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How YarAdua can be a Mandela: An Assessment of the Legitimacy Crisis in Nigeria

Posted by African Press International on September 24, 2007

ANYONE who truly has an iota of interest in the well-being of Nigerians, nay humanity, must be interested in when and how the current controversy over the validity of the April 2007 general elections would be resolved.

The majority of observers had concluded that describing the polls as flawed would be an understatement as electorates were apparently disenfranchised all the way: before, during and after the election or as some would say selection of Alhaji Umaru Musa YarAdua of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. To date, his two closest challengers Muhammad Buhari of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Atiku Abubakar of the Action Congress (AC) have rejected every entreaty to repeal their respective petitions before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja.

Four months on and the purported resonant victory of the PDP over 49 other registered political parties remains the most contentious mandate ever obtained in the annals of democratic elections in Nigeria or anywhere else on earth. It is the one election described decidedly as brazen robbery of the peoples will rather than the more normal show of stealing it by stealth. It is also the most litigious.

Indeed, it has been compared to and adjudged worse than the 1965 elections that precipitated the nations first military coup in 1966; the 1983 landslide re-election of the then ruling party which brought the military back to power at the end of that year after just four years of democracy and even the terrible 2003 Tazarce charade callously orchestrated by former president Olusegun Obasanjo and his cohorts in charge of the PDPs do-or-die rigging machine.

The PDP-infested Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had so thoroughly muddled up the process that it is now almost impossible to prove anything at all. Though the judiciary seems primed to substantially deliver justice with minimal fear or favour, the so-called Nigerian factor looks equally tuned to make sure the system cannot work.

According to a cover report captioned INEC, petitioners in hide-and-seek game at Election Tribunals in the Vanguard of 4th August: In nearly all states, petitioners are alleging a connivance between proclaimed winners and INEC to deny the petitioners access to election materials that could help petitioners prove their claims. However, in what must be a minor miracle but a significant signpost of what lies underneath, a few of the various election petition tribunals have been able to annul a couple of elections on account of proven gross irregularities.

Perhaps, the most damning reversal of a PDP victory was the annulment of the election of Honourable Abdul-Hamid Kwarra representing Wamba Constituency in the Nasarawa State House of Assembly who had his third term plans truncated when the Election Petition Tribunal in Lafia quashed his election on the grounds of certificate forgery in response to the petition of the ANPP candidate in the same election. Similarly, the Election Petition Tribunal in Adamawa State also reportedly annulled the election of PDPs Ahmed Mahmoud into the State House of Assembly and ordered for fresh polls.

The ANPP candidate, Ibrahim Waziri, filed the petition challenging his disqualification by INEC on the eve of the elections. Waziri who was indicted by the EFCC on bribery allegations and advised INEC to bar him from contesting is reportedly a well-known political rival of former chairman of Yola South Council, Sani Ribadu, the younger brother of the EFCC boss.

In a desperate attempt to allay the restiveness arising from the recent extensive electoral injustice, iniquity and even criminality, President YarAdua has since acknowledged flaws in the last electoral process and proclaimed a Government of National Unity (GNU) which apart from its unconstitutionality and its dark design to sweep deadly dirt under the carpet is a sinister scheme for the transformation of the country into a one-party state. Already, the main opposition party ANPP has shamelessly secured its seats in the controversial contraption and withdrawn its case at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal saying its presidential candidate and the nearly seven million Nigerians that were allowed to vote for him are thenceforth on their own in the litigation.

Packs of politicians from other parties especially the AC have also abandoned their platform to join the PDP for an opportunity to come and chop.

Analysts are already predicting the collapse of the AC on account of the continuing mass exodus from its fold. Only recently, its chief promoter in the south, former Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos State was on record eulogising YarAdua for instituting the Justice Muhammad Uwais Electoral Reform Panel. Common-sense would dictate that the AC chieftain call for a high-powered judicial inquiry into the election whose results his party is contesting at the federal and many states level.

Alas, at the last count, Buhari, Atiku and Alhaji Balarabe Musa, president candidate of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) are the only prominent politicians left fully standing up against all the alleged electoral robberies with the ranks of their supporters diminishing daily.

However, the desperadoes being gulped down into the GNU are not even the nations deepest quandary or the nascent democracys most dangerous adversaries. Over 70 per cent of the incumbent state governors as well as the states and national assemblies members were invariably imposed on the people by the most grotesque godfathers imaginable (read: blood-suckers, shrine-goers and pilferers of juiciest public assets), oftentimes right from the stage of party primaries. These Excellencies and Honourables are, therefore, not just unfit and incompetent for high public offices but also habitually lack any loyalty to the people they are purportedly representing.

Take Vice President Goodluck Jonathan for instance. Here was a man who never considered the chance to vie for anything beyond the Bayelsa state governorship that landed on his lap by default suddenly emerging as candidate for the Number Two position in the land only because Obasanjo who hoped to reap a defacto third term threatened major and more competent contestants from his geopolitical zone with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Without even a grain of the grassroots political experience and achievement of aspirants like Donald Duke, Peter Odili and Sam Egwu, he was foisted on the hapless South-south geopolitical zone.

To show just how unpopular he was locally, his country-home was bombed to rubbles soon after his election to the highest office ever attained by an Ijaw man. His first mark in office was his dangerous dithering to publicise his assets declaration. The former lecturer who reportedly never had one million Naira in his bank account up to 1999 was probably apprehensive over how he could explain amassing almost N300 million worth of cash and choice assets within eight short years.

Or take Senate President David Mark who clinched the Number Three position in the country via a family-affair anointing and affirmation by the PDP even though the petition challenging his controversial election by Usman Dan Abubakar Maishanu of the ANPP remains one of the most promising cases before the judiciary. A third-term apostle who is enormously unpopular even among his colleagues, Mark ascended the seat only after more independent-minded and capable candidates were muzzled out by the party to which loyalty is now said to be supreme. His most infamous achievement to date is the bow-and-go treatment he accorded PDP ministerial nominees at the all-important Senate screening exercise.

Is this how the Senate President of Nigeria going to sacrifice national interests for the dictates of his party? According to an analyst writing under the caption Enter take-a-bow-and-go ministers in the Weekly Trust of 4th August .the Senate President did the bidding of PDP.

He has demonstrated competence in effectively playing out its script against public expectation and yearning. The latest public demonstration of Marks anti-people posture was the brutal beating by his security aides of THISDAY reporter, Abel Orih Idoma, who approached the Senate President for an interview after a church service in Makurdi on the 16th September. A statement by the Coalition of Idoma Professionals dated September 17th said the incident further brought to the fore the lack of quality and ability of Mark to lead the National Assembly as a Senate President.

The case of Speaker Patricia Olubunmi Etteh of the House of Representatives is even more pathetic. This humble former hair-dresser who had the rarest privilege of realising the great Nigerian dream by rising from hair (not grass) to grace as the Number Four citizen in the biggest black country on earth wasted no time in actualising the PDPs come-chop principle. She surreptitiously awarded a sumptuous contract for the renovation of her official residence and that of her deputy to the tune of N628.8 million! Even earlier, she had considered a proposal to install a N98 million body-massaging machine at the expense of the House and was severally accused by some of her colleagues of being bossy, arrogant and overbearing.

It is a wonder that the Presidency has not yet made the same complaints. It could be recalled that Etteh was the first high ranking official in this government to categorically declare the sale of Apo Legislative quarters irrevocable at a time President YarAdua was revoking similar purchases. Also to show her status, Madame Speaker who celebrated her first birthday in office last month in the USA, breached protocol by arriving venue of the reception for the under-17 World Youth Champions at the Eagle Square in Abuja on September 16th, after the Vice President was seated.

As revelations so far from the probe panel into the scam instituted by the House indicate, Etteh and her staunch supporters such as the PDP national chairman, Ahmadu Ali, and the so-called strongman/godfather of Ibadan politics, Lamidi Adedibu, do not consider any of her actions to be in the least audacious or wasteful and the nation could have been treated to more salacious sagas of stealing if she had not been found out early enough. Still, Ali issued a garrison-style order that the lady must be let off the hook by her fellow party members no matter the outcome of the on-going investigation.

In his words, The Speaker has done nothing which the PDP as a party that sponsored her should be ashamed of. We are 1000% (sic) behind her. On his part, Adedibu has gone on record to urge President YarAdua to call off the probe because the Yorubas who have apparently appointed him as spokesman and are now bereft of honest politicians to replace her would not accept the possible purge of Speaker Etteh from her exalted post for whatever reasons.
Then there is the case of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Michael Aondoakaa, who is gradually cornering Controversy as his middle-name. So far, Aondoakaas outstanding outings consist of a couple of desperate and despicable attempts to curtail the powers of the EFCC to prosecute suspects according to their term of office. His first act in office was to mislead the President into signing a spurious point of order reposing the power to prosecute public cases in his office.

The AGFs meddlesomeness was hardly reversed when he embarked upon seizing the on-going prosecution of former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State right inside the court-room. Since it is doubtful whether there any governors who did not contribute state funds to the last presidential and gubernatorial elections, the AGFs attempt to shield some of them could only be self-serving. Coming at a time when Nigerians are developing hope in the capability of the criminal justice system to apprehend even the biggest bandits such as yesterdays super-governors and possibly presidents, Aondoakaas attitude is a morale murderer. Another serial spoil-sport in the YarAdua cabinet is the Foreign Affairs Minister, Ojo Maduekwe, who has worshipped and waited on every dictator in Nigeria and now wears a stable scowl on account of his numerous fights against the people. He cannot possibly be expected to excite external empathy towards our nations pathetic plight.

As a sign of what could come, his choice of ambassadors include the atrocious Col. Ahmadu Ali who had only recently completed the task of rendering a promising party into a permanent liability for democracy in Nigeria.

However, the most odious and obdurate constituency that the PDP would have to settle is the horde of heavily armed assassins, arsonists, cultists, robbers, kidnappers and thugs currently running a rampage across the country, especially in the Niger-Delta region. The fact is that the ruling party actually bred these monsters that have been let loose on Nigerians everywhere. Following the woeful delivery of democracys dividend between 1999 and 2003, PDP could not entice the electorate on the basis of its record of service.

Millions of jobless youths created by the partys policies and programmes were, therefore, recruited as thugs, given much money and guns to help in the theft of the elections. In a few extreme cases, some of these gangs who felt short-changed have resorted to kidnapping the parents of the beneficiaries of their services to get them fulfil their side of the contract. Others are simply raining bullets and harvesting hundreds of bodies of innocent Nigerians randomly across the country. Now, it is even alleged that one of these notorious cultists is a serving Deputy Governor in the richest oil-producing state in the country.

All these show that there are too many stained spirits in and around the governments of Nigeria for much good to come out of it anytime soon. When we add those disreputable destroyers of democracy such as Andy Uba, whose two-week tenure on the stolen throne of Anambra State was mercifully cut short by the Supreme Court, the line-up leads straight to lawlessness. There is no way all these insufferable individuals and bands that have taken over the corridors of power or lurking around it would allow for any meaningful reforms of the very rotten system that brought them into power and its perquisites.

What moral or even legal authority would leaders who engineered elections have to effectively eliminate armed robbery, assassination, arson, cultism, embezzlement, examination malpractice, human rights violation, kidnapping, ritual killing, thuggery and abuse of office among other matters of urgent concern to Nigerians?

Certainly, President Umaru YarAduas pet vision of transforming Nigeria into the 20th largest economy in the world by 2020 while possible may not be practicable under the current circumstances. In fact, it is even doubtful if his seven-point agenda could be actualised in the next 13 years given the state of affairs at hand. Of course, the President has started on a number of positive notes but so did Obasanjo during his first few months in 1999. For instance, an article on the first 100 Days of the YarAdua administration in the August-September edition of the London-based New African magazine entitled Nigeria: a new approach stated that, It is to his credit that he has almost totally erased the notion that he is but a puppet of the erstwhile president.

He has not only effectively distanced himself from the style and policy implementation strategies of the old regime but has also rapidly consigned that era to history. Similarly, by styling himself a servant-leader and reversing fuel price and VAT rate increases and annulling sale of some strategic national assets like the petroleum refineries in line with public request, YarAdua has rekindled enormous expectations in the minds of many. In the same vein, some of his appointees seem to be the best and brightest around.

They are capable of providing the indispensable intellectual and idealistic prowess to prevail over some pressing public problems. The Secretary to the Federal Government, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, for example, is one of the most brilliant, proficient and practised bureaucrats in the country today. One yarn which made the rounds during his first few days in office was that President YarAdua would often get carried away at meetings with Kingibe and address him as sir in deference to the latters rank in the defunct Peoples Front and Social Democratic Party where they had worked together.

In deference to his own calling, the ex-envoy would diplomatically but firmly tell Mr. President that it now has to be the other way round. Similarly, in terms of integrity, dedication and sheer enlightenment bordering on spirituality, Anthony Gadzama, the new Director-General of the SSS could be the best boss the much misunderstood outfit ever had in its oftentimes horrifying history. He is reputed to be one of the very few focussed serving spies who shun the sinister shenanigans so often associated with the work. Also, another copiously capable character in the cabinet is Tanimu Yakubu Kurfi, the Chief Economic Adviser to the President, a passionately pro-people students union leader in the 80s and a tried and tested humanitarian.
Yet, all these even along with YarAduas likeable lineage, his inherited and acquired integrity as well as his post-graduate education and gubernatorial experience are not even nearly enough to resolve the nations electoral logjam or the governments crisis of illegitimacy. The pervasive political prognosis is that no matter what it is called, how it is composed or what it tries to do, the YarAdua administration would have to bear with been called illegitimate and hearing calls for fresh elections for the reminder of its natural term in office. Talk about a tainted mandate and a civilian coup against the masses would continue to trail his tenure.

As Archbishop John Onaiyekan, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) put it, In spite of recent efforts by President Umaru YarAdua and some of the governors and elected officials to endear themselves to Nigerians, millions have doggedly refused to accept them as validly elected leaders In fact, no elections took place in several parts of the country. In the light of this undeniable reality, we endorse the call for fresh elections.

What is the best way out? Some statesmen and scholars such as former President Shehu Shagari, General Yakubu Gowon, Justice Mamman Nasir and Dr. Ahmad Abubakar Gumi believe the whole problem could be resolved by prevailing on Buhari and Atiku to withdraw their petitions challenging the result of YarAduas election in the interest of peace and unity. This is simply sweeping the filth under the already stinking sofa and could only consolidate the penchant for rigging and electoral fraud that threatens democratic rule in Nigeria since 1960. Various analysts have likened their fatwa to begging a burglar or a receiver of stolen goods to keep his booty because he has vowed to use it for good causes and because an attempt to retrieve it could lead to chaos.

An imam of a local mosque in Kaduna when asked what was wrong in supporting YarAdua since he seems to be a first-rate Muslim who can reform the rot, answered by asking whether it is possible for someone that performs ablution with
urine to put his prayers right? According to him, no matter the volume of his faith, the degree of his cleanliness or the goodness of his intentions, anyone that performs ablution with urine would have to completely reverse that ablution by bathing his body with clean water and then performing another ablution afresh.

A one-day conference on Ending Electoral Fraud in Nigeria organised by the Arewa Media Forum in Kaduna on September 8th 2007 similarly concluded that both Nigeria and YarAdua himself stand to make greatest historic gains from a re-run of the April 2007 elections. In a lead paper, Olu Falae, who defined electoral fraud as Anything done or action taken or neglected to be taken by any person or organisation which has the effect of disrupting or sabotaging the will of voters in an election with the consequences that someone else other than the candidate preferred by electorate emerges as winner, left no one in doubt about the duplicity of the exercise.

Even earlier, one US-based Qansy Salako in a letter urged the President to, Think about owing Nigerians a new and properly elected government within your first twelve months. Reconstitute a new and independent federal electoral commission; oversee a just and efficient electoral process; offer yourself as a candidate in a new, free and secure election and abide by the outcome.
For the nation, this would mark the end of injustice, impunity and impetuosity not only in politics but all other important facets of life. From such a clean slate and high moral ground, the country could fly faster to the glorious fate designed for it. For YarAdua who may even easily win the new free and fair election, the act could carve his name as one of the modern worlds greatest statesmen alongside legends like Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Murtala Muhammad, Nelson Mandela and Mahathir Muhammad.

This needs not be as difficult or dangerous as it seems. As an enlightened Muslim privileged to be born and bred into a prominent and patriotic political family, YarAdua is no doubt tutored and duty-bound to act with sincerity, selflessness and a supreme sense of fair-play at all times. This is all it takes.

Conversely, what would not be easy to explain especially before the Almighty God is his active acquiescence with the charade of the last fraudulent elections on the basis of which good governance at all levels may not be realisable.

By our correspondent Muhammad Hassan-Tom / hassantom@yahoo.co.uk

Published by African Press International – API/ African Press in Norway – APN africanpress@chello.no tel +4793299739 or +4763002525

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