical to the survival, growth, and maturity of democracy in our country.
They insist when it is convenient for them to do so, that elections must be free and fair and that nothing should be done to impede that expressway that leads to the dreamland of electoral freeness and fairness. But when the tide of the political cyclone turns against them, the drumming will change and so will the dance steps too. The rest of their actions, thereafter, can only be better left to the imagination. They will turn hitherto cherished principles of electoral perfection on their heads and unashamedly insist that it is the right way to go.
The most recent example of this contradiction was experienced in Taraba State where local council elections were held Saturday, February 25, Ibi Council Area in particular. Chairmen and councilors were being elected into the 16 local government councils to succeed caretaker committees that have been running their affairs for some time now. The elections were meant to enrich the nation’s new culture of representative governance whereby only those that the people have freely chosen through the instrumentality of the ballot box will occupy elective positions.
The Government of Governor Darius Ishaku, determined to make the elections a positive contribution towards strengthening the country’s incipient culture of democracy, took all steps necessary for this goal to be achieved. Despite all these, there were people who did not want this to happen. They were the All Progressives Congress, APC, leaders in Ibi, one of the 16 local government council areas in Taraba State, and the only council area where the recent council elections did not hold on the scheduled date. They came out on their evil mission to stop the elections in the local government and they succeeded but only because Governor Ishaku declined the option of using the machinery of law and order to disperse them from where they had laid an ambush for electoral materials meant for that day’s election.
Before the day of the elections, electoral materials were moved by the State Independent Electoral Commission, SIEC, to police stations in all council headquarters for safe keeping, Ibi inclusive. That had been the practice, even in the case of national elections. It always worked out well. Even in this case, everything looked perfectly right until what became a contest between the good and the bad took the centre stage in Ibi in the early hours of the polling day.
A group of politicians and their supporters belonging to the All Progressives Congress, APC, thought the best thing to do was to prevent the elections from taking place since they were sure that their candidate was unpopular and would ultimately lose if the election were allowed to hold.
They devised a trick to achieve that. They arrived early at the gates leading into the police station in Ibi where electoral materials were being kept and blocked it, insisting that the materials would not be moved out to polling venues. And so, the elections did not take place there. When they were certain that it had become too late in the day to hold the elections, they vacated the entrance to the police station. At that point, the only option feasible was the postponement of the elections and the return of the materials to Jalingo. And that was what SIEC did. The incident which was condemned by many
The incident was condemned by many well meaning Nigerians in and outside Taraba State, a sad reminder of the stiff and unaccommodating attitude of our politicians to elections. That attitude is that all elections must end in their favour otherwise, the process is demonized and truncated. That was what played out in Ibi on February 25. In case those who were behind those unfortunate events in Ibi haven’t realized yet, they need be told that they only succeeded in drawing back the hand of the clock and this will affect their Council area in a negative way for a long time to come. Today, Ibi is the only council area still being administered by a caretaker committee.
Today, Ibi is the only council area still being administered by a caretaker committee.But besides that incident, the council elections were peaceful, adjudged as very free and fair by electoral observers and other independent groups that witnessed it.
Governor Ishaku was commended by the monitoring teams (and there were many of them on duty that period) for creating the atmosphere that enabled the success of polling. The National Orientation Agency, NOA, in Taraba State even wrote a commendation letter which was addressed to Governor Ishaku. In the letter, the Agency’s Taraba State director, Dr. Robert Gulkawi, said the governor demonstrated through the elections a rare “spirit of sportsmanship.” Dr Dulkawi said NOA officers who covered the elections submitted reports to the effect that the process was “incontestably transparent.” This, Gulkawi said stood out the elections as hugely credible, unstoppably convincing and widely acceptable.”
The contest was no doubt, fierce with about ten registered political parties in the race. At the end of it all the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, won in all the 15 local government council areas where the elections were held. It was a well-deserved victory for the party.
The victories were seen in many quarters as evidence of Ishaku’s ever rising popularity rating in the political firmament of the state. It was the people’s way of saying “Thank You” for the marvellous job he has done on the roads, at the Jalingo Airport, in the provision of water to the state capital and other towns and communities, in repositioning educational institutions and in renovating hospitals and equipping them with drugs to improve the quality of healthcare delivery and in stabilizing electricity power supply in some areas of the state. The party’s victory was also a way of acknowledging the regular payment of workers’ salaries by the Ishaku administration and many other things that the government has achieved in less than two years in office.
Those elected have already taken their seats in the various council areas.
At the inauguration on Monday, February 27, 2017, in Jalingo, Governor Ishaku urged the new council helmsmen to discharge their duties with humility and to ensure prudent application of resources. The event was witnessed by a cross section of PDP chieftains from all the council areas in the state. It was a happy ending to an exercise that people had feared would lead to unending crisis. Those fears failed to manifest. Rather, it further united the people behind the resolve to maintain peace. Some people, particularly, youths came out in their thousands in a solidarity rally with the Governor and the efforts he is making to put the state on the path of development.