It now seems like the recall option which was began from Kogi state against the Senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye has left the realm of a definite democratic process to what looks like a witch hunt. In fact, unfortunately, the senator appears to be having an altercation with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, rather than INEC being a constitutional electoral umpire. This week, INEC officially arrived the National Assembly Complex to notify the embattled lawmaker Melaye, on the petition the commission received from his constituents to recall him.
The officials were to later abandon what looked like loads of documents at the door to Melaye’s office. They waited while the lawmaker was said to be in the Senate chamber, although it appeared the lawmaker was trying to avoid the August visitors. Its worth noting also that at the point the INEC officials laid siege to his office, the entrance to Melaye’s office was under lock and key. Incidentally, his aides were not around to receive the notice.
This is coming a day after Melaye had alleged that the 90-day deadline set for INEC by Section 69 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) had expired. Melaye also alleged that it was only after several attempts at his life had failed that “they” resorted to this sham process of recall. Hear him, “I celebrate the obituary of the ‘Made in Taiwan’ recall exercise, while sympathising with the induced petitioners, who will obviously face charges of forgery and other criminal charges before a court of law very, very soon.”
Undoubtedly, INEC is the rightful body charged with conducting a recall process. Since Nigeria’s democracy began no lawmaker had ever been recalled. Although attempts had been made, we observe however that those attempts have always failed because of the cumbersome nature of the recall process. It is so difficult that anything can easily go wrong when you think all is going well. This may be an alternative to executive immunity sort of. Nevertheless, this is perhaps the first the process will get to this level.
Hitherto, it always failed at the point of departure or consumed by appeasement politics.
If the distinguished senator was not sure, by now it will be visible to the blind that there is more to INEC’s diligence than mere work.
The extra work ethic appears to be motivated by external considerations. The question, who did Dino offend. To us, the question must equally be asked, how did we get here where a government institution is seen to take more than a cursory look at its own process. Going to stand sentry at a locked office, taking photos to send to the media to show to the world that they are doing their jobs exposes them to public opprobrium.
What was the photo evidence in the media all about? Does it then mean that this is how typically the electoral umpire works? It is our advise that INEC must do its job. But it should not do so via an irresponsible path. The court had said, Melaye should be served personally. Why turn around to stage a drama when you knew this fact.
Besides, what will INEC lose if it had returned to court to say they could not find Melaye even in his office? The court may vary the service model. It could indeed be exactly what they enacted on Tuesday.
With Melaye questioning the legality of the entire process, especially with the 90-day constitutional provision, it is incumbent on all of us to get the electoral umpire to be straight with all matters.
Coming at a time that in a year’s time, serious preparation will begin for the 2019 general elections, INEC needs to proceed with caution in any of its dealings. They cannot afford to sew unbelief in the minds of stakeholders. Our democracy is maturing and no one or body should be allowed to highjack the process. While we ask INEC to ensure fairness and follow due process, including obeying court orders, the senator himself should also play fair. As a senator of the Federal Republic, his conduct should not sew doubts in the minds of citizens as if he is trying to evade service of court papers. That will be unfair.