By Bobson Gbinije
Literally, the macadamisation of Nigeria’s tortuous political esplanade attained a mysterious crescendo on the 1st March, 1999 with then INEC’s declaration of General OLUSEGUN AREMU OBASANJO as the ‘President-elect’ of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The corybantic euphoria and convivial saturnalianism consequent upon the election victory loomed in the fuselage of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the electorate and nay the international community. Some unctuous and pietistic pessimists were then asking “can any good thing come out of Nigeria’s political Nazareth?”
The celebrated psychologist Dr. A.K. GERAD observed that: “Elections through the ballot constitute the humdinger and seminal attribute of participatory democracy.” And true to GERAD’s observation, voting in an election imbues luminous suffrage and forestalls the pauperization of the franchise constitutionally vested on the people. It is the fulcrum on which democracy rotates. It is the apple in the eyes of democratic ethics. Election entrenches political zeitgeist into the enfranchisement granted the electorate. It is the organic fibre and the sublime character of democracy.
Nigeria has gained global notoriety for botched elections through its seemingly endless transition programmes vide electoral institution like FEDECO, NECON, NEC, INEC etc. (OVIE WHISKEY, ANI, HUMPHREY NWOSU, AWA, JEGA etc). But when the consummate history of democratic elections in Nigeria becomes written, it is clear that there will be as many opinions as there are analysts. But one thing I am sure of is, that Prof. Humphrey Nwosu will receive the most mordant animadversion and sardonic aspersions because of his ignoble machinations that culminated in the June 12 schism. How will Jega and his INEC be remembered after the 2015 February elections?
The phantom transition programme of the taratoid military fiend, late Sani Abacha suffered a divine earthquake at the demise of the despotic General. The Abdulsalami Abubakar regime politically laundered the transition programme that brought in President Olusegun Obasanjo. The election, whether credible, free and fair remains a matter of opinion.
Retrospectively, Nigeria has come a long way in the railroad track of protean transition histrionics. After the 1959 Federal elections, the grotesque coalition of ABUBAKAR TAFAWA BALEWA (NPC) and DR. NMAMDI AZIKIWE (NCNC) swept under the carpet and papered the cracks and crevices in our political walls. The cracks pulsated and quaked, and ultimately unveiled itself in the January 15th, 1966 coup.
The misjudgment of the pogrom that followed the coup, ultimately led to Northern reprisals and the unleashing of behemoth holocaust on the Igbos on 29th July 1966, culminating in the death of General Aguiyi Ironsi. This monolithic savagery crescendoed in the Odumegwu Ojukwu declaration of the Republic of Biafra-“mischief thou art Afoot, take what course that willeth”, so refrained William Shakespeare.
And so the civil war (1967-1970) raged on. Leaving in its wake and trail insufferable hunger, disease, destruction and deaths. Gowon prosecuted the war to the near satisfaction of all Nigerians. After the war, there was a period of reconstruction, regeneration and rehabilitation. But it suffered a setback along the track. Gowon, however, oscillated and vacillated between indecision and ambition when he finally said “1974 was unrealistic.” His regime was however, toppled by General Murtala Mohammed (July 27th – February 13th, 1976). Murtala Mohammed remained the only knighted armour and shining light in the disgraced military institution. He has a profound understanding of the Nation’s pulse and went on to create and implement programmes for the rekindling of Nigeria’s socio-economic and political greatness. He set out to hand over to a democratically elected government in 1979. But his lofty ideas were truncated by Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka on February 13 1976.
But General Obasanjo the then President-elect shepherded the programme to a successful conclusion; in handing over to a democratically elected government in 1979 under Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s democratically elected government was ousted by Major General Mohamadu Buhari on December 31st 1983. His own junta was sacked by General Ibrahim Babangida on August 27th 1985. It must be noted that General Buhari was rehabilitated with the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) of which he became the Chairman. In his capricious maradonic style Babangida stepped aside for the treacherous and rapacious Earnest Shonekan to stand in as Head of State. It must also be observed that Babangida is like a cat with nine lives as he survived the palace coups of his good friends late Major General Maman Vatsa of December 1985 and that of Major Gideon Okhar of April 21st, 1990.
However, the monocratic absolutist and Hitler incarnate, General Sani Abacha came on board on November 17, 1993. He immediately programmed himself as a democratically elected civilian president in the mode of Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, but the ineluctable hands of death truncated his devious schemes on July 8th 1998.
General Abdusalami Abubakar manned the saddle of leadership after Abacha’s death and to the utter consternation of the world and even the military constituency and himself, power was democratically shifted to a constitutional democratic civilian government. There are multidimensional matters arising from the “INEC” Conducted elections. Were they CREDIBLE, FREE AND FAIR? Like I said before, there are as many opinions as there are individuals.
When we make a comparative historical analysis of democracy and elections in Nigeria, one will come to a balanced view on the outcome of the elections. The hallmark of the electorate’s desire was to ensure that power shifted to the South West, to ensure that the election was peaceful, to ensure that the military vacated power and to ensure that the victorious candidates were truly the choice of the electorate amongst other qualities.
Did the INEC-conducted elections fulfill all these standards? It will be wrong for us to make categorical statements and jump into conclusions. A post mortem is however, imperative. But the hindsight of history informs us that the reason General Babangida adumbrated for cancelling and annulling the ‘June 12’ elections are the same our ‘Rebel with a course’ and ‘our President that never was’ leveled against President-elect Obasanjo, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and INEC. Is this not an irony of history?
In the Nation-wide television broadcast to annul the election, Babangida said (1) “The National Electoral Commission (INEC) cleared the presidential candidates despite allegations of irregularities against them” (2) “That Abiola and Tofa breached electoral processes” (3) “That there were proofs and documented evidence of widespread use of money during the primaries and the presidential elections proper” etc.
In Falae’s own submission, he deposed to the fact that the President-elect (Obasanjo) is an ex-convict, a member of a secret society, (OGBONI CONFRATERNITY). He said “I have decided to go to the tribunal to expose the monumental fraud committed on February 27th 1999 and to put it on record for posterity in the hope that it will serve as a deterrent in the future.” He claimed that INEC connived with the PDP and that it was programmed to co-ordinate laid down logistics to put Obasanjo and his PDP in power.
In his opinion, there was profound monetization of politics and rigging started when “INEC” registered 58,138,945 voters out of a population of 88,992,220. Falae calculated that 14,871,635 were registered in excess of the correct voting population. He claimed that 45,724,910 represent the under-aged in the total population of 88,992,220 – putting the number of potential voters at 43,267,310. There were 15 million fictitious voters. In short Falae was saying that, the whole election exercise was fraught with fraudulence and that a President–Elect of apocryphal legitimacy must be discarded.
To be or not to be was decided in court. But one fact clearly stands out, that Falae enshrined in the prerogative of liberty and perquisite freedom, went to a conventional adjudicatory organ to seek justice. But there are also matters arising from this legal odyssey – that the military constituency surrogated by the retired Generals could not stand idly by and see their pyrhic victory rubbished by Falae and his co-protesters. That Falae was only making a political ST. VITUS dance through an orgy in litigatory escapism and political dramaturgy. He was programmed to fail.
Exclusive of other extraneous factors, Falae pre-progammed his political ambition to fail. The repulsive and subjected grudges from his then party, the AD (ALLIANCE FOR DEMOCRACY) after the Party Primaries, was the major coup de grace. His campaign strategy was profoundly defective. The hush-hush last minute alliance with the APP (ALL PEOPLES PARTY) was not perfectly fine-tuned to carry its teeming supporters with it. Falae did not visit many states and towns, even the places he visited he made little or no impact, as he was cocooned by Party stalwarts believing that the spade work has been done. But it turned out to be a monumental lie (to use Falae’s expression). The intra-party feud with his own men put all his campaign machinery in total disarray.
That Falae went to court, is good for democracy. Democratic countries world-wide recognize the court as the only place for seeking legal redress. But I wish to reiterate that Falae failed even before the election. He was encapsulated by tartuffian party agents who pretended they loved him but were the actual backstabbers – a worm in the cola-nut syndrome.
The then INEC under Justice Ephraim Akpata was commended for having done a good job. Some Nigerians claimed that we have never had it so good, calm and peaceful in the annals of Nigeria’s political history, even though, not perfect. Once more it must be said that democracy is an evolutionary process, its gestational period is long and can only grow into near perfection with continuous practice, mistakes, corrections, trials and errors. It will metamorphose into adulthood with the passage of time. The ongoing violence in most States of the Federation between the political party’s stalwarts, especially APC and PDP does not augur well for the forthcoming February elections.
Finally, INEC and all political stake holders must be prevailed upon to forestall all the octopoidal tentacles of political brigandage, thuggery, rigging, ballot box snatching, kidnapping, assassination and extra-judicial killings etc. The American ambassador John Kerry has said it all. We must heed the wise counsel and admonitions of the United Nations and the African Union etc. that Nigeria must hold a credible, free and fair elections, thereby making the February elections the pulchritude of democracy. NIGERIAN POLITICIANS BEWARE!!!
Chief Bobson Gbinije is coordinator of Mandate Against Poverty (MAP)