The various national, state and presidential elections in Nigeria have come but they have not yet gone away because we can still hear the shouting matches up and down the country and they are especially louder from Nigerians in the Diaspora. All we can hear from the cacophony of voices is credible, not credible, rigging, no rigging, joke, fraud, 419, etc. The election conundrum reminds one of a Yoruba adage that cautions a person who embarks on a project but has obviously misplaced his priorities. The observing wise person will raise a cautionary question by saying, why do you leave unattended a fatal, virulent chronic skin disease of leprosy that is capable of disfiguring your body in a short time to pursue a cure for simple viral skin ringworm?
The frothing in the mouth, the foul languages, the threat of arson and the bursting of blood vessels in respect of this election particularly among Nigerians in the Diaspora need a little analysis in order to make sense out of it. Nothing sends me scurrying back to my hole than when fellow Nigerians are prepared to draw the fists in verbal or print argument on problems of Nigeria. At that instance, I am covered up in shame and I will ask within me, if these Nigerians know so much and have all the answers, why are they wasting these talents in foreign shores? If only we can save half of the passion and energy, we expend in argument and theoretical analysis for practical actions, what a haven Nigeria would be. However, this is not the case with most Nigerians. We are a people good at grand standing, sounding big and important, eloquent in sophistry, print media scholarship, etc. but where common sense, energy and passion are most needed we have often refused to lift a finger.
My frustration with Nigerians in the Diaspora is based on the simple fact that NIDs are in a vantage position and have the opportunity of comparative advantage to see better and understand better the problems of Nigeria. The opportunity to travel around the world and to have personal experiences of how societies function elsewhere ought to reflect in our analysis of national problems. Unfortunately, as our sojourns abroad lengthens in years, we seem to lose touch with realities of Nigeria. However, this ought not to be the case. As we have mentioned in essays dedicated to NIDs last year, the liberation of Nigeria from the fangs of feudalism and from the leprous fingers of dishonourable politicians would depend wholly on the efforts of awakened NIDs. So far, most NIDs are still sleeping but we sincerely believe they shall soon wake up to face the challenges of rescuing Nigeria.
Just before the start of the election, an Internet friend sent me a mail asking about my views on the forth-coming election in Nigeria. My reply was brief and it was to the effect that the election cannot be anything else but a beautiful mess. My position was based on the evidences on the ground – failed institutions, despondent population, callous and corrupt politicians, absence of defined national moral and ethical standards – this cocktail of social maladies must definitely send a teetotaller spinning in delirium with just a drop of the social concussion. Leaving the moral and ethical questions of Nigerian unanswered, unattended, uncultivated, unplanted and untrimmed when planted and for us to expect the institutions and products that flow out of this moral and ethical jungle shall be anything but raw, brute, barbaric, crooked, ugly and messy is to live in a fool’s paradise.
This writer shall not make the mistake of assuming there are no moral and ethical standards in each family, community and nations of Nigeria but we do not have national common standards. Hence, as soon as each of us crosses the boundary of family or community, our values seem to change. What each family and community would not tolerate in their members at home, they readily condone at the national level. It seems we have atomised our values and reduced them to relativity standards. We know about all the vices and their debilitating social and political consequences to a community or commonwealth but we are yet to rise beyond our local area in the practice of virtues.
All our resistance against vices seems to breakdown as soon as we move out of our local enclave; such behaviours cannot build a nation. To build a nation, there is an inevitable need to build common values, common ethics and common morality. It is a simple process and it shall call for revaluation of our moral codes, concepts and practices as we unify them after truthfully discussing and debating their merits. One of the ideas behind calling for National Sovereign Conferences is to bring out some of these relative values into the open in order to arrive at common denominators. Each family, each community and each nation must come into a common agreement about the meaning and practice of some acceptable moral and ethical codes.
The salient factor that determines whether to rig or not to rig an election is the moral and ethical standard a person or community holds. The stuffing of ballot boxes has never been a one-man affair. It is a community affair. How could a community or the powers that be in a community give support to the practice of stuffing ballot boxes or of repeated multiple voting or permitting under age children to vote in elections? How could members of ethical institutions like the mosque, churches and shrines close their eyes to these atrocities and moral decadence? How can a man who worshipped on Friday at the Jumat prayer condone the rigging of election next day? How could a person who participated in the rigging of election on Saturday feel comfortable to join the faithful on Sunday to sing Hosanna choruses in the Church? If the accusation of rigging elections is true, those who would have participated in the bastardisation of the election processes must definitely be Nigerians with high-sounding holy Christian and Muslim names. Why should that happen among professing religious practitioners?
The breakdown or absence of moral and ethical principles and practices are areas where we need to seek answers. This is not an exclusive national or state affair, these questions are squarely under the jurisdiction of individual Nigerian. It is for each of us to search within ourselves and discover the truth about the irrelevance of the moral and ethical institutions we have built for nurturing our morality and ethical behaviours. If our association with any of the ethical institutions has failed to imbue each Nigerian with the necessary moral and ethical codes and strength to deal with election or other matters concerning honesty, fair play and justice in our communities, are we not wasting valuable human resources when we devote so much time and energy to service and worship these institutions? These are moral questions for each Nigerian. These questions are not meant for INEC or OBJ or Buhari or Ojukwu and other aggrieved candidates alone. They are questions that individual Nigerian must find answers in his/her own way.
Performing a post mortem is a messy affair. It is a high skill scientific and medical process to unravel what killed Cock Robbin. Knowing what killed Cock Robbin will help to prevent the death of other Cock Robbins in future. We must not deny Nigerians this important medical/scientific engagement in the matter of the last election. Thank goodness, patriots of all kinds and pedigree are offering time and energy selflessly to this painful task. Omo Omoruyi’s treatises are fundamental lessons of the politics, planning, management and administration of election. Each of them was a good read and I was thoroughly enlightened by the Internet Open University. Bolaji Aluko’s data crunching endeavours are also equally important since it brings to the open the shenanigan that goes on in the name of electioneering under political parties in a democracy. Many vociferous commentators have not resisted the urge to condemn all those that raised objection or asked questions about the credibility of the elections. Some commentators have tried to point objectors to the path of reality and exigencies. The popular slogan in Nigeria in times like these is ‘let us move the country forward’. We are a nation that always refuses to look back and pick up the necessary lessons of our collective sad experiences and failures. We are always ready to preach forward ever, backward never as a worthwhile national motto.
Now, we must accept the simple fact that whatever INEC did or did not do in the cause of the 2003 elections cannot be more than the available resources and materials at its disposal. From the legislative guidelines drawn for its establishment to the selection and appointment of its executives; from the processes designed for selection and appointment of its personnel and contractors to the eager or apathetic population and to the voluble chattering class ready to point accusing fingers, INEC cannot go beyond the limiting factors that surrounded it. It should be obvious that INEC cannot produce any result better than what we got. If so, why are we then whining and moaning? Do the Scriptures not say we shall reap what we sow? How can we sow untruthfulness and hoping to harvest truthfulness? How can we sow indecency and corruption and hoping to harvest decency and righteousness? How can we sow ungodliness and hoping to reap godliness? These expectations are far beyond what the natural laws can provide and safeguard.
We have learnt from ’eminent’ Statesmen in Nigeria that all the political actors were black kettles and that each black kettle is calling another a black kettle. For those who do not know, black is a synonym of evil in English language. In other words, the political actors are all evil kettles calling each other evil. No matter the degree of evilness, evil will remain as evil. What shall we do about this evil? Shall we live with it or shall we throw it out? Nigerians have to make choice and to my mind, we should not tolerate evil in Nigeria no matter how desperate and despondent we have become.
Enlightened Nigerians are fully aware that systems and structures have a way of conditioning its constituent parts to act in a particular format. If we agree that the present political structure has more to do with the endemic problems in the body polity, why are we putting up all kinds of resistance against doing something about it? Must we wait until the structure finishes us all to the last person whom we shall request to put out the light behind him/her? At present we seem bent on committing hara-kiri even though we know what is inducing us to a collective suicide pact, yet we are refusing to act. For us to believe that the ill-fated political structure of Nigeria will self-correct or self-adjust itself is a foolish hope. Man created the political system of Nigeria, if it becomes moribund and it is threatening to destroy us as it is now, it behoves on us to dismantle it and reconstruct it. This is the path of common sense, truth and honour.
Fellow Nigerians, on this score and this score alone I will like to join other Nigerians who are saying let us move on. Let us accept the result of this election with all its warts, drabness and ugliness. This does not mean we should foreclose all the legal and administrative avenues to unravel the decadence we called election. This is not the first time in our history that politicians have hoodwinked us but we can make it the last time. Let us accept this particular result because that is the best we can do under the present circumstance. Let us focus on the real issue about how to sanitise our political, social and economic environments. Let us search for ways and means by which we can make this environment conducive to life, development and progress. Let us ask among ourselves, how can we reconstruct our political, social and economic environments and turn them into potent catalysts for human creativity and excellence? These are achievable objectives if only we can start now. It is possible to achieve them with good results in the next four years.
We need to remember and recognise that those who couched and designed the present Nigerian political, economic and social environments did it for the business of cake sharing and never for cake baking. As a result, this environment until it is changed shall forever be producing little Oliver Twists, who shall always be asking for more. We need to construct a new political environment that can produce little Einsteins, little Isaac Newtons, little Michael Faradays, little Billy Gates, and more little Philip Emeagwalis etc. We can choose to fight over this election until the kingdom comes, it will be like a fight over split milk. If Nigerians are still desirous to stay together as a federated nation, we must move on to the national sovereign conference. However, if our instinct desires to break up the country, why not, let us begin the election fight and the brouhaha in a big way until victors and vanquished emerge with bruised and battered faces. We have a chance to make good and reasonable choices. The ball is in our courts and the timekeeper is counting. We should make hay while the sun shines before the timekeeper shouts with a loud voice, Time Out!
On my part, I shall continue to join voices with patriotic Nigerians who are singing the melodious song of National Sovereign Conference. I have no doubt in my mind that the NSC project is a laudable project. It has promises to sanitise the political, social, and economic environment of Nigeria. We have another opportunity of four years to put into motion every tool, every brain, every passion and energy to organise the NSC. I have faith that it is a viable project capable of resolving the national moral and ethical questions of equality, liberty and justice for all. Until we can do this, we shall only be battling with social ringworm while fatal political leprosy eats up the body polity of Nigeria.
In the Spirit of truth
SAM ABBD ISRAEL
A Concerned Common Nigerian