Critical dissection of the proposed electoral reform project in Nigeria.
| Former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, as testified by Senate president, David Mark, did his best for Nigeria. But unfortunately for us, he rubbished his best with his worst. He fought economic and financial crimes with all his might, or so we were expected to believe. But the name of his political and electoral misdeeds was legion, for they were many. Numerous self-serving acts of illegality, enveloped in theatrical pretensions to the super-human status of indispensability, expectedly offered us trucks-load of dividends of one-man democracy. The dramatic art of anti-financial corruption crusading was only being performed on a politically messy stage mounted by an ‘elder statesman’ who would do anything, even fraternize with demons, for vengeance. All with far-reaching immediate and long-term implications for the socio-economic, security and political well-being of the nation.
That, of course, could only be the legacy of a government that haunted dissenting voices deploying all sorts of unconventional tactics and weapons. A government whose charity began abroad deciding which court orders to obey and which to condemn to the rubbish heaps at home while being ever ready even to jump the gun in obeying court orders outside of our shores. A governmnent in which the president with his party cult group and its chairman decided which governor to impeach, when and how. We never had it so bad even in the worst dictatorship. And now the bountiful harvests are here, first with the preponderance of a political landscape featuring political office holders a good number of whom were never elected by their people.
Such is the calamity of a nation where the ruling party must not only “capture” everything in incredible landslide that defy even the most compassionate of logic, but must actually rule for an aeon. And that could only give birth to the institutionalization of political banditry through presidential tacit support for and encouragement of heinous political acts of notorious executive socio-political cultists who parade themselves as political god-fathers. The unresolved status of the numerous political assassinations before and after the April, 2007 masquerade cloned as elections can hardly be sifted from the fall-outs of the do-or-die disposition and attitude of undeserving and unwanted political job seekers who must capture power directly, or by proxy, even over dead bodies. This is why virtually all new and not-so-new aspirants to political offices were always ‘declaring’ for the ruling party knowing full well that all they needed to secure “victory” was to bulldoze (or even assassinate) their way through to the party’s candidacy.
And to this end, political thugs become handy to such executive political criminals who, of course, must get them armed to the teeth. The prevailing general state of near-unprecedented socio-political instability and insecurity in the country could therefore not have come as a surprise. Most instructive in this respect, is the suspicion, in part, that the shooting not too long ago, of a visiting American professor within the premises of a media outfit in Port Harcourt, could also be linked to the outfit’s alleged investigation of claims that some criminal gangs in the Niger Delta were indeed armed by influential politial bandits for selfish political ends.
Demonic individuals of that tribe could only have derived maximum encouragement from a political climate, created from the very top, in which political cutlsim was celebrated as high art. The absence of open support by the immediate past governor of Oyo State, Senator Rasheed Ladoja, for the ignoble third term agenda was an act of disloyalty which the former president would not tolerate. So he made use of the so-called strongman of the state politics, commander of a notorious garrison of political thugs, to teach ex-governor a simple lesson in political “yes-sir-ism.” And even after the criminal and illegal impeachment of the former governor had been upturned with legal instruments, within he prevailing politically corrupt climate, conviction and legality were bound to run into trouble at the dubious security check-point mounted by the brutal combined force of ambition, illiteracy and vengeance. Ladoja’s ship of governance had sunk inside the fearsome political Bermuda Triangle of the governor-to-be, the god-father and the president who would go ahead to tell the whole world he would always remain an apostle of the god-father “so long as his brand of politics brings results.” That was a calamity of a presidential statement; the sorrow of a nation.
Perhaps, the most tormenting implication of the political and electoral mischief supervised by the ex-president is the monumental moral and socio-political life burden hung on the neck of president Umaru Yar’Adua. Whatever level of success the president may ultimately accomplish, this fact will continue to haunt his history for the rest of his days on earth: that he rode to the presidency on the back of some fraudulently conducted, universally-rejected elections, the very worst in the nation’s history.
For such reasons as these, the electoral reform project of the Yar’Ardua administration, if it stands not as mere legitimacy sourcing gimmick, cannot assume any credible status of relevance without the political will to implement decisions that would render demonic schemes, even in his own party, impotent. Neither could that be without a structure to deal with and punish political gangsterism.
A state chief executive who rode to government house on the vehicle of deadly oaths taken at ‘Okija’ shrine dared not refuse to starve his people in order to make agreed remittances to his presidency-protected god-father if he strongly desired to avoid abduction. A governor who came to power by directly capturing data capture machines would never be able to pay the state workers anything near what was due to them and still have something available in the treasury to remit to the political “shrine” from where he was made. A public office holder whose winning votes resided only inside ballot boxes snatched at gun point could never be intimidated by any furore over ordinary ‘Ghana-must-go’ bags. And a president who nurtured the attitude of equating personal and party loyalty with loyalty to the nation would never be able to muster sufficient sincerity to genuinely fight economic and financial crimes.
Any war of any shade or form against financial corruption anywhere in the world, can never record any meaningful measure of success in a climate where political and electoral corruption and cultism thrive. The economy of Zimbabwe is in awful shambles mainly on account of the one-man cultism of Robert Mugabe and his gutter showmanship in indispensability. Ghana has made significant strides in economic and financial reconstruction and stability; the fairly clean political and electoral landscape has been a solid bedrock in this respect. Jerry Rawlings, just about a decade ago and despite his comparative success in governance, presided over the defeat of his own party. Successor and immediate past president, John Kuffor, has just similarly overseen the crushing of his. Would that not be a ‘must-never-happen’ in neighbors Nigeria even under a government that has failed woefully?
If we consider it imperative to punish economic and financial crimes for the success of economic reforms, then punishing electoral and political crimes becomes a sine qua non for the success of electoral and political reform. Perhaps, we need a credible, independent structure in the form of an Electoral and Political Crimes Commission to deal with this monster which usually involve criminal politicians and their god-fathers, officials of the electoral commission, security agents and the prowling, ubiquitous political thugs. But in the meantime, something in the mould of a Truth Commission – an Oputa-like panel – on the last general elections in the country may be a novel but helpful vehicle.