Nigeria’s Bush Path To Kigala

By Prince Charles Dickson

When the shadow of a tree is bent, you don't aim to straighten the shadow, you go for the tree and the leave the shadow...

After another bout of sabbatical I have decided again to add my voice to the Nigerian project. Since my last essay very little has changed, 'cept for the usual...couple of steps forward, very many backward.

The other I was refreshing my knowledge on the whole Rwandan Genocide and how it all started from glaring grudges and ethno-political issues that were triggered off by an electoral process. Yes, Nigeria is no Rwanda, Abuja not Kigala, but what is the difference?

We are indeed a funny collection of people, very predictable and this part of us favours the powers that be. After INEC got her billions, it will have to procure Direct Digital Data Capture (DDC) machines, train officials and register 70 million people within 14 days and trust me they will do it.

In 2007 we agreed that the general elections were flawed, infact it was regarded as the worst ever to be conducted in these parts. Between then and now, we were offered three years to redress, correct and move ahead. We had a constitution we wanted to review, we had a faulty electoral document, but trust me, three years was too much, so what we could not do in three years we will do in few weeks and Nigerians would have got a free and fair election.

There is nothing we cannot do as a nation when we set our minds to do it. We set our mind to spend a whopping N10billion to do an owambe party for 50 jubilee and not only did we set our mind, we are already spending it. Infact 'I gathered that even the money don finish'.

Our president insisted that $4 billion was needed for aircrafts; no one said much, the last time Airforce 1 was replaced was in 1990 just before G. Bush lost the election to Bill Clinton in 1992. Before that, Airforce 1 was a Boeing 707 that came into service in 1962.

Why is GEJ replacing a fleet that was purchased after OBJ became President in 1999? Simple...It's an election year and money must flow one way or the other.

Only 33,071 candidates who sat for the May-June WAEC senior school certificate examinations passed with at least a credit in five subjects including in the English Language and Mathematics. That's less than 25% because 75.06% of the total 1,351,557 candidates failed to get the minimum entry requirement for universities.

Many of these kids will be 18 years in a year or two, a sizable number of them already are 18years and ill-equiped to do whatever they set their mind to do. We can only hope they do not set out to press the self-destruct button on Nigeria.

Everyone is insisting that INEC perform a miracle and I posit, how it can be possible, going by the meagre salary that INEC officials collect, forget the thieves amongst them. A State Resident Electoral Commissioner gets barely N65,000 for imprest and we demand a free and fair election when money bags are already in the shadows with mouth watering packages for these umpires.

What has changed, the over 50 political parties, including those with offices and the ones that exist in one man's parlour and the laptop parties amongst them have not been able to deliver on internal democracy. The political culture is still largely the same, win at all cost!

In Ogun, it was the politics of 9/15 at the House of Assembly that is PDP dominated, in Plateau, we have PDP1 and PDP2, based on INEC's pursuit to get it right, it has published a list of 11 states that have not been able to conclude its party primaries and we all know these are no mean requirements.

ANPP is in crisis, no news, AC has become ACN, and we have seen, the prostitute-like movement of the likes of Theodora Orji in Abia, from PDP-PPA-APGA-PDP. But again trust me, no shaking we will get it, the issue is whether we get it right or not, who cares.

Everyone is rooting for Jonathan...infact if we take into cognisance the law of incumbency. He has won already. The mood is same as it was during the Abacha era, to a whole lot of folks, this is some form of third term...the same old politics of tar zar che. So why waste our time and allow them share our money in the name of free and fair election.

We hear that the incumbent will run an issues based campaign...hmmmm, for an election barring any change will hold in January 2011. What are the real issues, the same problem we faced in 2007, trust me, it has become worse.

A cursory look is the drama between Dokpesi and the presidency and the reply of the militants to Dokpesi, saying that, 'the man and his family members had little or no hostage value'. Meaning that kidnap, abduction and hostage taking are state endorsed policies that take place based on the hostage value...This is a sad interpretation of the state of affairs we find ourselves.

How will the populace confront rigging, ballot box snatching in places like Kano, Bauchi, Abia, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, and other so-called hotbeds of political violence? All that was needed to turn Jos into a no-go zone in 2008 was the shadow of a faulty local election.

Can the PDP really say that it has the capacity to win an election in Lagos without rigging it? Is it possible that PDP can lose the next general elections by any kind of, ocean, or tsunami?

It would be ala-Mantu if the likes of David Mark, Patricia Etteh, Bankole, Alao Akala, Yuguda, Ohakim were to lose in the forthcoming elections. However that will be the test of a true free and fair...I dare say they will rig, rig and rig, whether Jega wants it or not.

Let me cite these examples...In Kogi East, Sen. Nicholas Ugbane, was asked to show how he had brought development to his senatorial zone, he answered “My people, you are not fair o, even if you do not see any development, take a look at my mansion. There is no one that comes this that would not notice the edifice, what else do you people want?”

Another one, when asked why she could not influence even a power transformer to the area, she stated, if she did such, how would people distinguished between her house and others at night.

Come the 2011 polls, we are still going to see a village with 1000 registered voters, no dissenting votes, no deaths, all 1000 votes to a particular party.

Whether John Campbell, or na Graham Bell, the truth is that we are on the brink, on our way to Kigala, the significant and strange fact is that somehow we just hang on. Really nothing will happen if the elections fail...because we have long ago redefined failure.

INEC's position on the upcoming election is thus best painted... you picked up a pregnant girl, she faints in the car, you take her to the hospital, and then the doctor comes out, and tells you congratulations, you are going to be a father. You tell the doctor, it's not possible, I cannot be, but the girl, says you are the father. He insists!

To prove you are not the father, you request a DNA, after the test, the doctor says you are infertile. Extremely stressed but relieved, on your way home, you start remembering you left three kids at home. Who is their father?

A free election may not be fair, a fair election may not be free, we need to figure out which is the substance, deal with it and stop chasing shadows.