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An incredible election?

…Our open secrets, Our deepening democracy, Gratias, NEWSWATCH

By Bisi Lawrence
I must be honest with you. I really do not know what a Direct Data Capture – DDC – machine looks like.  But I guess it must be much larger than an average “pc” personal computer, that is. I know that it is used for the smooth and rapid registration of voters, a facility that is most urgently needed by our nation at this time.

The INEC had duly ordered thousands of units of the equipment that are expected to be used in the forthcoming registration of voters for the general elections next year. It was with no little excitement that the news of their arrival in this country was received a few days ago. Swift on the heels of that report followed the harrowing information that some units of the equipment were already stolen at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja.

Ordinarily, every airport is expected to be protected by an appreciable amount of security to safeguard the movement of people and goods. An international airport  even more so, since it is an entry into, as well as an outlet out of the country, and that makes the implications of its security involvement much wider to the extent of the nation’s total wellbeing.

It would appear that the authorities still haven’t appreciated that all these years, It is not as though the reputation of the Ikeja airport is unknown as a space on God’s own good earth where anything can just disappear. The team of television experts who travelled to Nigeria with former American President Jimmy Carter, for instance, had much of their equipment stolen in that airport, and there have been several occasions which depict the inadequacies of the security watch there. That should have encouraged the establishment of much  stiffer arrangements for the safeguard of these vital materials meant  for an important service like the general elect
ions. And now to imagine  that they are gone,lust like that ! Jega must be having kittens!

But how could it have been done? Even if each unit was no larger than a type-writer, as has been suggested earlier, it would still need some effort to cart away several of them. It would also definitely require motorized transportation, except they are concealed within the airport – which is no less riskier than their being spirited away at once. In any case, an abundant knowledge of the merchandise must have been available to the perpetrators – the details of the consignment, its pattern of movement, the airport area of operations. In short, we are talking here of an “inside job”.

So, what would anyone wish to do with these units? Of what use are they to a private individual or group outside the official personnel of the INEC – except for some dishonest acts against the smooth-running and integrity of the forthcoming elections?

It is clear that there are rampant forces ranged against the peaceful and honest conduct of the elections, and they are beginning to rear their ugly heads. Only goodness knows what else they have in their bag of tricks. It is an object lesson for the authorities in charge of security, who have been thrusting their chests forward to boast of the impregnable measures they already have in place to confound any attempt to disrupt the elections. Let them first take the challenge of restoring our confidence by recovering the DDC units, and then bring the culprits to book. Nothing short of that can make their preparations for these elections ever appear credible again. Jega must speak now.

The issue of zoning within the PDP, the Peoples Democratic Party, keeps growing horns. When the aspirants who were weeded out at the “consensus” preliminaries of the party, declared their acceptance of the Ciroma panel’s dedision, one felt that good sense had come to preside over the entire proceedings of the PDP’s preliminaries at last. It was a protracted wrangle that had soared to emotional levels on the way, but the calm and sober manner in which it appeared to have ended  gave hope to a development of mature attitudes that would have benefitted the general conduct of affairs within our democratic institutions. But it now appears to show the sparks of another eruption.

The argument hangs on the decision of a law suit in which the judge ruled that the PDP was entitled to uphold its principle of zoning as established in its constitution. The question was really about the party’s propriety in upholding it, a competence which was inalienable since it was an in-house measure that does not impinge on the rights of others not to comply with it.

The decision, however, seems to have been misread as a court order compelling the PDP to enforce the principle. No. It only pronounced, it seems to me, on the competence of the party to exercice a particular item of its constitution. If the PDP then waives the provisions or restrictions of a part of its own constitution, it would hardly amount to a matter of tenable litigation. A dissenting member who cannot live with the decision has to take the course that seems best to him.

Such a course would be the move that resulted in the exercise of the “consensus” candidate of  the PDP, in a direct reaction against, and as different  from,  the candidacy of President Goodluck Jonathan which was accommodated by the party in an apparent abrogation of its “zoning” policy. Those who opted for the “consensus” deal would seem to have tacitly agreed with the dispensation arrived at by the party.

They then went on to actually submit themselves to the conduct of an exercise which emanated from that dispensation and was subsidiary to it, to all intents and purposes. Furthermore, they went on to publicly acknowledge the merit of that exercise, and to openly subscribe to it, with the promise of their support. It is simply too late to backslide.

One can only add that, to change course midstream in developments of this nature, in this nature, would do little to enrich our political culture, but only serve in depleting our stock of moral values.

At the seamiest nadir of his series of “inappropriate” episodes in White House ,. President Bill Clinton became the butt of easy lampoons in the American press. With his popularity nose-diving at the Gallup polls and the uncertainties of the election to a second term of office looming ahead, some advisers wondered if it would not be a good idea to limit, by official influence or the like, the expanse of the reportage involved in the stories.

But Clinton tossed that idea overboard promptly for the good reason that the press would not publish the stories, if they were not what the people wanted to read. The truth, however, is that not all that the public would want to read is fit for print. That is the basis of the phenomenon of the so-called whistle-blower, Wikileaks, and its success so far.

People want to read about embezzlement, theft, treachery, divorce – that is what makes news defined whimsically, as what you want to know about others but don’t want them to know about you.

The unpleasant aspect in the Wikileaks whistle blowing is the danger it poses to individual lives when the stakes are high, especially in circumstances’ of international relations. The game that Wikileaks has been playing is mostly with the pawn of human lives and ruined careers. Nations cannot exist in a world of diverse interests without  having closely guarded secrets affecting the well-beings of their citizens, and this is the foundation of the welfare of thousands of citizens world-wide, that the organization is “blowing the whistle” upon. It cannot, or should not, set itself up as the arbiter about what is fit for the people to know. Only those who own secrets should decide that for themselves.

Such fine sentiments are fit only for the Marines these days, of course. Improved listening devices and modern communication skills have broken down almost  any  form of secrecy in human contact. A car could drive past your house in the United States, for instance, while watching you and your wife in your bedroom….and no cost for admission. Such a facility may soon be available here now that everything is going “global”. And when it comes into the hands of my Naija brothers and sisters, well, look out.

And, by the way, it cannot be news that Shell had infilterated our government  agencies, even outside those strictly associated with the oil industry. Wikileaks seems to have astounded some people with that wayside intelligence. That is their way, especially those transnational  organizations.  In such situations, those who have attained positions of high responsibility in their employ, and thus expected to be burdened with a sense of loyalty to them, are usually kept at a distance from sensitive sources of government administration and information. We say no more. But, throughout the world today, there is really no hiding place at any time, anywhere, anymore.

We wonder what has happened to that matter of a few billion naira which was said to have come to earth with regard to the purchase  of some kind of Peugeot cars for some members of the National Assembly. A  prominent  activist lawyer  was preoccupied with it over a period of time, and then allowed time to win – or so it now seems.

Then there was another matter of  something in the tune of something  louder, ringing of billions which some honourable members strove to bring out of the closet, but it would appear  that the efforts to shut them down is not going to be successful, after all. Or will it?

It is reckoned that there are over three hundred bills yet to be passed in the lower house alone, but they have managed to pass a bill seeking their perpetuation in office, over  and above the protests of the  masses. In fact, the passage of the bill was almost a secret affair, consummated beyond the ken of the newsmen around.

Ever heard of “deepening democracy? You’ll be hearing more.

I thank my “brothers of the pen”, Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese, Yakubu Mohammed, and Soji Akinrinade, with the entire management and staff of the NEWSWATCH, for the award they presented to me on the occasion of their 25th anniversary. Nothing can make you feel more professional than an acclaim from your peers. Thank you for accepting me as one of your own.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.