Democracy And A Nation In Distress


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October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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Democracy And A Nation In Distress




Paul Agbroko


culled from THISDAY, November 28, 2006


Let me say straight away that as a Catholic, I have been following the concern of our Catholic bishops and their periodic retreats in which they put in the front burner, issues that are not unconnected with governance and social justice or the lack of it in the polity. And for good measure, such brainstorming engagements by the bishops are usually followed with a communiqué and circulated for information and action as necessary, of the flock at homilies on Sundays. If you profess the Catholic faith, then you will be aware that in the dark days of the dark goggled supreme ruler who played God until we were all relieved of his stranglehold  by his sudden demise, that it was from one of such retreats by Catholic bishops, that we had a “Prayer for Nigeria in Distress.” I am sure you will be able to recall that not a few Nigerians attributed the death of the then maximum ruler to divine intervention and the reasoning being peddled then was that God in his overflowing love for our country, may have reasoned that it was better that one soul came over to the great beyond, than for the country, then already perched precariously on the brink, to be plunged headlong into an avoidable war.

Well, it may be neither here nor there concerning what happened and why it happened in the way it did, but one thing, however, is clear: Ours is a nation that believes so much in the efficacy of prayers, that you cannot miss the trademark public resignation and despair wherever you go, to the effect that “ na only God go fit solve Nigeria problem.”  But this is where even as a Christian and a believer, I do have a problem. For, is it not the case as with faith which without good works is dead, that prayers, without the efforts in the right direction, can only be an exercise in futility?. As I was saying, it was from one of such outings from our Catholic bishops that the Catholic flock was handed the prayer titled, “Prayer for Nigeria in Distress.” But let us leave the realm of the divine to those put in place by God and who, we must agree, know better in these matters.

Our focus in this article really, is on electioneering, in particular the preparations or the lack of it, for the 2007 elections. Well, in my odd 50 years on planet/ Nigeria, one can say we have had elections – the frequent interruption by military interregnums, notwithstanding. There is no gainsaying that  some of these elections can pass for the farcical and perhaps for a few  others, we would have been pleasantly surprised at how we were able to pull off such a huge success in the face of overwhelming odds! In such rare instance, as we saw in June,1993, I am sure even the unrepentant atheist would be charitable enough to accord divinity a fair hand in the outcome of that historic election.

But of that exercise, my interpretation really, is that “Maradona” having  dribbled Nigeria and scored so many “goals” against “conquered territory” already, it was only a matter of time for the infamous “hand of God” not to be so invisible anymore. In which case, he would only have  needed some assistance – and if you ask me, that came promptly with the advent of one gentleman, and a Professor of Political Science that goes by the name of Humphrey Nwosu, to score an own goal!

As Nigerians, we have the unenviable record of memories  that do not endure, especially in matters of this nature. So it will be in the normal course of things if we have forgotten that the man referred to above and Chairman of the then NEC (by this is meant National Electoral Commission), came up with the Option A4. We may not all agree, and of course, that would be quite understandable and consistent with what we are as a people, but it was easy to see that the electoral wonders that we were lucky enough to witness at the time had their “roots” in Option A4.

However, what the “genius” in his overflowing capacity  for evil did with the result of that watershed election is too well known, even in spite of our short memories, for any mention or repetition here. And if you had thought that elections to be held in subsequent times only needed to borrow from the gains of what was already a “tested” process in order to build on it, you would have been thoroughly mistaken. In these shores, that’s not how things get done. And so what do we have on our hands today? A tale of another professor, this time of chemistry, we are told, as Chairman of INEC, and by this, we mean Independent National Electoral Commission.

The thinking, by those who concoct these names, I am sure, is that as soon as the word 'independent' is prefixed to the NEC, then you and I, in our gullibility, would be stupid enough to believe that this body, this time around, is not an appendage of the appointers of the Commission. But what is in a name, you want to ask?  When Professor Iwu – by the way,  haven’t we  seen that the man is now being decorated with the appellation of “wuru wuru”, argues so passionately and with finality, as to the relevance and desirability of e-voter registration machines, one was naïve enough – let us not go back to the word gullible this time, to believe there could be some sense in this innovation. Afterall, are we not supposed to be in the age of technology in which case we should be able to join in the league of users of e-gadgets, even if, as it were, we are unable to be makers of technology?

register. To me, it hasn’t come as a surprise that we have not been able to locate just one of Iwu’s e-voter registration stations. What would have been a surprise would have been for us to find voter registration in 21st century Nigeria with people queuing up and performing their civic responsibility of registering to vote in a forthcoming election! After the frustration of the fruitless search for a registration station in the Warri area, off I went to my local government area. Well, are you one of those who like me have nothing better to do than to worry over what is the normal course in electioneering politics in Nigeria? If so, then here goes.

 I switched from searching for registration stations, from the reasoning that it certainly would be more difficult to find these stations, in places more rural than the Warri conurbation where my earlier exercise did not yield any fruitful results. So I got talking to just anyone who may have been luckier to have got registered by Iwu’s e-voter machines. Again, no luck. But what I consider should pass for some luck came later one evening at the beer joints in town. First I was thoroughly jeered at for my ignorance at matters pertaining to elections – with state power over immense resources and the ever present opportunity to stupendous wealth, beckoning. It doesn’t pass as news, does it? But it came to light that the local council area was “lucky” to have been sent one Iwu’s e- voter registration machine. So where do you put this machine in a local council that is arguably the largest in the state for people to have their civic responsibility discharged? Then you get to know that this machine gets “ferried” from the house of a local chieftain – don’t ask me of what political persuasion, because I know that you know, to another where those “qualified” to register, do so secretly behind closed doors!

Well, Nigeria We Hail Thee. When the late sage, the one who to me is the genuine Baba, I think in 1979 and again in the 80’s lamented that our generation may not witness democracy in Nigeria, the import of his frustration over electoral “mago mago” plus dubious judicial interpretations of 2/3 of 19 states, not to talk of the “moon slide” victories of the then NPN in Ondo State, amongst others, may not have registered well enough at the time. But I am sure that the late sage himself, were he to be alive today, would shudder at how he may have understated the problem! When you hear people mouth platitudes as to why Nigeria must be one country, it is easy to see that the proviso to this, is that it must be their prerogative to perpetuate themselves in positions of power as, in their primitive ethnicity and thinking, this could be the only way it may be possible for the natural gas of the Niger Delta to be piped some 500km away from source, to build the most modern and biggest LNG plants! But is anybody still worrying about the sorry state of an exercise that is anything but voter registration? Well if you were still foolish enough to worry, we have been told by the mouthpiece of baba  of the central fortresses that the INEC helmsman is doing such a wonderful job that his sack, immediate or remote, is not in the cards.

 In any case, we are told, baba is on top of the situation. Hear! Hear!! Which should take us to the next stage a few months from now, to April 2007 when voting by the “millions” of voters who, you can be sure, does not include you and me on the streets, would take place. If we are lucky enough at that time we will be able to find polling booths where voting by Iwu’s “e- registered voters” would take place. But as I am sure you know too well already, whether we find polling or not, winners will emerge, not by your vote and my vote, but by some electoral concoction or voodoo by which as a country, we have gained odious notoriety. And if at that time there will be as much as a whimper of discontent, we will be promptly assured that baba has given a clean bill of health to the exercise and that should be it, QED. In all these, you wonder whether we have any parties at all, in the opposition. Well, well, do you blame them?

They may have resigned themselves to their fate that head or tail, you lose against the people organized to destroy democracy in Nigeria. And so why waste your time? Well, I started by the prayers of our catholic bishops and I know that somewhere in the “prayer for our country Nigeria” there is a stanza where God was requested to “……give us God fearing leaders”. Lets not mince words. So far, that has not happened.

We do not know when that will happen if it will happen at all. What we do know, is that God’s time is not our time and His ways are not our ways. Sometimes, what we ask from God may not be what He wants for us and that is why often I am wont to ask God to let His will be done. I believe that in spite of these later day democrats, nay destroyers of democracy in Nigeria, God will have His supreme will prevail because it is not in the natural course of things that there is one country so richly blessed in both human and natural endowments, but so strangulated and held back by a visionless leadership and their twin cabal of forces of reaction and mismanagement, that its teeming masses are abjectly pauperized, for so long. All said, how do you and me figure in all these? Well, I see no better recipe for a nation to be held down in perpetuity, than a docile populace, uncaring even of its own affairs, in combination with an utterly selfish leadership reeking in clanishness and mediocrity.

•Mr.    Agbroko, an engineer, writes from Effurun, Delta State.



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