2011:THE CHANGE NIGERIA TRULY NEEDS
Over the last few weeks there have been heated debates on the 2011 Elections and the January 2011 date proposed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the light of the constitutional amendments and the new electoral act. While some believed that the January date is not feasible, others believe that the goal post must not be shifted; the latter sometimes resulting to name-calling and failed tactics to buttress their stand.
We belong to the School of thought that holds that the January date be shifted. And so we are not going to attempt in this piece to join issues with the other side; rather we are going to spell out exactly why we are canvassing for a shift forward from the January date.
Our advocating for a shift forward is predicated on the dire need for a fresh voters register. If we are to assume that free and fair elections is a necessary for good governance and that Nigerians have an inalienable right to self-determination, then having a fresh voters register is sacrosanct as the present voters register is too fraudulent and fictitious and therefore cannot guarantee genuine electoral results.
To pummel home the deceitful nature of the extant voters register, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega in a News Conference some weeks ago, said that INEC can only insure a 10% free and fair election with it. Now we don't know about other Nigerians but we are definitely not going to take a 10% chance on change.
The times are too serious and the stakes too high for us to engage others in the same divisive politics, petty squabbles and partisan ball game that have held this nation down in the last decade.
Having said that, we must honestly admit that to compile a fresh and comprehensive voters register for a large and diverse nation as ours will take nothing less than four months, including the training and deployment of personnel required for the task; and that is presuming that the financial resources and equipment for the exercise is already on ground.
Yes, it is not so good to shift the goal post bearing in mind that we campaigned painstakingly for the constitutional and electoral reforms (even though we didn't actually get most of our demands), yet we must ask: Must the need not to shift the goal post override the need for a free and fair election which ultimately will foster good governance? Yes, the new electoral act and the constitutional amendments necessitates INEC having to set January as the date for the conduct of the elections, yet we must question why our lawmakers knowing full well the longing and aspirations of the Nigerian people for good governance wasted much precious time on frustrating the constitutional and electoral reforms, only to hurriedly pass them selectively based on their irrational self-interest. The whole thing smacks of mischief and a grand design of an agenda to create room for electoral manipulation and rigging. So, knowing that this kind of task is not in the least easy, there must be adequate planning for success. However, planning for success must be tempered by reason.
There is nothing in the flow of time that will cure all ills; time can either be used constructively or destructively, but that is not to say that we should walk with the false notion that we can just muddle through. And for those who sincerely think that the January date is inviolable and are challenging other peoples character and patriotism in order to debunk the notion that laws are made for men and not otherwise, let them at least agree that laws alone cannot make men see right, that this is not simply a legislative or legal issue alone. And that we are confronted primarily with a moral issue.
But Nigerians must also agree that having genuine voters register is not enough; that it is only the first step towards a free and fair election that will assure good governance.
Like it or not, whether as Northerners or Southerners, we all suffer political oppression, economic exploitation and social degradation from the same enemy-the powers that be. We all catch hell from the same enemy. And as such, zoning based on tribal, racial or religious sentiments is not the change that Nigeria needs. Those clamouring for it must honestly understand that there has never really been any such thing. If it was ever used in 1998/99, it was never really done on behalf of any region but only done by some powerful elements in that region and in their own selfish interests under their own exclusive terms.
Or how else, could we explain the fact that the PDP nominee in 1999 was virtually imposed on Nigerians and was never accepted even by his own people in the polls much less winning the elections. And by 2003, zoning was practically dead as could be seen during the PDP National Convention where there were various presidential candidates from every part of the country. So, let us agree that the so-called zoning policy is only a hoax and that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria must prevail, for zoning presupposes that there are superior and inferior tribes or races. But there are no superior and inferior tribes or races; there are only unequal opportunities. Let us work assiduously for a just and equitable society where every tribe or race has equal opportunities to develop their talents and where any man can aspire to whatever position he wants in life.
This is not to say however, that national, federal or State appointments be allocated to only one section alone.
Nigeria therefore does not need a tribal or racial or zonal president loyal only to the section of the country he hails from. What Nigeria needs is a president that is people-centred not self-centred or tribal or racial-centred; a president that can grapple with present challenges and that of the 21st century and not one that will keep grasping at the ideas of the past. A president that understands the enormity of the challenges we face; one that realises that there is no deficit in the human resources of this country but only a deficit in human will. We need a president that will chart people-oriented policies and not anti-people policies; a president that connects to the hearts of the Nigerian people and not one that will alienate the people and disconnect from them through his policy thrusts.
If we agree that this is what we all yearn for, then we will agree that this nation is better than one with the present crop of leaders-leaders with no concern for the betterment of the people; that do not have the good of our nation at heart. To offset this current political equation, we must learn to work together, as northerners and southerners. We must be able to form alliances for political action and also be able to walk away from such alliances if any party to that alliance defaults on its sacred commitment. We must not allow the next four years to be like the last twelve. Let us save ourselves and the future of our children from the psychological death and trauma we have been subjected to in the last few decades by placing our hands once more on the arc of history and bend it towards the hope of a better tomorrow. If we can commit to this, we shall boldly challenge the status quo and the unjust mores and ultimately transform our society into a good and just one.
(CLO Chairman in Lagos)