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PROLOGUE:The election of our lives: Has Nigeria been good to democracy?

By Jide Ajani, Editor, Northern Operations

Democracy is good for Nigeria and Nigerians! But has Nigeria and Nigerians been good to democracy? Certainly not!  But could be!
An opportunity would present itself via the elections beginning this Saturday.
Since 1960, when Nigerians succeeding in forcing the hands of the colonial masters, causing the lowering of the Union Jack for the Green-White-Green flag, the nation continues to grope in this seemingly endless search for credible elections expected to usher in leaders with the peoples’ mandate. A credible process has almost always been elusive. From the parliamentary system employed in 1960 and which collapsed on January 15, 1966, to the executive presidential system which replaced it on October 1, 1979, it has been the same old story; a story of complex contradictions leading to failures of gargantuan proportions. Interestingly though with a massive dose of contradiction, the generally-acclaimed best-ever election conducted in Nigeria on Saturday, June 12, 1993, was never allowed to produce the leaders voted to power by the popular mandate.
That the contraption at hand, glamourously described as the Fourth Republic, is stumbling and wobbling through should not be construed that democracy has taken root neither should it then be misconstrued as the arrival of the kingdom.
At best, what we have now are ‘babanriga’-donning civilians who have taken over the seat of governance.  At worst, the every action of the key players leaves so much to be desired because the ills of the past appear to be no more than jokes compared to the nature of the evils confronting the polity today. Between the constitution, the politicians and the electorate, there is no co-terminus.

After three republics and in the fourth, Nigerians are still asking whether this form of governance is best suited for this clime.
Saturday, April 2, April 9  and April 16 have been slated for the National Assembly elections, presidential election, and  the governorship and state houses of assembly elections respectively. The prognosis, if all that happened last week are signs of things to come, does not appear any better – see report titled In the throes of fear: The magnifying spectre of violence.
Yet, all hopes are being pinned on this round of elections because huge money has already been expended and much more would be spent.
Professor Attahiru Jega, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has been making all the very useful noises about a free, fair and credible election but has had to use the big stick on some of his staff who had already been suspected of foul play.  At N86 bilion for the registration of voters and some other sundry costs on  logistics and personnel allowances, this democracy is coming at a great cost.  But, mind you, whatever the cost, Nigerians would not want to try military rule any more.
There are 119, 973 polling units scattered across the country.
In all these centres, INEC recorded 73,528,040 prospective voters.
Lagos State recorded the highest number of registered voters with 6,108,069, followed by Kano State with 5,270,297. President Goodluck Jonathan’s Bayelsa State got the least number of registered voters at 591,870 followed by Ekiti State with 764,720.  (See details in INEC’s Preparations).
Other details contained in the records released by the INEC chairman indicated that the commission recorded 870,612 duplicates during the collation of the final figures with Niger State giving the highest duplicates of 142,040, while the FCT got the least, with 953.
The way politicians have been going about their preparations for the elections, the uninitiated observer would not but conclude that the elections are purely about the presidency.  Though vicious campaigns are on at the state level  too, the attention on the presidential election is such that, whereas this Saturday, April 2, is for the National Assembly slots, the turnout for the presidential election  on April 9 would be much more massive.
But Nigerians appear readier this time for the elections just as politicians, going by their pronouncements, also seem  much more desperate to cling to or wrest power from others.  For instance, this is the first time in this republic that state governors would openly threaten opposition political parties and carry out their threats by not allowing them campaign in their states.
This is also the first time that a record number of cars (200 brand new cars) and motorised tri-cycles would be set on fire using petrol bombs.  It is also the first time that politicians would openly call on their supporters to protect their votes by any means possible.  Were violence removed from all of these, we, Nigerians, would have been said to be properly primed for an election of our lives.
But, it would still be an election of our lives because should the election outcome be very positive in terms of being free, fair and credible, it would be near Uhuru, with a renewed sense of dignity.
Should the outcome follow the pattern of violence that was witnessed in Akwa Ibom, last Tuesday, it would still be an election of our lives – with lives, property lost and money down the drain.

Shaping the 2011 polls

This list is by no means exhaustive. It presents a number of personalities who have made the exercise interesting, intriguing and inciting, along with some of the issues dominating these times.

The players

*Prof. Attahiru Jega, INEC Chairman
*President Goodluck Jonathan, PDP presidential candidate
*Vice-President Namadi Sambo
*Ex-VP, Atiku Abubakar
*Alhaji Muhammadu Buhari, CPC presidential candidate
*Northern Political Leaders Forum
*Chief Edwin Clark, Ijaw leader
*Chief Tony Anenih, sympathiser and strategic counsel to President Jonathan
*Chief  Raymond Dokpesi
*Malam Adamu Ciroma
*Malam Nuhu Ribadu, ACN presidential candidate
*Ibrahim Shekarau, ANPP presidential candidate
*The late President Umaru Yar’Adua
*Ex-Lagos Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu
*First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan
*Ex-military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd)
*Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State
* Former NSA, Gen. Aliyu Gusau (rtd)
*Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF
*Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo
*Niger Delta militants
*Boko Haram fanatics
*Okwesilieze Nwodo, deposed chairman of PDP
*Chairmen of political parties
*Justices and judges
*Security agencies
*Godfathers, godsons and god-daughters

The issues

*Power supply
*Pre-election violence
*Controversial congresses
*Judicial pronouncements
*Fear of the unknown


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