Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
The Candidates That Nigeria Needs For Her Democracy To Survive
Mobolaji E. Aluko, PhD
Burtonsville , MD, 20866
"It is wrong to ask who will rule. The ability to vote a bad government out of office is enough. That is democracy." - Karl Popper
"Democracy is being allowed to vote for the candidate that you dislike the least." - Robert Byrne
"Democracy...is a system of self-determination. It's the right to make the wrong choice." - John Patrick
"In democracy, its your vote that counts. In feudalism, its your Count that votes." - Morgens Jallberg
"Democracy means having a choice. Dictatorship means being given the choice." - Jeannine Luczak
The current and growing speculations about who the successors to President Obasanjo should be come 2007 are absolutely detestable and disquieting. Many of the statements being made are not only premature, but palpably un-democratic. It is as if the Nigerian electorate does not matter. It is as if our votes do not count, rather that some mysterious elite "counts" vote in some smoke-filled chamber between certain selected candidates on our behalf, and that other Nigerians simply go through the motions of going to the polls in order to "seal" those selections.
More annoying are the arrogant claims that some people will not be "allowed" to succeed President Obasanjo, because he does not wish to make the same mistake as in 1979, when he handed over to Shagari, either because the president or his acolytes believe that those "disallowable undesirables" are corrupt, incompetent, or both. The critical question then is that if some one that "should not" succeed Obasanjo "miraculously" happens to do so like what surprisingly happened in Palestine with the success of the Hamas Party - what will President Obasanjo or his acolytes do: cancel the elections like Babangida did with the Abiola election of June 12, 1993? Plan a military coup or interim national government as Babangida did in 1993, bringing in Sonekan? Kill the successful candidate, as Abiola eventually was done in in 1998?
Are we ready for all that trouble again? Don't we ever learn from the repercussions of such careless talk or actions? Have we learnt anything from the third-term debacle?
I believe that in the coming 2007 elections, the Nigerian people should make it clear once and for all: It is the PEOPLE of Nigeria who should and will determine the next President based FIRST on the assurance of free and fair elections, and SECONDLY from a slate of candidates, both worthy and possibly unworthy, from all nooks and crannies of the country.
So at this time, we should be talking about the CANDIDATES that Nigeria needs, not the President that Nigeria wants or needs, and certainly not those that the President want to succeed him. Even then, we should be fixated not just on the Presidency, but be concerned for ALL levels of elected office.
In summary, the president and other elected officers that Nigeria wants in 2007 are the best that emerge from free and fair elections involving the entire slate of candidates
TEN QUALIFICATIONS/CONDITIONS FOR THE CANDIDATES
"Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people." - Abraham Lincoln
"People despise the lust for power that originates from a craving for homage and for the attributes for power" - Konstantin Ushinsky
"As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy" - Abraham Lincoln
"Beware the naked man who offers you his shirt" - Harvey Mackay
"The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy; the best weapon of a democracy is openness" - Edward Teller
"Without a vision, a nation perishes" - The Bible, Proverbs 29:18.
Prima-facie qualifications for our next set of candidates in Nigeria should be:
(1) success in earlier identical, similar or other endeavors. For example, a qualified incumbent that is, one not illegally seeking extension of term - should be able to defend his or her tenure fully and confidently. A vice-president or governor seeking higher office must be able to show with facts and figures what he did with the resources available to him in the lower office. A newcomer cannot be a failure as a businessman, a student, a civil servant and so forth, and then expect citizens to give him their support for high office.
(2) Existence of vision the primary purpose for a candidate to seek an office is to "do something good" for those who elected him, not just power for power's sake, or because "it is the turn of my people." A people-centered government should lead to long-term, widespread improvement in the human condition of the people. The specification/implementation of means and strategies (legislation, policies, etc.) that will enable the mobilization and transformation of financial, material and human resources to provide services and products for the satisfaction of the physical and spiritual needs of citizens is paramount. A candidate must be able to share his unique vision for the new office.
(3) ability to verbally articulate the vision this is in order to demonstrate originality and personal commitment to the vision outlined, and to assure the voters that the outlined vision is not simply a borrowed one.
(4) experience as a team player this is in acknowledgement of the fact that these huge responsibilities of governance cannot be carried out alone, but must be in concert with others at various levels of executive, legislative and judicial capacity.
(5) ability to lead a team an elected person automatically becomes a leader of some sort in society. Hence a candidate must have demonstrated ahead of time some leadership qualities commensurate with the position that he is seeking.
(6) transparency and openness candidate must be prepared to anticipate and publicly answer all questions put to him or her about his finances and other assets, past political and personal life, and on all matters of conscience. He must be prepared to publicly DEBATE other candidates.
The above qualifications should then be supplemented by the following conditions:
(7) network of contacts essentially, these are "references" (some of them might be pejoratively called "godfathers" or party/society "bigwigs") on the candidate's character and personal integrity. Others may simply be financial sponsors. Voters should however be wary of the company that candidates keep and the self-seeking propensity and possibilities of such contacts.
(8) party affiliation a candidate, unless he is an independent, must be subject to party ideology and discipline, except on matters of conscience. Personal manifestos of candidates must be consistent with party manifestos, not substitutes for them, the occurrence of which is a recipe for the personalization of power and lack of continuity of policies.
(9) campaign strategy a candidate will have to reach voters and then convince them that the prima-facie conditions that he has satisfied place him above other competitors in the race.
(10) money/finances Money is always needed for travels, security, camp media adverts, campaign staff and "entertainment" of supporters, both actual and potential. However, it is deliberately listed LAST here, rather than first, in order to limit its prominence, while acknowledging its importance in financing the efforts to get information about the candidate across to voters.
"It's not the voting that's democracy; it's the counting" - Tom Stoppard.
"A democrat need not believe that the majority will always reach a wise decision. He should however believe in the necessity of accepting the decision of the majority, be it wise or unwise, until such a time that the majority reaches another decision" - Bertrand Russell.
Elections should be considered by all as sacred acts of modern democracy. Thus, individuals who offer themselves up for elected office should be considered as candidates for the "priesthood" of democracy. Consequently, acts that violate elections like thuggery and rigging (which is a theft of the collective will of people) are sacrilegious desecrations worthy of condemnation by all.
Nigeria in 2007 has a unique opportunity to arrange for and obtain the freest and fairest elections in its history. All citizens should in parallel work towards getting the best candidates, and also letting the people decide in free and fair elections without pre-judging the peoples' decisions ahead of time.
This is why the secret Modified Open Ballot System (MOBS) of June 12, 1993 [See Appendix on MOBS] - enhanced with time-stamped camera/video monitoring at polling stations - should be adopted at all levels for 2007 in order to achieve maximum openness and transparency, and hence electoral validation.
We must insist on it.
"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." - Elie Wiesel
"The job of a citizen is to keep his mouth open." - Gunther Grass
"Those wanting to improve democracy in their countries should not wait for permission" - Bulent Ecevit
APPENDIX: ON MOBS
Ref. Omo Omoruyi's book: "The Tale of June 12: The Betrayal of the Democratic Rights of Nigerians (1993)" Press Alliance Network Limited, London; pp 98-99.]
..the Law [on the June 12 1993 Presidential Election (Basis Constitutional and Transitional Provisions Decree No. 13 of 1993)] was based on the concept of the Modified Open Ballot System (MOBS) which removed the idea of secrecy in the counting of votes and collation of figures, and most importantly, in the announcement of the results of the election. The only place where secrecy obtained was in the decision of who to vote for. But once voting ended, the results were available in the 110,000 polling locations in the country.
A thorough examination of Section 22 of that Decree provides the true picture of what actually happened as soon as polling closed in the 110,000 polling stations. Although, technically, every polling station could have a maximum of 500 voters, no polling station had up to that number. This meant that the process could be concluded within a short time. In some polling stations, actual voter turnout was was less than 100. Counting of votes at those locations was completed soon after 12 noon, and the number of votes loudly announced to all and sundry. Was this not the result loudly announced in 110, 000 locations ?
Specifically Section 22 of the Decree [13 of 1993] directs the Presiding Officer to count votes and
(a) loudly announce the number of voters counted;
(b) enter the votes scored by each Presidential candidate in a statement of Result Form as in Form EC 8A in Schedule 5 to this Decree.
Subsection 2 of that Section of the Decree also directs that:
The statement of Results shall be signed and stamped by the Presiding Officer and counter signed by
the Presidential candidates, or their agents where available at the polling stations .
The Decree further directs under subsection 4 of that Section that
The Presiding Officer shall give to the Polling Agents (ie of the two candidates)
and the Police present copies of the completed form, Form EC 8A after it has been
signed by both the Presiding Officer and the Polling Agents (of the two candidates)
What was supposed to follow after counting and announcements of results at the 110,000 polling stations was described as "collation of election results" because the votes had been counted and loudly announced at all the polling stations in the country.
Section 23 deals with the collation at the ward, local government, state and national levels, and this is called "post election procedure." It deals with figures and not votes. The same practice at the polling stations should also obtain at these levels. The collated figures should be done openly and figures called out and distributed to all concerned as in Section 22 above.
Section 24 specifically deals with the "declaration of results of election" which involves the announcement of the total votes scored by each of the two Presidential Candidates and the declaration of the winner of the Presidential election. Section 25 deals with the issuance of Certificate of Return of Election.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.