The Season Of Reason: Time To Move Forward

by Akintokunbo A Adejumo

“The rule of the many by the few, we call tyranny. The rule of the few by the many (democracy) is tyranny also, only of a less intense kind”- Herbert Spencer

“In a dictatorship you must pay attention to what you say. In a democracy you can say what you want… the most important thing is that you do not try to demonstrate I”. – Dario de Judicibus

“Democracy is the only system that persists in asking the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be”. – Sydney J. Harris

Democracy is a very admirable form of government — for dogs – Edgar Allan Poe

“Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates”.Gore Vidal

“Democracy has turned out to be not majority rule but rule by well-organized and well-connected minority groups who steal from the majority”. – Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

The Nigerian General Elections 2007 has come and gone, but the effects are still reverberating all across the country, and indeed, around the world. Writers of diverse opinions have written about the fairness or unfairness, freeness or otherwise of the exercise. Some have labelled it as an exercise in futility, and probably rightly so. Prophets of doom, who had been predicting the disintegration of the country, are a bit quiet, though still disgruntled. Winners are already planning their strategies, some of them on how to loot the treasury, some of them with good intentions for their country and their states. The important thing is that the election held, contrary to the fears of patriotic Nigerians and the propaganda of the protagonists of the current administration – a partial victory for democracy and Nigeria.

With only a few days to the handover to a new government, we are still hearing belligerent and disgruntled voices threatening brimstone and fire, some very unpatriotic elements calling for the elections to be annulled and then either we have a new elections or to install an Interim National Government at the Federal level. (Why don’t we have interim governments in every states of the federation too?) I must admit that when reports of the conduct and results of the elections were coming in, I was very disappointed, bitter and inclined to blame everything on Obasanjo and Maurice Iwu and whoever I think is associated with the conduct of this flawed elections. However, I decided that I should not jump to conclusions such as many writers and opinion leaders are. This was a time for review, reflection, analysis and cool heads. I must not jump on the bandwagon of people who do not criticise constructively or who fail to be positive or who will not compromise because of their biases and alternate agenda. I take a very dim view of such approach.

Nothing can be more asinine than calls for another election or an interim government or indeed, those calling for Yar’Adua to relinquish his mandate, echoed by respected personalities and several previously unknown groups, e.g. a group calling itself Alliance for Credible Elections. However we know that those calling for these completely useless and regressive exercises have their agenda, which in most cases are not in tune with those of the generality of Nigerians. I can understand calls for a rerun of elections in certain states, but not at the national level. Again let it be known that I am not a card-carrying member of any political party in Nigeria, although I do support any party as the circumstances dictate. For example, I am inclined to like ANPP in my home state of Oyo, while I would have loved AC to win in Ekiti, Edo, Osun, Ogun, Ondo and Delta States and happy for AC to grab Lagos State, and comfortable with the PDP winning in Adamawa, Cross River and at the Federal level. All I desire are the best and committed, sincere and honest people to rule Nigeria. I am not partisan in the least. In fact, as I have written before, non of the Nigerian political parties meet the ideological and moral conditions required of political parties all over the world.

That the 2007 Elections were beset by massive rigging, electoral corruption and malpractice is no longer news, nor is it a strange phenomenon as some people will have us believe. But who and who rigged? Was it only the ruling PDP? Which of the political parties or individual politicians in that election did not rig or attempt to rig? Are you telling me that Orji Kalu’sPPA did not rig in Abia State or that Obanikoro’s PDP did not try to rig in Lagos State and yet lost? What were the roles of the opposition parties respectively in the rigged elections? Were Obasanjo and INEC Chairman, Maurice Iwu the only architects of the flawed elections? What roles did our people themselves have to play in this dangerous farce? Would we rather have a flawed election than no elections at all? Can we imagine if everybody had played into Obasanjo’s hands inadvertently and the elections had to be postponed or even called off indefinitely, thereby letting the President have his Third Term?

I am not a supporter of flawed and rigged elections in my country or in any democracy. I will never be. I also abhor corruption in any form, and this flawed election is corruption of the highest order, as indeed most past elections in Nigeria since independence. However, the fact that elections held is a show of commitment to the principles of democratic governance in Nigeria by the people of Nigeria. Even in established democracies all over the world, elections have never been perfect or a hundred percent without hitches and unfairness, not to talk about our nascent democracy, which is fraught with inconsistencies and imperfections. Again this is not an excuse, but rather the reality that we as human beings are not perfect. Therefore if Man is not perfect, why should we expect that all the things he does will be perfect? Why should Nigerians be any different? According to the laws of evolution, human beings evolved from the lowliest form of life, and we are still in those throes of evolutionary development.

What with the irresponsible utterances and damaging actions of several top politicians and notable, respected personalities prior to the elections, I had thought we would not even have the elections at all. Such unguarded utterances like “This is a do or die election for the PDP” from the President himself (though he later said he was quoted out of context); or the chest beating of the Vice President, Abubakar Atiku “No elections without me”, “Nobody can ban me”, “It is a fight to the finish” or other inane and insane phrases like “I am ready to go to prison” (Ngige) or “I am ready to die to get my mandate”. With such irresponsible utterances, I was apprehensive that there won’t be any elections, since I do not know what firepower these people have and what they can do to disrupt the elections or totally terminate our democracy. But then, there we have it, there was an election as indeed Atiku’s name finally had to appear on the ballot papers.

I wonder what would have happened if the Supreme Court had not ordered that Atiku’s name be included in the ballot. Would there have been a civil war or anarchy of some sort or a coup-d’etat? Or would there not have been an election as threatened by the AC? In a previous article, I had actually prayed that Obasanjo and Nigerians should let Atiku run for the Presidency he so much coveted, and look what happened, he came a distant third. I am confident that rigging or no rigging, Atiku could not have won any elections in Nigeria. He even lost in his own ward in Adamawa State. So the Atiku Enigma has been finally laid to rest. If he wants to go the Electoral Tribunal, I wish him and his cohorts the best of luck. But he should not start shouting from the UK and the US, where he is now. I bet we wont see him in Nigeria before and after 29th May 2007. Always an excuse to be out of the country when the heat is on.

As Akin Osuntokun, Political Adviser to the President stated “The fact that these elections took place at all is a plus for Nigeria. Yes it has fallen short of expectations but it is far from being the worst case scenario. With all its flaws these elections significantly at the national level has responded to three major concerns-which had tended to be obscured and minimized by the context of globalization within which the election had be judged and evaluated. First is the jinx of transfer of power from one elected civilian government to another. Second is the successful management of political cleavages and consolidation of North/South reciprocity on power-sharing. Third is the mitigation of the Niger Delta rebellion resulting from the integration of the region into the Presidential ticket in the choice of Dr Goodluck Jonathan as running mate to Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua”

One of the problems, if I can call it a problem, that we have as a people is our innate inability to accept defeat graciously or to be magnanimous in victory. Nigerians are very poor political losers. Mind you, this unfortunate trait is not unique to Nigerians. It is a characteristic of under-developed nations of Africa and most parts of Asia, but like I always contend, I am not concerned about the rest of the world. My primary concern, at least for now, is that of my country, Nigeria. We have to pick the log in our own eyes before we pick the little bit of sawdust in other’s eyes. It does not matter how that election was conducted or the result called, there would still have been massive protests at the outcome. Even the no-hoper candidates got in on the act. Every party wanted to defeat the ruling PDP on their own, instead of unifying to fight a common enemy. Everybody had their own ego and wanted to flex muscles or place themselves into contentions for political largesse or positions. Most of our politicians have the “scorched earth” syndrome; “if I cant get there at all cost, then you must not get there too” or ”if I cant have my way, then I will destroy everything so there wont be anything for you to get to too”. Such is the attitude of negative, little men, the way of the shallow-thinking, corrupt politicians, bent on destruction, never progressive and always looking to cut corners to achieve insignificance couched in mediocrity.

Since the end of the elections, I have been trawling through numerous damning, vitriolic and negative reports and articles by supposedly concerned Nigerians, home and abroad. Some calling for new elections, some calling for Obasanjo’s and Iwu’s heads, some calling for interim governments and what not. One writer even cast aspersions on his fellow Nigerians, insulting them and calling them contemptible if they accept the election results. What does this writer want? Another war? And I thought to myself: are these people serious? Do they really have the interest of the country in mind or just looking after their own interests or answering to some faceless disgruntled politicians and stakeholders who are bent on not seeing Nigeria’s democracy survive because their interests are being jeopardised? After all said and done, while the “referees” of the USA, UK and EU and other external and internal election monitoring bodies all said the elections were flawed, they all still heaved a collective sigh of relief that the elections held and Nigeria did not descend into anarchy as previously predicted. They were quick to congratulate the President-elect.

Isn’t it instructive and notable that since the flawed elections, it is on record that more countries and multinational companies are now flooding to Nigeria to invest massively in the economy? Nigerian banks are now opening branches in Western countries and there is even greater trust and confidence in our economy than before the elections. The multinationals have not packed their bags and go, and the Nigerian capital markets has not crashed, in fact it is growing stronger. They must know something that we don’t.

Hear what Nigeria2day Online published on 9th May 2007

“Foreign investors are mostly upbeat about opportunities in Nigeria despite political uncertainty generated by elections last month that were widely condemned as fraudulent, fund managers and bankers say. Outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo, whose free-market reforms launched since 2003 have been popular with investors, is due to hand over on May 29 to Umaru Yar’Adua, who has said he will continue the reform process. Yar’Adua’s election was deemed “not credible” by international observers who reported widespread vote-rigging, but investors said the fact that there had been an election, no matter how flawed, was reassuring to them. “The worst case scenario didn’t happen. We didn’t have anarchy. The market likes that,” said John Niepold, portfolio manager at U.S. investment firm Emerging Markets Management, which has more than $100 million in Nigerian equities”.

Why do we always have to see and emphasise the negative aspects of our polity, country and democratic experiment? Why can’t we accept that at least, history is being made by one government actually conducting an election (flawed or not) and will subsequently hand over to another government, albeit the same political party and sometimes with the factor of the incumbent involved? Can we not see the bigger picture and get ready to make necessary changes to our democracy by the next elections in 2011? We must learn from mistakes – experience is the name men give to their mistakes, they say – and be ready to not to make the same mistakes in future.

Yes, no doubt about it, some unwanted and unsavoury politicians got themselves either back or forced themselves in, and this will always happen at every future election, but I think Nigerians have demonstrated that it will not be business as usual for them. Some outgoing governors are already planning their escapes after they lose their immunity, but the borders are being watched by the EFCC. Some of them have also installed mutants and puppets who they hope, will cover their arse, so to speak. So it is obvious that some wrong people got elected via rigging and some were retained in their posts via the same rigging. The elections was therefore by no means perfect, fair or free, as I have agreed. But is anarchy the alternative? No. Some of them might be in now, but may be chucked out by impeachments or the Hands of God. One thing for sure, Nigerians and God are watching them. It is no longer business as usual, as Obasanjo, Ribadu and our ever improving and impressive Judiciary have established, and we should continue to let that work in the favour of the downtrodden Nigerian masses. Our National Assembly have also shown over the past eight years that they are not a mere rubberstamp of the Presidency. That is our only hope. Anarchy will not work. As a matter of fact, we should be thankful that some of these dubious political nonentities did not manage to get through. That is one of the fallouts from flawed elections. Some idiots will get through but the majority of the idiots will not. Those idiots that did get through will be exposed for the charlatans and corrupt people that they are and we, the people, should be able to deal with them.

When politicians do not derive their power and position from the people, and instead force their way into governance through corrupt means, they do not last. Political power must be derived from the people, not from godfathers or via rigged elections. If such powers are not from the people, there is no power at all, only a vague, false sense of power. The common Nigerian on the streets do not need all these muscle-flexing and power-shows. What we need are sincere, honest, knowledgeable, committed and incorruptible leaders to look after us and give us the dividends of democracy and our natural resources. Political leaders who can harness all our resources, human and natural, to provide us with food and water, good healthcare, good roads and transportation, constant electricity, good education and healthcare for our children, a strong economy and a better quality of life. Not those who will milk us dry by stealing our money. Not a governor who will steal 23 billion of his state’s allocations to use it to contest for the Presidency of Nigeria, or others of his ilk.

Another positive aspect of this election is that from what I have been hearing, many Nigerians are now looking forward to the Presidency of the President-elect, Umar Yar’Adua in a different light. Most are positive and the general feeling is that the man may yet out-perform even Obasanjo. Indeed, I am also changing my previous views on him and I have a strong feeling he will surprise many sceptical Nigerians, God grant him good health, knowledge and strength to govern Nigeria. One thing most Nigerians seem to agree on is that he was the best choice from the 25-odd Presidential candidates and that rigged or no rigged elections, Yar’Adua would have won the Presidential elections anyway.

Yar’Adua has extended conciliatory hands to his beaten rivals (and even now several opposition politicians are now lobbying for positions in his government – this sums up the tragedy of the Nigerian opposition; it is always easily compromised, especially with financial gratification….it’s always difficult for them to sustain a fight.); he has promised electoral reform; he has promised to address more vigorously the problems of the Niger Delta and that of electricity; he has promised not to be vindictive; and he seems to be backed by a good and experienced team to help him govern. He must not answer to any sectional or religious interests, no matter how much pressured or tempted he is. The man deserves to be given all the support he needs by Nigerians, not to be undermined and distracted by pettiness and bitterness. Let us rally round him and if he disappoints after four years, we must make sure he and his party bears the consequences and feel the full fury of Nigerians.

Those who are bent on destroying democracy or trying to draw us back in Nigeria are those calling for interim national government or another election or asking Yar’Adua to relinquish his mandate. These clique of politicians are neither being practical nor facing the reality that democracy is here to stay. They are trying to stoke the fire of discontent amongst the people to advance their own selfish cause. They probably want to turn Nigeria into another Sudan, Congo or Iraq because they cannot have their way to steal from, and oppress Nigerians anymore. They are trying to re-invent the wheel.

This is a season to reason. The 2007 election has come and gone. Let us move Nigeria forward. Let us help whoever is in power to move Nigeria forward. We must not encumber ourselves with unnecessary distractions. Let’s make the various governments work and if some do not want to make governance work, let’s dispose of them whichever way we want.


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1 comment

Liqman Akanbi May 23, 2007 - 5:02 pm

An excellent article. Telling it at it should be told. Everybody has some sort of political agenda, and it is their prejudice and ingrained hatred for anything successful that is making them blind. We should move on. Nigeria does not have to be ruled by the opposition. If the opposition is not good enough, then leave the party in government there. At least we know them


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