Stride Radio

Political rashness turns dangerous in Kano

Abba Yusuf

POLITICAL rascality assumed a dangerous dimension in Kano last week. Ahead of the expected judgement of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal over the March election outcome, Adamu Kibiya, a loyalist of Governor Abba Yusuf, stepped overboard. In unequivocal terms, he threatened the panel’s three judges with death, and the entire state with mayhem greater, he swore, than the ongoing brigandage and bloodletting in some North-West states. His sacking as the state Commissioner for Lands and Physical Planning is not enough; he and his cohort should be arrested and prosecuted to deter such irresponsible tendencies.

Really, Nigeria is descending into lawlessness. Addressing New Nigeria People’s Party members, as seen in a viral video, Kibiya accused the tribunal of having been compromised to give judgement against Yusuf in the petition filed by his opponent.

Then he went ballistic: “Any judge that allows himself to be used and collect bribes and pass judgement that is not right, we want to tell him he must choose between his life and the bribe money he collected.”

Insisting that the people would not accept any judgement unfavourable to Yusuf, he added, “You have seen the conflict in Zamfara, Kaduna, and Katsina. I swear, because of this governorship seat, everyone will die. The conflict that will start in Kano will be more deadly than the ones in those states.” This outrage should not go unpunished. The Kano mischief reflects the trajectory of irresponsible politicians, political violence, messy elections, and a compromised judiciary that have characterised the Fourth Republic. Incrementally, politicians have become more desperate and violent, elections rowdier, and contested.

Several things stand out: state institutions are weak; lawlessness is rising; the judiciary has lost respect and its aura of safety; and elections and their outcomes are distrusted. Violence and the threat of violence are increasingly deployed by politicians and their hired thugs.

While credible elections and an independent judiciary are among the essential features of a truly representative democracy, elections are often marred by glitches in Nigeria. Invariably, most results are contested, and often, it is judges that determine the winners. A senator, Ireti Kingibe, said 80 per cent of serving senators are currently battling court challenges. It has been the pattern since 1999. Arising from the 2023 general elections, The PUNCH reported that 552 election petitions were filed by aggrieved contestants challenging the National Assembly results. Almost all the governorship results have been similarly challenged. Three presidential candidates challenged President Bola Tinubu’s election; invariably, it will end at the Supreme Court.

Over the years therefore, politicians have taken their corruptive influence to the courts, and “billionaire judges” have emerged, enriched by bribes from election petitions.

Nigerians must salvage the electoral system, enforce the rule of law, and rehabilitate the judiciary to build a credible democracy. What obtains today is a charade. Politicians and their supporters openly pressure, abuse and intimidate judges without consequences. The police and the National Judicial Council failed to act swiftly and decisively when the tribunal chairperson, Flora Azinge, cried out last month that lawyers representing some litigants attempted to bribe tribunal members.

The judiciary should save itself. It has serially eroded its own brand, with bizarre and controversial rulings, and a preference for technicalities. The cases of Hope Uzodinma who came fourth in the 2019 Imo governorship election but pronounced winner by the Supreme Court, and of Ahmad Lawan, similarly pronounced winner of the Yobe North senatorial contest without participating in the party primaries, still rankle. The court has repeatedly rejected mandatory electronic transfer of results, thereby facilitating bitter disputes over election outcomes.

Elections need to be cleaned up by the adoption of the Uwais panel report, severe punishment for electoral offenders, and institutionalising technology usage.

Yusuf’s prompt dismissal and disavowal of Kibiya and others is the right step. Police should provide adequate security for the judges and launch a criminal investigation.

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