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Crush the ‘pigs’ but don’t lose your head

The egregiousness of the thuggish behaviour now appears to have been extensive, covering areas that were not visible to the public eye. Whereas we saw the pepper-spraying of Dr Kizza Besigye and the use of water cannons



The arrest of scores of police officers over the last several months, culminating in this week’s confinement of the Force’s immediate former chief Kale Kayihura, suggests something has gone terribly wrong in the Uganda Police.

For those who care about civil and political liberties, it was horrifying to see police officers brutally break up Opposition rallies year after year. Many times journalists covering the gun butting and humiliation of Opposition politicians and their supporters got roughed up as well. They were beaten, their equipment broken or confiscated. It became routine. The chill was in the normalisation of inhumaneness by a State entity whose role is to enforce law and order.

The egregiousness of the thuggish behaviour now appears to have been extensive, covering areas that were not visible to the public eye. Whereas we saw the pepper-spraying of Dr Kizza Besigye and the use of water cannons and tear gas to break up rallies and meetings of opponents of the NRM government, we never saw Rwandan refugees handed over at the witching hour, off to an uncertain future.

It is possible that in scoring good points with President Museveni by suppressing the Opposition, the police leadership took ample liberties to engage in other unseemly activities betting that they could get away with it. Someone went classically rogue, endangering the good done while leaving the bad to shine a long time.

These things happen when you turn a key State institution into an instrument almost solely judged on how well it works to keep the sitting government in power.

To build on the Sebutinde Commission, which first systematically exposed criminality in the Uganda Police Force nearly two decades ago, the present moment offers another clean-up chance.

The new chiefs — IGP Okoth Ochola and his deputy Sabiiti Muzeyi — have already made some adjustments a couple of months on the job (at least so far they are not transferring officers monthly). It is said an office is as good (or as bad) as the holder. The two men are now in charge. They have to deliver a wholesale reform of the police. That is if they can sell and the boss — Commander in Chief Museveni — can buy their plan. Try they must.

When the law and order people lose their footing, deliberately or otherwise, part of the result is killings of wananchi where everyone is left none the wiser. The gunning down of MP Ibrahim Abiriga — a jolly good fellow despite some of his political positions — nine days ago typifies the pervading lawlessness that allows for contract killings.

The government’s proposed response is worrying. In his speech after the presentation of the national Budget on Thursday, President Museveni doubled down on problematic suggestions he has outlined before.

He said he did not want to hear of police bond or court bail for killers. (But how can one definitively know a suspect is a killer without due process, which may involve bond and bail?) He pointed at Chief Justice Bart Katureebe for emphasis. The Chief Justice betrayed no emotion, while his neighbour and deputy, Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, smirked a little as he swivelled in his chair. In previous days, Mr Museveni said boda bodas and all cars should have tracking devices.

The President asked to be allowed to address Parliament on the security situation in Uganda, a matter he said was of national importance. We will wait to hear his full articulation of how he intends to calm the people, whom he said were sad and angry just as he, only that he was also confident of crushing the small killer “pigs”.

Mr Museveni also added a line that was disconcerting. He declared that he was standing before Parliament not only as President but also as leader of the resistance. He said those words while essentially telling the Judiciary to do his bidding on bail.

I see potential for overreach.

Culled from Daily Monitor, June 17, 2018

Strictly Personal

The electorate and governance in the Ghanaian political system, By Michael Akeno



Abraham Lincoln, a one-time great President of America, made the follow­ing landmark statement: “Government of The People, By The People, For The People”

This is the popular definition of democracy, championed and propagated by America all over the world, to countries that practice this system of governance at the present time.

Ghana, a developing country in the modern world today, practises this system of governance at the present time.

In order to ensure an effective and efficient practice of democracy in the Ghanaian situation to be on the same level as prevails in other countries and America, the greatest and most powerful nation on earth today, there is the need for a thor­ough and elaborate education for the Ghanaian electorate as to what entails in the practice of this democratic system of governance.

This is so and very necessary because there had been deep ignorance among some of the Ghanaian electorate pertaining to a democratic system of governance.

Since Ghana embarked on the democratic system of governance, it can be observed that the majority of the electorate in Ghana does display ignorance in the choosing of leaders and other political office holders of the government of the country.

There are a number of nega­tive factors for this unfortunate situation that this article seeks to identify and address as a way of minimising this situation, if not eradicating it completely from the body system of Ghanaian politics.

The first factor that one can identify is that of low educa­tion and illiteracy. The second is ethnicism and sectionalism. The third is selfishness and avarice. The fourth is over-ambition. The fifth is corruption.

I shall attempt in the following to offer some suggestions for the minimising and eradication of this persistent and problematic situa­tion in the body politics of Ghana.

Although the ratio of litera­cy and illiteracy rate in Ghana is higher as compared to other Afri­can countries, there is an urgent need to step up the literacy rate in Ghana so that a great number of Ghanaians will be able to read and write.

This will facilitate easy communi­cation, interaction, and understand­ing among Ghanaians; and this in turn will bring about a good under­standing of national issues and aspirations of the developmental process of the country.

To this end, there is the need therefore for successive govern­ments to pay priority attention to the formal education of every school going age Ghanaian child; and also to organise a country-wide, mass illiteracy education cam­paign programmes with the aim of eradicating illiteracy in the country among Ghanaians who cannot read and write.

Ethnicism and sectionalism constitute a major obstacle in Gha­naian politics; and efforts must be made by all Ghanaians, both high and low stature to eliminate this unpleasant situation in the country.

Ghanaians must therefore learn to live in unity, peace, and tolerance; seeing each other as brother and sister with one common destiny in the developmental process of the country. Ghana belongs to all Gha­naians irrespective of where one comes from. And with this mental­ity and consciousness, Ghanaians can move together as one people with a common destiny.

Avarice and selfishness must be shunned and uprooted among Ghanaians to enable Ghanaians to show much love to each other. This will enhance the speedy development of the country.

The inordinate desire to get ac­cess to political rule and authority to amass wealth, no matter what is involved must be eschewed by all Ghanaians. This will ensure peace, unity, and justice in Ghanaian society so that Ghana will move healthily to experience speedy economic growth, development, and prosperity.

Self-centeredness and over-ambi­tion had been the bane and setback of any realistic and meaningful development to many a nation in Africa, and Ghana should not fall a victim to these militating and negative factors for political control and rule.

Corruption and immoralities had contributed to the fall of great nations in the past and in modern times.

All forms of corruptible prac­tices must be uprooted from Ghanaian society so that virtues and moralities will prevail.

When Ghanaians are guided by morality and upright living styles, the country will speedily experi­ence optimum economic growth, development, and prosperity.

Ghanaians must therefore learn to become disciplined in their lifestyles, so that they can work together in faith and honesty with each other to bring about a speedy development of the country.

In the matter of choosing candidates for the various po­litical offices and leaders of the country, the electorate by virtue of good education, clear men­tality, and consciousness must endeavour at all times to choose the right and honest people to occupy political offices.

The electorate must not choose people for political offic­es by virtue of where these peo­ple come from in the country; but strictly by their capabilities and abilities to deliver to the best interests of the country.

This is what prevails in the most advanced and most pro­gressive nations of the world such as America, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, India, Japan, etc. The electorates are highly educated and well-informed, and they exercise their franchise by carefully choosing the right and capable candidates to occupy the various political offices of gov­ernance to ensure the progress and advancement of their countries. To this end, the electorates of these countries choose their candidates for governor, not on the basis of ethnicism, sectionalism, or political organization; but strictly on desir­able qualities and the needs and interests of their countries.

In fact, this simplistic, naïve, and ill-informed way of voting practice is popular in African countries including Ghana, of course, the star of Africa!

This is most unfortunate and unacceptable for the smooth and healthy developmental process of African countries in their continual efforts to experience economic growth, development, and prosper­ity.

It is uncivilised, barbaric, and ret­rogressive as it is the root cause of conflicts and dissatisfaction, which often plunge African countries into civil wars and genocides that had besieged African countries in contemporary times.

When this occurs, it impedes stability, progress, and development; and introduces chaos in African countries.

Ghana is the star of African liberation and aspirations; and so she must strive hard to reverse and change this unpleasant situation in order to bring about sanity, justice, and a healthy developmental process in the life of African countries for the benefit of posterity.

Compared to other African countries situations, Ghana appears to have a long, somewhat peaceful, and sustaining democratic system of governance.

This is commendable and must be further sustained for Ghana to experience healthy economic growth, development, and pros­perity, which will become a shining example for the rest of African countries to follow.

The Ghanaian experience up to date needs to be improved upon as it is fraught with the anomalies and shortcomings that had been highlighted in this article.

The Ghanaian experience has therefore not reached the stage of perfection. To this end, it is highly imperative for the Ghanaian elec­torate to become more enlightened and well-informed in the choice of political leaders and represen­tation so that Ghana can become more peaceful and strongly united to experience economic growth, development, and prosperity.

Ghanaian political leaders must also try to become more sincere and honest in the devising of their political manifestos for the development and prosperity of the country.

They must also try to refrain in their campaigns for political power and leadership, the fanning of sentiments, of ethnicism, and divisiveness in their utterances; as this will generate and reinforce the conditions for divisiveness and sectionalism in the rule of the country; which are at variance in the smooth and healthy develop­ment of the country.

Ghana must rise above all the unhealthy conditions that had been mentioned in this article in order to pave a healthy and enlightened way of co-existence of the rulers and the ruled of the country to promote economic growth, devel­opment, and prosperity.

In conclusion, I reiterate that the electorate and governance con­ditions must undergo a rigorous transformation and change by the suggestions that had been advanced in this article for a new good chapter to be opened in the democratic system of gover­nance of the country which at the moment appear to be shaky and vulnerable from a critical point of view.

A healthy and well-informed democratic system of governance must prevail in the present Ghana­ian political situation for the rest of African countries to follow.

This is a big challenge and test to Ghanaian democracy practice.

A citizen casting his vote with the help of an electoral official


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Strictly Personal

As Nigeria’s judges get set to begin voting, By Chidi Anselm Odinkalu



This week, the opening salvo will be fired to signal the onset of the final round of voting in Nigeria’s electoral marathon. This is not a reference to the state-level ballots that occurred around the country on Saturday, March 18. I refer instead to something far more consequential.

Democracy may be about choices and decisions by citizens in theory. As practiced in Nigeria, however, citizens are mostly spectators. In every election, Nigeria’s judges have the final votes.

Every election cycle in Nigeria has three seasons. The campaign season belongs to the parties, the politicians, and godfathers. This is followed by the voting season, during which the security agencies, thugs, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) hold sway. Thereafter, matters shift to the courts for the dispute resolution season, which belongs to the lawyers (mostly Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs) and judges. All three are separate but interdependent.

Of 1,490 seats contested federally and in the states in 2019 (excluding the CT Area Council ballots), the courts decided 805 (54.02%). This is higher than just over 45% recorded in 2015 and 51% recorded in 2011 but lower than the high of 86.35% from the nadir of 2007. So, by 2019, Mahmood Yakubu’s INEC had bled all the confidence that Attahiru Jega, his predecessor, had built in the electoral process. In 2023, he shamelessly pulverized what was left of it.


With elections to federal offices concluded on 25 February and to state offices on 18 March, election petition season is now formally open. On 22 March, the first landmark will be reached with the expiration of the 21-day deadline for filing petitions arising from the presidential election results announced on 1 March.

Already, every piece of evidence points to the likelihood that this will be no ordinary season. On March 3, 48 hours after the announcement of the results, the Court of Appeal ordered the INEC to grant access to the parties to inspect the materials generated from the presidential elections. Three days later, the order was served on the INEC. Instead of complying, the commission stone-walled.

On March 13, INEC chairman, the execrable Mahmood Yakubu, informed lawyers for the parties who demarched him at the INEC headquarters in Abuja, that he had nothing to hide before quickly reminding them that most of the documents that they wanted were in the states and not at the INEC Headquarters. As with all the acts of infamy to which this INEC chairman has become habituated, he said this with a straight face.

This decentralization of obfuscation is original but unlawful. Under the Constitution and the Electoral Act, Nigeria is one constituency for the presidential election and the INEC Chairman is the only returning officer. The idea that documents used in the election are in the custody of INEC states offices is quite simply nonsensical. It is his place to organize custody in such a manner that the standards of access to them is uniform and predictable. By sending the lawyers on an obstacle course through 36 states and the FCT, Mahmood makes manifest his design to frustrate election dispute resolution.

Livy Uzoukwu, the SAN leading the legal team for Labour Party’s Peter Obi, credits INEC’s stone-walling with forcing them to reduce the scope of their inspection of materials from 36 states to just nine. Even then, by March 16, they had granted the lawyers access to only two states.

In Nigeria, every election petition is heard by a panel of three, five, or seven judges. If they all don’t agree, the judges will decide by majority vote. To win, a party must have the votes of two judges out of three (first instance); three justices out of five (appeal), or four justices out of seven (Supreme Court). Where there is such disagreement, there will be dissents.

The heightened role of judges in elections is essentially a feature of the presidential system of government. In Nigeria, Kayode Eso handed down the first notable dissent in this field in the Supreme Court decision in Obafemi Awolowo’s challenge to the victory of Shehu Shagari in the 1979 presidential election. Six of the seven Justices, led by Chief Justice Atanda Fatayi-Williams, ruled that the elections were in “substantial compliance” with the law, but Eso, the junior Justice on the panel, filed a memorable dissent.

Sometimes, the decisions of the courts inexplicably diverge. Following elections in September 1983, Nigeria’s Supreme Court heard two cases arising respectively from the governorship elections in Anambra and Ondo States. The issues were broadly the same: the then ruling party, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), was credibly accused of rigging the elections in both states, enabling the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) to announce NPN candidates as winners when they lost. In Anambra, the citizens mostly went back to their businesses.

In Ondo State, the citizens decided to make the state ungovernable by burning everything in sight. On December 30, 1983, the Supreme Court upheld the Anambra governorship election by a majority of six to one but invalidated the Ondo Governorship result by the same margin. Hours later, on the night of the same day, soldiers sacked the government. By the time the court issued its reasons on January 6, 1984, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari was already one week old as a military ruler.

It is not only in Nigeria that election courts can announce incomprehensible outcomes. In 2006, Uganda’s Supreme Court considered a petition by the opposition candidate, Kizza Besigye, against incumbent President, Yoweri Museveni. In its decision, the Court concluded that “there was non-compliance with the provisions of the Constitution, Presidential Elections Act and the Electoral Commission Act, in the conduct of the 2006 Presidential Elections”; that there was “disenfranchisement of voters by deleting their names from the voters register or denying them the right to vote” and that “the principle of free and fair elections was compromised by bribery and intimidation or violence in some areas of the country.” Nevertheless, Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki led three other judges in a majority of four to uphold the outcome in favour of Museveni.

Sometimes, the decisions in election petitions are dodgy. When it decided the election petition against the outcome of the December 2012 presidential election filed by then-opposition candidate, Nana Akuffo-Addo, on August 29, 2013, Ghana’s Supreme Court announced a majority of six against three in favour of upholding the declaration of President Mahama as the winner. Economist, George Ayittey, wrote that the announced decision was “bungled. There was an inexplicable 4-hour delay in announcing the verdict, fueling speculation that something fishy was going on behind the scenes. Then Justice Atuguba announced a six–three verdict dismissing the petition. A day later, the verdict was changed to 5-4.” In a study of the judgment published in 2014 under the title ‘The Burdens of Democracy in Africa: How Courts Sustain Presidential Elections’, late Nigerian lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, showed that five of the nine justices who sat on that election petition in fact ordered a partial or total rerun of the election. In effect, rather than the announced majority of six–three in favour of President Mahama, the verdict was in fact five-four against him.

More recently, miracles have occurred. In August 2017, Kenya’s Chief Justice, David Maraga, led the Supreme Court to strike down a presidential election in Africa for the first time. In May 2020, Malawi’s Supreme Court did the same. In Nigeria four months earlier, the Supreme Court on January 13, 2020, declared Hope Uzodinma governor of Imo state despite his having been returned fourth in the election.

What Nigeria’s Supreme Court does in 2023 will matter. Like the major parties, all actors in Nigeria’s election petition process have learnt to build “structures”. For the parties, their structures are in the infrastructure of election rigging, or what former governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, once famously called the criminal network of “five gods and the godfather”, including the highest levels of INEC, the security services, thugs, and the judiciary. For INEC, it is in the ruling party and the power network of incumbency at the federal and state levels. For the judiciary, it is in the same mutual benefit network of incumbency in the various branches of government at various levels.


Election petitions have become a preoccupation of judges in Nigeria and around Africa and a defining process in public perception of the courts. In the past, they provided moments of high forensic and judicial drama. Increasingly, however, they have become performative rituals for sanctifying electoral burglary and celebrating judicial capture. The beneficiaries are the burglars and the judges. The best the victims can often expect to receive is a timorous Pontius Pilate mistaken as a valiant judge. In 2023, Nigeria’s judges can sculpt a different narrative.

A lawyer and a teacher, Odinkalu can be reached at

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