Posts Tagged ‘#nigeriadecides2019’

Too Big For Jail Time?

 The dust has all but settled on the re-election of President Buhari for his second term in office and the work before him and Nigerians in setting the country on the road to success is great indeed. A major point in his manifesto, both in the 2015 and again in 2019, was to fight the crippling corruption in the Nigerian government. Now that he has received the people’s mandate, it is the turn of Nigerians to see if he will provide the good governance he promised. This is his chance to leave a legacy. Will Nigerians remember him for establishing a precedent on how to robustly tackle corruption and win, for establishing a standard for the country on how to successfully conquer corruption moving forward, or will he be remembered for nepotism, herdsmen killing and maintaining the status quo of corruption?

It is unfortunate that corruption has become an accepted way of life in Nigeria—a trend which has turned a country with great potential into one that is becoming a failed state. Yet, Nigerians fail to see—it would seem— that no definite progress can be made by the country until corruption is conquered. Corruption, an enemy that has killed more Nigerians than any war, should not be handled lightly. 

While not advocating the death penalty for kleptocracy as is the case in China, Nigeria needs to do more than recover the stolen money from corrupt officials. Long prison terms, if not life in jail, after the recovery of the stolen money, is the only thing that will be punishment enough to deter the deep-seated kleptocracy in Nigeria. 

The main perpetuating cause of kleptocracy in Nigeria is the impunity which thieves in government enjoy; there is also the ignorance among the larger proportion of Nigerians who believe that the mere fact that you held a high level political office for 5 or 10 years implies that you can parade tens of millions of dollars and the position you have held merits such wealth.  Add to these the vast amounts of money available to be stolen (public office is by far the most lucrative career in Nigeria) and it becomes clear why being elected into public office is a do or die venture.    

No nation can achieve its objective of infrastructure development, successful nation building or sustained advancement in the face of deep-seated corruption. There are few places on earth where corruption is more deep seated than in Nigeria—as evidenced not only by its ranking of 144 out of 188 in Transparency International latest worldwide corruption perception index but also by the evident insecurity, unemployment and decay of infrastructure.

President Buhari speaks a lot against corruption and his words kindle hope. But one wonders: Is it going to be all talk and no action? Moreover, in the fight against corruption in Nigeria there must be no friend or foe. There must be no respect of persons or personalities. The practice whereby some of the politicians when caught, return the stolen money and then go scot free, which is prevalent currently in Nigeria, only promotes impunity. Returning the stolen money is not punishment; jail time after returning the money is punishment. As long as corrupt officials are allowed to use their loot to defend themselves, as long as they can make a pretense of returning part of the money and continue to come and go as free men, as long as thieves in government are celebrated as wealthy people rather than censored as criminals, corruption will not cease in Nigeria, neither will Nigeria be able to develop or take a respectable position in the world.                          

Clearly, the only government that will propel the country forward is one that institutionalizes the fight against corruption and institutionalizes dire consequences for the corrupt. If by the end of his second term in office, Buhari has not only waged the war against corruption but also fully conquered it, he would have left his mark on Nigeria as a veritable statesman, perhaps the first Nigeria has known after the fathers of Nigerian independence. And he would have turned Nigeria from the path to a failed state to that of success.

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The Vote Of Their Lives

The elections were postponed for a week, at the last minute, at the height of anticipation. And, the people waited. Amid warnings and threats, they waited to cast their votes and choose their future. 

Finally, Saturday, the 23rd of February 2019, dawned. Many were up before the sun, eager to exercise their rights. Armed with their PVCs (voter identification card), their fingers eager to thumbprint, they headed to their designated voting centers. They were however confronted by late arrival of voting materials, late arrival of election officials, incomplete numbers of ballots, non-availability of indelible ink and non-functioning card reader equipment.  With a little maneuvering and make-dos some of these set-backs were in some cases circumvented, and where it could not be, elections were extended—again.

How INEC could still have problems with timely arrival of officials, completeness of election materials and functionality of equipment after four years of preparedness and one week of postponement is incredible to anyone but those who are satisfied with mitigating mediocrity with excuses, which is where Nigeria perpetually finds itself. In more than ten years of conducting elections Nigeria has still not gotten to a stage when the process can be smooth, safe and fully credible. 

The number of polling units in the different local governments, one would assume, was known to the electoral commission, months, no, years in advance. The number of eligible and registered voters surely was also known for weeks if not months in advance. The traffic patterns in the roads leading to the different polling units were known, and if not should have been studied to ensure timely arrival of electoral officers and polling materials. 

In the weeks leading up to the elections there was a report in the news of how many people had collected their PVCs and hence were ready to vote. The number of individuals assigned to each polling center was known ahead of time. How is it then that in some centers the electoral officials arrived with fewer ballots than the number of voters assigned to the center? Are Nigeria and its electoral commission incapable of preparing for and conducting an election?

After all the delays, insufficiencies and inadequacies, the ever accommodating citizens got in line, standing under the hot sun, patiently, to eventually cast their ballots. In several centers however, no sooner did the citizens cast their ballots than did lawless individuals, purportedly political thugs, show up to snatch the ballot boxes, burn the votes or inflict mortal injuries on the voters.  Soon, an exercise in civic rights became a war zone and a killing ground. Across the country, on this Election Day alone, tens of people have fallen: killed in gunfire exchange with the police, shot by soldiers or stoned to death when they reportedly tried to disrupt the election in some way or the other. But not all who lost their lives were involved in any form of disorder, according to witnesses. The innocent died with the thugs.

Political thuggery has become a thing in Nigeria. Politicians equip these malefactors for their own use and empower them to massacre their fellow citizens. And are these politicians ever held responsible for this? Of course not, since they are answerable to no one, since the judicial system is hopelessly broken and justice is sold to the highest bidder. Hence election after election, regime after regime the scepter of lawless and rigged elections hang over Nigeria and we have need for elections observers from outside the country to come and observe our elections—to ensure they are credible. It would seem then that we are not capable yet of independently running our affairs—an unfortunate but true indictment, it would seem.

So, it is unfortunate that those who go to cast their votes in Nigeria cannot guarantee their safe return. And even now with elections not yet concluded, as we await the results, many will await the burial of loved ones.

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Of Elections, Rigging and Body bags

The last week or two has seen, in Nigeria, a frenzy of activity and impressive feats worthy of a Nollywood script, what with campaign rallies accompanied by stage collapse, stampedes at political rallies and mounting loss of life.  The run-up to the presidential election of Africa’s most populous nation is beginning to look like a do or die venture. In a seeming display of disarray, the offices of the country’s electoral commission have suffered multiples break-ins, vandalism of vote collation equipment and torching. Illegal polling units have been discovered in parts of the country. There has been a boiling over of emotions and frenzy with confrontations between political party faithful and burning of opponent’s vehicles.

Amid these signs of escalating disorder the US ambassador to Nigeria, W Stuart Symington, gave the nation a piece of advice regarding the election and that unleashed a not so peaceful retort from el-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State, as he threatened that any foreigners who dared to interfere will be sent back to their countries in body bags.  

But maybe Nigerian politicians need to take a step back and assess what will make an outsider caution them about how to run their affairs. What gives these countries the “audacity” to make apparently unwelcome comments about the affairs of the nation? Perhaps it is the obvious disarray, compounded by the poor history of credible elections in Nigeria. Or maybe it is the glaring and ever worsening poverty of the masses, and its effect on the rest of the world from economic migration? Or maybe it is because the country gives every appearance of deteriorating into a failed state with consequences for its citizens and the world at large? What is to be expected when Nigerian politicians show every sign of incompetence in running the affairs of the country? 

If one shows evidence that one cannot run one’s affairs, and make it apparent that they are breaking at the seams, then, one unintentionally gives other people the opportunity to speak into one’s situation. One thing that seems to elude Nigerian politicians is that the world is witness to their poor job performance which is evident in the deficiencies in the country under their watch. When your masses are getting more desperate by the day, when hunger becomes a cause of death for the poorest citizens, when there is ever worsening insecurity, when politicians have to leave their country to seek healthcare outside because the healthcare system is poorly functional, then you leave the door open for people to give you unsolicited advice on how to run your affairs. 

To be respected by outsiders, the leaders of Nigeria need to respect themselves and the citizens that they are leading, by building a country that is able to care for its people. If Nigeria is run the way it should be run, with respectable infrastructure, jobs and provision made even for its weakest citizens as is done in the developed countries, respect will automatically be accorded to our leaders as should be done for people admirably in charge of their affairs. Do Nigerian politicians ever wonder why while they run to the developed countries to buy mansions and utilize state of the art healthcare facilities, the politicians from those countries do not come to Nigeria to do the same? When the US and UK threaten to deny Nigerian politicians visas to their country, it is because they know that Nigerian politicians delight in coming to avail themselves of the amenities in these countries (which are the results of good governance).

So instead of threatening foreigners with a homebound journey in body bags, perhaps Governor el-Rufai needs to work with his fellow politicians to put their house, Nigeria, in order—so that no one needs to tell them how to run their affairs. If Nigeria is working only for the politicians and the politically-connected and is not working for the masses also, then it is not working.

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