Option A4, Electoral Reform and a Biometric Voters Register – The Survival Manual for President Goodluck Jonathan
Initially this article would have been published two weeks ago titled ‘Wishing You Goodluck President Jonathan’ save for two ocurrences. Firstly, events have overtaken that and secondly I lost the initial five or so paragrahs written when my computer lost power. I am trying to incorporate the elements of the lost work into this and we’ll see how it turns out.
The Ignominious Role of Aondoaaka
Well, the first shuffle of cards in the Presidency was dealt the former Attorney-General Michael Aondoakaa. It was hardly a joker or a masterpiece move, it was just a purely Machiavellian strategy. It had to be done and he had to be kept within the palace, right under the ruler’s nose. That explains why he was unceremoniously relieved of the most powerful political law job any lawyer can aspire to and put into the strait-jacket of the Special Duties Ministry. It seems the new ruler knew how much mischief Aondoaaka will cause if let to run loose outside the palace hence why he still has to report weekly for the Federal Executive Council meetings every week. At least, you give him the false impression of being a cabinet member when what you have done technically, is to place him under surveillance. The AG’s office is one of the most cherished legal jobs any citizen can aspire to hold for his country. The AG is the Chief Legal Officer of the nation, the legal mind and brains of the administration. His word is law and woe betide any government or official that disregards it. The Iraq War Inquiry by the British government amongst other things has revealed that the Tony Blair administration and its American allies had to practically bully the former British AG Lord Goldsmith into overuling the earlier advice given to them that the invasion of Iraq would be illegal without a UN Security Council Resolution empowering it to do so. If Lord Goldsmith had maintained his position that the war would have been manifestly and undisputably illegal. The whole course of history might have been changed because it would have legitimised the British people’s position for Tony Blair not to go to war. Neither would the British have formed a coalition with American forces. Probably, Tony Blairs legacy would have been different to what he has now as a leader who led his country into an unjustifiable war based on faulty intelligence reports . The rest is history as they say. We are where we are now.
Anyway, Aondoaaka forgot that the enormous powers wielded by the AG is subject to approval in the court of public opinion. Once an AG becomes as unpopular as he or Clement Akpamgbo was under the Ibrahim Babangida regime he is a sitting-duck (ironically the late Akpamgbo called me to the Nigerian Bar in his position then as the Chairman Body of Benchers). It is only a matter of time before one in the volley of shots hit you. The AG’s attempt to engage the Information Minister Prof. Dora Akunyili in a market woman style shout-at-me and I will also shout-at-you politics spectacularly back-fired. An AG must not engage in ‘oyingbo market’ style of politics. It will not work! Especially, not with a woman like Dora emerged to be seemingly more polically astute than the AG, not because she is more knowledgable in state matters. No, far from it. Otherwise she would not have written a memo. History and contemporary politics teaches us that great political schemes, machinations, reconstructions, et cetera, are more of an unwritten nature than written. Power is brokered and consolidated in various ways and forms ranging from persuasion, blackmail, pleas, bribery, inducement, adoption, marriage and sometimes even death. The Abacha Indian girls and apple and the Abiola tea episode in Aso Rock is a pointer to the evil twists and turns in the corridors of power (I hasten to add that I am not advocating any of this). But Dora, was simply in touch with the mood of the nation that has become tired of the ‘amala and gbegiri’ politics that ultimately played out before our eyes particularly when we got enlisted as a terror nation. We could not fire a slavo back because there was no one at the head of affairs who had constitutional powers vested in him as the head boy. In Washington, the Americans had no one to talk to because Ojo Maduekwe had fired the Ambassador there. The replacement was refused because his son had been implicated in a criminal matter – Rape is viewed very seriously here in the West – and in Nigeria the senior prefect had simply vanished from the boarding house. Why won’t they kick some sense into our heads? Are we in the position to use our oil has a weapon of international diplomacy and politics? No, we are not. Years of rubbishing the Niger-Deltans has turned them against the unbalanced union called Nigeria. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) and other splinter groups has ensured an economic sabotage against the polity as symbolised by the government in Abuja.
(A) We do not export the requisite amount of crude oil to warrant that the non-exportation of the product to America would result in an economic blockade. And crucially, we do need the money, since we are not producing enough. Everyday, Nigeria loses money on refining abroad or rather buying back refined petrol from the crude oil we have exported abroad.
(B) Our refineries do not work, therefore we depend on other countries to refine our petrol, kerosine, diesel et cetera which equals to: Nigeria is not independent and therefore cannot afford to call the shots. To say that we are in a prostrate position is not far from the truth since everyone now stamps on us. They only pander to our ego when they need something badly from us. As soon as they get what they want, we are cast away like orange pips.
To conclude, Dora simply knows like the majority of Nigerians that Yaradua is unlikely to return back to the Presidency and even if he does, the office has been dealt a serious blow so much that many people would not want a sick president to lead the nation. It thus confirms the rumours that this man had been ill all along when suspicions arose at the beginning of his tenure. His response on the BBC was to challenge anyone who said he is ill to a game of squash to prove his fitness. If I were in the court, I would hereby say: My Lord, I rest my case.
*Electoral Reform and A Digital Biometric Voters Register*
There is a saying which says that ‘A fish starts rotting from the head’. The Niger-Delta crisis, lack of petrol, lack of security, power, lack of good roads and amenities all boils down to leadership or the lack of it. Nigeria since perhaps the late Murtala Mohammed or say to a lesser extent the Buhari/Idiagbon regime has lacked a credible leader, a proper statesman who would lead us and restore our dignity as a people and a nation. Fifty years after independence, more times than not we still fill the mould of what Obafemi Awolowo termed Nigeria*: ‘*a mere geographic expression’. How can we have our fellow countrymen and women performing and achieving outside Nigeria and the country is rubbish? Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a Managing Director at the World Bank, Oby Ezekwesili is VP for Africa at the same institution, Bayo Ogunlesi heads Global Infrastructure Partners, they just bought London Gatwick Airport a few months ago. And many others too numerous to mention are exceling in various fields in the developed world. Yet, Nigeria doesn’t have light, water and security. But we can send troops abroad to bring peace to other countries and serve with distinction. When apartheid fell in Namibia and Sam Nujoma became the President, the Nigerian Police Force re-trained the Namibian Police from scratch they also won accolades. That would have been the first time Namibians would have first seen black policemen en masse. That was how bad the racial discrimination was. These same Nigerian Police men of the N20 fame trai
ning another country’s police and security infrastructure with distinction. Yet we are under siege from armed robbers and hired assassins at home.
Let us presume that our absentee President is not going to be fit for purpose after this Saudi trip and I don’t think he will because the handwriting is on the wall. The game is over. Therefore, it logically follows that the Acting President would be foolish not to secure and consolidate his position. Secondly, even if he is not going to run for the Presidency next year- I doubt he wouldn’t anyway – he needs to swiftly put a structure in place that would ensure his relevance forever in the polity called Nigeria. So which way out? There has only been one election in Nigeria that could be said to be the free, fair and widely accepted one before Babangida, the ultimate student of machiavellian manipulations scuttled it. That was the 12 June 1993 elections and the system that produced it was the Option A4 system. The only reason which the ruling class have refused to use it again was the irrefutable power of choice it gave to the masses. The Godfathers of Nigerian politics and the tiny cabal of greedy, twisted-minds that feed fat on the endless supply of ill gotten wealth flowing from the fountain of government in Nigeria would never want an independent electorate. The lure of the easy, cheap no-questions-asked, no-anwers-given supply of money in the political structure and government of Nigeria is our bane. If Jonathan can solve this, he would be catapulted to a statesman as great as Nelson mandela. Reforming the electoral process goes to the very root of how we will elect a credible leader. A leader who we choose of our own volition knows he is accountable to us and not to a Godfather who has facilitated trailer loads of rice, salt, cooking oil and N1,000 notes on the eve of the elections to induce votes for his candidate the next day. Are we now surprised when the political Godfather wants to be the one appointing the Commissioner for Finance in the state, appoint the AG, appoint the Commissioner for Works and Housing, appoint the Secretary to the State Government and even appoint the Deputy Governor? He is only trying to recoup his investment.
As a matter of urgency, the Acting President must quickly ensure that the Electoral Commission not only goes digital, it must also go biometric. It does not cost much in finance, it only needs will power and sincerity. How will this work? A mechanism would be put in place ensuring that all voters are registered simultaneously and electronically nationwide. During this registration process, the voters would be registered electronically and biometrically through battery powered devices (where there is no electricity). This will all be linked to a central supercomputer. No person can register under the same identity twice, nor can anyone once register under two identities because there would be a clash of identities. Shikena! Problem solved. This is how the British authorities have resolved the issue of persons using bogus identities to apply for visas. The result for Nigeria would be that there would be no ghost voters, no stealing of ballot boxes and no need for endless printing of voting papers which would also translate into environmental friendliness. One man would equal one vote. One vote equals credible voter power. Voter power equals credible change and accountability to the electorate. This signals bye-bye to Godfatherism, vote rigging and other manipulations at the voting booth. No need for even party agents anymore. Then it logically follows that we are able to vote for the right man and he would know that he is not indispensable or invincible. He will simply not be re-elected. Then the voted also knows that when the voter threatens not to vote for him at the next election because he has underperformed, he takes this seriously and he can sit up. The elected will know that he cannot subvert the public will by buying his way. Only then can we start having credible change from the neglected in the Niger-Delta to the unemployed ‘agbero’ in the various motor parks. From the disgruntled and disillusioned civil servant to the angry university youth who has lost faith in his country. From the armed forces to the Fulani cattle rearer, credible and merited change would cool the polity. If the President needs help in this regards, all he needs do is ask. This particular help is available without much fuss. To the contrary, if there is no hope of clearing this mess once and for all even goodluck is not enough for President Jonathan, he simply will not survive the evil machinations of those who continue to suck our blood dry. A word is enough for the wise.