14th June, 2010
Itâ€™s 17 years since Nigeria organised the freest and fairest election which has become a watershed in the nationâ€™s history. However, the presidential election which took place on June 12, 1993 wasÂ annulled by the callous military junta headed by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. Events caused by that act have continued to haunt the retired General and have set the nation back several years. In the course of the agitation for the actualisation of that election, the military crushed many politicians and pro-democracy activists.
The winner of that election, Moshood Abiola, was arrested and kept in detention until he died. Before his death, a killer squad working for the Abacha dictatorship went after his wife, Kudirat, and snuffed life out of her. Other prominent pro-democracy leaders like Alfred Rewane, Suliat Adedeji, etc. were gunned down while some activists and journalists were either framed up and jailed or hounded into exile.
Seventeen years after all these happened, most of our leaders have not learnt any lesson from that dark phase of our nationâ€™s history. Some politicians, especially those at the National Assembly, who never fought for the enthronement of democracy, are conducting themselves in a rascally manner. Most of these rascals do not care about the sacrifices other Nigerians made to usher in the democracy they are now enjoying.
Seventeen years after June 12, we have not been able to organise credible elections. Our elections have been getting progressively worse since 1999 whereas we have a model we can fall back on; the Humphrey Nwosu model that produced the nationâ€™s best election in 1993. Seventeen years after June 12, we are still talking about electoral reforms. Those who want business to continue as usual do not want the Uwais Electoral Reform Committee report to be implemented, yet the recommendations in the report are so well thought-out that if implemented, they could go a long way in addressing the depressing problems that have militated against the conduct of free and fair elections in this country.
Now that Prof. Attahiru Jega has been appointed to be in charge of the Independent National Electoral Election, INEC, we expect a total overhaul of the electoral commission which has been mired in corruption, ineptitude and other vices that have discredited its leadership.
One of the vital lessons we can learn from the June 12, 1993 elections is that Nigeria can conduct a free and fair election if the nationâ€™s leaders and the electoral umpire muster enough will to do so. Those who conducted the 1993 polls were not angels. They did not come from another planet. They were Nigerians who staked everything to ensure that the elections were successful in spite of the hurdles placed on their path by the military junta who didnâ€™t want to hand over power to elected civilians.
We can repeat the 1993 feat if we are genuinely committed to achieving good result against all odds. The first step is for INEC to review the votersâ€™ register and ensure that all fictitious names are expunged and to register Nigerians who have now attained the voting age. This can be done before next yearâ€™s general elections. There is no excuse for postponing the election as some people are suggesting.