Posts Tagged ‘nigerian 2019 election’

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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2019 Nigerian Presidential Election: The Agony of Choice

Every four years the presidential election confronts Nigerians like a table set with unsavory dishes and citizens must hold their noses to partake. This year’s presidential election is no different. Most Nigerians are anguished at the choice before them: Should they choose a candidate under whom nepotism, corruption and herdsmen killings have blossomed over one whose candidacy is rife with seemingly tenacious accusations of stealing and who may steal with fresh vigor or should they take a chance on one of the several unknowns? Oh the agony of choice!

Looking at the different candidates—the anguish is real. 

On the one hand President Buhari received the people’s mandate four years ago because he promised to fight corruption and improve the lives of Nigerians, but his general attitude towards corruption among his close associates has been anything but encouraging. Many of his appointees have shown uncommon avarice. But even as Nigerians waited with bated breath to see the president wage a just war against this blatant corruption under his watch, he met their expectations with an odd tepidity and indolence. Add to that the unsettling fact that in a country with so many qualified candidates he has chosen most of his appointees from his hometown and friends, with some of them evidently lacking the requisite qualification. But the worst part of the last four years, in addition to worsening poverty and non-payment of salaries, is the massive loss of life from the herdsmen killing which has received a perturbing silence from the president.

And then there is the candidacy of Atiku. It is only in Nigeria, or at least the rest of Africa, that a government official will be found with riches beyond what they could have justly earned in their government post and they expect people to accept it as legitimate. Do the citizens not realize that such money was taken illicitly from the country, from them the citizens? In Nigeria, past presidents start multi-million dollar businesses after their tenure, without other obvious source of income, and no one seems to question where they got such massive wealth from. Does the cart go before the horse? Does the accumulation of wealth occur before enterprise or does wealth accumulate from enterprise? In the developed countries the former would be called money laundering which is actually a crime. That correct assessment of wealth and proper terminology in referring to it is why the developed countries are developed: They use the money that belongs to their country to develop their country. So, with this candidacy, unfortunately, it is unclear what the situation is. We Nigerians must use our brains!

And then, enter the numerous candidates most of whom do not have name recognition or a record to run on. Are they a safe haven? A nail biting decision indeed!

But above all, what we as Nigerians do not seem to realize is that the governance does not end with the election. Governance starts after the elections and—to be successful—consists of two parties: the governing and the governed—each with their responsibility. As long as Nigerians are still expecting a savior that will come in and do them good of his own accord, then they have not yet understood the insatiable greed of the typical Nigerian public office aspirant nor learned the necessary lesson from our 58 years of stunted growth.  

And so? What is the governed to do in the face of the governing who wields power as a lethal weapon?

Some of us are old enough to remember the struggle of the black South Africans against apartheid. It was not easy but today apartheid is no more. When it became obvious the black South Africans would not give up the right to be treated as the equal human beings they are, the world finally joined them. What is going on in Nigeria (and most African countries) today defies nomenclature: it is not apartheid neither is it slavery yet it has possibly cost more lives than either of those—through insecurity, non-payment of salaries, dangerous roads, curable disease. And when the presidents and other government officials can go to Europe, U.S, Saudi Arabia, or elsewhere for their healthcare but ask their fellow countrymen to die in poorly equipped hospitals—the situation cries out for a new name.

In the past few weeks we have seen the French citizens demand their right, demand livable conditions—the yellow jacket protest is now in its 11th consecutive week (even after their initial demands have been met). Good governance must be demanded to be obtained! Nigerians both at home and abroad, let’s stop letting the political elite loot the land. In whatever foreign country you are, when your president visits that country for medical care, organize, and carry placards to the front of the hospital to demand he build hospitals back home that both he and others can use. When they buy mansions in the foreign land where you are, organize and march to the city hall of that town with placard and demand that the source of the money be ascertained. And also on Nigerian soil, protest peacefully until your voice is heard! Let us demand accountability and hold thieves in government accountable. Let us demand that incoming officials declare their assets before and after their tenure as stipulated in the constitution. And that includes the judiciary! When they refuse to listen, let us continue to raise our voices until we achieve a government that works for the benefit of one and all.

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