Helping Nigeria through credible elections
By Adisa Adeleye
In a period heavily dominated by news of shameful corruption arising out of ‘subsidy scandal‘ and killings and maiming by Nigerians (claims by Boko Haram sect), the election of Adams Oshiomole as Governor of Edo State without the usual violence, is a welcome rarity.
Though the absence of violence during and after the elections might be attributed to heavy presence of security forces in major towns and the various polling booths, the reaction of the voters was still commendable when it is viewed against the scourge of Boko Haram insurgency in the North and armed robberies in the South, even with heavier deployment of security forces.
The victory of Adams Oshiomole has been attributed to his outstanding performance and the recognition by the people of Edo State of good governance. The timely goodwill message of the President Goodluck Jonathan has gone a long way in preventing the usual ‘bad manners by bad losers‘.
The political lesson is that under a reliable electoral system, elections can be won and lost on the virtues of issues and performance.
This calls for a review of our electoral system to ensure that the voice of the electorate is heard, and clearly too. There should always be a room for the independent candidate in any election as is the practice in all civilized and democratic societies.
As one jubilates over the triumph of democracy in Edo State, the killings of a serving Senator and a Lawmaker in Plateau State cast a dark and gloomy shadow on ethnic and religious unity in this country.
The problems of Plateau State and especially those of Jos, the capital have been diagnosed and analyzed in the past, but have received little or not much concern by either the Federal Government or the State authority.
The problems are simply of political and ethnic origin. Before the creation of Plateau State, the administration of the area had been in the hands of Hausa/Fulani, while the economy, especially that of Jos and its environs was virtually monopolized by Nigerians of southern origin.
Thus, the indigenes were virtually out of reckoning. Infact, the Beroms of Jos were totally ostracized. The dilemma of Jos today is that of a politically liberated indigene, seeing himself living in an economic bondage.
There is that temptation to reverse age-long political degradation and economic subjugation. This could be done through a delicate balancing act, or by brute ‘force‘. The general impression in the country is the inability of people who have been in power to share or accommodate others in the enjoyment of their positions.
The other side is ruthlessness of the new power blocs to force a change without serious regard for entrenched interests. It becomes more complicated if religious and ethnic considerations are allowed to predominate.
The present Plateau State Government (with the help of the Federal Government) is expected to balance the legitimate rights of the indigenes and the political and economic interests of those who are now regarded as “settlers”, even if some of their families are known to have settled there for more than 100 years.
Many analysts believe that even if the Boko Haram insurgency (with its nebulous intentions) is crushed or settled through negotiation, it is most likely that sobering embers of religion and ethnicity might be rekindled into fire in many other places.
Therefore, in thinking about the present serious problems of Boko Haram, it is necessary also to take into consideration the complexity of religious and ethnic hostilities.
In my examination of the dread of 2015 in this column, I have been able to discover that many Nigerians are only Nigerians by appellation and see themselves as individuals living in a place called Nigeria, but their loyalties are somewhere else. This might be because the present country does not fit into their vision of a country to be proud of.
This is evident from the comments of a frustrated Nigerian whose thought is that, “There is nothing Jonathan can do now to avert looming break-up, it is already too late, not even the leaders in various ethnic groups who are benefitting massively from the corrupt government can stop it”.
Many patriotic Nigerians believe that the doom of 2015 could be averted if in addition to our reliance on good luck early morning call of worshippers and Sunday-Sunday worship in the churches, every effort is directed at policies which would ensure unity and prosperity.
It is known that Nigerians will patronize visionary leaders whose aims are to destroy old bad ways of governance and substitute them with administration of peace and prosperity.
It is possible within the next four years to terminate the present Boko Haram insurgency, to create religious and ethnic harmony and to build a prosperous country.
If the present leaders look inwardly and think deeply, there is the possibility of working together as a formidable team to address and overcome some of the excruciating problems of nation building.
If it is realized that the daunting problems are not insolvable if political leaders are determined to fight for the country and not for themselves. That is if the leader and the follower are partners in progress and if corruption is reduced to the barest minimum and there is greater hope in the greater future.
It is my opinion that the smooth road to 2015 should start from now. It seems to have started last Saturday 14th July, 2012. The conduct of the election was adjudged to be free and fair inspite of some lapses in the distribution of voting materials and accreditation of voters.
Apart from the disappearance of voting materials and snatching of ballot boxes which are manifestations of rigging in the days of old, lateness in the arrival of voting materials to the voting booths could be another form of disenfranchising the voters.
An ideal electoral procedure should be straight voting after the voter is accredited; a voter after accreditation need not go and come back later for voting. The time lag of about two hours (between accreditation and voting) would be to many, a disincentive.
If an election is transparent, there would be no need for violence or any form of litigation. It is assumed that Nigerians would believe the authority and themselves that voting will be done easily without the large presence of police and soldiers at polling booths.