The concept of Reward and Punishment is as old as time. Even without calling it by that name, societies have, in varying degrees, learnt to reward good and punish evil.
We have come a long way – from very early in life, in our small community where we ate rice once a year – on New Year Day – to the stage where rice was promoted to the reward level.
On the day of vacation at the end of the school year, our mother prepared us for school and gave us three pence with conditions – if we passed the promotion examination, we were to treat ourselves to “Rice imi giogio” with the money; and those who failed had to return the money home. That was the beginning of the reward system; and we pushed hard toward the mark.
In some homes, failures at school were also denied the Christmas and New Year rice. In my particular case, my parents promised me a “foreign trip” to Igbanke, Benin or Lagos – each time I took first in the promotion examination – a promise they kept very religiously. It worked wonders.
As applicable in the larger society, where the system of reward and punishment is not properly enforced, the system soon begins to wobble and so dies.
Nigeria has been fixated at this level; and this is what this piece is out to examine as it concerns our elections.
Representative government presupposes that there should be periodic elections at which representatives who perform well would be rewarded with re-election, while those who perform poorly would be dropped and others are made to replace them.
In any case, the responsibility for choosing those to represent the people belongs solely to the people. Tragically, this responsibility has been snatched from the people by the Judiciary. In what we call Judiciocracy – Government of the Judiciary by the Judiciary for the Judiciary – the Judiciary has cornered the duty of deciding who wins an election. No one rejoices over an election victory until the Judiciary pronounces. The Supreme Court has been described as the final Collation Centre for our elections. This is happening everywhere and, in every election, but because of space constraint, we shall take just a few examples:
It is no longer news that in January 2008, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi became the Governor of Rivers State at an election in which he was not even on the ballot, no thanks to the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
This was the beginning of the reckless usurpation by the Supreme Court, of the role of choosing who rules the people – a role exclusively reserved for the citizenry in a democracy.
[Enter Senator Adolphus Obi Igbeke – ANPP | Anambra North]
This is one man who contested election to the Senate three times. The three times, he was rejected by the people at the poll. And the three times, he headed for the courts where he was awarded victory.
Up in the Sahara, Hon. Dr. Bello Matawalle became the Governor of Zamfara State, after losing abysmally in all the local government areas, and heading for the courts where, by the new technical mathematics, his opponent’s votes were consigned to the waste basket, and he was declared winner!
Suddenly, the people now realize that it is folly to be wise where ignorance is bliss. The new realization is: Why kill yourself working for the people, and why kill yourself campaigning and working hard to win an election, when you can buy a judge? This portends real and present danger; and that’s where we are!
In 1979, the “Japa Syndrome” was not yet born. We merely checked out 10 years earlier for further studies.
On my return, I almost needed a dictionary to get along. On our way from the airport, my friends were talking of jerry can, generator, megawatts, etc.
In real democracies, the people have light, water, good roads, and other essentials of life. Who needs a generator, megawatts, and all that?
Right now, every Nigerian is a lawyer and a judge. Ask any bike rider or anyone on the street for that matter, and he will tell you that in an election, the issue of party primaries and congress is a settled ingredient of our electoral jurisprudence. It is purely a party affair. And more so, it is only a member of the political party who participated in the primary and congress that can question their outcomes.
In spite of this obvious knowledge, we saw the recent shenanigans that went on at the Court of Appeal, following the 2023 general elections. Can anyone say that the Appeal Court judges in Nigeria are ignorant of the law or that they are less knowledgeable than the proverbial common man? Of course, no! All one might say is that the justices might have twisted justice for their personal benefits.
Meanwhile, they have inflicted permanent injuries on 2 Senatorial candidates, 3 House of Representative candidates, and 11 House of Assembly candidates, all in Plateau State! What collateral damage! For these people, it is the end of the road since the Appeal Court is final on legislative electoral cases. What an easy way to pave room for anarchy!
See what they did in Kano? When it was beginning to appear like the membership and primaries cases were wobbling, they attacked the NNPP/Abba Kabir Yusuf case frontally on the -non-stamping and non-signing of their ballot papers. By voiding more than 165,000 votes in this category and declaring NNPP/Yusuf loser, they wasted the votes of more than a million voters who voted for them.
In all this, it is still a rumble in the jungle. The Supreme Court cannot even be too loud here because this situation, as ugly as it is, is not any different from what the Supreme Court did in the Senators Ahmed Lawan and Godswill Akpabio cases. Who will save us?
That a problem is big does not suggest that effort should not be made to solve it. The higher the mountain, the greater the joy in climbing to the top.
Worse still, those Appeal Court decisions were by unanimous consent – not a single dissenting voice!
Elsewhere, the principle of reward and punishment would suggest that the justices here should immediately be shown the exit door, if only to serve as deterrence or scare crow for the future.
Secondly, no man should be allowed to benefit from his crime. Here, the 2 Senators, 3 House of Representatives members and the 11 House of Assembly members corruptly installed by the Appeal Court must resign.
In a worse case scenario, let there be bye-elections to properly fill the vacancies.
Let us have 2 halls – the Hall of Fame and the Hall of Shame. It is not proper to roll out the red carpet for all judges at retirement and at death. There must be proper records for judges so that in due season, each shall be paid in his proper coin. A judge who knows that in the end, his performance at the bench would drag his family name into infamy, would sit up.
INEC cannot continue to eat its cake and have it! Whatever happened to the Electoral Offences Commission Bill?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hon. Josef Omorotionmwan, a public affairs commentator, lives in Canada