The clamour for the removal of Professor Maurice Iwu, restructuring of INEC and the implementation of Justice Uwais Committee Report all in the quest for free and fair elections in Nigeria reveals a monumental error of judgment by those making the agitations. There is a manifestly serious misunderstanding as to how election fraud is planned, designed and executed in Nigeria. To be frank, those shouting the loudest have the least understanding of how politicians rig elections. Oh Yeah! They are ignorant and by shouting they only succeed in revealing this ignorance openly.
I would not go as far as committing blasphemy the way Obasanjo did some time ago. But I can tell you this with all sense of responsibility that you may have a new chairman, you may appoint Wole Soyinka, you may even resurrect Gani Fawahenmi and give him the task of conducting elections in Nigeria but still we will have fraudulent elections. With the present set-up, it is almost near impossible for Nigeria in this century to conduct free and fair elections. Now get this straight, I am not an Iwu apologist. Infact I have only disdain for the Professor. But not because of the way he conducted elections in this country but because of his arrogance and insult to our intelligence by trying to justify the unjustifiable. I consider Iwu as representing, in the most crude form, the bad face of Nigerian elections but he has never been its body nor the sprit that drives it to subvert genuine aspirations of the Nigerian people. Those are greater than the bad Professor himself. Elections are bad in Nigeria because we refuse to look in the right direction and finger those responsible. And most likely elections will continue to be bad so long as we choose to whip INEC and let others free including fight against corruption, uneven distribution of national wealth and poor economic development.
Now, if we truly desire free and fair elections in this country here are some small inexpensive issues that need to be address urgently, seriously and decisively..
The first issue is to democratize our poliical parties. Oh no! They are not and have never been democratic since 1999. Infact, as they stand today they are more anti-democratic than the Communist Party under Stalin. Party reform and internal democracy will ensure not only credible candidates but candidates wise enough to know that public offices are public trusts hence not a do-or-die affair. We therefore need to salute Nnamani/Masari group for their courage to clamour for internal democracy in PDP. If we are serious we can start with getting actively corcerned and deeply involved in party politics. Those that shout can come and shout in these parties especially PDP. Afterall, we are talking about our survival and the future of our children. If we choose to leave PDP to Ogbulafor, Atiku; IBB and other like minds then we know what to expect. Internal democracy is vital here.
When next time you meet a policeman, a civil defence personnel or a military personnel remember you are probably seeing a potential accomplice in killing popular aspiration in this country. Security agents, in my estimation, play the largest part in this unedifyingly inglorious role of rigging elections. If you don’t know how they connive with rogue politicians to rig elections, that is probably because you have never been to a polling station in Nigeria during elections. But for the sake of begginners, I would tell you this much.
It is not a secret that Nigerians value their lives more than they do their fundamental human rights or their country. Thus they easily scared when they see those non-smiling robotics called security agents totting their guns. I don’t blame my people when they refuse to stand up to those beasts in uniforms. Most of those beasts are ignorant, arrogant, probably high with drugs and marijuana but certainly intoxicated by the virtual power of their guns. Capitalizing on this fear by the innocent they scare voters away from waiting to make sure their votes are counted honestly.
I have witnessed instances, several of them that I have lost count, where police and other security personnel took actual part in ballot box snatching and stuffing. And in all cases, the people were powerless to stop that crime. Next time therefore when we go out hunting for those responsible for bad election, we should not forget to make the security agencies our target number one. We can start with mounting sensitisation campaigns for both the security personel and the general public as well. While it is good to shout, we need to recognise the limits of shouting in our kind of political struggle.
In 2007, after the murderous elections that brought Yar’adua/Goodluck to office, many of my fellow compatriots had actually wanted to blame the West especially the United States for not taking a tougher action against Nigerian government including regime of sanctions. My view then was, as it is today, don’t blame them. They only care about their interests not our interests. But we can blame our Judges and the Judiciary for legalizing illegality, legitimizing illegitimacy and entrenching this fraud on us. I will not go as far as calling our lords crooks and rascals, but if most of what we read on most online news sources were true then my fellow compatriots, the words crooks, rascals and criminals could not have better meanings.
Nigerian Judges do not live in another planet. They live here with us which make them aware of how electoral fraud is being pepetrated on unimaginable proportion. Jettisoning morality and righteous cause, they hide behind legal technicalities and deliver verdicts that further aggravate our miseries. We don’t expect saints to sit on the bench, but pretending that our Judges are incorruptible and impartial dispensers of justice when every available evidence shows otherwise is to say the least, complicity on our part. To continue to patronise them is however a crime greater than anything I can think of. It is easier and cheaper to rig elections, win and be taken to court than not to rig, loose and go to court. If you doubt me you can ask Yar’adua. Sorry, did I say Yar’adua? Forgive me. I mean to say Buhari.
It is true INEC is not transparent with the preparations of Voters’ Register, printing of ballot papers and distribution of election materials. It is true INEC officials connive with rogue politicians to defraud voters of their votes. But it is also true to know that in some cases these officials consent only for fear of their lives from hired thugs. Equally true is the fact that never has there been any concerted attempt on the part of the electorates to protest this organised crime. If people would reject this nonsense, I doubt if we would ever see fraud in elections ever again.
There is therefore the need to sensitise the general public. I don’t mean to say online militancy is lame. But we could do better. We could adopt what happened in Bauchi in 2007 and spread it all over the country. To do this, we have to move away from our PCs, Blackberrys, and arm chairs. We need to buckle up and go out to the uneducated, mobilize them and organize them into portent force and a strong and dynamic vanguard of democracy in Nigeria. This is the only way to credible elections, truly representative democracy as well as accountable public office holders in Nigeria.
Morethan anything, we need to seriously explore the possibility of mass positive action. I don’t have election boycotts in minds. Boycott is a useless and ineffective political action that serves no tangible purpose. In my mind, I have the view of stoning politicians that come to office through fraudulent elections. If they choose to make our votes impossible to count atleast we too could choose to make our stones impossible to miss. Avoiding any form of social interactions with them, humiliating them in public, ridiculing them, treating them like lepers and generally making their lives miserable through any conceivable way is the only insurance we have, not only for free and fair elections, but also for good governance ultimately. I didn’t say it is going to be easy. But whoever say building a strong and prosperous country is easy?
Aliyu Mukhtar Katsina
For: Vanguard for the Restoration of Democracy.