Democracy, governance and credible elections (2)

by Amos Kalu
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By abiodun KOMOLAFE

Let’s come to the issues of recruitment and selection. All over the world, leadership is what changes history. Think of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, led by leftist revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, aka, Vladimir Lenin, and come to terms with the fact that followership are just extras in a movie! Or, was it ‘the people’ or a determined leadership comprising few people like Awolowo, who made the deserved changes during the Action Group days? Was it ‘the people’ who built Ghana’s Volta Dam as a testimony of tenacity and human courage for which Kwame Nkrumah was ultimately sacrificed?

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In Nigeria, what’s the position of training a cadre? Mhairi Black was 20 years and 237 days old when she was elected into the British House of Commons but she has been involved in politics since the age of 12. Gordon Brown who eventually became the British Prime Minister was already distributing leaflets for the Labour Party at the age of 13! In our clime, politicians are not there because they are interested in politics but because it’s a survival kit. Most of the taxi drivers in Ghana have converted their cars from Petrol to GAS (LPG). With good leaders in the saddle, shouldn’t Nigeria have attained this feat some five years back? Since cassava is grown in large quantities, shouldn’t there have been ethanol plants that could turn cassava into ethanol?

Yes, we can have all the Bimodal Voter Accreditation Systems (BVAS) in the world but an election starts from the ease of registration, ease of changing the registration and allied stuff. With these in mind, why has it been cumbersome for people to be registered in Nigeria? Of course, this wasn’t so in the past! More importantly, to change one’s registration at that time when there was no technology wouldn’t take more than two days! Tragically, Nigeria is now a different story entirely! Consider the amount of disenfranchisement going on in our universities and you’ll pity dear fatherland! The optics of the situation are so bad that even with technology in place, a student who registered at Osun State University in Osogbo but who is now on the post-study compulsory year-long national service in Calabar cannot vote. With technology, it should be easy for such a soul to change his or her registration! But that’s not so here! At every step, a man who registered in Katsina State but has now secured a job opportunity in Ogun State shouldn’t find it difficult to change his registration within two minutes. After all, aren’t we now sending money from Oyo State to Abia State via the telephone in seconds? 

Keiichiro Hirano, in ‘At the End of the Matinee’, remarked: “People think that only the future can be changed, but in fact, the future is continually changing the past. The past can and does change. It’s exquisitely sensitive and delicately balanced.” Beyond any doubt, change is in the possibility of time and the total resolve of the critical mass of the population of a given society is what makes a change to come. For change to happen in any society, the governance aspect must be headed by a man or woman of understanding who can see the vision through. What’s more? The flow of change must be smooth and seamless; otherwise, social hiccups are capable of disorganizing any society. Well, were this dispensation to be headed by one nincompoop somewhere, one would have been sensing danger in the foreseeable future. But President Bola Tinubu is one king of the street who has an advantage of street wisdom. He is also an enigma who has mastered the business of governance. As fate would have it, these have mushed together to project the leadership structure for this administration. 

Much is expected from Tinubu because he already has a track record of being a progressive. He commendably fought the Olusegun Obasanjo regime on the basis of a sensible federalist position. And now that the starting gun has been fired, it only remains for him to take control of the ladder. Now that history is right therefore before him, Nigerians expect the president to demonstrate his commitment which is laudable to a federalist state. The president must first and foremost see himself as a patriotic, original Nigerian who is above tribal, religious and clannish sentiments. 

Tinubu’s government is expected to dust the Uwais Report which so far has attacked all forms of elections and democratic deficits in Nigeria. Since governance and credible elections are interwoven, that the Report has continued to gather dust has only shown that successive governments were not interested; and that’s too bad for democracy. 

Unlike countries like Brazil, Australia, Argentina and Seychelles where voting is mandatory, it is because Nigerians have switched off that voter turnout in Nigeria has successively become pathetically low. In the aforementioned countries, a defaulter could be fined the equivalent of the minimum wage but do our leaders even pray for mandatory voting in Nigeria? Unlike what obtains in sane climes where elections are permanent campaigns of sorts, elections in Nigeria are just four-yearly rituals. 

In the normal manner, Nigeria should by now be thinking about Diaspora voting, for Nigerians abroad cannot be contributing more than $20b to the country’s economy annually without having the right to vote. Remove $20b from Nigeria’s Balance of Payments and current accounts and one doesn’t need to be an econometrician before understanding that NGN would by now have been standing at N1,800.00 to the dollar. Again, if Diaspora voting could happen in Kenya, why has Nigeria remained an effort flying in the air?

Tinubu’s government also needs to fight for a living wage to act as a reflationary stimulus to attract investments. In doing that, it should go to the Awolowo school of thought which saw the living wage as an investment thing. Besides, it’s time Nigeria went back to the past in terms of a constitutional rearrangement that’s based on production, not consumption, to prevent the roads of governance and elections from being tarred with sharing, for he who controls the government controls the cutting of the cake. Nigerians are suffering and are finding it difficult to breathe. But, since the poor on this part of the globe are not organized, they can only cry but their voices won’t be loud enough to attract reasonable attention.

Have we forgotten that majority of the adherents of ‘dìbò kóo sebè’ (vote and collect money for a pot of soup) political arrangements are the uneducated and the unlettered? Of course, when this class is obliterated, it means that the country is growing. After all, we all know what that means in a country like Nigeria where the poor must be kept perpetually poor! The notorious truth is that there will be no peace until the masses get back their society for, when the people are not gainfully employed, they will be engaged, of course at a cost that governments across board don’t seem to understand. Obviously, that’s what’s giving the government some leverage; and that’s what has paved the way for all sorts of mix. That’s what the fracas in Rivers State is all about! That it is about good governance is just a rumour in the Tea Room! 

Lastly, let it be noted that a country that allows a people who formed themselves together for the reason of the security of the stomach has already opened the door to terror and associated consequences. Therefore, unless Nigeria goes back to the spirit of the 1963 Constitution, the country will continue to be a familiar figure in labour loss!

May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!

KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria (ijebujesa@yahoo.co.uk)

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