…A Rehearsal For Daylight Rigging In 2007 In Ondo State And A Reminder Of The Horrors Of August 16, 1983
It is often said in most of the nascent but utterly weak Democracies in much of the Third World except India, that elections are often won before they are held. They are won because it is rare to find a Government or the Party in power losing an election, regardless of its track record in office. Why? Because the election Commission charged with the responsibility of conducting the elections are often hand-picked by the Government in power, with an unwritten contract, they are going there to serve as agents of Government and to deliver back to the Government party a victory they could not simply have awarded themselves under the Constitution.
Those electoral bodies are not there to serve as unbiased and disinterested umpires to ensure that the ultimate interest of the Nation is served. Jerry Rawlings is still openly regretting today his foolhardiness in allowing President Kufour to win in Ghana. He could easily have manipulated the election results or have his agents switched many ballot boxes on their way to the counting centers. If you need any confirmation that most election results are rigged by the parties in power in most of those countries, Jerry Rawlings has just given you a reason to believe.
Worse still, the Police as law enforcement agents are now there to ensure that the Government of the day wins neat and clear, as clearly proved to us by Tafa Balogun, the first Inspector-General to go to jail in the entire history of the Police Force in Nigeria.
I recall the golden age of Kam Selem the first post independence Inspector-General of Nigeria. That was then, this is now. I cannot imagine a Kam Selem doing any of the things that Tafa Balogun was accused of doing, forcing each State Governor to cough out some bribes that ran into millions of Naira before the Police could guarantee their security and safety, or let them win again. I cannot imagine Kam Selem diverting a huge slice of the Police budget into his own private account without the Police Service Commission raising a finger or blowing the whistle on him. Kam Salem never saw the four walls of a University, but his value system was nowhere identical to the value system and the professional ethics of Tafa Balogun, a Barrister at Law, and a graduate of one of our best Universities.
Kam Salem had served at a time that public service was highly valued in our country, and at a time when distinguished Nigerians like Alhaji Sule Katagun, Sir Manuwa and principled and flawlessly honest and dedicated Public servants like Mr. Uduehi used to serve as Secretary to the Commission, and when amazing Permanent Secretaries like late Mr. M. A Tokunboh used to serve as Permanent Secretary, in the Ministry of Establishments and when Permanent Secretaries like jueyichie, Abdul Azeez Attah, Allison Ayida, Damcida, Ahmed Joda, Philip Asiodu, E.M.E. Ebong and Grey Eronmosele Longe, Sunday Awoniyi, and Festus dedinsewo Adesanoye now the Osemawe of Ondo, and the unflappable Francesca Yetunde Emmanuel, to mention just a few, used to be priceless jewels of our Federal Public Service. How do I come to know this, any of you readers might ask? Thank you. I know it, because I served under a few of these juggernauts, and I know them up close and personal. They were the best. Period.
I also happen to know Mr. Sunday Ehindero of Oyin, Akoko, the current Inspector-General another Law graduate with a fine track record, who has stepped into the vacant shoes of Tafa Balogun who will go down in history as the worst Inspector-General to ever come from the South. I think highly of Mr. Ehindero and I strongly believe he would not like to end up like his immediate predecessor. But with the ignominious role played by the Police under his leadership in the recent bi-election at Oke Agbe to fill a vacancy caused by the sudden reassignment of Dr. Mimiko, as a Minister in Obasanjo cabinet, and the appointment of someone from the legislative branch into the Agagu cabinet.
First of all the bi-election has to be scheduled and postponed time and again, because the Party in power, sensing defeat has kept on postponing the election until it felt sufficiently empowered to have the Police and civil servants deployed in good numbers to assist the State Electoral Commission handpicked by Agagu himself, to help in switching ballot boxes, filling them up with new ballots at the last minute just to ensure that the PDP candidate who was supposed to lose big, was able to carry the day. Party agents of the AD were summarily arrested, tortured and detained while all those dirty manipulations were going on. You could hear PDP agents at the polling Booths, describing their Government and Party as a moving train, and the AD agents trying to stop them, as wasting their time and embarking on a mission impossible. The Agagu-led PDP was doing the same type of things Agagu used to accuse the Adefarati Government of doing, and doing so with vengeance in a more egregious and clandestine ways this time around. The Ondo State Radio and Television Services are now the exclusive preserve of the PDP in Ondo state, just like it was under Adebayo Adefarati. You only hear on Radio and TV what the Government wants you to hear. The Opposition in Adefarati days could go to NTA to have their activities and complaints publicized. Not any more. as PDP Government now controls both stations. Our leaders in Ondo State and Nigeria have completely forgotten the immortal words of the youngest American President ever elected in JFK who had told the world, and rightly so, that “those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable” It was the efficacy of that statement that was replayed in Ondo State on August 16, 1983. I am afraid Ondo State may be heading that way one more time too many from the look of things.
I recall somebody in New York asking Architect Olu Agbesua, a governorship aspirant in Ondo State what his Party was going to do to e
nsure that Agagu and his PDP was not going to rig the 2007 Election. The questioner was given a standing ovation because that was one big question that his audience of more than a thousand well-informed Nigerians wanted answered on that occasion. From that question, you can tell that election rigging in Nigeria has become a fact of life rather than a cliche that it was in our post Independence years. The PDP under Obasanjo is asking for one more term to complete the reform it has begun. What reform I dare ask? You never hear of Governors jumping bail in London and being welcomed back home with pomp and pageantry by the same people he had robbed blind. Tafa Balogun was found guilty of eight counts of a serious and treasonable crimes, and all he could get was a slap in the wrist, six months for each crime to run concurrently, including the time he has served in detention, meaning he could be out of prison in less than three months. Little wonder that the man refuses to wear prison uniforms. I have to believe the man still views himself as another Roy Chicago who was in prison for vehicular homicide, but his offense was, by popular demand, treated as getting a traffic violation ticket. When the punishment doe not fit the crime, we run the risk of a reoccurrence by copy cats. Our Chief Law enforcer uncle Bola Ige was murdered in cold blood in his own bedroom. Up till tomorrow, his assailants are nowhere to be found, and his nemesis was rewarded with a landslide victory in Bola Ige’s home base in Esa Oke of all plaxces! What a country?
In mid term elections or bi-elections elsewhere in fairly ideal democratic states like the United States and the UK, the Party in power is often judged harshly because they already have a track record to run on. Usually the Party in opposition often perform better, and they, sure, did, at Oke-Agbe from all we are able to see. But the Agagu Government was not going to let go, and they have all the resources in the world to pave their way to success by fraudulent means. The entire Ondo State House of Assembly is dominated by the PDP just like the same Assembly was dominated by the AD under Adefarati.
That observation, in of itself, is a sad reflection on the nature and caliber of our politics and democratic system in Nigeria today. It is a one party dictatorship which does not serve the best interest of the governed. How could the PDP have won such a one-sided victory in Ondo State and other Yoruba States in 2003, if the Federal Government had not rigged the election? It is just impossible. We now know why. Tafa Balogun was a major factor in that victory, and that probably explains his plea bargain type of treatment under the Law. Democracy, I dare say, works best where the opposition is viewed as an alternate Government or the Government in waiting, if for any reason the Government in power fumbles or becomes so overconfident and so self-conceited, that it woefully fails to deliver on its promises and mandate.
Agagu Government should be doing a lot better than it is doing today in an era of plenty. His Government unlike the old Ajasin Government does not believe in doing more with less. The Agagu Government receives close to 4 billion in Federal allocation in one month, hundred times more than what the old Ajasin Government used to receive in one year, like I said before in one article. Where is all the money going? Your answer is as good as mine. Agagu should be using all that excess in building necessary infrastructures for Ondo State and the State Capital. What they are doing is ostensibly throwing money at problems, awarding fake contracts to nameless contractors, paying contractors huge amount for digging a well, and claiming it was a bore hole, and diverting the money into their own pockets, and setting aside stacks of money they are going to use to pay and bribe hired mercenaries and thugs to rig the elections and to pervert the will of the electorates.
It was once rumored that Obasanjo in a statement meant to ridicule Yakubu Gowon after his overthrow in 1975, once asked what he has forgotten in Dodan
Barracks that he would be coming to retrieve after nine years in office. I guess the same question ought to be answered by Obasanjo today who is positioning
himself to run for a third term after ruling the country longer than any of our leaders, dead or alive. Once upon a time if, you ask our leaders why they never like to quit office, they tell you, Nigeria will break up, if the opposition is given a chance. They no longer say that today. What you hear now is a chance to complete the reform they have started. What reform?
The level of corruption is worse off today than it has ever been in our country. University Education is in total ruins. NEPA has continued to live the true meaning of its acronym, “No electric power at all”. Public transportation including the Rail and Air transportation are nothing to write home about. Nigeria no longer has a National Carrier in the flying elephant. “Egunje” (kickback) has entered into our lexicon of Corruption, as everybody now has to do it to survive. The price of gas and petrol is hitting the roof. Presidents, Vice Presidents and Governors and their Deputies involved in serious criminality, are falsely allowed immunity from prosecution because the relevant section 308 of the Constitution is being interpreted the wrong way, as brilliantly articulated by one Mr. Kennedy Emetulu and one David-West and and Mr Fubara in their fine articles on Naija Politics on the internet.
We are doing much worse today, in some areas of our national life, than at any time in our checkered history. Election rigging in our country, like I said before, has become a creed. If that were not so, I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the PDP, with its overall track record, can still be parading itself as a Party of the future in a country as embattled and derelict as Nigeria with the PDP on the driver’s seat.
I want to end this piece with the same refrain I started with, that the Oke-Agbe bi-election outcome, might well be a rehearsal for the 2007 elections, and a possible reenactment of the Omoboriowo mayhem of August 16, 1983. The only note of warning I need to give Agagu and his cohorts, is not to make Akure
the battlefield one more time, as we are yet to fully recover from its aftermath in our beloved homeland.
I rest my case.