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A sure-footed first step

By Kunle Oyatomi

I have said in this column before that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan will be assessed strictly by what he does. So, I am not disappointed that he recognises it and is moving in step with public expectations.

His United  States of America’s  outing was a sure-footed first step in giving us the assurance that he knows what to do for this country to stands a chance to stick together and make progress as a responsible member of the comity of nations.

What  Jonathan is reported to have said about INEC at the interactive session with US business and political leaders strikes at the heart of Nigeria’s future, as well as provides a definite picture of what the problem of our democratic experience had been.

Over the last 12-years, the question of confidence in the electoral process have been so eroded that a growing apathy is beginning to sweep across the country. In the last year or so of election re-run, by-election or governorship as well as local government elections in the states and federal capital, the number of voters who participated  in the process has progressively diminished.

So when the Acting President said, “people have the perception that (INEC) cannot do what is right… and cannot conduct credible elections in Nigeria,” he spoke from the nation’s heart, and at the same  time address the core of our political problem.

To be sure these are words the people love to hear, but implicit in these word are courage and a determination to make a difference in the style of governance visa-vis the public interest and those of partisan political interests.

Let’s not downplay the import of 2011 elections. It could make or break this country. The past has been so rotten with criminal electoral practices, resulting in over 60% of our current elected political office holders being in office fraudulently, that it would be a foolhardy risk to take, if the country allows Iwu’s INEC to conduct the next general election.

Jonathan has just said he is not going to be a part of that foolishness. In fact the Acting President has promised that he is going to sweep that dirty house clean. Fortunately for the AP, more than two thirds of INEC’s members’ tenure will expire shortly, so they could just walk out the door. And whoever else is left and known to be unreliable will be replaced.

For those who have become accomplices in electoral fraud, this is bad news. Also, the beneficiaries of this fraud are in a position to put impediments on the way of the Acting President. That is to be expected, but again we like to call the attention of the AP to the fact that the “buck” stops on his desk. Whatever he does or refuses or even fails to do will be the determining factor. His consolation here is that he has majority of Nigerians behind him, and the people are prepared to stand by him.

The public notes the cautious determination of the Acting President in addressing the power sector and the question of insecurity in Nigeria. Both issues are critical to growing the economy and by extension adding the massive unemployment tragedy in the country.  However the words spoken in Washington or New York will have meaning only if they translate to effective actions on the streets of Nigeria.

Mr Acting President, you have courageously delivered on  words (beautiful words) but the litmus test is that you have yet to deliver with action. We are all anxious to see the face of the new INEC and that credible person as its head, who all Nigerians (especially civil society groups) will be happy to have in an electoral system that works.

Between LASMA and Lagos Drivers

On Monday,  Lagosians woke up to face unexpected chaos in the rush-hour traffic when private operators withdrew their vehicles from the city’s transportation  system.

They were protesting what they described as LASMA’s excesses in its fight against lawlessness associated with commercial and sometimes private drivers in the mega city. The hardship that commuters had to suffer that day was one of those nightmares you go through,  which makes one sick of living in Lagos.

We are all aware that discipline and manners had been scarce commodities  on Lagos roads, which necessitated the establishment of LASMA in the first instance. Since then, things have significantly  improved with traffic, but then an unforeseen problem has cropped up. LASMA has transformed  into a street bully to the point that they are almost becoming nuisance to both commercial and private drivers.

Now, that the element of extortion has slipped into their operations, commercial drivers are up in arms against them.
Unfortunately, the drivers themselves still constitute a major problem to the flow of traffic in this bustling city; so there is still room for LASMA to operate.  However, the rules of engagement appear to be miscarrying with cases of excessive application of force on offenders which ultimately end in extortion of the victims (A typical Nigerian abuse of process for fraudulent purposes), which never was the good intention behind the creation of LASMA.

All these notwithstanding, LASMA must  be strengthened, but repositioned to align with the truest intent of its creation, which is to civilize driving habits in Lagos and keep out of circulation the bad drivers.

All over the world, outfits like LASMA are designed for corrective purposes, not revenue  generation for government,  which LASMA is virtually turning into.

Well-meaning road users in Lagos welcome the corrective nature of LASMA, but it should be pointed out that it is not every error inadvertently committed by drivers that should attract the maximum penalty. The outfit should have a friendlier image without compromising on its rules of engagement designed to correct bad, very bad driving habits in Lagos.

This is my recommendation to Gov. Fashola before things begin to unravel for the worse. Don’t be intimidated by the drivers, and please don’t let the public have the impression that LASMA is another revenue generating outfit in Lagos.


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