Friday, April 20, 2007

It begins....the aftermath

In the aftermath of Nigeria's elections to choose State governors and representatives in Various states' Houses of Assembly, I attempted to tick off the various missteps which we had made on our way to what ordinarily would have been an historic opportunity for us as a nation. The better to perhaps appraise our performance while encouraging and alerting us of other dangers which might lie in our way in future exercises of this kind.

Firstly, it is on record(and some besmirched record that is) that there has never been an occasion when democratic rule transited between two civilian regimes. The norm, twice achieved now, had been for a passing from the Army to civillians. Secondly, in the last eight years Nigeria had consistently approached its defence of the democratic impulse among much smaller surrounding nations threatened with the temptation of abandoning 'the way' with something approaching prosecutorial, if not messianic, zeal.

Our fever has coasted us as far afield as Mauritania, and as close to home as Togo, Ghana, Benin Republic and Equatorial Guinea(to which we despatched a battalion in their hour of need), and of course our usual suspects of Sierra Leone and Liberia. It therefore leaves a genuinely sour taste in the mouth, not to speak of an empty feeling in the pit of the stomach, to reflect that we could be in clear danger of needing our own medicine very soon. Beyond the relapse into comforting cliches it appears we had been experiencing an iceberg situation all along with respect to the hidden nature of all the irregularities which are only now coming to light.

In the days following the elections, it has become clear that the positive prognosis we granted the efforts of both the outgoing federal government and the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), has been misguided. The comparative near somnolence which the condition in the Lagos Megapolis had been described as has ratcheted up a bit with every widening of the field of focus so much so that the current impression has been that Lagos is sitting smack centre in the cunning eye of the storm, where there is an eerie calm belying the havoc and destruction being wreaked afield. From virtually all the other thirty five states of the federation has filtered in news of criminal interference and brigandage, practiced with immunity from prosecution, on the part of the ruling regime, with the INEC turning a scabrous eye to the whole silliness.

It turns out now that not only were ballot boxes stolen and carted away to unknown places, whole polling stations were dispersed, and not only were voters bribed publicly and their votes purchased, they were tutored by their paymasters and their thumbs guided to the frames for which they had sold all. Opponents were intimidated and hounded into hiding. Polling sheets were falsified. An electoral commissioner has gone into hiding in one of the few states the ruling government failed to win in, to as he inferred it, escape the wrath of the later for not agreeing to suborned. This rendition, by no means, indicates that it is only one party afflicting the electoral process with this leprosy. Virtually every party has interpreted its incumbency to be a translation into impunity. And this is only the first of two rounds of the process. Why are we not getting it right once more. Why are we getting more and more wrong, seemingly drawn into greater folly as the veil is raised to reveal the works of our own hands?

I fear that good men everywhere are gradually coming face to face with what will ultimately become a moral dilemma of gargantuan proportions, namely, will the system that arises from this exercise have true legitimacy especially if the second and last round of voting is also marred? We are living a system, which of itself is good and honourable but which has been hijacked by men of dubious character who introduce conflicts between the letter and the spirit of the rules guiding the process. Could this be, for want of a better word, the beginning of the 'Mugabization' of our polity, in which our recurring and waking nightmare would be choosing how to discard the bathwater while retaining the baby. A generation ago the generals would have had the next say, but these are meant to be better times. These should be better times. How can we exert a balanced repudiation of the expected result without harming the ecosystem which in our heart of hearts we all know can yield us something more akin to our needs as a people? It is necessary to retain the lessons we have accumulated over the last few years and not chuck them out, in a headlong, headless flight into frustration.

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