Nigeria’s 2011 Presidential Poll: What If The Vote Goes Otherwise?

This morning, I heard the Voice of America radio-broadcast comment on Nigeria’s April 16, 2011 presidential poll in Nigeria; a mammoth crowd cheered Buhari, another multitude embraced Jonathan , most people envision Ribadu . All foretell how the poll may cause almost all concerned to avert their eyes on the Africa’s populous black nation; Nigeria. Whether it is an election or a war, the aftermath is Nigeria will strengthen us.

Nigeria has made great strides since it gained independence from the British in 1960. Civil-War torn and ravaged by inter-ethnic prejudice, it has been able to transform itself into a state with democratic elections and 5%-plus growth over the past decade. The emergence of an active private sector anchored by oil exports, and the utilization of its own natural gas reserves has greatly improved living standards. The press has substantial freedom and critique of the state is permitted to a great degree. Furthermore, Nigeria is in line with its UN Millennium Development goals as of its 2020 assessment.

However, despite these successes, Nigeria is a state in peril. Honesty and accountability among government officials may be desired, but the populace holds little hope for amelioration as a culture of bribe taking and obstruction has engulfed every aspect and level of public service. Furthermore, there is a fundamental lack of a social contract that binds members of the society through the recognition of a common standard of behaviour and mutual respect. With the rapid rise of urbanization in the twentieth century, people have been removed from local ties of respect and mutual support that operate in the villages and find themselves in.

Moreover, the intransigence of the bureaucracy makes it nearly impossible to hold political leaders accountable for making good on their campaign promises. Nor will it allow for the improvement of sectors that would allow the government to deliver socially beneficial services such as education, healthcare and a general rule of law. So long as the bureaucracy is likely to impede any initiatives, how can the leaders be criticized for failing to deliver on their pledges? So the transformation of the bureaucracy from obstructionist independent agents to facilitative agents of a centralized state organization is necessary to establish accountability within the political system.

The judiciary and law enforcement agencies present additional problems. In Nigeria, the judiciary is placed under the management of the executive. Politicization of the judiciary is greatly hampering its ability to dispense impartial decisions. Such a captive judiciary is incapable of providing a neutral arena for protecting the interests of the populace. Those with the greatest influence obtain favorable rulings regardless of the rule of law.

Getting rid of election violation is both the constitutional duty of government as well as the prevailing police behavior. As government employees, police should maintain political neutrality and election laws. Their attempt to back out of it, claiming they never sent the monitors to their front line officers, despite clear proof, takes a lot of nerve. It is also difficult to understand how the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), is working to block proper activity by voters, such as a double thumb-printing , rival party confrontations, is not budging for this major transgression. There is no other way to interpret this situation than to wonder if multiple organizations in the government are more desperate for the ruling party to win than for holding a clean election.

Many of Nigeria’s political shortcomings can be traced back its origins. The area of West African sub-Sahara that is now Nigeria is not an old society. Apart from early population centers in Calabar, Onitsha and Kano, to name the largest, most of the region was an uncultivated wild well into the eighteenth century. It is not until the second-half of the nineteenth century that the process of a bad, the reclamation of jungle, had transformed the majority of untamed land into villages and arable land. In the two centuries prior, jungle clearing projects resulted in hundreds of small, largely independent communities only loosely tied to the state and urban society through absentee landlords and their revenue organizations, over which the Kanuris, and later British, administration had little direct control or oversight. Despite numerous changes in administrations from the Ahmadu Seku, through the Tafawa Belewa, from British to independent Nigeria, under military rule or civil authority, this nation has resisted consolidation and the emergence of a viable social contract.

A decade and a half within a democratic system has not yet brought solutions to a number of governance shortfalls. These include widespread corruption, lack of independent judicial prerogative, an absence of accountability among elected officials, and bitter oppositional tactics between the two dominant parties the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and the Action Congress Of Nigeria (ACN) among others which stifles any opportunity for meaningful political reform. Yet states are persistent things. Recognition from the international community, bilateral agreements, and representation in multilateral organizations provide even struggling states with a measure of durability, such that in many cases governmental shortcomings prove insufficient to bring collapse or meaningful reform. Yet even granting that, Nigeria has treaded dangerously on serious governance breakdown.

Problems with the state bureaucracy, judiciary and law enforcement, legislature, parties and the political process, and dependence on the intercession of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for the delivery of services threaten the very relevance of the Government of Nigeria. Foremost among the troubles facing Nigeria is the intransigence of the state bureaucracy, which suffers from a high degree of corruption and bribe taking at every level. Fraud among government officials reaches back, past the British period, to the time of the Kanuri’s and the Nri’s. Further incentives for this behavior were established early on in independent Nigeria.

With the advent of oil-economy, Nigeria became encouraged and subsidized higher education as a path to development. The unfortunate outcome was the matriculation of thousands Nigerians who could not find employment due to insufficient economic growth in a non-existent private sector. The state intervened and absorbed these graduates into the bureaucracy in superfluous positions. As a result, it has become impossible for the state to pay sufficient wages and benefits for its employees to provide for themselves and their families without obtaining extra income. In essence, the Nigerian bureaucracy does not act as a centralized organization, but as a group of independent agents whose positions provide them with an opportunity to make a living through demands for gifts.

Corruption retards growth. The danger with this system is that Nigerian bureaucrats must stand in the way of growth, unlike bureaucrats in developed states, for only through creating obstacles does the possibility of bribery arise. It is not simply that the Nigerian Government lacks sufficient leverage over its bureaucrats at every level (although is certainly does), but that the government cannot provide an environment in which bribe-taking is not a necessity. Constituency project fund is being taken for the families of the bureaucrats to eat. Furthermore, bureaucrats understand that should there be sustained economic growth in Nigeria, they themselves would have to operate more efficiently, thus diminishing their opportunities for demanding bribes. Economic growth is simply not in the bureaucrats best interests.And there is a wild card in the presidency. Incumbent President Jonathan was mild at the PDP primary by a tea Arewa-backed Atiku candidacy with fairly radical views in his mind. He was running as the northern consensus candid

ate.

If Dr. Goodluck Jonathan secures the mandate — and that, too, could take a spontaneous to decide in Nigeria — his intentions are clear. The PDP leadership obvious rallied around him after her primary victory. He might want to stay an independent and caucus with the party that makes him.

Because of an unusual number of competitive ethnicity, religious affinity, third-party spoilers and mail-in ballots that must be verified in tight races,; it could take “days, ” before we know who will pick the president.If it is months, that could take the indecision past the May 29 date for the hand-over. Certainly no one in politics wants to relive a congressional version of the June 12, 1993 presidential election recount. Unfortunately, opinions about legitimacy – all around – generally have more to do with one’s preferred path forward than with reality in Nigeria.

The suspiciously neat denouement to an April 9 election in which fully a third of the votes “cast” for the ruling party were determined to be fraudulent could give President Goodluck Jonathan one last chance to rethink radically – i.e., in a way that gets to the root of the situation – what Nigeria posture in Africa should be.

To put it clearly, this matter is not one that can be skipped over evasively. The facts must be uncovered as to issued these orders and how and the way in which the information obtained was reported and used. Those involved must also receive stern punishment. If these things are not addressed, the government will be unqualified to talk of holding a clean election.

Tense is visibly irritating the north who took a stern line with the military government. We will refuse the temptation to respond in anger in the April 16 presidential poll because we have a responsibility to focus on the mandate we give to our leaders. Many ruling-party members have given up hope of victory should the results, as widely expected, force a second round of balloting between President Goodluck Jonathan and challenger Mohamadu Buhari of the CPC, sources in the party said. Most now see their best hope as a government of national unity, said the sources.

The failure of the two CPC factions to unite with the ACN before the elections could cost Buhari’s followers an outright majority in the Presidential poll since about 32 political parties have endorsed President Jonathan. His wing may 90% of the poll. The smaller CPC group took 10% of the national assembly seats last Saturday while backing a ruling-party defector, Nuhu Ribadu, in the presidential race. Buhari insisted Monday that Ribadu should step down because of the Arewa desperation to rule but in a parliamentary democracy, the majority rule is there any need for Ribadu to concede that he cannot be president? In fact, under Nigeria’s constitution the winner of the presidential contest, not the party that wins the parliamentary majority, has the right to form a government.

The constitution calls for a second round of voting in a presidential election if no candidate wins 50 percent plus one, and independent tallies suggest that Buhari has failed to reach that goal. But he has ruled out participating in a run-off round if the need arises.

The Government of Nigeria must show political will in implementing domestic laws and regional and international instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory and urgently reform state institutions which have become partisan and partial in the discharge of their duties. In signing the GPA the principals recognized the multiple threats to the well-being of the people of Nigeria, the polarization, divisions, conflict and intolerance that characterized the socio-political environment in the past and undertook to take effective measures to stop, remedy and ensure non-recurrence of these violations. This is a first step in the recognition and respect for all human rights. But neither rhetoric nor white paper commitment to upholding human rights can stop abuses. Government must translate its promises into action. The culture of impunity must be stopped and perpetrators brought to book – this is the surest way of arresting human rights violations.

Written by
L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu
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