Reality Check: Why is Our Electoral Bill Making Governors Nervous?

“I relate with the president as my president, I respect him, I pray for him. A lot of people who are sycophants and mediocre have tried to distance me from my president. But I remain committed in my prayers of wisdom, knowledge and understanding for the president to succeed.” If you are wondering who said that you are about to be amazed. This was said by Governor Ortom of Benue state. Amazing isn’t it? Almost makes you blush right?

Why is the Benue governor cosying up the president when just three months ago he accused him of being the worst president on security, alleged that the president has hidden agenda and that his administration is worse than that of the military? For years, the governor has not seen eye to eye with the president. At the run-up to the 2019 election, Governor Ortom decamped to the opposition PDP and continued to launch offensives at the president to date.

But out of those jabs and fury, now the governor wants us to believe that he and the president would have been in total sync had it not been for some persistent “Sycophants”. Why the shift from scathing jabs to soft language? As the Hausa’s would say “abin da mamaki, ciyawa da cin doki” Already, the governors of the APC have convened for a closed-door meeting to discuss what some believe is the just passed “electoral bill”.

Some of these governors believe this is war, that Nigeria’s legislatives conjured up that bill to wrestle power from them. That by taking away their powers to nominate candidates, and switching it to a system where candidates cozy up to card carrying members of the party, the senators and members of house of reps would no longer be subservient to them. They feel like they are being stripped off one of their fundamental rights.

So one would not have to look hard to uncover why Governor Ortom who has come to symbolize unrepentant opposition to the APC and the president has completely changed his tune overnight and why after repeated spats with his former colleagues at the progressive forum, the two parties will merge to be in total sync on this issue.

But then again, despite their many differences, the governors always put them aside to combat whatever threat is posed against their collective interests. They did it once before when the discussion of Local government autonomy came about, they quickly came out of their comatose and put aside all differences to summon all their might in opposing any progress in that direction.

The governors who are chief executives of their states have kicked against every progressive idea contemplated that threatens to dilute their power and transmit it to institutions and systems that could make for a stronger democracy. Their only demand is more power. Some of Nigeria’s states are more autocratic and dictatorial than some internationally recognized dictatorships. There are no institutions, the governors do as they wish. Anything and everything is under the tip of their fingernails.

Now they want us to believe that the electoral bill is bad for us. Governor Ortom is urging the president to reconsider passing it and allow the parties to decide when to go for direct primaries and when not to. Well why shouldn’t we? It is not like this has happened before. Oh wait! It has, when the APC under the leadership of Adams Oshiomole attempted to bring that idea into place, all hell broke loose and that was the last we heard of such idea until now.

It is also amazing how these people think. Governor Ortom wants to convince the people that a process which gives them the power to elect leaders into positions could be compromised but will stand firm for a system which empowers people in his position to make those choices.

For Governor Ortom to argue that the political parties should be allowed to decide when to conduct direct or indirect primaries is an indication that these people live in a world of their own creation. On one hand we have a tested and proven open system which the best democracies in the world operate on, and on the other hand we have the closed, compromised system which the worst democracies operate on. It is scary that a democratically elected leader feels comfortable enough to publically make a case for the latter.

In his interview which was reported by leadership newspaper, he blabbed his way into explaining why the president should not sign the bill into law. You almost feel sorry for Nigerians for having entrusted into sensitive positions people who would do anything to preserve their temporary interest even if it jeopardizes the long term interest of our nation.

Governor Ortom wants us to entrust in them the power to decide our faith, but ironically, himself and his colleagues are threatened by any arrangement that empowers us into making those choices for ourselves. Forgive me for being naïve, but I thought that was what democracy was supposed to be; government for the people by the people.

Finally, I hope Nigerians look at these incident and realize for themselves who to vote when they go to polls. You cannot eat your cake and have it. There are no perfect situations in life, there are only trade-offs. You cannot elect and empower leaders who are not in sync with the values of democracy and expect to prosper. These are people who will go to any length to undermine anything that attempts to chirp an atom of the advantage they now enjoy no matter how vital that project. We must strive to change things going forward, idly hoping they do is not a smart strategy A taya Allah kiwo yafi ace Allah na nan”.



Mallam Naini Musa is an Essayist, fiction writer, political commentator and social critic.

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