April 2011 Election Verdict: A Step towards a Sustainable Democracy

In every human endeavor, competitions normally end up with winners and losers. The underlying criterion hinges on the spirit of sportsmanship. Winner in humility accepts championship and its responsibilities, while the loser or losers graciously bow out in appreciation of the opportunity of been able to participate. In the spirit of sportsmanship or nationalism, losers often indicate their willingness to cooperate with the winner in the course of discharging their official responsibilities; hence become part of the solution for the circumstances that propelled their involvement in the competition.

Politics is an attempt to access, influence or control political power. This is either by individual or through group relationship such as political party or pressure groups. Regardless of the pattern of the competition, there should always be a winner and runners-up (losers). This model is more and easily attainable in sports competition. When or where there are conflicting outcome that did not produce one winner, the event or competition could be repeated until a clear winner emerge. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in political competition.

Politicians are often not sportsmanly. They have no tolerance for defeat. Winning is a must for them. They are always desperate, brutish, nasty and crude in their efforts to win or retain political power. Suffice is to say that this desperation is not borne out of genuine desire to serve the people; rather it is a “do or die”, “race of life” to gain political power as a tool for self- enrichment. Nigerian political system is not immune from this political despondency. The history of Nigerian political competition is that of corruption, violence and death. As a matter of fact, desperate political calculations continue to increase in intensity, and the schemes to actualize political perfidy is generationally perfected by political players. On the level of scaling, the pendulum has shifted from bad to worse with no end in sight.

The aftermath of voting or rigging desperate political office contenders to office manifest in bad governance; and extension of poverty. Often time, social and economic infrastructures development are neglected, there are lapses on security of lives and properties. The pseudo-capitalist hegemony continues to raise its hydra head to sustain masses economic deprivation and inure a bleak political future. After fifty years of developmental retardation orchestrated by political servitude, Nigerians through April 2011 elections resolved to rescue the dying giant from its comatose. They voted for a change. A change from unimpressive past and status-quo; to a new order that is expected to initiate a new dawn in the history of Nigeria and national development.

The people who have for so long been eluded with good governance and its associated benefits; stood to the rescue of the nation that suffers from the plaque of its leaders. In unity of action, the people turned out massively and voted for candidates of their choice amidst political harassment and intimidation. They decided to salvage Nigeria’s deeming political relevance among the committee of nations. They sacked all the non performing political parasites and elected new leaders whom they authorized to exercise political power on their behalf for the next four years.

Arguably, democratic culture or development is not sustainable on the conduct of good elections alone. Other democratic virtues must be put in place and its efficiency must be ensured. Check and balances between the three arms of government, independent and incorruptible judiciary; viable fourth estate among others, are democracy sustaining tenets that should not be compromised. In a situation where the trust of the people is deflated by those entrusted to defend its sanctity, the masses should be irrepressible in their collective action to deal decisively with such betrayer of public confidence. Government whose actions and policies are inimical, and runs contrary to the expectations and total development of Nigerians should be legally run down. Civil disobedience, walk to rule, peaceful and coordinated mass protest by a legitimate trade union or organized labor are few examples of how an anti-people’s government could be legally run down in order to sustain our fragile democracy and hold the political leaders accountable.

There is no need for arson or sectarian violence. Compliance with the directives of the political rogues to engage in public looting, arson, murder and most recently bombing ; helps to reinforce their strategy to further marginalize us and impoverish our nation. We as a nation need to stand in unison to repudiate their attempts to hold us in state of perpetual subjugation. This is the right time to recognize the politician’s tactics and do all that is humanly possible to thwart their dividing agenda. Let us use our human rights weapons to fight against our common enemy. Let us make a declaration that never again would we allow politicians or public office holder to go without been accountable of their stewardship – be it what was done or that which was left undone.

Since Nigeria independence; two of its numerous elections were described as been credible, free and fair by Nigerians and the international communities. The first was the 1992 general election which Chief M.K.O Abiola reportedly won with 55 percent of the total vote cast. The same election was unreasonably annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida – the Military fascist of the time. The aftermath of that annulment is a different story, not intentioned in this article.

The second free and fair election was concluded in April 2011 by Independent National Electoral Commission – INEC under the chairmanship of Prof. Attahiru Jega. The incumbent president, Jonathan Ebere Good Luck was declared the winner. He reportedly won 57 percent of the total vote cast. Though the battle was considered lost and won, there were several needless sectarian and targeted violence in response to his victory, especially in the Northern part of Nigeria. While the people have the right to react to the result of the election, the acceptable corollary of democratic dictum is that the will of the majority prevails and respected in good faith. If anyone or political party feel cheated or disagree with the result that was declared by INEC , such individual or group can invoke their rights and seek redress in the court of law as opposed to arbitrariness or taking laws into their hands. People should understand that arson and murder are not integral part of democracy, and should not be considered a solution to political disagreement.

Now that the election is over, let it be known that every elected officer will be hold accountable of his or her actions and inactions while in office. Determination of re-electability would be based on the extent to which elected representatives fulfill their electoral promises; and their ability to bring or initiate development programs to their communities. Any elected representative that has nothing to show for his or her stewardship after four years in office should be booted out with ease. Nigerians will no longer tolerate leadership without sense of service; nor continue to spend people’s tax money to promote indolence.

The terms set in the 1999 Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Constitution, 5th Schedules – Code of Conduct for Public Officers must be strictly adhere to. INEC in collaboration with the Economic and Financial Crime Commission-EFCC and the Ministry of Justice should design and maintain a legal instrument; aimed at keeping politicians declaration of assets in the public record. Such public record must be made accessible to the citizens. The people deserve the right to know the worth of its elected or appointed public officers before and at the end of their tenure in office. This will enable the public to identify the abusers of public t

rust. Those who used their position to corruptly enrich themselves. Every undeclared physical and liquid asset and every unaccountable source of accumulated wealth while in office should be forfeited to the government unconditionally.

Any public office holder that is found guilty of corruption or any form of impropriety should be prosecuted and punished to the full length of the law, such culprit should be banned from holding public office for life. To maintain political sanity, tough decisions and rigorous effort must be made to rid our polity off political rogues and profiteers. Nigerians cannot continue to pretend that all is well with the legacy of corruption which its past political operators bequeathed on the present generation. None of the past regimes is abhorred of this insanity. The intensity of the corruption changed in Shehu Shagari’s regime. Its dynamics was modified during Ibrahim Babangida’s administration; and Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime further perfected the scheme. Such were the contagious recklessness with which different regimes and its operators violated public trust; the consequence of which led to the emergence of new set of political marauders with grandiose and insatiable thirst for wealth accumulation.

This new culture of maladaptive behavior has changed the model of status symbol in Nigeria, especially among the public office holder. Personal net worth is determined in part by residential location. There is a conscious shift from building houses on rivers or swampy areas to constructing mansions on mountain tops. A phenomenon which promotes unparalleled corruption among those who occupy positions of trust either in the public or the private sector of the economy. This to say the least is detrimental to sustaining a responsible political system. Further attempt to ignore or underscore its perversity will amount to minimizing our nation’s sovereignty.

The Federal Government of Nigeria in collaboration with INEC should engage in public education and awareness campaign about the public officers’ oath of office. The public should be allowed to vote in a referendum to modify the nation’s public officer’s oath of office to include consequences of abuse of public trust. Whereas, the Oaths Act of 2004 enjoined all public officers to bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and place public service above personal interest. Regrettably, public officers have disingenuously and inefficiently conflicted with this oath. According to Dame Carol Ajie – a Civil and Human Rights Advocate,” Nigeria would have been a better society free from shackles of poverty, disease, endemic corruption and mal-governance that has shamefully kept Africa’s giant limping and stumbling, disrespected across the continent”.

For Nigerian nation to disconnect from this unhealthy status-quo enablement, the people should modify the public officer’s oath of office. The oath of office should include the consequence of betrayal of the public trust. Ordinarily, this could have been left to the National Assembly for legislation, but history revealed that the elected representatives have the record of minimizing and “killing” bills that does not promote their interest. Therefore, Nigerians should be allowed to vote in a referendum for this modification; and ensure its entrenchment in the Federal Constitution of Nigeria. It will be another way to check the abuse of public office and hold public officer accountable.

Written by
Tunde Ali
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