Nigeria Matters

Elections In Nigeria: A Case For Option A4

The Umaru Yar’Adua’s government has, like its predecessors, started moving in cycles. As far as I can discern, we are going on a dubious merry-go-round. I cannot fathom why a self-proclaimed “servant-leader” and a graduate of whatever ideological persuasion, cannot skim through our history and start acting decisively. I read he was of the radical school of thoughts, but his actions so far tend to prove the contrary. He should hearken to Edmund Burke’s voice that “all that it takes for evil men to take over society and poison it, is for righteous men to stand aloof and do nothing”. If Yar’Adua is a righteous man, let him start acting now and let the heavens fall if they want to. He should dismantle those interest groups that have held Nigeria hostage. He has been in the system long enough to pretend not to know them.

I am not shocked by the scandals and figures coming out of the Elumelu panel on PHCN neither are Nigerians. For God’s sake, these figures are capable of killing the healthy brain cells of any sincere, passionate and patriotic Nigerian. They are stroke-inducing figures. [Un] fortunately, Nigerians are used to these razzmatazz. They have, over the years, developed shock absorbers as a form of defence mechanism. They absorb every evil inflicted on them by their leaders, with “philosophical calmness,” thus it has always been business as usual.

The late brilliant journalist, Dele Giwa, as far back as I can recall, once wrote in one of his columns in the now defunct CONCORD newspapers that Nigeria is God’s experiment in the impossible.” What an established sarcasm! More than 20 years after his brutal death, the assertion still stands the test of our inglorious time. One ex-president even boasted, to his own derision, that he had, during his appalling tenure in office, applied all economic theories to the Nigerian economy, and was surprised that the economy did not collapse. In other words, he applied those theories, not to improve the economy, but to deliberately and consciously destroy it. But he never knew that Nigeria is being guided to a particular destination, by a strong spiritual hand. A spiritual principle most Nigerian leaders with ossified and congealed brains, have failed to discern and comprehend.

When the late chief Bola Ige, was appointed the Minister of Mines and Power in 1999 by Obasanjo, he personally looked into why NEPA was not performing to full capacity. He submitted the report to President Obasanjo. In a snippet of that report which Ige released to the press, he strongly blamed NEPA contractors and generator sellers for the problems of NEPA. What action was taken and where is the report? Since Obasanjo was afraid to act on the report because he did not want to offend certain interest groups who, perhaps, contributed in some way to his election, can Yaradua, David Mark ,and Dimeji Bankole be bold enough to act on it? Why set up the Godwin Elumelu led panel on the PHCN, when the previous panel report was not acted on? When is Nigeria going to be governed by serious-minded politicians? Is the country jinxed? Perhaps if that report was acted on, the present scandal daily bombarding our ears would have been nipped in the bud. Today, Bola Ige has been vindicated (and murdered). NEPA or PHCN is not working because contractors don’t want it to work. QED! So, what concerned Nigerians should be addressing is: what drastic measures should be taken to save the PHCN?

The Elumelu panel should please be disbanded to save public cost. Nigerians are tired of these kangaroo panels. With the calibre of people involved in this scandal, the report will not go anywhere. What Yaradua, David Mark, and Bankole need is the courage and political will to do what is good for Nigerians without caring whose ox is going to be gored. They should merge Bola Ige’s report with the emerged scandals, and start acting. They should stop playing chess with the patience of the people. History will not forgive them if they refuse, during their tenure, to do what is right and just in the eyes of the people. And if their hands are tied {which is a common excuse by our leaders} they should resign en-mass. To resign from a position of power and authority is not a thing of shame. African leaders and politicians see resignations as an act of shame or failure that should not be countenanced. It is not true; rather it is a mark of honour.

This brings me to the main topic, which is the electoral reform panel. Like the Elumelu panel, the panel is a smokescreen. Nothing will come out of it and, I plead to submit that I was surprised by the roles of all the opposition political parties in the run up to the April 2007 elections. They knew what happened in the elections of 1964, 1979, 1983, 1999 and 2003 and yet did not take concrete steps to avoid the blatant repeat of those failures inherent in the electoral system. There were no guaranteed safe guards put in place by INEC except sugar-coated professorial speeches and lectures laced with propaganda. So, because of their desperation to take over from Obasanjo and thwart the third term agenda, the parties went into that election with the erroneous assumption that all would be well. The shambled elections are being overturned by judges in most states and Nigeria just keeps dithering.

The presidential election’s judgement has made a bad situation, worse. To me, what was at stake before the judges were social justice for the people and, the nation’s honour and integrity in the international community. If the judgement was passed in public interest [for that is what it seemed], the danger implicit in it, is that the beneficiaries would rig again at that level, believing that the judiciary would pass another judgement “in the interest of the public.” The Guardian newspaper editorial commentary on the judgement dated March 5th, 2008 captured a few mud swings of the nation. Says the Guardian “…the tribunal sought to confer legitimacy on an election that was universally considered fraudulent.” To me, the tribunal did not “sought“, rather it conferred legitimacy on the most fraudulent elections conducted in that country.

Besides, this is a dangerous precedent and a clarion call for anarchy during subsequent elections. I can assure the readers that one day, just one day, the patience of the oppressed and the electorate will snap and my pity goes to whoever is in power. What happened in Kenya would be a child’s play. Perhaps it is worth recalling at this point the Kenyan experience. The opposition leader Raila Odinga, said in one of his interviews that the people took the law into their hands because, as at the time the new election was being conducted, the election dispute of 2002 was still in court. The Kenyan court was procrastinating until the present election came and we’ve seen its attendant mayhem. So this time around Rome decided to burn. The people decided to be the judge and the executioner.

The Nigerian Guardian editorial then went on to submit that “what is clear from the outcome of the presidential election petition so far is that law alone cannot enthrone a fraud-free and transpar

ent electoral process in Nigeria.” The paper then called for a review of the electoral laws. A review is not the problem. We have to look into electoral conducts of field officers, abuse of sacred ballot papers, abuse of sacred ballot boxes and abuse of security apparatuses by the ruling political party. We have enough laws. What we need is the will power to enforce them. Lawyers are just eating the country dry. They are creating more problems with their dubious interpretations of the laws they have helped in the first instance to draft. It is time for the people to stand up and help to re-create their own laws and interpret it themselves. This is not a call for anarchy for we are already in a state of anomie.

In all, the editorial never made a recommendation of any electoral option as if we have had none. Do we really as a nation, learn from history? The answer is an emphatic NO! Since the sixties, I can say that with the exception of the 12th June 1993 election, none has been held in Nigeria that had not left on its trails; mass deaths, “petals of blood“, arson and thuggery, blatant rigging, manipulations and the doctoring of result sheets. None! The surreal tendency is that we end up heaping “together the mistakes of our lives and then create a monster called destiny” {ala Tai Solarin}. Oh yes, Yar’Adua is destined to rule! It is his destiny! Destiny created through a perfectly executed electoral fraud! Most advanced countries are advanced because they learn from their history and improve their countries based on past and learned experiences, but in Africa, our leaders don’t. As a result, history continues to repeat itself in the most absurd and deleterious manner and, with painful and devastating consequences.

Perhaps as a participant observer on the 12th June 1993 election, I will like to chronicle the option A4 electoral process for the benefit of Nigerians who did not know about it. On that day, an election was held in Nigeria between the Social Democratic Party {SDP} and the National Republican Convention {NRC}. The late Chief MKO Abiola, purportedly murdered by the state machinery, was the presidential candidate of the SDP while Alhaji Bashir Tofa was the NRC candidate. The election went well. There were no ballot papers, neither were there ballot boxes. All that the electorates were asked to do was to go to their voting centres, check their names on the electoral register and wait until it was time for voting. We had one of our thumbs inked for easy identification during voting.

When it was time, every electorate was asked to queue up behind his or her candidate‘s poster. The counting of the voters was done by the electoral officer accompanied by the representatives of SDP and NRC. It was then entered in a result sheet, which, if I may still recall, was in triplicate. It was signed by both the electoral officer and the representatives of the two political parties. The returning officer took his copy and the representatives of the parties took theirs. They returned to the electoral headquarters with their respective results where all results were being collated. At the headquarters, the SDP and NRC representatives gave their results to their party representatives respectively, while the electoral officer gave his to his boss. The signatures were verified and figures cross checked and entered. Simple! That was the operational modus of option A4 in 1993.

Now, it is pertinent to remind readers at this juncture, that this option was the brainchild of Professor Humphrey Nwosu [who was then the National Electoral Commission Chairman], in consultations with Prof. Omo- Omoruyi [who was the Director-General of the Centre for Democratic Studies], and Prof. Akinyemi{then Minister of External Affairs]. However, most of the nitty-gritty was done by Professor Nwosu. The system was developed and opted for, to avoid the repeat of our past notoriety in vote rigging, illegal thumb printing of ballot papers, illegal stuffing of ballot boxes, bloodletting, and manipulation. There were no ballot papers for people to dubiously thumb print on in the bushes, nor were there ballot boxes to be conveyed around in questionable circumstances. The physical presence of the electorate was used and was used to great effect.

The results were declared at state capitals after a collation from the wards to the council headquarters and on, to the state capitals. At the state capitals, all the party agents have the results in their hands, which were also transmitted to the SDP and NRC party headquarters. The only state result, out of the 36 states, which was withheld, was Taraba State, while the rest 35 states’ results were known. What remained to be done was for Prof. Nwosu to announce the results in Abuja and declare the winner. Just while he was about to do that, a macabre dance started unfolding before our eyes. One of the maximum leaders of “the forest of a thousand demons” decided to unleash his demons on the country.

The then Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida, out of relative slumber coupled with a mixture of supreme arrogance, decided to play out his evil by annulling the best election ever conducted in the annals of our history. The International Observer Groups had described that election as the best, and praised the ingenuity of the professors who invented option A4. All entreaties to that Gestapo regime of Babangida to de-annul the election fell on deaf ears. His complete incompetence was on display. He ended up telling Nigerians, having disgracefully left office, that he was “born to dominate his environment”. That annulment was a coup against the electorate, an act of violence against the masses and an unpardonable insult to all of us. The rest of what happened is now history deposited on the banks of rivers Niger and Benue.

When General Abdusallami Abubakar took over after the death of Abacha, Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief. We had thought the election would be de-annulled and announced but it was never to be. Chief Abiola, who had won that unique election, died during Abubakar’s tenure in office and in the confusion that followed, Abubakar called for another election. He abandoned option A4 and reverted to our old kill-and-go method. What happened in the election of 1999 between Olu Falae and Obasanjo is also better left for history. Today, Nigeria is neither moving forward nor backwards. A country, Chinweizu, in the Guardian of 24th June 2005, rightly called a “noyau: A country in which its citizens like to hate themselves… a society of inward antagonism, one in which members would not survive if it had no fellow member to hate”. What a description!

My question to Nigerians is simple: what happened to option A4? I can bet here that if that option was used between Obasanjo and Olu Falae in 1999, the later would have defeated the former without doubts. And subsequent elections, conducted on that basis, would have produced popular leaders and not political wolves in sheep clothing. But Falae {himself} never pressed for the use of the option neither did the political parties that took part in the sham elections of 2007. They knew how transparent the option was and yet they failed to shout for it. The Nigerian Press did not even help matters. They also failed to mobilise support and yell for that option. Today, the chickens have come home to roost.

Said Jean-Paul Sartre, “uneasy consciences” are now “caught up in their own contradictions.” Again, I posit this question; what happened to our home grown option A4 electoral system? Why should a country as big as Nigeria continue to behave like a compound fool? Why must we be moving in vicious cycles? Perhaps, the answers could be gleaned in Areoye Oyebola’s book ;THE BLACKMAN’S DILEMMA, Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo’s book; WHAT IS WRONG WITH BEING BLACK, or Reuben Abati’s article in the GUARDIAN of 13th March 2005 entitled; CONFESSIONS OF A SERIAL KILLER [the Black Eagle Cartel cult]: A cult that conveys a lot about the ritualistic hubris of our dare devil politicians.

I had watched on television, with undisguised glee, where Professor Maurice Iwu opened his mouth and said his electronic system was better than option A4. That is a knowing lie! I guess he was in America when the option was used in 1993. What one had expected the professor to do whilst in office was to try and improve on option A4. But his intellectual pride and jealousy to a system he did not invent or participate in inventing, played out itself. He failed to bury his pride by not canvassing to use that option and the nation paid dearly for it. Today, he is busy, going about, intellectualising his failure. Even my mum, with her native intelligence, knows that Maurice was a colossal failure. He should be removed before he transforms into a more dynamic dangerous phlegm.

So, in as much as we continue to use ballot papers and ballot boxes, elections would continue to be rigged in Nigeria. I rest my case! Any Nigerian who is tired of the mess in that country should go to and register to join and contribute ideas and solutions {not gossips} to our myriad of problems. We should stop whining and start acting! “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny,” says Prof. Wole Soyinka.


  1. Good piece, if only our leaders will learn. With option A4, most of our electoral malpractices would have been reduced to a reasonable proportion. The ruling elites know that they cannot manipulate it, thus the failure to adopt it. The civil society should start clamouring for it now before the 2011 election.


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