NIGERIAN RAILWAYS AND THE ELECTIONS CORPORATION
A stammerer would eventually say father.
These are interesting times in Nigeria, and off course for every generation of Nigerian, one may be forced to ask, has there been any time that it was never interesting. Be it Awolowo, Zik, the
Penkelemess years, Gowon and his never ending transitions, the Dimka Buka bloody coup, or Kaduna Nzeogwu before it.
There was the 2/3 of 19 states, the Shagari dance and the War Against Indiscipline WAI of Buhari and his brother Tunde, IBB effortlessly in a palace manner kept the whole nation ransom with his gap-toothed smile.
Trust me, before I am crucified, I have left several scores of matters, not intentionally but to help underscore the point I want to drive home in this discourse.
I am sure that on reading the topic of this discourse, one would ordinarily be looking for the co-relation. In the next few paragraphs I will seek to establish it. We are largely a nation that is gradually losing its heritage; we have a young generation that is the facebook generation, all black, blue and green berries, sms, email and all that. A generation that knows largely nothing about her past, the present and where we are headed.
In the last few days the newspapers, radio and television has been inundated with all sorts of stories, blame games and what not but what really happened that stalled the election by one week will remain in the realm of rumours, hearsay, half-truths and propaganda.
Like June 12, Abiola was denied, IBB say he was forced too...What really happened, who killed Dele Giwa, Alfred Rewane, Kudirat and how did Abiola die, was Shehu poisoned and did Abacha eat Indian or Brazilian apple?
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up it knows that it has to run faster than the fastest Lion or it will be killed. Every morning a Lion wakes up it knows that it has to run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle; when the sun comes up you had better be running!
As a people we are running, at this point of nationhood, what are we running from and running to, in the words of Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN) "we are still reviving a railway system built in 1800s by the Royal Niger Company which should be in the museum while Europe and china are moving about ultra modern bullet trains".
At the Vice Presidential Debate, Sambo said the Railways were up and running, and how he was on site as an architect and all that...none of the moderators told him that the inaugural train ride from Lagos last month took 7 hours to Ibadan.
How precisely did Yar’adua pass on, what really happened, when did it become clear that the man was gone, where are all those that signed the budgets, and gave phone instructions, the Yar'adua kitchen cabal era and all its actions will never be clear to the ordinary Nigerian. What is classified and who de-classifies and when does it become de-classified?
The December 2010 Jos Bomb blast is all but forgotten, the Abuja 2011 eve Barracks blast is now part of the rumours so also the independence bombs before both. None of the bomb blasts in Nigeria has been solved, no inquest, no proper investigation, no end product and thus the trend continues.
What happened to Boko Haram man, I recall the National Security Adviser was quoted as saying he had no file on the case on his table, who cleared that table, and Jos, Plateau state it has been the story of killings, reprisals and non-stop violence in the face of a lame leadership.
Like the Nigerian Railways, so many old cobwebs not cleared, like Jega, the elections will go ahead and we will shout, critic, praise but leave the core issues and move ahead. As there is guilt in innocence, there is innocence in guilt. We are people that not only love to let sleeping dogs lie but allow them even snore.
IBB has repeatedly said, he takes responsibility, takes responsibility of what, OBJ did well in many sectors but also was responsible for some brazen disrespect to the Nigerian society...How much did 3rd term cost us.
As a people we were more interested on whom the Ota farmer was farming that his stewardship. Very little has changed but we want miraculous results short of magic, we are still unprepared, largely doing things accidentally.
Even as Journalists we are part of the rumours, for example INEC's marathon meeting ends in suspense, Heads will roll in INEC, Abia PDP has no hand in REC removal, why I did not ask Jega to resign--Jonathan, 6 Firms got 13bn for 375 million ballot papers...All railway stories...
When a marathon meeting ends in suspense, its best imagined, what information is there to pick? Heads will roll. What are we waiting for, when will the head roll? PDP has no hand in REC removal so who has a leg in the removal. How do all these direct us to the Promised Land.
Like the Nigerian Railway Corporation that has since failed, what if Jega, INEC and Jonathan fails, at least today we all know that it is not about money but the fact that a lot is inherently faulty in the system and structure.
We are in these series of polls in April again faced with that threesome problem of free, fair and credible. The elections may be free, but not fair, fair, not free, free and fair but not credible. Like the Nigerian Railway, rather than start something that Nigerians would be proud of we are still battling with the regrets of the Royal Niger Company.
We are turning a blind eye to everything that has gone wrong with the run-up to this election, as long as the man on top is working for ‘us’ and saying I am sorry when necessary to sooth us! That's how we change Nigeria; we keep pumping billions into a rail system that should be in the museum.
I end with the addendum below some eight years ago the then Abel Guobadia, chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission told us that the 2003 ‘Elections Can't Be Rigged'
In a 13 April 2003 edition of Newswatch I have lifted his answers to question and allow us see how we have continued in the Nigerian Railway style, nothing really has changed.
Newswatch: First, we would like to ask how ready are you for the elections?
Guobadia: The question you have asked is a popular one. Some people already have prejudged us. They said that INEC is not ready. Irrespective of any disagreement, we are as ready as we can be at this point in time.
Newswatch: You sound so confident that INEC is ready for the elections. However, with a few days to the elections, many eligible voters are yet to be issued with voters' cards. When will these cards be issued out?
Guobadia: They will get them. In fact, when things work this way, it tends to work to our advantage. Remember, I said at the point of registration, we gave those who registered a tear-off slip from the UMR form which we said was a temporary voters' card. But for reasons
of the malpractices that were indulged in September, we said no, we must process the voters' register.
Newswatch: What arrangements have you put in place to avert rigging of election? It has been discovered in the past that results of election are not the true reflections of the way electorate voted. Figures are known to have changed between one point and the other.
Guobadia: It will be a big shame if in the 21st century, our political leaders still think not of fair means of winning elections but unfair means. I attended a workshop somewhere in Europe, there were commissioners of electoral commissions all over the world. After I had made my presentation, a person from Lesotho or Zambia asked, why we have to go into all the elaborate arrangement for policemen to escort the electoral materials. I told him that it was for the security of the materials. He laughed. He said in his country they can leave the ballot box in the open over-night and nobody will touch it.
Newswatch: It was recently reported that you threatened to resign. Why did you do that?
Guobadia: Well, I saw the report in TELL magazine. I hope you read the article. Did they expressly use the words I used? Was it an implied statement or what they merely got out of my mouth or what they got out of my mannerism? I would say neither of them. I don't know how that story entered into the print. It took me by surprise.
Newswatch: In other words, you don't have any reason to contemplate resigning.
Guobadia: As of now there is no reason why I should contemplate doing that.
Newswatch: Would you say you are satisfied with the level of computerisation of the voters' register?
Guobadia: More than satisfied, I am a technical man by my training. What we have done in eight months, even the foreign missions here are surprised.
Newswatch: Are you not worried by the expressions of lack of confidence in your commission by some politicians?
Guobadia: It doesn't worry me at all. For them to prejudge us is also an indication that they are prejudiced. They have no right whatsoever to prejudge us. If they have specific evidence let them say. But not loose talks, specific evidence of INEC commissioners behaving the way
that are less than fair or impartial, they should say so. But to just make loose statements about people's integrity is an indication of their own prejudice.
Newswatch: How much are you spending on this election?
Guobadia: It might be too early to give figures. The voters' registration alone cost a huge chunk. At the end of the day, it would have cost us between N10 and N12 billion. It was a big project.
But by the time we provide the materials for the election, pay all the poll workers and other things, we would be talking of about N28 billion. But these are tentative figures.
Hot soup is never swallowed in a gulp, may we slowly, steadily leave our Nigerian Railway mentality and have the will to like the stutterer call father.
Written by Prince Charles Dickson.