April Fools (11): Attack Of The Clones

by Osita Okoroafor

“it is with pious fraud as with a bad action: it begets a calamitous necessity of going on.”
– Thomas Paine

It was just as expected: a case of bad winners and bad losers; the bad blood which characterized the pre-election period is yet to abate even in the post election phase. We have heard tales of victory cakes being wolfed down, champagne glasses clinking and treats aboard FGN001 (Nigerian Air Force One). A host of the governor-elects in the southwest have begun a war of retribution against their yet-to-be predecessors. Ditto in Kwara state. In the wake of reports of electoral fraud from the EU-EOA (European Union- Election Observation Mission, Nigeria 2003), The Commonwealth, the American IRI (International Republican Institute), NDI (National Democratic Institute) the AU (African Union) and other foreign election observers, opposition politicians have been spewing fire and the Federal Government has responded with same gusto. One point is therefore clear from these ‘fire-for-fire’ exchanges: we cannot manage victories and therefore cannot handle defeats.

A cursory look at the major actors in this melodrama would reveal an array of clones of our system of perfidy: Chief Okadigbo ANPP’s vice presidential candidate was Senate President under the PDP and left the party disgruntled in the hour of his waned influence, same goes for Chief Don Etiebet, the party’s national chairman who had contested for the PDP’s presidential ticket in 1999 and lost. Chief Ojukwu APGA’s presidential candidate was a former chairman board of trustees of the APP (which changed its name to ANPP) and Chief Chekwas Okorie APGA chairman was former member of the PDP’s board of trustees. The same mishmash of political characters permeates the rank and file of the other parties and ultimately the Nigerian political terrain. This is proof of a fact that the Nigerian politician wears the same face despite his garb or guise.

Our politics is played for self-relevance and ultimately vengeance, it is never for service and thus the big poser in the just concluded elections: was ANPP any alternative to the ruling PDP? The average Nigerian has become politically sophisticated. He/she observes the intricacies of his governance. He/she monitors the workings of the many political parties. He/she saw the thick plots that characterized the selection processes of the many presidential candidates. And all these helped his/her choice. Whether at all these choices have been made to bear is not the issue here, but were there any choices in the first instance?

I listened to most of the presidential candidates; while many were hell-bent on reminding us of the executive malfeasance of the present government and the myriad ills of our polity (as if we needed any reminding) none proffered any credible solutions to these problems. The few political parties who presented interesting candidates were shortchanged by late registration and incessant courtroom battles with INEC in their bid to obtain a level playing field prior to the elections. In my opinion these political parties stood no chance in swaying a Nigerian electorate, which is very well schooled in the art of voting along ethnic and religious lines. Despite the attractiveness of their candidates, some of these parties should not have contested the elections, they needed a little time to grow, to develop their ideology and woo the electorate with superior manifestoes, but they went ahead to contest an election they had no chance of winning and oh! Are crying foul too. Such things happen only in Nigeria. My sincere hope is that the experience of participating in the recent elections will equip them with veritable political skills to enable them contest and win seats in future elections- that is if they are still in existence come next elections; remember a few compensatory appointments are likely to swing their way, and the party leadership who ordinarily benefit from such appointments are prone to renouncing their creed once they are invited to ‘come and chop’ (my apology to Chief Sunday Afolabi).

It is sad but not shocking that Obasanjo has been returned to power, the more distressing because none of the other 29 parties could present Nigerians with a realistic alternative to Obasanjo’s administrative ineptitudes. The post election frolics of General Buhari must be ignored because the only victory from last Saturday’s presidential and gubernatorial election is that the Nigerian electorate has had the privilege to cast ballots in an election organized by a ruling civilian government for the first time since 1983. It is a gift made the more priceless by the fact that we last enjoyed such luxury 20 years ago. This is a glorious feeling, which even the widespread electoral ‘fraud’ (- no! let’s tone it down a bit and use the word ‘irregularities’) witnessed in some states last Saturday cannot deflate. We have witnessed the triumph of all democratic nations worldwide and must protect this at all cost, not for the sake of our self-seeking politicians, but for our posterity. But will Nigeria succeed in breaking the jinx of its civilian-to-civilian transition?

A host of opposition politicians have avowed their loss of faith in the abilities of INEC to conduct and manage ‘a free and fair election’. Why at this time? Such convictions should have been apparent even before the elections. Hey! Didn’t they see how the hens pecked at their grain? INEC was made cash-strapped and had to go cap in hand, knees on the ground begging for funds from the PDP controlled government. Most INEC officials are political appointees of the PDP. Need I say more? The proper line of action would have been protest withdrawal from the elections and thus detract from its credibility, not to participate and complain later. This might be tantamount to crying over spilt milk, but you never know with the Nigerian politician; he seeks political relevance for one purpose- not to serve, oh no! But to loot. It doesn’t really matter the platform used in arriving this dreamland where the national cake is put to the knife and parceled off to the vaults in Switzerland et al, the fact is to get there at all costs. These men might just be angling for a stake, but you never know who is watching.

President Obasnjo has expressed a sharp distaste for doomsday prophets like myself, but even he cannot fail to grasp the ominous ring in the rabble-rousing antics employed by General Buhari since his loss at the polls last Saturday. I was miffed when the Federal Government indulged a deluge of self-congratulatory messages over the successful conduct of the April 12, and April 19 elections. Permit me to say that conducting polls has never been the problem with Nigeria, but the management of electoral victories and the mass protests attendant with electoral defeats in Nigeria.

I was barely a toddler in 1983, but if my history is correct, similar protests trailed electoral victories that year; FEDECO under Justice Ovie-Whisky (rtd.) was dragged through the mud and the electoral tribunals were inundated with tons of suits, of course Shagari’s government capsized under these waves of protests and Buhari rode the crest of the demise of the second republic to become a Head of state. Does Buhari hope to recreate this painful history through his unguarded utterances? I believe he should know better knowing the volatility of his political base. How serious is he when he asked Obasanjo to quit come May 29? How does he hope to achieve his wish and have Obasanjo’s government declared illegitimate after May 29? Has he forgotten that our last Interim National Government (ING) was the trap door that let in General Abacha?

Please Buhari go to court!!!! It is the only constitutionally guaranteed avenue for seeking redress. Vice President Atiku Abubakar was quoted as saying that Buhari is not a politician (I wonder what he meant by that, I believe everyman has a political mind). I guessed he meant Buhari is not a true democrat and that I tend to agree with. Infact I will take it a step further and aver that: Buhari is a cloned democrat. He is so steeped in his autocratic gene base and only acts true to type when he refuses to subject himself to the authority of the courts, or would he prove me wrong? It is one of the quirks of nature that one of the greatest oppressors of our judicial system and an archenemy of justice would be confined to recourse to the courts as his only avatar in his quest for justice. We who sip daily at the fount of justice know it does not always run pure, but it does run true- most times. Buhari should take his grievances to the election tribunal and if it is justice he truly seeks, then he shall find it. Justice sought through any other means is unacceptable; it can only breach our hard-earned freedom. I seek refuge under Edmund Burke who said: “whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe.” Buhari should resort to the jurisdiction of the judicial system and he would have learnt his first lesson as a democrat: the rule of law is supreme.

I remember the rains. I remember the cold as I stood in the rain waiting to exercise my franchise, not once but twice, on two consecutive Saturdays. I remember a beautiful rainbow of umbrellas all over Lagos, as voters waited to cast their ballot; it is the symbol of hope to which I cling and will not allow any man take away. It is a hope that our democracy will survive, come rain come shine, as we are wont to say.

The PDP has the umbrella as its symbol, yet we know the characters it shields (come to think of it! I have not heard Professor Jerry Gana ‘profess’ the fact that the many voters that shielded themselves with umbrellas (PDP emblem) from the pouring rain did so because of the massive support for a PDP government, especially since these umbrellas appeared everywhere on the electoral result sheet. He might think of it yet, you never know) I would indeed appreciate an insight into the miracle that precipitated a “PDP earthquake” at the polls in view of the massive public disenchantment with the performance of its government. Despite the unavailability of credible choices in most of the other parties, the monumental nature of its victories must astound even the PDP leadership itself, except if the figures had been prematurely gauged on the party’s personal Richter scale.

I have listened to Prof. Gana struggle to deflate the wave of criticisms attendant with the conduct and outcome of the polls especially in the wake of the reports by foreign observers, despite his much worn schizophrenic “dry bone” of a massive gang up against Nigeria by the west and its media, he gave us nothing else to chew on. Oh yes! He did not forget to remind us that it happened in Florida. I dare ask if it happened in Florida does that excuse its repetition in Nigeria? Did he not mean that even the great bastion of democracy is prone to electoral malpractices? So can’t we teach America how it is done, this once? Maybe he meant that the western media did not give the events in Florida ‘when American decided’ the kind of prominence it has given Nigeria’s little problems with disgruntled losers. Hmm! Before we travel down that road, I must ask if the reports from the 30-member strong coalition of local observers under the umbrella of TMG (Transition Monitoring Group) do not amount to anything. TMG did observe some irregularities like ballot stuffing et al, and particularly indicted Rivers and Enugu states for the electoral malpractices of their respective state governments. These two states were equally indicted in the reports of every observer (both local and foreign) for fraudulent practices, though some observers did indict as much as twelve states in their reports.

Yes! the western media seems to have a garish predilection for the sorrows and woes of Africa, but are these not real events? The nightmarish pictures we often see plastered on CNN and BCC whenever Africa is an issue are certainly not from the stables of a deranged Hollywood producer (at least not yet). If we are not so black (oops!) even the best ‘cut and join’ footages cannot adequately paint us in that light (or darkness). I implore our honourable Minister Information and National Orientation to ‘pause and ponder’ before feeding us a neurotic neo-imperialist defense to every negative report about Nigeria from the foreign media, this certainly is not the correct information nor the proper orientation we need on topical issues affecting our polity. How can the Honourable Minister explain the ‘miracle’ in Rivers state where the incumbent governor received over 2.1 million votes from the registered 2.2 million voters in the state, despite the reported low turn out of voters in the state- that I’d rather know sir!

‘That he who asserts must prove’ is a trite doctrine in law and thus the onus shifts to the opposition camp; instead of quoting reports from observers, they must come forward and prove the particulars of fraud observed in the recently concluded elections. It must be established as a fact before the sitting tribunal that there were indeed irregularities of such nature as to warrant the upturning of the election results, and each case must be taken piecemeal. I urge every aggrieved politician to enter the temple of justice and shun every untoward deed or word in his bid to realize ‘a stolen mandate.’ Permit me a shift in dogma to profess a faith in my country for once: I dare say that our democracy might survive just yet- if only we can withstand the attack of political clones.

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