By Owei Lakemfa
GOVERNANCE after independence, was in a sense, chaotic. There was a virtual insurrection in the Middle Belt for which the military carried out annual punitive expeditions. Anarchism took over the West with people being roasted alive, and widespread arson. For this, it became known as the Wild, Wild West. Leaders of the opposition Action Group Party were either in prison or on the run. Corruption was said to be rife and when there were disputes over the December 1964 general elections, President Nnamdi Azikiwe was put under house arrest for declining to call Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa to form government.
Such was the general disenchantment that when the January 1966 coup overthrew the civilian administration, the country was thrown into wild jubilation. But within 17 months, the military plunged the country into a Civil War in which an estimated two million people perished. With the war coming to an end in 1970, the most visionary and resourceful trade unionist in our history, Wahab Omorilewa Goodluck, addressed the people in a rally declaring: “The politicians have ruled and failed, the military is ruling and has failed, it is the turn of workers to rule.” He used ‘workers’ in a generic sense to include all those who labour; workers in the formal and informal sectors, farmers, artisans and the poor.
Given his leadership of large sections of the trade union and his antecedents as a matchless mobiliser, the military regime panicked. It considered his speech incendiary and a call to arms. Goodluck was seized in Lagos and re-appeared in the Kaduna Central Prisons where he spent several months. With the curse that was military rule and the subsequent experience of Nigerians under professional politicians, Comrade Goodluck has been proved right many times over.
The 2019 general elections showed, once again, that many politicians do not have faith in either the electoral process or the people; their primary goals are pecuniary. That the political parties are mere contraptions for electoral purposes and not parties with due paying members. The 2019 elections are like shallow graves; you do not need to dig deep to discover the monumental fraud committed by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and its Siamese twin, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
We use mainly academics to run our electoral process with otherwise busy professors spending years organising elections and sleepless nights to manually move and collate results from polling stations to Abuja; a process a handful of first year IT students can accomplish in a transparent manner if electronic transfer were allowed.
Electoral work can be overwhelming and damaging to the academic profession. In one instance, a professor of physics absconded. When a professor flees his electoral post, he has either been compromised and, therefore, unworthy of his rank, or the amount of fraud he is being made to endorse is so overwhelming that he flees to protect what is left of his honour.
A lot of electoral infractions were committed under the noses of the electoral managers. For instance, there were cases of thousands of children accredited to vote. In some instances, the children – naturally behaving like kids – became so unruly that electoral officers created separate queues for them. So, were these simply cases of collusion, or the suspension of disbelief in which case the electoral umpires viewed the children as adults? Given the claims that we now have ‘improved’ elections, were these cases reported in the incident forms and why were such votes not cancelled? Of what use were the security services beyond trying to make the children vote in an orderly manner? There are of course a number of videos emerging of electoral officials and other fraudsters thumb-printing lots of ballot papers for the two leading parties. So when a friend argued that it was more an allocation process than an electoral one, I could not readily fault him.
I have also read international Western Observers praising the role of our military in the conduct of the elections, and I ask: Are the armed forces involved in conducting elections in their own countries? The elections were highly ethnicised with cases of voters being attacked and their votes burnt on the suspicion that they might not have voted for anointed candidates. While the religious dimension was not really present, it has surfaced after the elections. A major contestant feels aggrieved and rather than move his supporters into the streets, opts to challenge the elections in the courts. Overnight, hordes of choristers rise, chanting that he should not, because the election results are the will of God; who told them? Who says God has a hand in the democratisation of electoral fraud?
It is incredible that the PDP with its sordid past, put up a strong showing, enough to cast doubts on the victory of the APC. Rather than taunt the PDP, the APC should actually be in reflection; why did so many who just four years ago, were ready to swear in the name of President Muhammadu Buhari, turn their backs on the party? The APC was in 2015, a brand new bus that tore furiously through the electoral roads coasting home to victory; today, even as it claims to be accelerating to the Next Level, the gear is not really engaging and many of its passengers have jumped off. Those who hope to hike in the APC bus to the 2023 elections, might need alternative plans as its engine might knock before the next general elections.
Some people are excited that in the race to the Senate, some powerful politicians like Governors Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo of Gombe, Abiola Ajimobi, the ‘Constituted Authority’ of Oyo State; former Governor Godswill Akpabio and the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, fell. Contrary to some analysis that this shows that the electoral system is self-correcting, the simple fact is that this is merely part of the infighting amongst the professional politicians and does not affect the power relations in the country.
What can alter the power relations in the country is if the Nigerian people who have been abused and exploited by military adventurists and professional politicians for decades, take their destiny in their own hands. This is in our interest and that of our children and future generations. A primary step is to build our own organisation which we should fund from our pockets in contrast to the leading political parties that are funded from our national purse or stolen money. With that, we can take on the parties of the professional politicians and bring to life, a Pro-People and Pro-Nigeria government. As Wahab Goodluck pointed out 50 years ago, the professional politicians and military have failed; it is the turn of the people to govern. Who is coming with us?