Mobolaji E. Aluko, Ph.D.
Burtonsville, MD 20866
May 26, 2003
When all attempts to fundamentally address – not
even solve – a Nigerian political problem fails, the mantra one quickly hears is
“Let us move on …. In the interest of the nation.”
We are beginning to hear that again over these
It is only in Nigeria that moving on invariably
means moving backwards. It is only in Nigeria that the interest of the nation
coincides invariably with the interest of one person (eg the incumbent
president) or one or other ethnic group.
Take these particular 2003 elections. 100% of us are agreed that there was rigging – not just mere rigging, but massive unprecedented riggings never before witnessed in Nigeria.
There were whole places in which no elections at
all took place – and yet results were announced. The daylight involvement of
INEC officials, police officers and army officials was unprecedented in many
places. We are not talking about one set of party thugs clashing with another
set, with INEC and security officials looking on: we are talking about these
government officials attacking “opposition” party officials! Instant killings
of uncooperative elements – uncooperative with respect to allowing rigging –
have been reported. Even some of the winners are embarrassed, that yes, they
might have wanted to win, and they might have indeed won in a free-and-fair
election, but who asked you to rig in this kind of manner? Even I know that I
am not 99.95% popular in Constituency X – so how come I won so much? The scale
of swing to the ruling party from 1999 to 2003 – 24 million votes for the
president instead of 17 million; 28 state governors instead of 21, 73 Senators
(so far) instead of 66, 213 House of Representatives members out of 360
declared, 558 out of 740 state assembly men so far declared - has invited
scalp-scratching and head-shaking: what the heck did this ruling party do so
well with the N6 trillion in its employ to merit so much adulation?
So why are we talking about “moving on?” If we
move on now, how will we ever be able to hold our elected persons accountable
when they can again repeat the same thing in future – and once again ask us to
“move on…in the interest of the nation?”
It is on this score that I FULLY register my
support for the sixtuplet of Buhari, Ojukwu, Okotie, Fawehinmi, Yusuf and
Balarabe Musa who should use all available LEGAL individual and cooperative
devices to ensure that nothing is swept under the carpet arising from these
rigged 2003 elections. There will be NO HOPE for decent people to participate
in electoral politics in the future otherwise.
I include myself in that decent group of rational
aspirants, and I hope that many of my readers do too.
We Nigerians are too quick to tolerate indiscipline and imperfections, under the guise that we are in a “learning process.” True, but what kind of learning makes us less learned?
Is this then the case of the learning paradox:
“the more you learn, the more you have to remember; the more you have to
remember, you more you can forget; the more you can forget
the more you do forget; the more you do forget,
the less you learn; so why learn?”
After the 1983 moonslide/gunslide, after June 12,
1993, what have we learnt that made these present set of rigged elections to
It is precisely because of our “one step forwards,
two steps backwards” that one is completely frustrated with this process.
We are too quick to make excuses – and to point to
Yes – Bush’s Florida, where votes, chads and all
that jazz were counted and re-counted – and he finally won the Presidency in
Florida, Florida, Florida! Six out of 3,000 counties in the United States had problems, and the whole nation stopped to count and watch, watch and count! I believe that we Nigerians keep bringing up Florida just to salve our weak and weakened consciences!
First, Florida was a show of strength of the
US electoral system, rather than a weakness. There was an INCUMBENT
Vice-President Gore in the mix of things. The main contestant George Bush had
his brother Jeb as governor of Florida. Incumbent Texas Governor Bush was NOT
president yet while the Florida/Supreme Court controversy was going on, so
nobody could have pledged support for him as president BEFORE his
Secondly, I believe that in 2000 Gore denied
himself his own presidency by not winning his OWN TENNESSEE STATE - after 8
years as Vice-President, with probably the most popular president in
living memory in Bill Clinton! Because of some silly (and probably
rigged) polls that advised otherwise, he refused to have Bill Clinton campaign
actively for him nationwide. Florida would have been a complete non-issue if
Tennessee and Bill Clinton had gone for Gore, who, by the way, won the popular
vote. In fact, it is a testament to Jeb Bush's integrity that Gore came so close
to George Bush in the state in which he (Jeb) was governor.
After all controversies, including the Supreme Court verdict, Bush was certified incoming president, and it behooved everybody to pledge support for him AFTER then.
Thirdly, the elections in the US were held in November 2000, and theoretically the Florida controversy could have gone on UNTIL January 2001 when inauguration was to hold.
However, the Nigerian situation is quite
different. The presidential elections were held April 19. Controversies have
arisen. Our 2002 Electoral Law allows for petitions
to be filed 30 days AFTER the results are announced. The presidential
results were announced April 22, leaving up to May 22 for petitions to be filed.
The Electoral law requires the Court of Appeal up to 14 days to come up with a
judgement. That theoretically takes us up till May 36. A Supreme Court hearing
is possible, maybe another 7- 14 days. That takes us theoretically up to May 43
Meanwhile May 29 is Inaguration Day!
Is that tidy, ehn, is that tidy that such a
large cloud could possibly be hanging over our presidential head? Why are we
always painting ourselves in a corner?
We must recall that everybody pledged support to RESPECT the outcome of the Florida investigations in the United States, no matter how it came about, not a pledge to President Bush or Gore, NO matter the outcome. That is what we should be doing. I fear that too many people are confusing Obasanjo with Nigeria, and pledging support for him NO MATTER how the results come about. This is the African problem: the president says “Moi, L’Etat”, and too many subjects agree wittingly and unwittingly.
We should all snap out of it. Why is Obasanjo’s interest greater than that of Buhari, Ojukwu,
Fawehinmi, Balarabe Musa, Okotie and MD Yusuf, no
matter what you may think about them, no matter their individual or corporate
venality? Is Obasanjo more a citizen than any one of them? Do they not put
their feet into trousers one after the other like each other? Or pee in a
Of course, the Electoral Law also THEORETICALLY allows that even after May 50, no matter whether an installation/inauguration has been held or not, if there is reason to cancel the elections, it can still be done. But you and I know that that is hogwash. That is an invitation to chaos, at least as far the presidential elections are concerned.
As far as I know and strongly believe,
Obasanjo will be president till 2007.
But that is not the issue – but is that tidy? What is the use of the law if
it can be so predictable, where the “doctrine of necessity” from a fait
accomplit becomes a norm? Even the Electoral Law 2002 was recently declared
illegal, but could not be voided because of the “doctrine of necessity”, because
of the chaos that would ensue. Yet the courts waited until AFTER the elections
to issue a verdict.
Notice in 1999: the presidential elections were February 27, and inauguration was May 29. That gave a full two months for contest of the elections, enough decent time for all controversies to be settled possibly by law.
That was tidier, much tidier.
Let us Nigerians be honest with ourselves: All
these delays and dates issues were part of the manufactured chaos which this
INEC did on Nigeria. We have once again been conned.
We must get over this “Let us move on…in the
interest of the nation” syndrome, and ask ourselves “To where …and in whose real
interest?” Our problem to our national problems must be PRINCIPLED – the
message and not the messenger, for example – and FUNDAMENTAL – with a commitment
that a problem once identified should not be repeated. We should make only
original mistakes, and not re-make – or even worsen – old mistakes.
That is why we must support the
National Consensus Forum (NCF),
comprised of the presidential candidates of National Democratic Party (NDP),
Gen. Ike O. Nwachukwu (Rtd); Progressive Action Congress (PAC), Mrs. Sarah
Jibril; and Better Nigeria Progressive Party (BNPP), Dr. Ifeanyichukwu Nnaji;
and others who recently called on the PDP government:
to accept the following as the peace option to be
* That there were imperfections in the last general elections.
* The PDP should reach out to all aggrieved parties to commence the process of constructive dialogue.
* Constituting a committee across party lines to appraise the entire elections and recommend appropriate measures to forestall the re-occurrence of the situation,
* Commence appropriate actions for electoral reforms, which will strengthen the electoral process and institutions,
* Show evidence of policies and reforms that will ensure good governance in order to underpin economic development and
* Taking measures to minimise future election cost to government and the candidates.
WE must, like the NCF stated, “ not believe in
sweeping imperfections under the carpet, but rather in bringing them out on the
table, confronting and resolving them.”
Let the intimidation of legitimate protestors
stop. Let the Election Tribunals continue with their work, and be fair to all.
Let there must be statesmanship on all sides.
On these principles we must all stand in order to
secure our national democracy.
Have a good week.