President Weah deserves credit for not intimidating opponents – Onor
In what is unarguably a vote of no confidence on the Nigerian judiciary, a former Diplomat, Ambassador Joe Keshi, has dismissed the nation’s courts as “courts of favours”, and not courts of justice. Keshi, one-time Nigeria’s Consul General in Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America, USA, who was a panelist on Wednesday’s edition of the Arise TV Morning Show where the ongoing presidential run-off election between incumbent Liberian President, George Weah, and his main opponent, former vice president Joseph Boakai was under focus, was reacting to the suggestion that Nigeria should adopt the same system of a candidate winning 50% + 1 of the votes in a presidential election as it is in Liberia, instead of the present system of simple majority votes.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar had made the suggestion in his reaction to the Supreme Court judgement which affirmed the victory of President Bola Tinubu in the February 25, 2023, polls.
Keshi, who was apparently not optimistic about its feasibility, said thinking of it on his way to the studio, it occurred to him that “this is exactly what we should do. But almost immediately, a part of me also said look, if you do that, Nigerian politicians, the Supreme Court, INEC, will find a way round it”.
Countering a co-panelist, Kester Chukwuma Onor, Doctor of Political Science, and former research fellow at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, who posited that Nigeria had some lessons to learn from Liberia’s elections, Ambassador Keshi retorted: “You are saying that we should copy, we should learn; 60 years after, we are still learning. So, when are people going to learn from us?
“When something happens in another country, our first reaction is we should learn from this, we should learn from that. Haven’t we been learning for 60 years? Right from when I was a child in Ibadan in Agodi, I still have memories of how elections were rigged, and we are still rigging it till today; even worse. It’s worse”.
According to him, “When you look at the off-season elections that we just had, if there was any hope after the presidential elections that things would be right in terms of our elections, I think everything has been destroyed by these off-season elections. And you talk about the elites; the elites are congratulating those who won irrespective of how they won. So, I don’t see who is going to come up and reform the Nigerian electoral system as it is today except something drastic or dramatic happens which I don’t know.
“But as it is today, when you go through what happened in Imo, Bayelsa, and Kogi especially, you just feel a sense of hopelessness that there is nothing anybody can do when it comes to elections in this country. And some people are saying that they won’t even bother going to court. I support them because they are not going to get the kind of justice that they want. Because also, our courts… are, seriously, no longer courts of justice; they are courts of favours”.
In his submissions, Dr. Onor, who commended incumbent Liberian President, George Weah, for not using power of incumbency to manipulate the elections to impose himself on the people, noted that Atiku’s recommendation was his way forward for Nigeria “considering the fact that anytime we have an election, it’s as if we are having civil war”.
The lecturer in the department of political science and international relations, Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, said it was high time “that both the elites and the ruling class came together and look for way forward so that our elections can be peaceful and be orderly, free and fair just as we are seeing in Liberia. If there is anything we have to take away from this Liberian election, even from the first one, and may be this run-off, we’ve not heard about rigging; we’ve not heard about snatching of ballot boxes. We’ve not heard about voter intimidation or aggression, and I think it’s a welcome development, and it’s happening in West Africa.
“If we listen to the report of Attahiru Jega, that is the chief election observer for the Economic Community of West African States, he was quite satisfied, saying that he loved the orderly and the peaceful way that the election went on.
“I believe that there are a lot of lessons we should learn, and in learning those lessons, not just learning lessons, we learn lessons to see how we can use it to modify our existing system to make it better.”
Further clarifying his position, Onor insisted that “When I say we should learn, I didn’t just end it there. I said we should learn and implement what we have learnt. … Learning is a process; it’s a continuum. We can never arrive at a point that we say we stop learning. Look at American democracy. Under (President Donald) Trump, we saw what happened at the Capitol Hill. There is no perfect system. I am not saying that I am proud of the system that is going on today, but what I am saying is that we still have rooms for improvement”.
Acknowledging President Weah’s attitude towards the election, Dr. Onor noted that “When we are talking about the fact that he’s losing popularity, which I don’t believe, … at least for him not super-imposing himself on this election, using the oppressive apparatus of the State to manipulate the system, and maybe terrorise his opponents, we should give him that credit. At least, for the first time, we are seeing this type of election, especially in West Africa; we are seeing a free and fair election. Even from local observers and the international observers, there are a lot of commendations. I think it’s kudos to him”.