These Things Nigerians Need To Take Back: INEC, NTA and Nigerian Police

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony.”- Heraclitus of Ephesus

The political climate in Nigeria reminds me of the past. Those days when it was of no use to tune in to Network News or listen to any government radio for that matter. “Abacha forever” was all we heard, while the five leprous fingers sung ode to the ‘never-do-wrong’ dark goggled dictator. While all these went on, the Nigerian police brutalized the likes of Beko, POW Bola Ige and Gani on the streets of Lagos and Ibadan like no tomorrow. But why? Why is it that after seven years into this democratic experiment, the climate is exactly comparable to our lot under the dark goggled dictator? Why can’t I expect a level of objectivity when I tune to the NTA or expect some level of respect and common sense from the Nigerian police? Why can’t INEC be expected to be impartial and stay so in the current political climate? Why? Why?

It is a well known fact that the power of the gun, the power of information and the power of legitimacy are necessary to maintain any government in power. The control of these avenues of legitimacy as such confers on any government reasonable reason to dominate the political space and adjudicate over the affairs of men over who it lords. As such any society that surrenders the apparatus of information, security and electoral legitimacy to a particular group or sect of people does so at its own peril. In fact, dictators are born when they deploy propagandist, Gestapo security forces as well as organize pseudo elections to gain credibility on the international stage. The case of Nigeria first in 1998 and now in 2006 is telling in this scenario.

Fundamentally, the Nigerian police can be and is being used by the present administration right from the time of the 2003 elections to this moment as a tool of oppression against opposition forces. The Nigerian police was illegally deployed to the chagrin of all observers to secure the rigging of elections in various states especially in the West and South-South regions of Nigeria in the 2003 general elections. They bullied, arrested and ordered the muffling of opposition voices. In fact, after the elections was over the President conferred a special national dis-‘honor’ on the cop’s cop- ex jail bird Tafa Balogun of infamy. It was an honor that said a lot about the role the Nigerian police played in returning the Chief of Otta back to Aso Rock against all odds. During the past three years, the opposition has been severely tear gassed even to the point of killing a leading voice: the late Chuba Okadigbo, who died after one of such incidents in a political rally. In addition to these, their meetings were shut down, permit were denied etc. Even when the high courts have stated clearly that Nigerians do not need the permits of this irate mob called police to protest, the Nigerian police: being a law to itself, have since said they know better than the courts. God help you, if you protest without permits in Nigeria today!

In addition to all these, the recently settled melodrama in Anambra have shown that the INEC is far from an independent body. INEC is a deeply PDP dominated gathering of Obasanjo’s yes men that will manipulate the electoral process to suit the orders of their boss in Aso Rock. The electoral process is less than imperfect around the world, but in Nigeria it is deeply flawed especially with INEC at its behest. INEC have been known to post losers as winners: case in point, Funsho Williams one day before election was posted as winner on INEC’s website over Tinubu in 2003; OBJ senators from Anambra over the choice of party faithful in the same year and Ngigie when he was OBJ’s lapdog over Obi; and guess what? INEC sought to overturn the whole election so they can rig the President’s candidate in the moment they saw Ngigie fell out of favor with Aso Rock over his refusal to settle Chris Uba -the President’s political godson and Anambra’s self appointed Al Capone.

As for the NTA their case is always very laughable. The NTA is a pure propaganda machine and it will take you to be super-sane not to run insane when you watch their daily network broadcasts these days. Thank God for the miracle of the internet, those of us here in America can now catch all these propaganda on either the official Nweke website or on NVS. Talking about Nweke –OBJ information minister that Nigerians pay. Nweke took more than a third of the NTA news and at every available opportunity this young chap heaps the President with numerous praises that you can’t help but be impressed by his level of mastery at doing this dirty work.

With very colorful language, while launching the so called service delivery policy SERVICOM or whatever it is called, Nweke traced the history of service delivery to OBJ’s first administration. He attributed the 3 years of his master’s first forceful occupation of office as the fastest pace of national development in the history of our nation! Haba! I now know the reason why Nigerian graduates are unemployable and the evil that longs years of not teaching Nigerian history in our schools have done to our psyche. I am sure Nweke did not read of the Golden Age of our nationalist fathers that saw to the laying down of the foundation of the modern Nigerian state that was destroyed by the military gang of brothers of Mr. President. It was very disturbing to see the same man on the network news few minutes later talking of the President as a visionary and a man of reforms and courage for giving out 250 naira cheques to farmers whose birds were destroyed to curtail bird flu. Nweke -Chineke! Anyway, it is not surprising. The president’s team is in full swing campaign mood for his preposterous third term, and the man charged with delivering the message runs NTA and his name is Nweke; period.

After considering the scenario I just painted above I have come up with a theory: that every Nigerian is fundamentally a charlatan. That regardless of the government in power, Nigerians will kiss up to such government and will sacrifice hitherto public service platforms as a tool of oppression of the rich against the poor, and a mind control mechanism for the powerful against the governed. We toady to power- purely sycophantic and obsessed with self preservation.

To take back these platforms of public service for what they are really meant for i.e. the security and preservation of life; the dissemination of information (facts) to the nook and crannies of the federal republic and; the organization of a free and fair elections – a number of changes are sorely required. These changes in my opinion in fact should supersede any constitutional amendment – the dictatorial tendency of a Nigerian cannot be suppressed by a mere document labeled constitution and OBJ has proven it. These changes are:

  1. The Independent Electoral commission should be made truly independent by having a board of governors that comprise of one representative from each of all the registered political parties. Funding should also be a first line charge from the revenue fund and should be deposited once yearly at the beginning of the fiscal year. The selection and removal of operational head and principal officers of the electoral commission should be the responsibility of the multi-party board of governors.
  2. The Nigerian Police should be supervised by a local or national police board that should be made up of stakeholders. These should include labor, civil society, bar association, professional bodies, women, and student and opposition parties. A definitive composition of a ten to twelve member board should be able to address the problems of police brutality and partiality and should take command and control away from a single dictator in the person of the President. Only in a state of emergency should command and control revert to the president. The process of obtaining such emergency orders should also be clarified and toughened to disallow routine use of such gimmicks to stiffen opposition.
  3. The NTA should be banned from airing adverts much like their British (BBC) or American (PBS and C-SPAN) counterparts. Political parties and government agencies should make use of alternative sources including independent media, newspapers, bulletins or internets instead of clogging up the media space with politically biased messages. In addition to this, an arrangement similar to the British Board of Broadcasting made up of media professionals should also be set up to govern and operate the NTA and FRCN as public broadcasting services with no bias. In line with the absence of advertisement revenues, all media outlets in the country should contribute a percentage of their yearly revenue (regardless of profit or loss) to the operation of the Public Broadcast media much as is done with C-SPAN.

If the Nigerian opposition and non-governmental groups can align along these three points we may not have to endure another 1998 or 2006 in the future. Do I trust any government with power especially the power to inform, to bully and legitimize itself? I doubt it; and if there is anyone I will not trust with such power it will be Obasanjo and Mantu; period.

Last Line:

The history of liberty is a history of resistance.” -Woodrow T. Wilson

Totalitarianism is never content to rule by external means, namely, through the state and a machinery of violence; thanks to its peculiar ideology and the role assigned to it in this apparatus of coercion, totalitarianism has discovered a means of dominating and terrorizing human beings from within.” Hannah Arendt

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