Monday Musings: What Happens When A Political Candidate Dies Hours To The Election?

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Local government elections in Nigeria are meant to be just that – local. No other political event is derided as much as the LG polls with most citizens not bothering to know the first letter in their local government chairman’s name, talk less of knowing the gender of their ward’s councillor. But the regional gods of Lagos (especially the ones on weekend duty) are famous for always throwing a spanner into the wheels. But this time, they threw the whole toolbox at Ikotun/Igando Local Council Development Area.Chairmanship aspirant, Sakiru Alabi Balogun, might have been forgiven for inwardly declaring himself as the chairman of the Ikotun/Igando already. Running on the ever popular APC platform, victory was always a guaranty for the party flags wherever Lagos is concerned and real elections in Lagos do not happen at the polls, they happen at the APC party primaries. For whoever wins the primary, has won the public poll. But death is no respecter of person, not even a local government chairman-in-waiting.Sakiru did not have any necessary hard work to do on the eve of the election but he still found it necessary to tie up some pretty tight knotted ends already. According to reports, it was on his way to the figurative rope-end tying that his SUV ran into a refuse truck, and our dear aspirant lost his life. After the initial shock and disbelief had expired beyond its tenure, realisation dawned that what was panning out to be a routine and boring election has thrown up much intrigue – What should be the next step in this electoral process now that the seemingly crowned winner is dead?Should the party be allowed to provide a new candidate of their choice and take up the already prepared crown? There would be a precedence if this line is threaded. When Kogi state governorship aspirant Abubakar Audu also died, albeit hours after he had already won the election, his party (ironically also APC) ended up building internal strife and divisive lines by nominating another candidate of their choice, instead of going with the populist choice and just promoting Abubakar’s deputy. Going by history, this seems like the most probable choice. But not necessarily the most logical.Why give the crown to someone who never took part in the gruelling campaign season? Our culture detests the “monkey dey work, baboon dey chop” phenomenon just as much as the sight of black uniformed policemen. Reaping the fruits of another man’s work just because you and the party chairman are good drinking buddies is a sport as old as time but equally not righteous. But then again, it could just be a case of the party choosing who they believe is strong enough and matured enough to carry the vision of the dead aspirant to fruition. And this does not necessarily have to be the intended deputy.Why shouldn’t the deputy be the justified heir? This seems like the most noble choice and in this particular case of Sakiru, the sceptre should be passed on to one the those vying for councillor-ship. They have been through the thick and thin of the primaries and campaign season and if anyone knows the vision of the late aspirant, it would most likely be them. After all when Yar’Adua died, his deputy Goodluck Jonathan was the one who got the nod. But also using the Yar’Adua-Jonathan story, we can see why promoting the Number 2 is not always the best choice. Some people seem well suited to work in the shadows of others but never taking to the spotlight themselves. They are too weak and deficient in character/vision to be able to carry on the work of their predecessor with same competency. So not always are they the right choice. Good deputies do not necessarily make good sheriffs.Should the electoral body LASIEC just void the candidacy of the party and allow other parties to compete against each other instead? This is the most democratic solution. After all, the deadline for parties to present new replacement candidates has elapsed. If so, then the party of the deceased has no lawful grounds to present new replacements despite the sorrowful circumstances. Bending the law to suit the popular party is not exactly a benchmark of a democratic nation. But caution also needs to be taken. If the death of the popular party’s candidate after the elapsed deadline for replacement would automatically throw the ball into the court of the outcast parties, then political violence is only going to get realer and well….more violent.This is the conundrum in which the political stakeholders of the Ikotun/Igando LCDA find themselves in right now. What should be the next step: Should the APC kingmakers elect a totally different new king? Should the crown be handed to one of the ward councillors? Or should PDP and Labour Party and Accord Party be left to battle this one out? You decide!Photo Credit: Getty

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