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Vacancies without violence

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By Tony Momoh
The New Year, 2011, is two days old and the many resolutions of many are not likely to be crumbling this soon. But, because this year seems to be one of promise, in spite of the seething darkness trying to undermine what we have all anchored a volition for, we should tackle the bad in us for the good to emerge.

Yes, we have abundance of the good in us that should now gradually come to take over what we have pushed to the front-burner because it paid us to do so. Division, we thought paid, and would continue to pay; so also did manipulation, and fraud, and corruption.

We are coming to see clearly, and know within our hearts, that they never really helped the peace of our minds and the love that could flow from our hearts. With our religious leaders and many others striving to know God more than ever before, we can achieve the change we seek. President Goodluck Jonathan had promised that change and even preached and still preaches it.

I saw on a television advert, the national chairman of PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, mouthing with unbelievable confidence his choice of change of the mindset from electoral abuse to one of one-man-one-vote. I mean no harm to his person, but when the chief executive of the most powerful political party in the country that claims to be ready to govern the country for 60 years, opts for obedience to the rule of law and free and fair elections, then something is happening.

A power we may not now understand is moving from within, which is the same thing as saying from above, pushing outwards for recognition so that the much-trumpeted claim by those who know that evil has a life span, may, in fact, be very gradually dawning on us.

But, there are two statements that seem to be dragging us to the past and threatening our resolve that there must be change, that things must not only be done the way they are known to be done elsewhere, but that they must be seen to be done that way the world knows and commends. These statements were mouthed by two leaders of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party— Chief Tony Anenih and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. The Anenih statement had to do with whether there was a seat to be occupied in the Presidency or a state house.

The Atiku statement could be interpreted to mean that if things are not done the way they should be done and seen to be done, then in the language of inimitable Mbadiwe, the come will come to become.  Shorn of their coverings, Anenih has told us many a time that there are no vacancies in offices which the Constitution clearly provides vacancies for. There is no vacancy in Aso

Rock, he said when people were thinking that Obasanjo’s second term was endangered. He also told those who were wanting to replace the governors in the states that there were no vacancies in the government houses of the PDP-controlled states. Later Anenih was to tell those who were asking for changes  when Yar’Adua was ill that there was no vacancy in Aso Rock.

Even that time, when our president was more far gone than we were made to believe and the medical family knew he could never return to the presidential desk, we were told that there was no vacancy in Aso Rock.  In fact, some groups emerged asking for the return of Yar’Adua whether he was fit to rule or not; and our attorney-general and minister of justice, now discredited, told us the president could govern from any part of the cosmos!  We lost our president and Goodluck Jonathan emerged.

The song was the same, so also the singers and drummers. And, when the struggle for the flag-bearer of PDP was heating up, Chief Anenih told the old story to those who cared to listen, that there is no vacancy in Aso Rock.

That statement may have been meant, in the first instance, for those in PDP who were arguing about zoning and asking that President Jonathan steps aside for the North to rule for the period Yar’Adua would have been there before the position would go back to the South. If they fail to get the message, it would be their fault.

But with what has been happening, it is proper to make trumpeters of such inane warnings to also get the message of change, the type of change the world is insisting on, the change that emerges through transparent due process. If such change or changes are denied or truncated or ignored in favour of weird schemes and contraptions of the past, then Atiku’s warning cannot be treated in isolation and described as treasonable.

He said, and this is commonplace among those who have read a book or two on governance, that those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.  Coming from Atiku, some say he was reintroducing the do-or-die mantra of Obasanjo’s era.

But the two statements are not what we want for this year. The truth, however, is that this year, as in other years, we shall reap the fruits of what we sow.  We are not sowing the seeds that will bear fruits of peace if we plant bombs that maim and kill. The packaging of deadly weapons in crates marked tomato purees will not by magic turn guns and bombs into tomato puree.

The bombing of the rally of a PDP aspirant who wanted to express his intention to contest an election this year in Bayelsa State, a constitutional provision to fill the many vacancies created by due process, is not a route to seeking and entrenching peace. In the new time, we must speak the language of change. In Section 14 of the Constitution, we are told by the people that sovereignty belongs to them, resides in them.

They donate powers well settled in the constitution to the organs established for the purpose of carrying out specific and specified duties. How you access the office listed is unambiguous; what you should do there is stated, how long you would be there is settled, and how you will exit the office is right there for you to see.

But for the ways to exit the offices listed, would we have electoral laws passed to regulate the registration of voters, the conduct of polls, the announcement of results and the swearing-in of those who won? But, for the fact that there are vacancies to be filled, would the holders of offices be told that they got there by processes that were questionable and so should quit?

Of course, there is vacancy in Aso Rock and so also in the states. The world is indeed, changing and so also should be the way we reflect the changes in speech and in action. To say that there is no vacancy where the Constitution says there is, can only be a pointer to wanting to subvert the process of filling the vacancy.

And, to say that violent change is inevitable where peaceful change is subverted is a clear enough answer to those who undermine due process. We do not accept denial of vacancies where they clearly are there to be filled, nor do we pray for violent change which will no doubt make all the greedy ones lose everything. Welcome to a new year, a year we all pray for changes of mindsets that would appreciate the rules that govern the choice of the road taken.

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