I believe it was Sahara Reporters that first broke the news of the unfortunate demise of the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the recently conducted inconclusive Kogi elections, Prince Abubakar Audu.
The news of his death broke shortly after the Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared the Kogi gubernatorial elections inconclusive citing provisions of the electoral act in reaching this conclusion.
While the legal implication of the candidate’s death on the ongoing elections has espoused varying interpretations, the truth of the complexity of this situation is commonly agreed upon. However, beyond the legality of the Kogi election in question, there are a few more complexities of the scenario that are not been discussed.
First, with contradicting reports about the exact time of his death, stronger evidences are pointing in the direction of a death that happened much earlier in the day, probably before the televised collation exercise that lasted for hours and kept many of us glued in anticipation of a winner. Thus it seeks to reason that if the death happened earlier in the day, why was the news hushed? As part of the revisions of the electoral act that this case might trigger, shall we also consider a mandatory responsibility on political parties for standard reporting timelines of emergencies associated with candidates? For instance, the amount of non-renewable resources like time and effort expended in the collation exercise could have been saved if there was a forewarning.
Second, with the intensity of media exposure beamed on participating candidates in this election exercise, it remains arguable that the media was simply unaware of the demise of a leading candidate. While their ignorance remains to be proven, a more cursory look needs to be taken at the machinery that kept the lid on the incidence. To whose benefit can this manipulation be adduced? A review of the principal characters in this election may point us in the direction of the truth; the candidate (and his family), his party, the incumbent’s party, and the electoral commission.
Anyone who has ever lost an immediate family member may be familiar with the immediate travails of the moment. The cycle of shock, pain and the what-next are reflex emotions that set in after. The only difference in this case involving a leading gubernatorial candidate is that the family may immediately outsource the “what-next” decisions to the candidate’s party leadership. So a few key party leaders immediately find out that their candidate is no more, and quickly juxtapose this reality with field reports the elections went their way and they were likely to be declared winners later in the day. They know the constitution, they know it’s loopholes and they syndicate a postdated death news release. The key to the success of this simulation lies in keeping the opposition and the electoral commission in limbo about this.
Many will argue that this is simply a good political strategy. I am even tempted to agree. But therein lies my worry. How much power is the leadership of a political party entitled to before it tethers on “cabalocracy” (where a select few determine the manner and outcome of a democracy)? Shouldn’t there be some regulatory authority for the conduct of professional politicians separate from the electoral commission whose powers only reside within an electioneering cycle? Only when we truly initiate these conversations and steer them in the direction of a solution can we really begin to curb the growing menace of inter-regional godfathering.
Third, we pray that God grant the family of the departed the fortitude to bear the loss. Sadly, the rumors and many conspiracy theories that now abound in the social media space about the situation of the candidate’s demise may make the loss even harder for the family to bear. Was he sick? How long was he sick for? Was he poisoned? What was the role of a certain German Doctor? Where and when did he die? To counter the spread of the stories, some individuals have proffered that the candidate must have died of heart-related conditions. Like the rumormongers and conspiracy theorists, they also err. On this issue, a non-medical professional like myself has no opinion. The only certifiable proof is an autopsy report as well as an investigative report by security agencies ruling whether it was a homicide or of natural causes.
And this is where the note of warning needs to be sounded. I hate to be an alarmist, but if proper investigative routes are not taken and well concluded to rule out foul-play, and is simply adjudged as rumor and waved off, it will encourage actual foul-play for future situations. This issue should be taken as a state-issue and not left up to the family of the deceased to decide if they want to probe the circumstances surrounding his death.
Lastly, even if foul play is eventually ruled out, the people of Kogi, nay Nigeria may remain the biggest losers. Why? If fresh elections become the declaration of the Supreme Court, then the resources deployed in this last election would most likely have been a waste. Alternatively, if the declaration maintains that the supplementary election remains in order, then the people of Kogi would not only have lost a leader they wanted, they may also have gained a governor foisted on them and one they barely know about akin to when the Nation got her leader by good luck. Can we therefore as part of the mandatories for running for public office at certain cadres require very strong health report from candidates? Even though death sometimes takes the healthy and able-bodied, but we can at very least, limit our exposure.
In the end, I sincerely condole with the people of Kogi as this complex situation leaves them caught between the rock and a hard place. I sincerely hope they find consolation in the fact that the outcome of this scenario may become pivotal to key revolutions in the Nation’s electoral act and process.
Damilare Ogunleye is a Communications Consultant and writes in from Lagos.