Some positions draw attention to those who occupy them. Newsmen always look out for people in those positions to do whatever is considered odd because it would make news. When communication students are taught about news, they are told that when a dog bites a man it is no news but when a man bites a dog it is news. The abnormality of reversing the situation imbues it with the oddity that makes news. Some positions also attract attention by the societal expectations from those who occupy them. When a cleric, for instance, gets involved in immoral activities, it makes news because the society expects piety and transparency from a person bearing such appellation. That must have made it news when a professor recently behaved in a manner that is unexpected of a man of the ivory tower.
In electoral matters, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has tended to look for people with clean credentials who are most unlikely to fall to the allure of pecuniary inducements. The commission looks for such people to engage as returning officers who announce results after the votes have been collated. They have the opportunity to manipulate results by adding figures where they do not exist.
INEC knows this, and goes for people with perceived integrity. That was why the nation was taken aback late March when a professor was sent to jail for electoral malpractice. He behaved in a manner unbecoming of a professor. The High Court in Akwa Ibom State sentenced Professor Peter Ogba to three years in prison for electoral fraud. He was found guilty of fraudulent manipulation of electoral results, publishing and announcing false results. The professor of soil science was also asked to pay a fine of N100,000. He was returning officer in the 2019 general election in Akwa Ibom North-West District. He was convicted for manipulating results of two local government areas, namely, Oruk Anam and Etim Ekpo. He was said to have admitted to the court that the results were falsified to give the All Progressives Congress (APC) an unfair advantage against its main rival, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
It was remarkable that the professor was prosecuted by INEC. It was heartwarming that the electoral body chose to pursue the matter to a legal conclusion, if only to exonerate itself from the misdemeanor, a show that it tries to be as objective as possible in the execution of its function.
The professor was reported to have pleaded for mercy but the judge, Augustine Odokwo, said he had no choice than to ensure that the law took its course. It would serve as a deterrent for other eggheads who would be involved in such functions in the future. If eggheads go below societal expectations, the tendency is for the polity to emerge without moral standard-bearers. Those in that class are expected to bear this moral burden.
Prior to further comments, I should add that another professor, Ignatius Uduk, was being prosecuted at time this case under discussion was decided for unlawful generation of results in favour of the PDP in Essien Udim state constituency of Akwa Ibom, and lying under oath. The matter was still being tried at the time the first professor was sent to jail. This is an indication that a society gets what it deserves, given that moral standards seem to have collapsed across board. That should worry us, and elicit gratitude to the judiciary for helping put some standard-bearers in check.
As I averred earlier, the body that gave them (the professors) this job did not expect that people in such exalted academic office would condescend to such ignominious acts. They were expected to have acted above board. There is no doubt that they were lured by pecuniary or other interests to act in a manner that has now brought their name to odium. The politicians that lured them into the act have since faded from the scene and left the eggheads to carry the shame of their action. Such acts increasingly show that politicians go to the extra, but unlawful, mile to win elections. Such acts all show that all that glitters, in terms of electoral victory, is not gold.
There is more than meets the eye in electoral victories in our clime. The electoral body always takes the flak in the face of such malfeasance. This matter has put in a defense for it. The foregoing is the more reason the National Assembly should quicken the process of passing the electoral bill now on the floor of the Senate. Lots of issues such as tussle over candidature, for which parties go into elections without a clear candidate, and sundry matters should be decided before elections hold. Something should also give such that only ballots, not courtrooms, decide winners in elections in Nigeria.
The tendency for politicians to wait in the fringes and prepare for the courts more than the elections will end. The law should discourage the propensity for politicians to prepare for the courts more than the elections. Such matters make it difficult for democracy to be for the people as intended.
The action of the professors above are clear indications that a book ought not to be judged by its cover. Indeed, the hood does not make a monk, given that the professors would have exhibited characters befitting of their office. It is, indeed, commendable that the commission sought to prosecute those revered people who allegedly sold their souls for lucre and in the bid tarnished the image of a commission that has not been in the good books of the people.