|Fasheun: OPC Founder|
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Following the death of President Umar Yar’Adua in May 2010, Nigerians nursed apprehensions that the Nation might succumb to disorder, lawlessness, chaos and confusion, judging by the stiff posture of the buccaneering cabal that had selfish interests to protect, but pretended to be defending the sick President. God, in His mercy, spared the country a major explosion from that political crisis. With the amicable settlement of the 2010 political impasse, we nursed great hope that our democracy was about to enter a new phase that would bring peace, harmony and development to the country. Unfortunately, our hope appears misplaced. For, today, Nigeria has invested a colossal amount of resources towards the 2011 polls, but, lo and behold, events show that we are preparing for a nightmare instead. Moreover, the upsurge of violence by Boko Haram elements in the North and the ethnic cleansing in Plateau State have become major headaches. Especially nauseating was Friday’s wanton slaying of seven worshippers, including the Governorship Candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples’ Party (ANPP) in Borno State , in (of all places) the sanctuary of a mosque. We condemn these killings and demand an immediate halting of this brethren-on-brethren violence. Security agents must bring these criminals to justice.
In 2014, just three years ahead, Nigeria will celebrate her Centenary. Should it take a hundred years for Nigeria to attain democracy? The United States has issued us a warning about Nigeria's possible disintegration in 2015. But we must also warn ourselves of the ominous 2014. Year 2014 marks the Centenary of Nigeria’s amalgamation, an amalgamation underscored by negative indices of disunity, mutual hostility, selfishness, political immaturity, sinful accumulation of wealth by unpatriotic leaders, political godfatherism, ethnicity and primordial nationalism. All these negatives have acted as heavy stones tied to our heels. Tell me any country that has expended 100 years preparing a Nation-State but which has failed to achieve anything near it?
When several political platforms emerged without attachment to any ideological leaning, we thought it merely reflected Nigerians’ enthusiasm for democracy. And when the erstwhile management of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under Professor Maurice Iwu was disbanded and replaced with a new one under the highly credible Professor Attahiru Jega, we jubilated in the hope that our country’s Golden Jubilee had at last brought us some good omen of unblemished politicking. But recent events in the political arena have displaced our optimism. Today, Nigerians are being subjected to as many political crises as there are political platforms. And our countrymen’s enthusiasm for democracy has quickly given way to confusion.
How shall we describe a situation where counterfeit Democrats run politics undemocratically, committing all sorts of anti-democratic offences, sins and iniquities against democracy? Where does rigging of elections start from and where does it end? In our present political climate, does anybody have the right to challenge anybody for preparing to rig? Is democracy synonymous with the “SELECTOCRACY” that now determines the emergence of parties’ candidates for elective positions? How can we subject ourselves to being ruled by those who owe us no allegiance whatsoever because of the prejudiced, unfair and undemocratic process by which they emerged? How does any servant serve well who has not been mandated to serve? How do you expect peace from a situation of social injustice? The party congresses, conventions and primaries have come and gone, and they have left the political parties fractured, factionalized and aggrieved, with no political party sure of sustaining membership solidarity and loyalty.
Uncertainty has also infested INEC, which, with the colossal budget at its disposal, went to import low-grade machines incapable of even registering certain voters for uncertain elections. We understand that some DDC machines have been hijacked by some unscrupulous politicians. When did Nigeria start to buy DDC machines from Alaba Market as to make them available to every Tom, Dick and Harry? The result is that voter registration in cities and urban areas has been nightmarish. What then do we expect to happen in rural, riverine, arid and other areas inaccessible to registration officers? How does true democracy emerge from the ongoing systematic official disenfranchisement being carried out by INEC? Which Nigerian does not know that all this confusion builds the foundation for rigging?
We had always thought that some old politicians harbour sinister motives for serving the Nation. Or how do we explain the formulation of political dynasties in various parts of our country as manifesting from various political leaders and parties? Is this why our political leaders found it easy to kill and silence the Middle-Class, which is most equipped to resist the existence of political dynasties?
I sympathize with Mrs. Farida Waziri, Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), who we asked to lead us in the war against corruption, only for us to disappear from her back? Or what is corruption, if we don’t count godfatherism, "selectocracy" and rigging as its attributes? Will nobody care to give Nigeria true leadership; or is Nigeria ’s idea of good leadership no more about doing the right thing? If we fail again to truly institutionalize democracy, rule of law and due process, we shall be saddled with the familiar repercussions manifesting in robbery, killing, kidnapping, treasury looting, etc. And Nigeria will be marked down by the whole world as a Nation where democracy, despite all its exertions, found it difficult to thrive. It means we shall continue in poverty, hunger, illiteracy, superstition, disorder, lawlessness, unpatriotism and disunity, until nature will take its normal course on failure.
All this goes to show that Nigeria’s problem is not militants, but politicians who find it difficult to provide good leadership and social justice.
Let us remember that our prophets are getting fewer and fewer in number. And the cherished voices of our contemporary prophets are rapidly shrinking with the death of the Gani Fawehinmis, Alao Aka-Bashoruns, Beko Ransome-Kutis, Tai Solarins, Chima Ubanis, Bala Usmans and the Anthony Enahoros. All these statesmen and activists have passed into glory. But we pray that the echoes of their prophecies will soon produce a worthy leader for our currently leaderless 140 million people.
Chief Anthony Enahoro:
Let me seize this opportunity to mourn the passage of a foremost Nationalist and Patriarch of Modern Nigeria, Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro. Unfortunately we have left this hero uncelebrated. Chief Anthony Enahoro deserves a monument named after him. We should immortalize this political icon. I hereby recommend that Benin Airport in his home Edo State should be renamed “Anthony Enahoro Airport.” This Legend, who first moved the Motion for our country’s Independence, deserves no less a monument.
Moreover, this week, we will take this national hero to his home town, Uromi in Edo State , and lay him to rest in a private grave in his village. What a shame! Enahoro deserves to rest with the GREATS. The country must begin to work towards a national cemetery, a collective resting place for our national heroes, something in the mode of the Arlington National Cemetery in the USA . This way, the labours of our heroes past shall truly not have been in vain.
INEC must urgently establish machinery to rectify the troubled registration exercise and help solidify and deepen our democracy. All political parties that have compromised internal democracy and produced unpopular candidates should be disbanded. Also, those politicians, whose activities are undemocratic and corruptive of the electorate, must face the law of the land. INEC should initiate a Bill in the National Assembly against riggers and anti-democrats. Additionally, INEC should open a DEPARTMENT FOR DIRECT PUBLIC COMPLAINTS, where popular aspirants robbed of their rightful candidacy can file appeals to and reclaim their due mandate from illegitimate candidates. Any political party with up to 10 percent of its candidates disputed should be penalized.
Thus far, we give Professor Attahiru Jega our vote of confidence. Despite the baptism of fire the INEC Chairman has undergone in this first phase of his assignment, we shall admonish him to take heart. He has no other country he can call his own but Nigeria ; so Professor Jega should not allow the present challenges in the registration of voters to discourage him from discharging his national assignment with the efficiency characteristic of him. Nigerians are also urged to allow Professor Attahiru Jega to conduct free and fair elections that will usher in democracy. Winners of the elections must imbibe democratic principles and govern accordingly. Let nobody seek litigation that will cause hostility amongst us. But let all aspirants contesting for that one seat at Aso Rock and elsewhere enjoy a free, fair and sportsmanlike contest, whose results will be admirable to all Nigerians and the friends of Nigeria .
Similarly, INEC should find a way of sanctioning parties that return few women candidates. The Commission should ensure that a minimum of one-third of a party’s total candidates is reserved for women.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen: I thank you for your time.
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