SURMOUNTING POLITICAL CHALLENGES
After that two-part focus on the perceived need to arrest the country's democracy wreckers, it is necessary to first acknowledge a few facts: That these are indeed challengingly wonderful times; that some of our political actors have to do more to help us the humble citizens who form the land's majority, retain our confidence in them and the electoral process, and that we, the people, must keep reminding the leaders (especially those not behaving properly), that 'the motto of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress,' as contained in the 'Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy' in Chapter Two of the constitution.
Some of our personalities in politics do not appear to understand that it is only when we have demonstrated faith in the supremacy of democratic principles as against pushing what is inherently personal and sectional; when we have chosen to play the political game according to the rules, and when we do not take ourselves for granted, by what the Holy Bible describes as 'doing unto others what we would wish them do unto us,' that there can be any hope of unity, peace and progress.
Yes, there can be no progress, peace and unity in any country, club, society or human organization whatsoever, where faith, love, charity, discipline and obedience (to the rules) are lacking, especially among those temporarily providing leadership or aspiring to occupy positions of authority. One says temporary, because, looking at other lands, people like Laurence Gbagbo of Cote d' Ivoire and Muammar Gaddafi, usually described as the 'strongman' of Libya, no position on earth occupied by man or woman is ever permanent.
Perhaps the political cross-fire between the late President, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, the Owelle of Ontisha, and Dr. Ukpaki Asika, who was one-time Administrator of the country's East-Central State, when the former reminded the latter that 'No condition is permanent', provides the classical reference point on this matter. People cannot behave as if laws no longer exist or have ceased to be relevant, and expect others to be happy. They cannot act as if their personal lapses and hidden agenda are our true paths to 'peace and progress'. The reverse is truly and usually the case.
The fifth Global Electoral Organisation (GEO) Conference, hosted by Botswana last month, considered the theme 'Elections, a cornerstone of democracy', and brought election experts from all parts of the world, 'to engage on key current issues confronting the world of elections.”
As noted in his opening speech by the Chief Host and President of Botswana, Ian Khama, on Monday, March 7: 'Elections exist as a means by which ordinary people are able to engage routinely in the selection of their political representatives. This process stands as a cornerstone of democracy and its integrity should be protected. It has been shown to work in practice and open the door for basic freedoms to be respected and human dignity to live side by side with economic growth. It is, therefore, appropriate to have this conference convene under the theme of' Credible Elections for democracy'.
And what he next said is the real motive of this article '…. Greed, corruption, and undemocratic practices have led to the manipulation of constitutions, electoral processes and the rule of law. Across Africa and other parts of the world we continue to have challenges in this regard. When leaders refuse to accept the outcome of election results in processes that have been deemed to be free and fair in theie execution,they should be held to account. As in Ivory Coast recently, the hunger to stay in power by Gbagbo is more important for him than respect for the will of the majority of people…
'…We are the custodians of the present and our present actions will be judged by future generations as to whether we actually did provide 'a better life for all.' Let us aspire to use democracy to inspire our young people to exceed our own achievements, doing so in honour, humility, and in service….'
As matters stand today, some of those in position of authority at all levels of governance in our beloved country, judging by their abysmal failures in executing their budgets, hardly have any 'achievements' to boast about, except perhaps tarring the roads to their bedrooms and the frontages of those they consider dear or special to them. Forget about providing adequate funds for education: Have classes stopped being held under trees everywhere, despite the inputs of UBE, ETF and so on?
What about Health: Can we take the presence of doctors at any general hospital for granted at anytime? Do they not often have to 'strike' before their complaints are 'treated'? What about salaries or 'take-home wages' that cannot take the workers home: Are we not still waiting for the elections to give the minimum wage here, when the legislators have gone beyond every level or bar in the country's high income bracket? How will the minimum wage, for example, compare with the lunch or other allowances of such people, whenever it does get paid?
In other words, 'the service' provided by some people who ostensibly professed their belief in promoting 'a better life' for each of their compatriots, is not worth writing home about, because it leaves much to be desired. Instead of working hard for the people's welfare, some of the leaders are busy looking for who to get locked up, as if they are above criticism.
Meanwhile, those who should have been imprisoned or at least disgraced for helping themselves disproportionately to the public till, are busy fomenting trouble in the land. By the way, what is the last word on the power probe today? How much was spent? Where is the Abacha loot? What about the marksmen or snipers who worked for the State, personified by Abacha, who tried to kill Alex Ibru, Publisher of The Guardian, on the bridge leading from V.I. to Falomo and Ikoyi? Where are the men who killed Bola Ige at Ibadan, when he was supposed to have had six police orderlies?
Where is the man who shot businessman Pa Alfred Rewane on his bed, a year to his 80th Birthday? Was it the same man that tried to kill Alex Ibru, who killed Bola Ige and Pa Rewane, considering the similarity of their methods?
We are under a democratic dispensation, and it is ironical that of all those who went about burning houses, shooting at those considered to be democrats or 'NADECO people', none has been arraigned for trial or prosecution. Was it right for the State to have endorsed terrorist tactics then?
Just take a look at the newspaper headlines, randomly: '3 weeks to 2011 polls: over 90 killed, 200 maimed at rallies'; 'Ogun crisis: Daniel Begs Obasanjo', 'We'll jail OGD…. Obasanjo, Olurin boast .Warn Ogun gov against running PPN with State funds,' 'Mass arrest. SSS quizzes Ayu, Gemade, Akume, in underground dark cell, extracts undertaking,' ' Akwa Ibom ACN guber candidate docked for treason (did he also not get a slap from a security agent)? Other headlines of note were 'Aftermath of botched April 2 polls… INEC contractors in trouble…' Who were the contractors, any way? 'Expect shockers, Jega tells election riggers,' and 'Polls shaky…. Jega, RECs can't reach decision on Saturday election. Fear of another shift looms as logistic problems persist.'
Those will do for now, but one must quickly add that we had general elections in 1959, 1963, 1979, 1983, 1999, 2003, 2007 and in none of them was there as much confusion as this one of 2011, when technology is much more advanced than ever. The electoral bodies did whatever needed doing within the limits of their capabilities but never did we have to cancel or postpone any of the elections. Moving backwards, obviously!!!
A hint on the causes of the current hiccup and anxieties was however offered last Tuesday in a report carried by the Daily Sun on April 6, hereby partly quoted: '… The state by state situation reports by the RECs, it was gathered, were said to have overwhelmed the INEC Chairman (Professor Attahiru Jega, that is), especially when confronted with reports of expended ballot papers in some states where election held before the announced postponement and the widespread confusion occasioned by the mix-up in the logo and names of some of the parties on the ballot papers…'
Why won't there be mix-ups when we carried such jobs all the way to China to print? We do not even trust our own Mint, and if we could not mobilize our own master printers to produce our electoral materials under security cover, why won't there be confusion? I was at the polling booth in Ogba, Lagos, waiting for 'ballot papers' to arrive by 2.30 p.m., even after being accredited by 11.30 am.
And by 1 p.m. or so, the wonderful news of cancellation came, although some people in nearby wards had voted. President Khama said it all, above: We must leave no room for manipulation in these elections, otherwise the judgments of the present citizens and posterity will be damning. That consciousness, especially on the part of our 'political gladiators', will help considerably in surmounting the current political challenges.