It is acceptable in our clime today for every Tom, Dick and Harry to begin making comments about the success story of the American presidential election, which was concluded last week. No less is expected from a people dehumanized and traumatized by perennial betrayal of trust by those they find in leadership positions.
A nation that has celebrated damning and embarrassing headlines after every election even at the local government level should bury her head in shame when respected and civilized countries like the USA and Ghana post impressive election profiles. As the CNN prediction neared manifestation in the early hours of Wednesday morning, it became obvious that the losing candidate, Mitt Romney, and the victorious incumbent President Barack Obama were to make speeches. It came to pass, and after listening to the two American patriots speak, it was difficult to know which of them love America most. Romney was simply as superlative as Obama.
How else can anyone explain this love for one’s nation? The reason is simple. Americans have worked hard to be great since they liberated themselves from British colonial dominion and declared independence on July 4, 1776. On the other hand, Nigeria has worked much harder to diminish its strength since gaining independence from the same British colonialist since 1960. Elections in Nigeria produce the opposite results.
This is a story for another day, but the point being made here is that Nigeria and Nigerians deserve the kind of post election speeches they get from both the “victors and the losers”. When an electoral process is credible, free and fair, it is almost certain that the loser will be gallant in loss and the winner humble in his victory. At that stage, the Nigerian system as well as the people will be collective winners. This is the point Nigeria has continued to miss at every opportunity to be great in organizing elections at all levels of government. In June 2010, this column had written that Nigerians were not ready for free polls in 2011.
The prediction was almost as certain as night follows the day. Some Nigerians and members of the international community chose to decorate an inglorious election with a cloak of integrity so that the sleeping dog can lie. We will repeat some of our concerns at that time, which have become even more relevant in the light of the joy, which pretentious Nigerians have expressed in the Obama/American victory. We said then that in truth, “Nigeria is not ripe for free polls. Beyond Iwu’s exit, we now know that the journey to a free and fair election is still far.
The governors and what they can do with the free money they have been freely stealing, and enormous powers they wield has been easily glossed over. That is why those shouting loudest against Iwu are opposition leaders and governors who know what it is to have INEC against you. Most governors (even some in other political parties) offer to deliver their states during elections. There would have been nothing wrong in this, if it only involved campaigns, mobilizing and urging voters to a mass turnout.
The governors negotiate many things in delivering their states. They want to nominate any federal appointee, get the ear of the president, and beat the EFCC, etc. They also want to undo their opponents at home and get away with it. What they do and can do to achieve this is far more than any harm Iwu can inflict on Nigeria in his lifetime. The governors manipulate to get the kind of Commissioner of Police (CP) they wanted. They use the police command to do all sorts of things. The police escort the ballot boxes, guard the sensitive warehouses, quell the rioters (if any) and give security reports the presidency will act upon.
The governors also compel or induce the INEC national chairman to employ certain persons who turn around to be resident commissioners, returning officers, etc. When time comes, they stuff the place with temporary INEC staff that would conduct the elections. By this, from top to bottom in any state would be allies and cronies of a governor. Iwu or no Iwu, the result is obvious. The local council elections are not handled by INEC or Iwu, but the elections have been a sham in states where they are held at all. States that do not have any machinery to rig LGA bosses into office such as Anambra, Imo, Edo, etc. have done worse, using illegitimate persons such as sole administrators to control the council areas for as long as they wanted.
These are the same persons clamouring for free and fair elections and shouting against Iwu. Even Lagos that is seen as a bastion of genuine democracy in Nigeria for now, the battle between Tinubu and Fashola would hardly allow for any genuine LGA elections. Governors want to control the LGAs far more desperately than the FG wants to control the states. There has been no case of illegitimate deductions from state’s allocations, but most governors have cases at the EFCC on account of tampering with LG allocations.
The governors also impose their thugs as LG bosses and use them to rig elections in the councils, intimidate opponents, make hell for rural dwellers, run out opposing voices, and divert allocations. For this, the race to control LGA areas and rig elections is fierce. Yet, Iwu and INEC are not part of this. We would have shamed Iwu if elections in the LGAs were a wonder to behold. Again, the political parties, where democracy is groomed and nurtured, are not anywhere near democracy. They witness the worst form of rape, hijack, imposition, autocracy, wickedness, intolerance, marginalization, single views, etc.
Yet, Iwu and INEC are not part of this. How can people groomed in internal disaster turn out to be good copies for democracy? Most of those who leave PDP on excuse of marginalization and imposition of candidates go to minor parties to impose themselves on the old members just because they came with some funds. We know that most cases of substitution of names, wrong names, false nominations, etc, that have lingered in courts to this day were mere party issues, not INEC and Iwu. Many do not know how removing Iwu would wipe off all this junk. Finally, it has been known that two factors make good elections impossible except something drastic is done: excessive greed and absence of deterrence factor.
There is a huge disregard for the right of the next person in this country now. Even in our private lives, deals and agreements are hardly honoured anymore, promise of marriage is hardly sustained, share of money in any deal is hardly delivered, those who ask uncles to keep money for them hardly get it back, etc. This general dishonesty is affecting how we participate in elections. When those preparing for elections stockpile guns, money, blackmail weapons, etc. instead of goodwill, love for the constituents, good principles, etc. would we say it is Iwu? The reign of violence, harm, cheating and maiming in elections is the reason why people flee on election days instead of seeing it as a day of liberation.
Some settlers simply hide, not wanting to get injured for what is happening in another man’s land. They watch as youths run rage and destroy the homes of opponents in a bid to incapacitate them. The other factor is the absence of the deterrence element. People perpetuate evil at all times and at elections and live to boast about it. If electoral offenders were to face criminal charges, and there is quick justice in which the man we saw with guns is crying soon after on his way to jail, others would be scared.
If the man with guns soon begins to parade in jeep and affluence, no amount of Iwu’s removal would stop others from joining in the election rigging. These are the areas the opposition leaders are silent about, and keep clamouring for Iwu’s removal, who appoints INEC boss, etc. as if these were ends in themselves. They merely play into the hands of the monster by these demands because now that Iwu has been removed, the international observers would expect the opposition to be free to win elections, and this is erroneous. The opposition leaders are busy decamping to the so-called monster party.
This habit is worse than Iwu’s harms. The tendency of men in opposition to insult the PDP today and join it tomorrow has confused the electorate and made them vulnerable. This is a greater evil. Those who hated the PDP and supported a man have been defrauded by the return of the opposition men to the same party they asked the masses to hate. Local persons who got injured for following the leader have been exposed to local danger and ridicule because the leader has sorted himself out and jumped ship.
This is a greater evil worse than Iwu’s. In all of these, we know that Nigerians are not ready to stand for and defend free and fair election and so those expecting magic after Iwu are in for a shocker. We do not know where the President would start, but he has a great task, and the target should be beyond Iwu’s removal. Now, the real challenge begins. The 2011 election is now bad history, but 2015 will be worse in Nigeria.