Two famous lines immediately came to mind on hearing ruling of the Federal High Court Abuja ordering the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to register Young Democratic Party (YDP). The first is that of George Santayana that – ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’. The other well known verse is attributed to the American statesman Henry Kissinger: “It is not often that nations learn from the past, even rarer that they draw the correct conclusions from it.
Shortly after the ruling filtered in, most Nigerians, like yours truly, would imagine the YDP to be a reincarnation of the Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) – the genie sprung on the political space by the maverick Arthur Nzeribe in 1993 to ambush the nation’s democracy. Though hardly an improved version of the old as one might expect after more than two decades of mutation, YDP seems the perfect PDP Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) with all the essential features of the old complete with subterfuge and political toxicity.
It was perhaps just as it was designed to be: on the one hand, the ruling by Justice Ahmed Mohammed has sent the nation’s adrenalin soaring; on the other, such has been the jubilation in the camps of the YDP and the PDP that one imagined that they already have a big trophy in their hands. I have struggled to make sense of what is supposed to be its substance over which political vagrants have been dancing naked. My puzzle, to be sure, is one of understanding the basis of their morbid dance. Is it a case of the upstarts seeing what the rest of us cannot see? Or simply one of those situations in which media reportage, aside muddling up issues, may have done grave injury to the renditions of the learned judge?
Either way, it must be troubling enough that some political delinquents would seek to abort what seems to be a well laid out democratic pathway.
What do we know of the YDP? I watched their officials – five or six of them – on TV during their press conference the other day. They seemed youthful alright (which by the way is sheer tragedy given what they represent); with the exception of the chairman who looked a bit serious, their media outing in all conveyed a picture of school children coerced to make an appearance!
As to their middle appellation – Democratic – I confess to having a bit of difficulty reconciling what is supposed to be a legitimate quest to get a party formally registered with the stated resolve to achieve same through the back door and at the pain of bringing the roof of the house down on everyone!
On their claim to be a party – I leave the judgement of whether or not the motley assembly of the odd fellows qualify to be labelled a “party” to Nigerians given the infinitely elastic interpretation of their rights to form just about any association. After all, I have countless times wondered about the farce under which some deluded fellows would hold the system down only because they have just enough money to rent shops in 36 state capitals all in the name of party formation.
But I digress. I do not pretend that I have read the judgment of the Federal High Court Abuja. It seems doubtful that anyone has come across let alone read the full text. Like many Nigerians, I am limited to the snippets as reported in the media which unfortunately comes to pretty little. Which is of course unfortunate given what is supposed to be its import on the orderly process of the 2015 election. Merely by what the inferences and interpretations suggest, a judicial mine is supposed to have been laid in the way of the process.
Nothing of course can be fundamentally wrong with the specific order on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately register YDP as a political party. The judge’s finding that the party is deemed to have been registered when INEC failed to inform it of its decision not to register it as a political party within 30 days of receiving its application, is said to find strength in Section 78 (4) of the Electoral Act, 2010ý. On that, I have no quarrel.
The part I consider troubling is the varied interpretations of the ruling particularly as touching on the elections barely three weeks away. Here, the issue is whether the court actually ordered INEC to put the name of the YDP candidates on the ballot for the March 28 and April 11 elections? Did it? Could it – or should it have – given the implications?
And which candidates are we talking about here – those that emerged with or without INEC-supervised primaries? Could the litigants have been automatically availed of that right without inviting grievous assault to public policy? Assuming one concedes that the party is truly deemed to have been registered by May according to the law, where should the pendulum of public policy ordinarily tilt given that the printing and logistics for the elections ought to have been concluded before now? Still wondering why Nigerians are apprehensive of the imminence of a judelex coup? Judelex – yes – judiciary-electoral-executive coup! Look at it this way: The ruling PDP has by words and deeds, shown that it would rather not have the elections. The dithering PDP administration not only gifted itself six weeks to sort out a security mess that it had nearly the whole of eternity to clean up but chose not to, it has in the last three weeks found a ready song in the deployment in card readers which it claimed would disenfranchise voters. It is hard to imagine a worse case of electoral avoidance –I once described it as electoral allergy – by a party in government in a democratic setting!
Now, YDP, its minion wants the names of its so-called candidates on the ballot; knowing how impractical the demand is. It offers INEC a gratuitous option of postponing the elections which it knows is unlikely to happen! In the meantime, it purports to procure a judgment, which for all practical purposes, makes it a supremo with the power of discretion over electoral validity? Yes, that is where some have taken us!
So, where is the difference between the party with acute electoral allergy and another which insists on not caring a hoot if the entire structure is brought down so it can have its way? Aren’t we again at a point where a band of certified delinquents, aided by the piper, would brazenly suborn the judiciary to their devious schemes? How short some people’s memory can be! See you after the polls.