By Tonnie Iredia
One story that has been in the news for some time now and is refusing to get away from public discourse is the open confession of former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu about how he rigged elections when his party; the Peoples Democratic Party PDP was in power. Mantu said many things but none of it is new. As a matter of fact, a more detailed analysis of how elections are rigged in Nigeria rendered by Donald Duke, a former governor of Cross River state is more instructive.
Besides, Mantu is not the only politician that has confessed to electoral malpractices During the Federal Government’s ‘Good Governance Tour’ organized by Labaran Maku, a former Information Minister, former Akwa Ibom Governor Godswill Akpabio reportedly told the Maku-led team in Uyo that he falsified a senatorial election result and personally replaced the winner with his preferred candidate, Aloysius Etok. Of course, many still remember the great expose ofTemitope Aluko, former Secretary of Ekiti PDP who told the nation how the 2014 governorship election in Ekiti state was systematically rigged in favour of Ayodele Fayose, the then PDP governorship candidate.
Painfully, those who have refused to overlook the Mantu confession do not appear to have examined the rationale for the confession. Instead, they have allowed Mantu to set an agenda for the nation which seems to have arrested the attention of many. While some have praised the former Deputy Senate President for his courage in coming out at this point to expose a major national defect, others think that Mantu’s confession should be the most appropriate point of departure for the nation to implement the often-suggested election offences tribunal.
Having established earlier that he was neither the first to make such confession nor did he say anything new, it is submitted that Mantu’s confession is not about courage. Also, the issue of an election offences tribunal is hardly strong against the backdrop of many reports of justice for sale in political matters in the country. In other words, dedicating certain courts to election offences is not likely to alter our justice delivery system without a change of attitude by the principal actors. This is because politicians who compromise our courts can do same to election offences tribunal. Based on this line of thought therefore, it is hard to call Mantu a hero
But as stated earlier, the former Deputy Senate President has succeeded in getting our politicians to throw banters at each other on the subject. The man said he rigged elections for his party, he didn’t say he was mandated by the PDP to rig elections for her. It was thus unnecessary for the latter to disown Mantu simply because he has claimed to be the real ‘Mr. Fix it’. At the time the man was Deputy Senate President and also a member of the PDP Board of Trustees, many of his colleagues (riggers or saints) that are now in the ruling All Progress Congress APC were in the PDP.
It is not unreasonable to imagine that they may have taken along with them, the rigging prowess of the PDP to the APC. This is not hard to appreciate because just before the 2015 Presidential election the PDP-led federal government introduced a new rigging strategy known as postponement of voting for security reasons. The APC promptly adopted the same strategy at the first opportunity- the Edo state governorship election in 2016 which was postponed without the knowledge of the electoral body. One would therefore expect our new generation of politicians to be wary of what Mantu has said so far and to show more interest in what he is yet to say.
In earnest, those who are prepared to fault the official reason for Mantu’s confession are not without strong arguments. First, Senator Mantu has to explain why his rigging expertise did not keep him beyond 2007 in the senate which has no term limitation. Even his born-again justification is suspect because he employed it without success in the last national chairmanship contest of the PDP. Last September, he reportedly urged leaders of his party to elect Tunde Adeniran as the National Chairman because he “fasted for 30 days and nights” asking God to show him who would lead the party, and God showed him Adeniran. The result of the vision he saw, should make us look beyond the current confession.
Could it be that there are other ills, the guardian spirit of the born-again wants Mantu to reveal? What for instance was his role in the famous 3rd term agenda? What he confesses with respect to this may help Nigeria to stabilize as it can bequeath to posterity the positive features of democracy. There is in fact, so much that old politicians can do to restore Nigeria to the path of progress. Beyond helping to stop election rigging, the nation is in dire need of a sanitized legislature that does not seek to expropriate a huge chunk of the nation’s budget. We also need law makers whose interest in law making should be more than materialistic oversight functions and other vices that the old breed originated.
Now to the big one. In October 2003, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, now governor of Kaduna state who was then a ministerial nominee, appeared before the senate for confirmation. During the process, Nasir openly alleged that some senators demanded from him a whooping N54million to facilitate the confirmation. When further pressed to name those who made the demand, el Rufai shocked the nation by naming two senators which included the then Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu.
To calm the political tempo which the subject triggered, the senate immediately set up a panel which hurriedly cleared the accused of any wrong doing as if anxious to protect their own. Interestingly, the senate still cleared el Rufai, the supposed false alarmist. This made many analysts to doubt the authenticity of the senate investigation. The PDP which was the ruling party at the time explained that the matter was resolved the family way. Those of us that didn’t belong to that political family queried in vain the wisdom of using a family platform to resolve a criminal offence. This left different people to hold divergent opinions till today. Thus, it does not appear out of place to classify the subject as qualified for confession! It does not have to be Mantu only, more confessions are welcome please