11th October, 2010
There is no doubt that from proclamation so far made to the public by INEC and EFCC onÂ preparation for the conduct of the forthcoming 2001 election within the ambit of the newÂ electoral laws, room will no longer be opened for imposition of candidates on theÂ populace and for corrupt elements in our society to hold any public office in the threeÂ tiers of government in Nigeria. However, to the consternation of the people, it wasÂ reported in a sickening headline of Saturday Tribune of 25th September, 2010, that â€œGovsÂ Plot To Sidetrack Election Act: To Get Party Ticketsâ€.
There are countless instances in the past when governorsâ€™ actions that portrayÂ arm-twisting caused untold embarrassment to the country. Going down memory lane, it wouldÂ be recalled that former and serving governors actively got involved in the orchestrationÂ of frustration and untold embarrassment that saw to the untimely exit of the former EFCCÂ Chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, from office. The pained exit that undoubtedly became aÂ talking point in the country and in the international community was followed by threatsÂ to his life and this eventually led to his self-imposed exile from his fatherland forÂ some time. It would also be recalled that at the onset of the Yarâ€™Adua administration,Â when acceptability and credibility problems posed a serious threat to the survival of theÂ administration, from both within and outside the shores of Nigeria, the governorsÂ resorted to arm twisting tactics by asking Yarâ€™Adua administration to choose between theÂ valley and the deep sea by either enjoying their support or remove Ribadu from office dueÂ to the discomfort that stared the governors in the face owing to the onslaught againstÂ looting of the public treasury by the anti-corruption agency under Ribadu. To theÂ greatest surprise of patriotic Nigerians and the international community, the governorsÂ eventually had their way and what transpired between the Yarâ€™Adua government and RibaduÂ at the end of the day, though now part of the negative side of the nationâ€™s history, willÂ linger on in the minds of the people for a very long time.
Nigerians will also not forget in a hurry the dilatory posture of governors and theÂ hide-and-seek game they played coupled with the confusion and untold embarrassment thatÂ the country witnessed during the prolonged absence of the late President Yarâ€™Adua when heÂ was away in a Saudi Arabian hospital for medical attention. The incumbent President,Â Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who was then the deputy to the late president was shamefullyÂ sidelined on the state of the health of his boss that was surprisingly shrouded inÂ secrecy by some top government officials and members of the kitchen cabinet of the lateÂ president. To add salt to injury, the governors rather than support the vice president inÂ presiding over the nationâ€™s affairs in line with the dictate of the 1999 ConstitutionÂ which they all swore to uphold, pitched their tent with the then â€˜powerfulâ€™ first lady,Â Turai Yarâ€™Adua who had no constitutional power whatsoever to take control of governmentÂ as was the case. What happened thereafter has become part of our nationâ€™s history. TheÂ same governors made a U-turn and abandoned the first lady to her fate and this culimatedÂ in the belated support President Goodluck Jonathan enjoyed from the same governorsÂ immediately he was sworn in as president in line with the constitution following theÂ death of Yarâ€™Adua on May 5, 2010.
Back to the headline story on moves being made by governors to subvert the new nationâ€™sÂ electoral laws earlier mentioned, the possibility of them having their way will no doubtÂ be made difficult by eagle-eyed masses who are already out to stop any move or actionÂ that will run contrary to the laid down electoral laws to which Mr. President has alreadyÂ given his assent. It is high time the governors realised that President Jonathan is allÂ out to ensure a credible, free and fair election come 2011. It is also imperative toÂ remind all the 36 state governors and all politicians in Nigeria about the repeatedÂ warnings that came and are still coming from the international community that theÂ processes and the final conduct of the forthcoming 2011 election may make or mar Nigeria.Â It is therefore expedient for governors to ensure that any act that will portray the 2011Â election as fraudulent should in as much as possible be avoided for the survival of theÂ nation as one entity. A stich in time, says an adage, saves nine.
Rigging of election which no doubt portray politics as a dirty game in our country,Â usually begins with stage-managed wards and state congresses by incumbent governors whoÂ usually employ all the state machinery and apparatus at their disposal to ensure that theÂ peopleâ€™s candidates are left in the cold while the governorsâ€™ and godfathersâ€™ anointedÂ stooges end up being declared winners andfielded for election.
The non recognition and outright cancellation by INEC of suspicious and inconclusiveÂ party congresses held in eight states in the country, for the time first time in theÂ history of politics in Nigeria, is laudable. It is hoped that this development would notÂ only act as deterrent but would send a strong message to all political parties that theÂ days when kangaroo congresses are organised at any level for handpicking candidates forÂ election in Nigeria is over. There have been instances when party congresses ended upÂ producing in-laws of incumbent governors as governorship candidates for the ruling partyÂ to which the incument governors belong. The outcome of any election held under such anÂ arrangement with imposed candidate can be better imagined, given the attendant riggingÂ devices that are usually employed during elections in our country
Without gainsaying, there is an absolute need for us to break from the past and start onÂ a clean slate as far as conduct of elections in our country is concerned. It is thereforeÂ in the light of this that the concerted moves by the EFCC and INEC at ensuring theÂ emergence of a credible and acceptable election to Nigerians and the outside world, asÂ highlighted in the Nigerian Tribune of Friday, 27 August, 2010 should be supported andÂ jealously guarded by all patriotic and well-meaning Nigerians both at home and inÂ diaspora. In the headline of the newspaper, the EFCC Chairman, Chief (Mrs.) Farida WaziriÂ made a declaration that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was set to ensureÂ that the efforts of corrupt politicians who are ready to deploy looted public funds andÂ illicit funds to gain access to public offices in the country through the forthcomingÂ 2011 election are thwarted despite the fact that such corrupt politicians were alreadyÂ making and pasting campaign posters all over the place. The INEC Chairman, Prof. AttahiruÂ Jega has already given assurance that INEC was fully prepared to give Nigerians aÂ credible voter registration, which in his postulation, is the foundation for free, fairÂ and credible polls that Nigerians both at home and abroad are yearning for. In the sameÂ vein, the Niger State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Emmanuel Onucheyo, whileÂ representing INEC during a stakeholdersâ€™ forum held in Minna recently, declared thatÂ secondary school students would be barred from handling any election duty due to lack ofÂ requisite experience in handling such important national assignment.
When ward congresses to pick candidates for the local council chairmanship position lackÂ transparency, the performance of emerging public office holders under the situation canÂ be better imagined – poor service delivery and absolute loyalty to godfathers – and thatÂ is why the business of local councils in the country, as once decried by the incumentÂ EFCC Chairman, Chief (Mrs.) Farida Waziri, starts and ends with sharing of the accruingÂ monthly allocations to the councils from the federation account without nothing to showÂ in terms of infrastructure and social amenities for the people who got them elected intoÂ office in the first place. This age long situation since the inception of full-blownÂ democracy in 1999 in Nigeria should be blamed on governors some of whom are helpless inÂ checking the misappropriation of council funds by local council chairmen as governors andÂ their political mentors also benefit in theÂ sharing of the councilsâ€™ monthlyÂ allocations. It is commonplace to find local government chairmen distance themselves fromÂ the people they are expected to serve but rather spend the most part of their officialÂ time in staying in expensive hotels outside their council areas that they are expected toÂ administer while some of them spend most of their time clubbing.
The Kogi State governor once openly lambasted local council chairmen in the state overÂ the habit of abandoning their various councils only for them to waste their council fundsÂ on bills in expensive hotels in Lokoja, the state capital. A report has it that NigeriaÂ slipped in â€˜Good Governanceâ€™ ranking by placing a distant 40th out out of 53 countries onÂ the African continent and 13th out of 16 countries in West Africa. The report furtherÂ added that in 1999, Nigeria emerged 35th in the continent. Without gainsaying, thisÂ revelation should be of concern to all stakeholders in the country and should be seen asÂ a wake-up call for a credible election in Nigeria, without which good governance in theÂ polity will continue to be a mirage.
To say that the suffering masses are fed up with the manner by which mismanagement of theÂ council funds takes place in the country as a whole is to say the obvious. In an publicÂ opinion poll on local council administration in Lagos State published by Next newspaperÂ in September 2010, it was glaring that almost all the respondents decried the abysmalÂ performance of the councils where they reside. If such a public opinion is carried out inÂ the remaining 35 states of the federation including my Kogi State, it will surely be theÂ same story of non performance and sharing of monthly allocations to councils. It is sadÂ to note that public office holders rather than being accountable to the people giveÂ account only to their politcal godfathers and it is for this reason that embezzlement ofÂ public funds no longer means much in our country. It is unfortunate that our country isÂ where propaganda and sycophancy have become effective tools for the sustenance of badÂ governance and non performance at all levels of governance in our country. If developmentÂ in Nigeria since inception of full blown democracy in 1999 is taken into consideration,Â it can safely be said that a neglible percentage of the present public office holders inÂ the three tiers of government in Nigeria will not eligible for reelection into office forÂ another term or qualified for holding any higher office in the land owing to the soilingÂ of their hands in the looting of public funds. The bitter truth is that corruption hasÂ become so pervasive that we may have to collectively, as a nation, ask ourselves if weÂ are not all guilty of the glaring underdevelopment and abject poverty that is staring theÂ masses in the face despite the abundance of natural resources.
â€¢Odunayo Joseph writes from Mopa in Kogi State.