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A Call to Action: Let 2011 be their albatross

April 26, 2009

Nigeria is a nation filled with many paradoxes. Ours is a country with massive human and material resources and we still find it difficult to cater for the basic needs of our people. We are blessed with crude oil and instead of developing and maintaining refineries that will be producing adequately for local consumption; we rather prefer to spend foreign exchange on the importation of petroleum products. We have a huge capacity to cater for our electricity needs, yet hardly a day passes without the woe of power outage across the country.

Comparing our present democratic government led by Mr. “Go Slow” and “Rule of Law”, Umaru Yar’Adua and the young  government of the United States led by Barack Obama, it bleeds my heart to see that we have been and still getting it all muddled up in terms of bringing democratic dividends to bear on the wellbeing of the citizenry. Obama swung into action immediately he was pronounced the winner of the presidential election and started constituting his cabinet, which was almost complete by the time he was inaugurated. On his first full day as President, he started taking decisions which will have far reaching effect on the polity, trying to keep to the campaign promises he made to the electorate. Just viewing the Obama presidency, one will see a deep sense of urgency in his approach to keep the sacred mandate bestowed upon him by the American people. It is said that the first few days of any presidency is a fair predictor of the overall direction of the policy thrust of such government. Juxtaposing the Obama approach with our own president, Umaru Yar’adua who has spent upwards of twenty months in office, it is embarrassingly clear that we have a situation of a visionless leader steering the ship of state seemingly rudderless. He has made numerous promises which he has not kept up till date, he seems to be good at making promises he doesn’t bother to keep. Any leader in that position can never be trusted to deliver on the key fundamentals of a good society: basic health care, potable water, electricity, education, security, free and fair elections, and a favourable business clime, as well as equity, complete freedom and justice in the polity.

On assuming the presidency, he promised to declare an emergency on the power sector, but till date the situation has gone worse and there is no mention of the declaration of emergency on that sector. The damages of a virtually non-existent power generation capacity for the nation cannot be quantified enough in terms of loss of lives occasioned by use of generators, the collapse of businesses and the accompanying loss of revenue and employment, the deteriorating security situation in the country that has led to the death of thousands of innocent Nigerians as a result of atrocities committed by armed robbers, the level of degeneracy in our educational sector, the massive amount of private and public revenue spent on fuel for generators.

Methinks President Yar’adua never conceptualised the so-called seven-point agenda he always harped on. Maybe he was just introduced to it by his advisers as a powerful tool that will sway the public to his side. Come to think of it, if it were really internalised by the president prior to his ascendancy to the presidency, he would have had a solid and workable roadmap to economic and social renewal of a battered and beaten Nigerian state that was in need of urgent surgical operation to safeguard her continued existence. He would have realised that delay was not to be tolerated and could be disastrous. He would have defined his presidency in the first 100 days in office, putting policies and programmes in place that would have direct bearing on the people. He would have held his campaign promises sacrosanct and known that a leader who fails to keep his promise has shot himself in the foot in the face of his followers, except the hypocrites among them.

On inauguration day in America, there was joy across the land. Everyone was proud of being an American. Millions of joyous persons trooped to the Capitol, venue of the ceremony, extolling the virtues of the American spirit that has stood the country out as the best nation on this planet, the belief that anyone can live his dream in that nation. I am looking forward to the day when Nigerians will have such confidence and belief in our leaders, when millions will troop out to the Eagle Square to witness the inauguration of a leader we would be proud of, to have a true feeling that we are the giant of Africa, the bastion of the black race, and the only hope of redemption for our battered continent. I look forward to a time when our leaders will be fully accountable to the electorate, when institutions will blossom, rather than individuals thereby safeguarding the growth of key establishments.

Some say that we cannot achieve the level of greatness of America within a short time; that America took hundreds of years to come to her present level. In answer to such questions, I would say that even if we take hundreds of years with our present approach, we cannot get better, rather it will be getting worse. The American nation started on a quite beautiful note, the founding fathers who drafted the declaration of independence held clearly that sovereignty rests with the citizens and not with the government. This cardinal approach may have been one of the key factors that have continued to power the United States of America to greater achievement. Needless to say that there were errors and problems on the way to achieving greatness, the leaders and followers showed a genuine willingness to correct anomalies and move on. Our beloved country Nigeria must be seen to be going on the right path for us to achieve our set goals.
We have been hearing of vision 20-20-20, the plan to place Nigeria among the first twenty leading economies of the world by the year 2020. While conceding that it is an ambitious plan, I would say that, considering the present circumstances and the antecedents of the government since it assumed office, the reasonable conclusion is that the document is just a worthless piece of paper. Before putting us among the leading economies of the world, we want, as a matter of urgency, water, electricity, excellent health care facilities, education, jobs, security, and accountability. These are the key fundamentals that have a direct bearing on the poorest of the poor, as well as other levels of distressed Nigerians.

Very soon, campaign will begin for another term of office for the president. It is a shame that we, as one block do not copy the American people, who can be united to send a non-performing party out of government and give the baton to a fresh alternative. We should imbibe and cultivate the attitude of showing our annoyance through our votes, even though there is the possibility of vote rigging. We can if we think we can. Let us refuse to be held hostage by a very wicked and deadly cabal, the political hawks, whose business only is politics, not of ideology but of power mongering. We, as a people should rise above ethnicity, religion, and other parochial considerations, and make our votes count in electing avowed democrats with powerful ideologies that are bound to move our nation forward and put us in our rightful place in the comity of nations. The time has come when we should throw away sentiments and support candidates with track record of performance, not minding whether they are from a majority or minority ethnic group, or whether they are Christian or Moslem and decide to vote for such persons. We should vote for well thought-out ideologies, because a sound ideology is the bedrock for good and responsive governance.

The dream and machinations of the PDP to rule us forever will come to nought in 2011 if every progressive-minded citizen of this country decides that we are not satisfied with the present performance of the so-called political elite who have contributed greatly to the woes of the nation. We should decide to vote for change, a better ideology, a proven democrat and a man of the people. Nigeria is among the few countries where we have career politicians, whose only business is to play politics for the sake of power and the accompanying trappings, not for the good of the people but for personal aggrandizement.

Credible elections have been seen as one of the cardinal points of a truly democratic society. The moment we start getting our various elections right, our international ratings will start gaining positive points. No amount of rebranding will convince any body across the world to take us seriously when we continue having acrimonious and fraudulent elections. We hardly hear about the chief electoral officer of the United States or even Ghana, our neighbour who has gotten it right. But on a constant basis, here in Nigeria, our sensibilities are being offended by a certain Maurice Iwu, who has been unrelenting in defending the indefensible. Rather than him stepping down, he continues to hold strongly to that office as if it was a matter of life and death. Iwu has refused to bow to public dismay and annoyance. It seems the man has no conscience anymore, that is the reason why an election that was trailed by many irregularities and litigation, with the courts invalidating not a few of the charades called election in some states, he still had the feeling that the 2007 elections was the best the country had ever organized.    
Iwu should tell us how many court cases are ongoing with respect to elections in the United States, that he said have a few lessons to learn from Nigerian elections, he should tell us whether the electoral body in the US, either by hook or crook, aided the then ruling Republican party to win the election using the famed power of incumbency that has led some to say that the PDP will rule Nigeria for upwards of sixty years. Obviously, Iwu and his ilk are part of the myriad of problems plaguing this nation, the earlier he is relieved of his duties the better for everyone, including Professor Iwu himself. It is obvious the way he thinks is almost opposite the way the generality of Nigerians feel.

He has obviously developed a heart of stone; that is why he is impervious to the feeling of contempt of the generality of Nigerians, who are not part of the establishment he helped to foist upon us without our consent. He represents all the things a true academic must not be. He has shown by his numerous actions that he cannot be relied upon to conduct credible elections in this country. It beats my imagination that he doesn’t feel the pulse of the nation. He even boasts that nobody can sack him and that he has not done anything wrong. He has lost all credibility and continues to remain a blot on the present political class to continue to support him. He has been reprimanded severally by our courts for the bad way the elections were conducted, yet the elections, to him and his ilk, was the best our country has seen. Several of the elections he oversaw and presented certificate of return to criminals who sought to steal the peoples mandate have been upturned, yet he still continues as if nothing bad had happened, thereby becoming an eyesore to every Nigerian with a sound moral persuasion.

We have a National Assembly that is devoid of ideas, enmeshed in trivialities, unconcerned with the plight and yearnings of the people, steeped in selfishness and self-aggrandizement, highly inept and grossly unsuitable for that stage, as only a handful of them are there to render selfless service to the nation. Most of them came through fraudulent and flawed elections, on the back of godfathers and unwholesome means. That is the reason why House members of the joint committee overseeing the important work of reviewing the constitution can stage a walkout from a planned retreat, for the flimsy excuse that the deputy speaker was addressed as the vice-chairman rather than co-chairman. These men and women, it is very clear, put personal considerations far above the common good of the people. If not, they would have considered the gravity of their decision and put national interest ahead of selfish considerations. It is a huge shame that our professed distinguished senators and representatives have no regard to the feelings of the greater populace.

I am looking forward to the time when the vote of every Nigerian will count. Then, these politicians who feel they are doing us favours will have to give account of their stewardship before they can even be considered to vie for office again. It would then not be possible for godfathers and political tin gods to dictate the pace of politicking. Political power will then reside fully on the electorate. You and I can make this happen if we decide to vote for change and guard our votes from electoral criminals in 2011. We have done it before in 1993, when Nigerians came out massively to elect a Moslem-Moslem ticket in a peaceful and exemplary manner. That time, Nigerians, as one man, came in their thousands to vote for MKO Abiola, providing us with a benchmark for measuring the standard of future elections in Nigeria. Notwithstanding the grandstanding of Professor Iwu, no other election in the country has been able to surpass June 12. Let us do it again.
We can do it! Yes, we can!


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