The level of trepidation pervading the Nigerian atmosphere since the importation of the Ebola Virus into the country by one “crazy” Liberian, Patrick Sawyer is becoming a consequential case study in our political existentialism as a confederation of hyper-sensitive folks. One of the greatest revelations in this saga is the fact that many Nigerians where greeted with raw chagrin in their realization that our most controversial immediate past chairman of INEC, Professor Maurice Iwu and a member of the Federal Government action committee on Ebola is actually an intellectual of repute. The question on many lips was: What was a Professor of Pharmacognosy looking for in the murky waters of Nigerian politics, especially of the pre-Jonathan milieu, when electoral malpractice was at its zenith? It baffles common sense to juxtapose the noble inclinations of academic pursuit with the Area Boy sensibilities of the INEC of that time, which reduced itself to an avatar of political demons, who haunted the national psyche with messy memories of election rigging. At that time, certain party stalwarts boasted that they could floor their opponents, even where they fielded goats as flag bearers. Then we had a high concentration of rulers and not leaders, most of who ended up becoming democratic disasters with their strange appetites for self-satiation. They were apt semblances of Mbella Sonne Dipoko’s Rulers:
Rulers unroll scrolls of wretched landscapes
And boast and drink and dance under chandeliers
In castles threatened like pleasure boats in a furious ocean.
They are like insects that dance around street lamps
Looming in the fog of a stormy sky.
The height of political thugery in the Molete of that time (as evidenced in the wanton snatching of ballot boxes, ignoble renting of crowd and all other sad forms of political abracababra) defied sane reasoning. Therefore, the rational equation that Professor Maurice Iwu was an accidental political discharge (targeted at massaging certain partisan agenda) by the government of that time cannot be faulted. Speaking in the United States, as guest of the Council on Foreign Relations, CFR, way back in 2010, then Acting President Goodluck Jonathan had affirmed widespread reservations back home about the credibility of the Maurice Iwu-led INEC in conducting free and fair elections: “people have the perception that the body (INEC) cannot do what is right and even when they do what is right, people find it very difficult to believe. That is the story of the Nigerian electoral body, the INEC. The feeling is that the INEC cannot conduct credible elections in Nigeria”
There were vicious strains of political Ebola that terminally strangulated credible elections and the continuum of good governance. Those strains where personified by spent forces who transmuted to political vampires and garrison commanders. They catalyzed the processes of electoral malpractice with the highest level of impunity and infected the image of the country, rubbishing the joy of our nascent democracy. Molete in Ibadan, South West Nigeria was terribly infected by political Ebola that dared to sack a sitting Governor, while commanding a troop of amala and gbegirimaniac miscreants, whose propensity for violence was inimitably high. The Molete strain defied all governmental medication and developed resistance even to federal doses of prophylactic appeasement. It was pampered by the powers that be, because it proved a veritable tool in their hands for the furtherance of their political narcissism. There was hardly any week that the city of Ibadan was not thrown into anarchy by the cataclysmic epidemic of that virus. Ballot boxes and other significant electoral materials found their ways to private residences. And the federal government of that time looked away in passive discomfiture. Unknown to the protagonists of the Molete saga, they were only sitting on a time bomb of lethal euphoria, as they sentenced themselves to political death. The following lines, from Professor Wole Soyinka’s Purgatory, foreground the sordid cosmology of that masochistic camp:
For here the mad comingle with the damned
Epileptics, seers and visionaries
Addicts of unknown addictions, soulmates
To the vegetable soul, and grey
Companions to the ghosts of landmarks
Trudging the lifelong road to a dread
The strain in, Edo state was abysmally anti-democratic. It was an archetype of political godfatherism that imposed candidates on the people. It was so full of itself that it infected the then Federal Ministry of Works, which could not account for several billions of naira meant for the reconstruction of the Benin-Ore road. It took the courage of an electoral tribunal and the intellectual militancy of an Adams Oshiomhole to upturn the egotistical boat that had shamelessly rowed that virus to political vain glory. A vibrant dose of Oshiomholemycin was potent enough to put an end to the macabre reign of that virus. The people of Edo state have since realized that the state does not belong to any godfather much as they have clearly seen the difference between performance and epicurean politics.
Political Ebola had held the nation hostage and in one way or the other, well-meaning political office seekers were all damned to the stakes of annihilation as events in the electoral corridors of those times echoed gloomy tunes of their unbridled exclusion from winning elections. We became casualties of an epoch that tended to propagate a strange philosophy of the survival of the dubious, as captured in the crafted words of Professor JP Clark, in The Casualties:
The casualties are not only those who started
A fire and now cannot put it out. Thousands
Are burning that had no say in the matter.
The dubious also became casualties because the deceit-infested reality they had created has continued to stare us in the face: dwindling national utilities, contrived security woes, poverty of the highest order and hopelessness amongst the youth are all results of the future they ordered. Their escapist stampede to “international havens” has resulted in unexpected jail terms and national nemesis borne out of their smart but unwise flagellation to such havens to stash away billions of dollars stolen from our commonwealth. That the nation needs political quarantine therefore becomes one of the most germane issues the present government should be taking seriously. In fairness to the Goodluck Jonathan administration, (which inherited a badly mutilated nation) any attempt to rubbish its redemptive efforts, through destructive propaganda, amounts to Gobbelsian mudslinging. At least, the political Ebola that rendered the Benin-Ore road useless has since been contained by the injection of Onolememycin, procured by the Goodluck Jonathan administration. All doubting Thomases can take a ride from Lagos to the South-South, where massive and unprecedented road rehabilitation works are going on in earnest.
To a large extent, electoral malpractice has abated, thanks to the administration of Jegaquine in the treatment schedule of our once sickly electoral body, the INEC. The recent victory of APC’s Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola in the gubernatorial election of the State of Osun should dispel all unwarranted suspicions that the PDP-led Federal Government stands against free and fair elections. It is true that the PDP once harboured a gang of desperadoes, but recent events in our political trajectory lends credence to the obvious but overlooked fact that the present administration is sincere in its promise to purge the nation of all its electoral woes. It is therefore not out of place to opine that those who are decamping from the PDP to other parties are the desperadoes who have been dislodged from the party by the new and noble philosophy of equity and fairness enshrined by the current leadership of the party. Under President Goodluck Jonathan, the PDP
has transformed from a “nest of killers”, to a burgeoning exemplar of justice and the rule of law. We are now witnessing a political dispensation of an over-exercised freedom of speech, where certain governors raise shoulders with the presidency and go unscathed. If Nigerians can look back candidly, such a development was not possible between 1999 and 2007, when certain state governors came to understand the semantic undertones of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s “Demonstration of Craze”. But the present administration has been very tolerant, civil and meticulous in its judgments. However, its civility must not be construed as cowardice.
Political Ebola is curable; it depends on the tact of the government of the day. As we are already seeing, it is no longer business as usual at INEC. The anti-democratic strictures that placed a recurrent embargo on electoral reforms have been crushed, and credit must go to the late President Umar Yar Adua for initiating the process. If not for INEC’s nay the present administration’s commitment to foster a new milieu of electoral integrity, the recent elections in the State of Osun would have been compromised. It took the conscience and vigilance of the SSS and DSS to stop a bunch of moneybags from thwarting the noble and just course of that election. In his piece, Osun Poll: Victory Despite Garrison Command (The Guardian, Thursday, August 14, 2014, pgs 12-13), Ehichioya Ezomon, The Guardian’s Group Political Editor aligns with the reality of the flawlessness of that election: “Thus if one were to award marks to INEC for the conduct of the Osun governorship election, a 90-95-percentage rating would not be out of place…Truly, amid orchestrated tension, the electoral body rolled out a flawless exercise that recommends itself to subsequent elections, beginning shortly, with the bye-election in Adamawa State”. The Goodluck Jonathan administration’s efforts were also applauded: “Since the election, some commentators had suggested that the praise for the successful conduct of a “free and fair” balloting should go to the Federal Government as represented by President Goodluck Jonathan and the security operatives, who ensured that there was no violence or perpetration of electoral malpractice”
The cure for political Ebola is now in our hands. The sad days of unresolved political assassinations, occasioned by “do or die” electoral victory, is now over. One of the poetics of Odia Ofeimun, Resolve…, offers a panacea:
To placate those the night surprised in their noons;
those we loaded with lead;
pushed to dungeons and makeshift graves;
to absolve our irretrievable selves
from the badger of willow-whips lurking in time.
We need no mourners in our stride,
no remorse, no tears.
Only this: Resolve
that the locust shall never again visit our farmsteads.
We must begin to use our tongues to count our teeth, bid goodbye to political Ebola and resolve that credible elections are here to stay.