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FAIR POLLS: JONATHAN WE KNOW, GOVS WE DON'T

By NBF News
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W ill there be free and fair elections in Nigeria next year ? Many Nigerians can hardly answer this question. This is not because they do not know the answer, but because they do not like what their minds are telling them. Many international groups are pointing at Nigeria as a place to watch in the coming months. Rating agencies and Nigeria's development partners are holding their breath, fearing the worst. In fact, information reaching some economic experts in Nigeria is that most funds meant for Nigeria in the international arena have

been quietly frozen, waiting for the outcome of the 2011 elections. Also, international financiers behind most multinational corporations operating in Nigeria are putting a hold on fresh deals and votes to Nigerian operations until after the polls. This goes to demonstrate the implications of most of the things we do in this country and how these impact our development agenda . When we kill and maim to capture power, we destroy the seeds of our future and the grains that breed our economy. After all, it has been said by experts that a country's foreign ability is rather its domestic capability, and that the international reputation of any country is its local stability.

America became a world power not because of anything it did outside the shores of America but because of what it did internally . It has in abundance food, power, security,

strong currency, manpower, stability etc. When it was challenged, it called up its internal power to deal with external threat, and won global respect. So, it is how a country treats the fundamentals of statehood such as internal security, food ,the rule of law, respect for life and human rights, respect for the vote and representative democracy, the criminal justice system, free enterprise, etc, that would give it a position in the comity of nations. When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was denied the chance (and Boutrus Ghali of Egypt was made) to be the Secretary-General of the United Nations, it was not for what he did against the world but for what he did against his fatherland, Nigeria. He was a military head of state that benefited from coups and seen as an anti-people symbol. Instead, what Nigeria has done for the world (peace-keeping initiatives)has always given it a plus but what it has done against itself has always fetched setbacks.

So, wise countries strive to treat their citizens in a civilized manner so as to attract international respect and clout. The logic is that, the more you treat your citizens well and adopt international best practices in doing things at home, the more influential the nation becomes in the international arena. Chile's image/foreign rating has gone up sharply since the successful rescuing of its 33 trapped miners, not because of anything it did for the world. Chile has achieved this despite its sordid human rights records and corruption.

So, most of the world think Nigeria is not heading towards free and fair elections. Now, is the federal government working for a free and fair election?

Most Nigerians and friends of Nigeria think the answer is yes. This is because President Goodluck Jonathan, despite creating some fear for opting to contest in the polls, has done a number of things that have convinced observers that he truly desires free polls if he is encouraged by Nigerians and puts the nation above his personal ambition.

First, he has given consistent signals in this direction by almost creating a mantra. He practically sings it loud and clear everywhere and at every opportunity that votes must count in 2011. He has consistently created a posture of positivism on this free poll thing, such that he has made it clear at least through body language that anyone who wished to associate with him should better imbibe the philosophy of one man one vote, and that these votes must count. He expects his agents and supporters to work hard through direct and the numerous indirect campaigns to win the votes that would be available, so that these votes would be counted so they can count. Vice President Sambo is also freely singing the one-man one-vote mantra since assuming office.

President Jonathan made one of his strongest showings by the courage and candor he displayed in the appointment of Attahiru Jega, another passionate man like Humphrey Nwosu. He followed this up by releasing the funds approved for INEC by the National Assembly. Some other presidents we know would have kept most of that fund in Aso Rock and disbursed from there, and pass the figures to INEC. He has given Jega a free hand, allowing him to work with whatever timetable he felt would give him the best results within the constitutionally approved hand over date. We have seen where such free hand was given, yet, the officer in charge still went ahead to work as if their hands were tied.

If this is the image and impression that the president is creating, what are the governors doing? Are they encouraging Mr President? Can anyone truly say the governors have given the nation any confidence that they can be trusted to allow the votes count?

These governors have since 2007 played yoyo with the local councils. While the presidency has not dissolved any state administration or even declared a state of emergency in any state even as many states deserved such a measure, the states have dissolved councils legally set up, they have diverted LGA funds, they have tampered with everything sacred at council levels including conducting the worst elections in history.

Now, if the governors have failed to conduct free polls in their states, how can anybody trust them to aid the process of free polls next year? Everyone has said that internal democracy in the political parties is the foundation of true democracy and free polls, yet, the governors are busy 'appointing' their goons into what should have been elective positions. Right now in the states, the next lawmakers have emerged, yet, the parties have not done their primaries. At functions, some government functionaries are officially addressed as 'senators' honourables , etc, just because the governors have anointed such persons.

Now, where will the votes count during the party primaries and the general elections?