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Addressing the 2011 elections

By John Moyibi Amoda

A NATIONAL newspaper of February 25, 2010 had the following blurb on its last page.
Carson to INEC : “Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has performed poorly over the past decade and has not served the interest of Nigeria well… I stressed that Nigeria’s next presidential and National Assembly elections scheduled for April 2011 must be credible. They must be free, fair and transparent and they must be a significant improvement over the country’s 2007 presidential election, which were deeply embarrassing and deeply flawed”.

The above is a report of the comments of the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnny Carson. In the report, Carson laid down the rules so to speak, that should govern Nigeria’s next presidential and National Assembly elections.

“They must be credible.
“They must be a free, fair and transparent.
“They must be a significant improvement over the 2007 presidential election.

These three laws can be described as Johnnie Carson’s Laws on Elections in Africa. As in the nature of laws, there is always punishment for transgression and blessings for obedience. As in the nature of divine laws, disobedience of laws is sin and the sinners cannot do “business” with the “Law giver” until atonement for their transgression or sins have been made; there is always offerings made for sins to establish the fact the transgressors have seen the unrighteousness of their disobedience and have repented of their ways and by the sin offering are covenanting with the law giver that henceforth by the token of their sin offerings they will obey both the letter and the spirit of the law.

Let us therefore assume that the Carson Laws on African Elections mark the beginning of a new relationship between the United States and Africa and that Nigeria is the test case. Let us further assume that there is in place what we can also call Carson’s Punishment or Penalties for the Transgression of the Laws and Carson’s Blessings for Obedience, and let us further assume that the punishment and the blessings will be lawfully applied not selectively.

In such a scenario, while granting Obama’s America all the grace of altruism in the establishing this new relationship of democratic electoral tutelage between the government of the United States and African governments, is it plausible to ask whether the INECs of Africa can obey the Carson’s Laws? From the pronouncement of the current Chairman of INEC, Prof. Maurice Iwu, the answer to the above cannot be an unqualified, yes we can! Professor Iwu has argued that the problems of “electoral transgression” are the politicians themselves and that a perfectible INEC is helpless to deliver the class of compliant electoral parties that will play according to Johnnie Carson’s Electoral Laws. In the following weeks INEC will be the subject of this column.

It is fortuitous that Dr. Abel I. Guobadia, OFR, former Chairman of INEC, Federal Republic of Nigeria from May 26, 2000 to May 25, 2005 has put his experience of his tenure  into a book titled, Reflections of a Nigerian Electoral Umpire launched February 25, 2010 in the NUC Auditorium, Maitama, Abuja. The book is now a public material and readers can have a ring-side seat in their privacy to reflect on the findings of a chairman thoroughly prepared for his appointment. Typical of the Chairman, my former teacher at Government College Ughelli, he did not seek renewal of his appointment. He has left us a record of attempt to perfect INEC for its roles.

He has by his title chosen for his book provided the incumbent Chairman of INEC or his successor a concept of the role of INEC, that of an umpire- we will in the course of our comments on INEC through the advantage point provided by a first volume on what should be Guobadia’s INEC memoirs, have occasion to review this role definition of INEC, whether it is too narrow or too wide a job description.

However, this is not the focus of this first article in our INEC series in the Vanguard Tuesday column. This article deals with the assumptions of Johnnie Carson on elections everywhere as a means of resolving conflicts on the formation of governments and the administration of the power of governments either as stipulated by constitutions or by conventions. Is the State Department of Obama’s presidency on good grounds to express its recommendations to another sovereign government in the form of  Talmudic Mosaic commandments?

I think not. Is it desirable that Johnnie Carson state America’s expectations in such a form? Within the context of the New Diplomacy of intrusive human rights advocacy, the answer could be a qualified yes. Can the expectations so forcefully stated be fully satisfied, I think not. In this piece I argue that election was decided in the instance of Nigeria’s accession to independence as a British strategy of succession, not of a democratic reform of the British empire of which Nigeria was a province. When so used, we must appreciate the nature of the strategy in terms of the political change negotiated. In this negotiation, there were two sides; the Colonial Office of the British Imperial Government and the Nigerian pro-Independence political parties. There are those who will say what has history to do with electoral malpractices? Is it not Nigerians that rig elections and corruptly abuse power and authority? Why hide behind history? Is this not another cover up for corruption and corrupt politicians? Such comments are empirically valid, but there is a qualifier.

The comments are made with no consideration for contexts, no consideration of the choice of elections by the British as a means for transferring power and authority over a province of the British Empire to a class of colonial politicians agitating for the “independence” of the colony as opposed to democratic reform of political life within the empire or in a negotiated seceding province of the empire.

Continues next week.


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