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Elections 2011: Not yet Uhuru

NIGERIANS are experts in all fields of human endeavour, including a plethora of telephone ring tones. One tone in particular captures my attention and starts with “NIGERIA evil men will never rule you again, People who steal your money will never rule you again” and it goes on with a number of other interesting prayers.

I write this as an insider having been through the rugged trenches of party primaries and elections and finally emerged to represent Ideato North and South in the National Assembly. I did not hear what I now narrate. As my country people say, I SAW IT ALL LIVE.

When I told my cousin and friend, Shawcross Moore in late 2010 of my resolve to offer myself for national service through the National Assembly (that resolve is as relevant today as it was then) his cryptic reply was: “Forget it for election results in Nigeria are written a day before voting and read on voting day”.

That was the abyss to which this country had plummetted. Sadly Shawcross is no longer with us to see that even in Third World countries, people power can still prevail and change events irreversibly as was the case in lmo State.

After very detailed analysis and reflection I decided to pitch camp with APGA. This produced more discouragement and a wry laugh from some people who wondered whether I was sane to commit time, energy and hard earned sterling to a party that cannot win.

I recollect that in one of my earlier discussions with my friend Martin Agbaso who was then the lmo APGA boss, he said that it will take more than 100 years before Nigeria can have free and fair elections.

One man, Professor Atahiru Jega, has proved all skeptics and cynics wrong. He has more or less single handedly brought Nigeria back from the brink. If 2011 failed, that would have sign-posted, whether one believes it or not, the end of Nigeria.

Yes, one man (or woman) can make a difference and change the course of history. This eagle- eyed Professor is deserving of the highest honour this country bestows. No amount of money spent on “Re-branding Nigeria” can garner a percent of Atahiru’ s achievement. Refreshingly Nigeria finally is on the way out of the book of pariah states.

Kudos to you, my brother compatriot, for you have etched your name not in gold but in platinum. May God bless you.

Before we get into a trance and become euphoric, let us tarry a while, and not equate Jega with INEC. That will be bad maths. As every politician who has been through this horror called Election 2011 can truthfully testify, some INEC and security staff were compromised.

In the last days of the Imo supplementary governorship race, millions and I mean millions, of what must have been public money was literally flung at officials. Noboby who has worked for his money can throw it with such recklessness.

The slogan by the governing party in Imo was throw the money. As in all human dealings, some officials invariably buckled. The majority of voters took the money but still voted their conscience. In the interest of our evolving democracy, it is  essential that such errant staff be identified and removed. The impartiality and integrity of the electoral apparatus cannot be compromised and 2015 has to be an  improvement on 2011.

Another drag on the march to democratic Uhuru is the insatiable Nigerian politician. Every, and I mean every, politician in the last election cut corners to  win. This is fact and some need see a Catholic priest. There has to be a way of limiting electioneering spending for now only the (“rich”) can venture into this business.

Politics must be the only major profession which is not self-regulating and yet it regulates all of us. There are no strict entry qualifications with the result that acts of thuggery are common place. Thugs are employed primarily to protest their  gladiator paymasters and his votes or to destroy those of the opposition.

In some of the security briefings candidates were invited to, one stood in complete awe and amazement as some of the future “Honourable” members nearly engaged in physical exchanges rather than let superior arguments win.

There cannot be much that is honourable in such behaviour. In the Imo supplementary vote (lawyers should please address the legality of that vote), the people of Oguta local government where I was supervising a ward, the indigenes told me in plain Igbo that Oguta does not vote. What usually happened is that a certain well known party chieftain wrote the result sheets and sent whoever he liked to parliament.

The same is also true of local government election. I eagerly looked forward to this Oguta jinx being broken but again it was not to be. Oguta must vote in 2015. In one polling both at Aro-Ndizuogu (my home) what can only be described as a war front operated. A group of thugs led by a party chieftain and his orderly fired pump-action guns, the voters fled; they did their dirty work and left.

I was only 50 yards away from this booth and it looked like a movie script. The presence of the Army in these last stages of the election certainly helped in reducing tension and violence. One keeps wondering if we need brute force to exercise  our democratic rights.

Year 2011 is a very significant milestone to our journey to democratic uhuru with still many miles to go. The journey is bumpy, rough and tortuous with frequent starts and stops. I tell my friends that each of us must write our epitah in our life time. Attahiru  has indelibly etched his on a giant monument.

Dr. EDDIE MBADIWE was member -elect Idea to the National Assembly.


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