By Ikechukwu Amaechi
The reason democracy is globally acclaimed a superior form of government is succinctly captured in the rousing conclusion to a November 19, 1863 Gettysburg address of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the U.S., when he said: “… Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
That phrase – government of the people, by the people, and for the people – embodies its essence.
Simply put, democracy is a people’s government in which the supreme power is not only vested in them but also exercised directly or indirectly through their elected agents under a free electoral system.
The underlying catchphrases are “the people” and “free electoral system.”
Democracy is about sovereignty of the people, consent of the governed, majority rule, minority rights, free and fair elections and due process of law.
A system that does not guarantee the people’s untrammeled and unencumbered choice(s) in a free, fair and credible electoral process cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be deemed democratic.
Anything but democratic
Sadly, the processes leading to most of the primary elections in the country and their outcomes in the last couple of weeks are anything but democratic. They have cast ominous pall on democracy in Nigeria.
To say that the Nigerian system is rigged and opaque is to say the obvious. To extricate the people from the malady, the wall of secrecy that props it must be breached.
How? The people must own the process as it should be and end the reign of impunity by fiendish cabals that crow as the lords of the manor.
This is more so in Imo State where the governor, Rochas Okorocha, is playing a bizarre political game, aided by the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Adams Oshiomhole, with the goal of ensuring that his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, becomes the next governor of Imo State.
The Okorocha-engineered political abracadabra got so weird last weekend when his son-in-law who lost the primary election was declared the winner because the poll he lost was annulled and re-taken.
What is even more bizarre is the fact that the fresh primary election was contested by two of Okorocha’s in-laws – Chuks Ololo, a board member of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, FIIRO, Oshodi, married to Ogechi, Okorocha’s younger sister, who is also the state commissioner for happiness and purpose fulfilment, and Uche Nwosu, who is married to Okorocha’s first daughter, Uloma, and at the same time his Chief of Staff.
Riding roughshod against Ndi-Imo, Okorocha himself has pocketed one of the party’s three senatorial tickets in the state, completing the Rochasisation of Imo politics.
Let me be clear, as a Nigerian, Okorocha has the right to support his son-in-law’s political aspiration just as Nwosu’s right of franchise cannot be sacrificed on the altar of his filial relationships.
But he has no right to recklessly deploy the people’s patrimony in ramming the candidacy of his son-in-law down the throat of Imo people willy-nilly as he is doing right now.
It is preposterous for Okorocha to claim that the only person in whom he sees commendable leadership qualities and who can, therefore, succeed him is his son-in-law. That cannot be true for a state blessed with human capital glut of the finest quality.
What is rather true is that Imo is too broken today because of Okorocha’s inept and insidious leadership to be handed over to a man whose only leadership credential is being personal assistant to the same man who brought the state to its knees.
Okorocha has done so much damage that it will take a leader with maximum capacity and grit to turn things around.
Nwosu, whose loftiest achievement is the fact that he fortuitously met Okorocha after graduation, worked for him, married his daughter, and has since then held on to his apron strings to climb the ladders of power in Imo, does not have that pedigree.
Without Okorocha, Nwosu is nobody. Even his governorship ambition is driven by Okorocha. Remove the governor and that project collapses on the weight of its contradictions. The idea is sheer hocus-pocus.
Imo is in a mess. It will take a leader with grit, vision and the requisite credentials to dig it out of the squalid hole of incompetence and misery.
This is where Emeka Ihedioha, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, comes in.
Ihedioha, due process and rule of law
What goes for Ihedioha is his penchant for due process and the rule of law. This is hardly surprising given his legislative background. Unlike Okorocha, who abhors due process, Ihedioha is a stickler for accountability in governance. Exactly what Imo needs now.
Imo needs a governor who appreciates that the best leadership is that ensconced in the philosophy of service.
As a federal lawmaker, Ihedioha exhibited extraordinary brilliance, turning out to be one of the shining stars of this democratic dispensation. Representing Aboh Mbaise-Ngor Okpala Federal Constituency for 12 years in the House of Representatives, he served as chairman of committees on marine transport, cooperation and integration in Africa and as chief whip.
He was also chairman of various ad-hoc committees, including those on process and procedure for obtaining local and foreign loans and sub-committee on the review of police act.
The icing on the cake came on June 6, 2011 when he was elected Deputy Speaker by his colleagues. In that capacity, he was chairman, ad-hoc committee on new legislative agenda and constitution review as well as chairman, committee of the whole, presiding over the consideration of committee reports.
In all these positions, he excelled, delivering dividends of democracy not only to his immediate constituents but Nigerians generally.
Ihedioha is dependable, steadfast and trustworthy. It is worth noting that a vicious ruling party that has deployed the anti-corruption bogey to whip political “dissidents” into line has not found him wanting in any way because, there is, indeed, nothing to find. It is a measure of Ihedioha’s credibility that he has been in public office for almost two decades with neither scandal nor stain.
He is his own man, a fact which some misconstrue as arrogance. He is a confident person but most importantly, he is reliable. His fidelity to agreed causes is second to none. In this era of brazen political harlotry when politicians switch political allegiance so whimsically, Ihedioha has remained steadfast, committed to PDP even when it seemed politically incorrect to do so. The fact that PDP is still a party to reckon with in Imo State today is partly because of his resoluteness and commitment. The rancour-free PDP primary election that threw up his candidacy bears testimony to that.
Ihedioha’s educational background and qualifications are not hoisted on the effigy of patently false affidavits.
Ihedioha’s single-mindedness in the pursuit of public good is unrivalled. Leadership requires discipline and clear vision. There must be a sense of purpose and proven capacity to deliver on electoral promises.
For a state at a crossroads as Imo is right now, these attributes are needed in the governor.
Imo is now a state where due process is seen as an unnecessary baggage, with the dubious reputation of leadership personalization, where subterfuge is elevated as a governance tool.
One does not need to be aligned in Imo politics to know that Uche Nwosu cannot hold his own against Emeka Ihedioha under these circumstance.
Emeka Ihedioha’s candidacy matters because the status-quo which is what Uche Nwosu’s aspiration in the 2019 governorship election encapsulates cannot continue to suffice. Ndi-Imo not only desire a change, they are determined to orchestrate it.
And since the Imo electorate have clearly indicated their determination to walk their talk, it behoves Ihedioha to figure out how to prevent this burst of momentum from being just a blip on his aspiration radar.