2007 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION PETITION TRIBUNAL VERDICT ON YAR’ADUA:
Socialist Democracy â€“ March-April 2008
2007 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION PETITION TRIBUNAL VERDICT ON YAR’ADUA:
A Grand Judicial Beatification Of Electoral Fraud
After eight months of intensive and very expensive legal tussles over the fairness and legitimacy of the 2007 general elections, the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal on Tuesday February 26, 2008 gave a verdict which endorsed the election of Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan as the lawful winners of the presidential election in dispute. Despite tribunals’ ruling against a number of Governors and other persons “elected” last April, when it came to the key presidential position, the so-called result was rubber-stamped.
According to the Tribunal’s ruling, INEC “substantially complied” with the provisions of the 2006 Electoral Act in its conducts of the presidential election. Two, the Tribunal also held that the petitioners, namely General Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, the ANPP and AC presidential candidates respectively, woefully failed to prove the allegations that the presidential election was massively manipulated and rigged in favour of Yar’Adua and Goodluck.
Upon being told the verdict of the Tribunal, President Yar’Adua was quoted to have burst out thus: “I praise God, the most Gracious, the most Merciful, the owner of praises” (The Guardian February 27, 2008). On its part, the Tribunal spent 3 laborious hours to justify the conclusion it reached in the case in issue. In their immediate reaction, the petitioners have described the Tribunal’s ruling as a “travesty of justice” and vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court, which is the ultimate judicial authority over the presidential electoral dispute.
Predictably however, many of the direct and indirect beneficiaries of the farce called 2007 general elections have hailed the Tribunal’s verdict as victory for rule of law and democracy. As we write, the Supreme Court is most likely still going to make the final pronouncement in the matter in issue. Nonetheless, going by the generic pro-capitalist outlook of the judiciary as an institution and its mostly middle and upper class jurists, the Supreme Court would most likely uphold the ruling of the Tribunal in this issue.
WORST ELECTION EVER
Whatever the philosophical and or jurisprudential reasons that may have informed the Tribunal’s verdict and notwithstanding the invocation of God’s name by President Yar’Adua upon receiving the verdict of the Tribunal, the plain truth that has emerged from the whole episode is that the Judiciary has given legal beatification to a brazen acts of electoral fraud. Of course, partly because of time lapse, the jurists who handled the petitions in issue must have felt secured by the fact that many Nigerians would have forgotten the gory details of the election in issue in arriving at their illogical conclusion. Nonetheless, the 2007 general elections will go down as the worst elections ever conducted in Nigeria or in fact, in any part of the globe in the name of democracy.
Even, pro-imperialist institutions and NGOs that will normally keep mute over the failures of capitalist client state like Nigeria, were totally astounded with what passed for elections in Nigeria. The European Union for instance, described the elections as “a fraud” and “a charade”. Max van den Berg, the EU’s Chief Observer said the electoral process “cannot be considered to have been credible”. Sean McCormack, a US State Department spokesman added: “These were flawed elections”. The International Republican Institute, an NGO run by the US Republican Party, an extremely right wing party, drew this scathing conclusion: “Nigeria’s election process, which we recognise is still continuing and thus far incomplete, falls below the standards which Nigeria itself has set in previous elections and also falls below international standards witnessed by IRL and members of this delegation throughout the world”.
The biggest local monitoring group called Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) which had 10,000 observers across the country, actually called for outright cancellation of the purported elections because according to the body, “voting was either delayed for hours or did not occur at all in many areas”. The country’s two central labour organs, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU), community based associations, religious bodies, professionals, etc severally and collectively had all condemned the 2007 general elections as unprecedented monumental fraud. Like the TMG, most of these organisations had demanded the total cancellation of the entire exercise while calling for fresh elections to be held by a new INEC, preferably by a post President Obasanjo’s government.
Against these collective testimonies, the all knowing and all wise Appeal Court law lords who presided over the petition in issue, embarrassingly came to conclusion that “all was substantially” well with what everybody knew was a monumental farce. With its absurd conclusions, the election Tribunal has graphically confirmed the viewpoint long held by we socialists that ultimately, the judiciary is an instrument which the capitalist ruling class uses to perpetuate its unjust rule over the majority in the society.
JUDICIARY AS THE LAST HOPE OF COMMON MAN
Before the Presidential Election Tribunal gave its ruling under review, there was a widespread albeit a false myth that the judiciary represents the last hope of the ordinary citizen against pernicious policies and or conducts of the state. This myth was largely fuelled by the fact that the states Elections Petition Tribunals have nullified the purported elections of about five state governors across the country. But as we contended then, the judicial “radicalism” exhibited in this regard was made possible mostly because the issues involved were purely technical and do not, in anyway, threaten the stability of the prevailing capitalist order. “When the argument shifts to a much more complex issue of proving an act of electoral fraud, the rulings of these Elections Tribunals can be expected to be less straight-forward and logical”. (President Yar’Adua’s Era: A New Dawn for the Masses, Page 24, DSM publication, November 2007).
In this respect, the absurd verdict delivered by the Presidential Election Tribunal did not come to we socialists as a surprise. In fact, it is fully in tandem with the reactionary character of the judiciary. Even then, the fact still must be stressed that the Tribunal’s ruling in issue, represents a judicial “beatification” of the worst form of electoral rascality and arbitrariness. Virtually, all the basic provisions made under the 2006 Electoral Act for the conduct of the 2007 elections were largely breached by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). No proper voters’ registration exercise took place. Voters’ registers were never at any time properly displayed as directed by the Electoral Act. The Electoral Act mandates INEC to make the ballot papers with serial numbers and in booklet forms so as to minimise manipulations. INEC completely failed to abide by this rule. It instead, made ballot papers without serial numbers and not in booklet form just so that manipulations will be almost legally intractable to establish. In its Statement of Defence, INEC stated that the ballot papers used in the 2007 elections were printed in South Africa. But in its response to interrogatory forms filed by the petitioners, INEC contradicted itself by claiming that the ballot papers were printed in Nigeria. The Electoral Act prescribes the maximum amount which candidates and parties should spend in elections. Yet, it was a known fact that candidates of all the ruling parties (PDP, ANPP, AD/AC) placed no ceilings on their spending without the INEC seeming to give a damn about this outrageous conduct.
Far from using the time and resources at its disposal in the long period preceding the elections, INEC only mostly constituted itself into a semi-organ of the PDP and the Obasanjo government in power brazenly dabbling into partisan issues on who have the right or not to stand as candidates in the elections. Most calamitously however, the Tribunal completely ignored all these fundamental rules and conducts needed to conduct a free and fair elections in its premeditated determination and haste to give an “all correct” verdict.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
The foremost lesson that the working masses must draw from the Tribunal’s ruling is that the ruling capitalist elites can never organise a truly free and fair election. They will viciously fight each other to “win” the right to loot the country’s resources. Despite overwhelming facts that the INEC woefully failed to conduct the 2007 elections in accordance with the provisions of 2006 Electoral Act, the Tribunal shamelessly arrived at the conclusion that the body conducted the election in “substantial compliance” with the Act. In consonance with the bourgeois philosophy, the Tribunal equally hinged its grotesque decision on the premise that it is the cheated that must show how he was cheated, even when all the means of proving this are substantially in the custody of the cheat (i.e. the INEC).
Reflecting the pressure and mass outcry that the 2007 general elections was nothing short of a brazen electoral robbery, INEC’s declared winner, President Yar’Adua in his swearing-in speech had acknowledged the fact that the process, through which he came to power was seriously flawed. In fact, one of his early decisions was to set up an Electoral Panel with a view to establish comprehensive electoral reforms that can guarantee free, fair and credible elections in the future. However, buoyed up by the Tribunal’s reactionary decision, Yar’Adua has now changed his tune. Hear him: “Like what you and I know, God gives power to anyone He wants; at a time He wants; by the way He wants. I have no doubt in my mind, not even for a split second that God has given me the power”. (Yar’Adua â€“ speaking with the Hausa service of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in China, reported by The Guardian at page 3 of its March 2, 2008 edition).
Bluntly put therefore, all those trying to describe the Tribunal’s ruling as good for the rule of law and or democracy are completely wrong and or mistaking. In accordance with the bizarre ruling of the Tribunal, all an electoral body needs to do is to fix a date for an election and thereafter declare the result it desires regardless of whether the said elections actually held or not, fraudulently manipulated and or whether or not held in accordance with the provisions of the law or not. In fact, this is why the so-called Local Government elections held by the different state governments after the farce called 2007 general elections have turned out a greater farce.
THE OPPOSITION PARTIES
Expectedly, the petitioners and the main opposition parties have denounced the Tribunal’s ruling as a “travesty of justice”. In consequence, they have threatened to appeal the Tribunal’s ruling at the Supreme Court. Suffice to reiterate, the entire processes preceding the elections and the actual conduct of the said elections by INEC were largely capricious. Nonetheless, it will be entirely false and misleading to now seek to give the impression that the main opposition bourgeois parties like the ANPP and the AC, were purely an innocent victims of electoral gangsterism perpetrated by the PDP and INEC before and during the 2007 general elections. In fact, one of the most confusing and depressing feature of the 2007 general elections was that the PDP and its two main rivals, the ANPP and the AC equally perpetrated acts of electoral rascality with respect to their own in-house party elections and the general election itself, just like the PDP!
For instance, all these parties carried out a zero tolerance policy vis-Å•-vis their internal party democracy. Only aspirants favoured by top party echelons eventually got clearance to stand as candidates. All the main ruling parties recklessly used money looted from state treasury as well as state apparatuses under their control to win the elections at all costs.
In its April 26, 2007 edition, “The Economist”, a London based imperialist journal in an editorial titled “Big men, Big fraud and Big trouble”, made the following unflattering revelation about Nigeria so-called 2007 general elections: “On the day of the presidential election money-politics could be seen in action in central Kano, the dusty, dilapidated industrial capital of the north. There, in the local government area of Fagge, the PDP had budgeted 35m naira for political “mobilisation” and the main opposition party, the All Nigerian Peoples’ Party (ANPP), 40m naira. In one ward, Fagge A, the PDP, according to one of its operatives, had budgeted 594,000 naira ($4,650) for 21,000 registered voters and 35 ballot boxes. Thus each “independent” presiding officer at the polling station was given 3,000 naira and his clerk 2,000 naira. Each policeman was getting 1,000 naira. That left payments of about 200 naira ($1.57) per voter â€“ whose votes, far from being secret, were inked with a thumb on the ballot in front of party agents. Multiple voters, who will have registered several times with sympathetic election officials, might vote ten times, at a reduced bulk rate of 100 naira â€“ still picking up a tidy 1,000 naira each”. In a nutshell, this was how the ANPP procured its “victory” in Kano State. More or less, the Bola Tinubu led AC in Lagos State and Orji Kalu led PPA in Abia State procured their own “victories” at the election in a similar manner.
Therefore, whenever the issue of free and fairness of the 2007 general elections is being discussed, the point must always be underlined that all the bourgeois parties rigged and manipulated the processes but only to the extent of their political and control of state resources and apparatus. Of course, the PDP in this respect had an edge because it controls the central government and most of the states largely due to its riggings and manipulations of the 2003 general elections. But because these opposition parties themselves are equally pro-rich, anti-poor, electorally fraudulent, the ordinary masses have been presented with no reason to rise up in mass action against the electoral robbery largely perpetrated by the PDP against its opponents in the elections in issue. This is why all along, despite ample evidences of riggings and manipulations carried out by the PDP controlled government and INEC, the ANPP, AC, and their capitalist colleagues in opposition have not been able to call mass actions to challenge the open fraud being called elections.
A day before the ruling, the former Vice-President, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, the AC presidential candidate made a statement that he would accept the verdict of the Tribunal whether favourable or unfavourable. Bola Tinubu, the AC stalwart from Lagos State described the Tribunal’s verdict as good for democracy. He speaks further: “The judgement will nurture our democracy and make us to understand our electoral systemâ€¦..”If we are trying to correct any anomaly, there must be rule of lawâ€¦. “The crusade for the rule of law and due process will continue as this will nurture our democracy and develop the country on constitutional democracy” (THE NATION Wednesday, February 27, 2008). What the glib statement made by Tinubu fails to address is how do we go ahead “to correct any anomaly” in our electoral system since the Tribunal’s ruling totally failed to admit “any anomaly” in the conduct of the election in issue let alone carpeting INEC for its gross failure to comply with the numerous provisions of the Electoral Act in its conduct of the Election in issue? Frankly speaking, this is nothing but an exhibition of opposition without any principle focus; a sort of opposition for the fun of being called oppositionists.
As we write, Buhari, the ANPP presidential candidate is reported to have appealed to the Supreme Court. Most likely, Atiku himself may still file his own appeal. However, going by the fundamental tenets of the bourgeois jurisprudence, the Supreme Court will most likely uphold the central conclusion reached by the Tribunal while possibly of course carpeting INEC here and there for certain non-compliance with the Electoral Act. This is likely to be the case because already the entire leadership of the ANPP (Buhari’s party) have already entered into a government of National Unity with the Yar’Adua’s government. On its part, most of the AC leaders including its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku, have 70% commitment towards a government of National Unity under Yar’Adua presidency. This of course is without prejudice to the fact that the petitioners may still go through the former process of prosecuting their appeals at the Supreme Court.
Therefore, whatever the decision of the Supreme Court over this matter, on the basis of the existing ruling parties (PDP, ANPP, AC), the economic and political interests of the working masses will continue to witness unrelenting attacks by the capitalist elites regardless of which of its faction controls main political power.
THE PERIOD AHEAD
The immediate period ahead will most likely witness a feverish scramble by leaders of the so-called opposition parties to get themselves fully integrated with the reality of Yar’Adua presidency. This, of course, will be falsely presented as a step towards the consolidation of democracy. In reality, it would be nothing but a bare-faced move to secure for themselves stupendous material wealth which only involvements in government business can fetch. This approach which has already started with section of opposition leaders is made possible and inevitable by virtue of the fact that both the so-called opposition and the ruling parties all stand for anti-poor policies, privatisation, education and healthcare commercialisation and large scale treasury lootings. On its part, the Yar’Adua government should be expected to broaden and deepen its anti-poor, pro-rich policies. Already, immediately after the Tribunal’s verdict, the President has given a directive, threatening to stop payment of striking university teachers instead of adopting a more productive approach of meeting the basic demands of the lecturers.
Anti-growth, anti-poor policy of fuel price hike will be back on the agenda in the coming period. While giving the impression of policy disagreement with the inglorious government of ex-President Obasanjo, the Yar’Adua presidency should be expected to intensify the reactionary neo-liberal policy of privatisation in the coming period. Right now, the four major airports namely: Muritala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos; Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja; Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano; and Port Harcourt International Airport, Port Harcourt, in the country have been earmarked for privatisation under the guise of “concessioning”. Just as in President Obasanjo’s era, international price of crude oil has continued to soar. But very tragically too, only a very little proportion of the stupendous wealth being generated by the country is being productively used to better the lot of the masses and the economy in general. The rest is being mostly looted by top politicians and their capitalist contractors.
In the early days of President Yar’Adua in office, bourgeois writers and government propagandists of all shades wanted the ordinary masses to believe that the Yar’Adua’s era will herald a new period of growth in the economy as well as overall betterment of the masses living conditions. When eight and nine months after, nothing of this seems to be happening, these elements changed their tune by claiming that Yar’Adua could not move as steadily and speedily as he wants because his elections was still being challenged at the Tribunal. Consequently, the impression is now being given that Yar’Adua will perform better now that his election has received a judicial ratification.
Yes, we should expect a more audacious and sure-footed policies from President Yar’Adua in the wake of the Tribunal verdict. However, as DSM often stated several times, most of these policies are policies that would hit the working class and the poor really hard. This is because the unjust capitalist system, which Yar’Adua and his colleagues defend can only produce endless nightmares for the working masses.
THE TASK BEFORE LABOUR LEADERS
Unless the labour leaders put their thoughts and actions together, and bring about a genuine working masses’ government to power, the prevailing economic and political plights of the masses will only get deeper in the coming period. One of the main reasons why elections in Nigeria have always been massively rigged and manipulated by the powers that be is basically due to the fact that those in power and those striving to upstage them from power invariably always represent the same sets of gangsters â€“ just how to loot the treasury. For instance, the ANPP and AC made lots of cacophonic noises about Obasanjo’s privatisation not being transparent. However, apart from the fact that these parties themselves fully subscribe to the privatisation philosophy, their representative in government had also in the past eight years been very active in covering huge public assets under the states where they held sway unto the private properties of themselves and their collaborators in the name of privatisation. A sort of hypocritical opposition that says one thing and does the exact opposite!
Naturally, those who sold government properties to themselves in the name of privatisation would spare no cost to retain themselves and or their cronies in power come elections day so as to ensure that their loots are not taken away from them by a new government. This should be stressed, was the main reason why the last general elections, the subsequent local government elections and future elections will remain a do or die affair by different sections of the ruling class. The only way to checkmate this deplorable trend is for the labour movement to immediately come up with a genuine pro-masses and pro-active labour party. Quite alright, there was a wide-spread knowledge that the 2007 general elections were massively rigged and manipulated by the PDP controlled government.
Nonetheless, the masses did not see any reason why they should stick their necks to fight for elements whom, if given opportunity, will implement similar or worse anti-poor policies. Sadly however, comments credited to the NLC President, Abdulwaheed Omar, clearly revealed that the labour leaders are yet to draw the appropriate political conclusion needed to pull the masses out of the social quagmire, which they have been put by the failure of the capitalist mis-rule. Reacting to the Tribunal’s ruling, Omar, among other things stated: “what has been demonstrated is that the nation’s electoral jurisprudence needs to be improved to ease the process of proving electoral malpractices and non-compliance with electoral regulationsâ€¦â€¦.NLC remains committed to the struggle for electoral reforms because we appreciate that election rigging is an impediment to progress and development”. (Vanguard Friday, 29 February, 2008).
We in the DSM completely disagree with this perspective. If the labour movement had used its colossal political authority to rally the masses on an expressly pro-peoples political party, the PDP and the other bourgeois parties would have found it extremely difficult to monetise and manipulate the 2007 general election in the nefarious manner they did. A labour mobilisation to defend free elections would have meant that, if the ruling class were so reckless as to ignore the fact of a working peoples’ participation and still went ahead to rig the elections, at least they would have been faced with a massive revolts and protests of the ordinary masses. Unless this approach is immediately started by the labour leaders today, future elections will follow similar ignoble patterns exhibited in previous exercises. To begin to give impression that the 2007 general election was largely manipulated because of absence or inadequate electoral reforms is to completely miss the point. Defective as the 2006 Electoral Act may seem, none of the provisions of that law can be invoked to justify the several Acts of brazen frauds and manipulations that characterised the 2007 general elections.
To start with, the overwhelming majority of Nigerians were looking for a positive change after eight years of brazen economic and political assaults on their interests. In this regard, they staged 7 general strikes and mass protests against Obasanjo anti-poor policies. The masses overwhelmingly across the country rejected Obasanjo’s third term bid to remain in power. Yet, in a bizarre version, INEC awarded tens of millions of votes to all these anti-poor politicians across the country. In many places, election did not hold and yet, millions of votes were eventually recorded for those places. Therefore can we honestly argue that all these absurdities and fallacies were due to inadequacies of the 2006 Electoral Act? No matter how comprehensive or progressive is the outcome of Electoral Panel set up by President Yar’Adua, the same problems that besetted the recent elections should be expected to become more monstrous in the coming period as long as electoral contest remain an exclusive affair of self-serving elements who just want power for their own pockets and egos. Consequently, labour leaders should immediately wake up to the reality that, as long as the thieving capitalist elites have no masses oriented alternative or challenge, they would continue to organise shams called elections.
Happy to note, the ordinary masses, as usual, have already started to show their better understanding of the political situation. This has been recently expressed in the outbreak of the series of industrial strikes by the different segments of the working class people. What unfortunately is still missing is a bold programme of action by labour leaders nationally to unify these struggles for decent living standard and a democratic polity. If labour leaders today take a position to unify all the grievances of the working masses, vis-Å•-vis their condition of service and provision of basic social amenities such as health care, housing and education, it will be very easy to rapidly build a working peoples’ political movement which will challenge both the corrupt-ridding capitalist system together with its perennial act of electoral riggings. Only within this context, can any struggle to chase INEC chief out of office can bring substantial gains to the masses. Of course, it is correct to demand the disbandment of INEC, which conducted the farce in issue called elections. However, such demand and struggle will be nothing but a back-hand service for the perpetuation of the current unjust system if done within the false hope that President Yar’Adua, the chief beneficiary of a brazen electoral robbery, will help to bring about the process through which genuine, free and fair elections will flourish.