Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Open The Ballot Box
Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd.)
June 12, 2005
We feel highly honoured to have been invited to participate in this historic occasion of the 12th anniversary, commemorating June 12, 1993 presidential election, an election that had the votes been counted would most likely have produced Chief M.K.O. Abiola as President of Nigeria.
June 12, is remarkable, unique, a notable event for Nigeria starring a Southern presidential candidate running for the first time with a Muslim – Muslim ticket in a constitutionally secular country and winning the election. It demonstrated the core values of democracy – freedom, order and equality. And it put paid to harbingers of ethnicity and religion.
The annulment was a big crime against the people of Nigeria because their votes were ignored, cancelled and annulled. The men who perpetrated this crime were in fact telling the people of Nigeria that their views do not matter, elections do not matter: only the will of the government in power matters.
Although it is twelve years since this painful annulment the lessons have still not been learnt because the people in government who annulled June 12 are in spirit and essence the same as those who visited the grossest electoral fraud in 2003. By a fantastic coincidence of fate the Presidential elections were held on 19 April giving the apt name 419 elections. Looking back at June 12 we can safely conclude that two Nigerian elections have invented a new mathematical formula: 612 = 419!
The danger we face today is that this group is very much around, widening the gulf between people’s expectations and realities, promising a lot and delivering little. They are opposed to the rule of law and welfare of the people; theft continue to subvert the democratic process and pursuit of peoples policies. They make no effort to connect people with government; rather the people are alienated and disconnected.
The landmark achievement and legacy deductible from June 12, is that contrary to the erroneous belief and intellectual fraud sustained over the years that ethnicity and religion are the deciding factors in place of ideology and preferred philosophy of Nigerians in voting; June 12 proved this assumption wrong.
ETHNICITY AND RELIGION
June 12 proved clearly that ethnicity and religion are only weapons in the hands of extremists, liars and unpatriotic elements who use them for selfish goals. They balkanize the country by building cleavages of hatred among groups. They divide ethnic groups into sub-cultural bases and their religion into sects, thus raising tension and making the country vulnerable to crises.
Let me take the opportunity here for the umpteenth time to explain the falsehood credited to me. That I advised Muslim voters to vote only for Muslims. Never was a bigger lie perpetrated in Nigeria!
What I said, and this was even before I joined partisan politics was that people should wake up, vote only for those who will protect their interests, their culture, their religion and their security. I spoke in Hausa, ex tempore, although mercifully the recording has been preserved. The reporter who sent this falsehood to THISday was not at the scene, did not speak Hausa and when confronted he said he thought that was what I said!
Nonetheless ethno-religious, political predators who are completely bereft of ideas or ability to run government seized on this as their only campaign weapon. If this kind of ploy does not work they rig or annul elections.
The cardinal question is, can there be democracy and social justice without the peoples vote? The answer is NO!
In fact, democratic states like India, Japan, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and others are called democracies because they hold free elections.
A great American President, Abraham Lincoln, in his famous speech in Philadelphia, defined democracy as, government of the people, by the people, for the people. This in a nutshell, means that the primacy of democracy is the people. The peoples choice whether right, wrong or mistaken must be respected and upheld. People should be allowed to learn from their mistakes. In the pursuit of good governance through democratic means our efforts must be directed towards ensuring that the established order is humane, decent, tolerant and benign.
Democracy is based on the social contract between the government and the governed.
The citizens willingly surrender their mandate to the leaders to govern in the collective interest of all, for the common good. The failure of the government to deliver public good, maintain order, preserve life and protect property leads to a betrayal of their mandate.
Is this the case in Nigeria? I would say Yes – for Nigeria is denied the basic benefits of a state, a government that provides for the public good. While we acknowledge the fact that in all societies, national political decisions cannot be made by all, but through credible representatives, duly elected by the people. We therefore insist on free and fair level playing field to enable us to elect true representatives of our people.
The legislature we have under this system can be best described as rubber stamp or an extension of the executive arm. The principle of separation of powers and checks and balances have been undermined.
In the face of this situation what do genuine democrats do? Open the Ballot Box!
The tragedy of June 12 is the closure of the Ballot Box, similarly the tragedy of the second republic and our current travails over the 2003 selections are the closure of the Ballot Box. What must be done? The answer to my mind is simple. Open the Ballot Box!
To open the Ballot Box, we need all hands on deck; for we have to beware of the ingenuity of those who benefit from this dubious process. They are eternal enemies of the state, as they create tension and instability in the land. They are authors of violence, cruelty, blackmail, extortion and render the electoral process meaningless.
We must unite to vote out those who devalue the bond of our people, that glues us as a nation, for they kill the joy of democracy and as I said before, we must be kidding if we think that they will give up. The solution is a popular aggregation of all progressive forces to counter the forces of retrogression.
History is replete with countries that were closed by forces of retrogression and what the forces of the progress did was to unite, rise above the fray and demolish obstacles of ethnicity and religion. We have recently seen what good people of Ukraine, Georgia and other East European countries did when the forces of darkness and retrogression tried to temper with the will of a united people.
When the Kenya National Union (KANU) abandoned the people, the forces of change left and formed the Rainbow Coalition and went ahead to open the Ballot Box and won the elections.
Once more arise oh compatriots and join the Granite Coalition, a vehicle of salvation from dictatorship. The imperative of a Granite Coalition is to follow the democratic route in gaining power. The due democratic process is through the Ballot Box and the process is predicated on one man one vote.
The coalition will finally decide which platform we should adopt. Today the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) remains the coalition of all the active registered political parties, without the retrogressive People Democratic Party (PDP). The opponent is the PDP.
Many of its members may not know that the PDP is not the party they knew before, as the offshoot of G-34, the group that rescued power from the military. The people have left the party. It is only the PDP shell that is left.
The PDP has been hijacked from the founders and their original membership. What is left is the shell with few remnants who cannot leave because they are stuck there.
The new owners of the PDP do not believe in the sanctity of the Ballot Box. They have squandered the good will inherited from the founding fathers of the party. They rely on the use of old conventional tools, that produced results without voting, thus have no need to canvass a programme for the people. Apart from the imported and imposed Economic reform programme, their only other programme is rigging. Their two priorities in their government are stealing and oppression.
One of the old conventional tools that the party uses is to claim to be the largest party in Africa. What is the good of being the largest if it is also the most corrupt, the most incompetent and the most irresponsible government ever?
The intra-party crisis of the party is a signpost of disaster, from Anambra, Kogi, Ekiti, Imo, Abia, Plateau to Adamawa. The contradiction and dissensions within the party show that it has collapsed. All we need is to unite and organize a burial party.
Their electoral strategy is akin to a student, who instead of studying hard to pass examinations, deploys every conceivable effort in buying the examination question papers, before the date of examination. With the papers purchased, he comfortably writes at home and submits on the examination day. When the result is announced he makes grade one. The danger is that PDP having forced itself on the people in this way, thinks this is the one and only way to remain in government.
We have carefully carried out a thorough research on how to counter this menace. To save our country and future generations a cohesive, conscious and granite plan must be put in place. In this connection, education, enlightenment and mobilization of people for the task ahead is needed.
Ladies and Gentlemen take pause and ask yourselves, why is it that today in Nigeria, that this regime is being compared with past regimes under unsuccessful military dictatorships? The mere fact that the present regime is being compared with some non-performing military regimes is an indication of its failure.
A political party that does not advocate nor canvass for peoples vote, cannot be bothered about peoples welfare, cannot be bothered about medicare, education, housing, employment etc. That is why anti-peoples policy dominates the character of the regime.
While we are more inclined to a welfare state, we are not opposed to free market economy, private enterprise and human freedom and enterprise.
All we are saying is that the level of our economic development shows that a mad rush to deregulation cannot reinforce democracy, without adequate infrastructural foundation and that Nigerians as a people are not as bad as gazetted. The rough route to private enterprise being followed generates crises that threaten peoples security, makes them vulnerable and calls in question leadership integrity and legitimacy.
The negative output from the so-called economic reform programme is a matter of public concern and shows that the regime is building nothing out of nothing. The suffering in the land is an indication of the failure of the whole programme. The people cannot find anything inspiring in the programme. This policy is dominated by anti people and inhumane measures, like incessant increases in the prices of petroleum products. The retrenchment of workers without alternatives increases insecurity and unrest.
We sincerely believe that Nigerians are good followers and can follow good leadership. All Nigerians require is untainted transparency.
Experience has shown that Nigerians follow obediently and this had been demonstrated in the past under some regimes. Nigerians are disciplined, dedicated and committed to any noble course.
What Nigerians hate is double speak, pretence and grand standing which defeat pronouncements and differ from actions. Nigerians are able to discern when their leadership is selective in the pursuit and execution of public contracts, anti-corruption policies and general distribution of patronage. This is the bane of the current efforts at privatization exercise, one of the major planks of the so-called economic reform programme.
This is why the economic reform programme is at variance with the spirit and letter of the economic objectives of the 1999 Federal Republic of Nigeria Constitution, which in chapter 2 section 16 among others, states that the state shall control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice, equality of status and opportunity, that national resources are harnessed and distributed to serve the common good. That the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group.
In order to satisfy their masters abroad, this vital section of our constitution is utterly violated and vitiated. A deep reflection shows that the framers of the constitution are aware that we are not an industrialized country, but, an agro based economy, which should start with a solid infrastructural base before jumping into the capitalist economy.
The pathetic aspect of this economic programme is that it gives little attention to how to improve our agricultural exports and stop our dependence on importation of food items. The past six years has witnessed little attention to the procurement of farming inputs and implements, to the extent that one wonders from where they are getting the 7% growth in agriculture they posted recently! For example, the minimum fertilizer requirement for Nigeria annually should be 2.3 million metric tonnes. All the government allows is a miserable 180,000 tonnes and even then attended by incompetence and controversy.
The economic environment shows negative indices of high interest rate, high inflation, high unemployment, depreciation of the naira, fall in the quality and standard of education, decaying infrastructure and a collapsing energy sector. These negative indices have led to the closure of many industries inherited from previous regime, leading to high unemployment rate and low GDP. Where have they got their figures? Or are these 419 economic indicators also!
One could have opted to gradually and incrementally condition the environment, get Nigerians back to work, before transition into a full blown capitalist economy. Nigeria has low export profile but high import profile apart from oil. A scenario where you find a lot of captains of industry without industry!
Nigeria no doubt must join the rest of the world in expanding the frontiers of free enterprise. But we must avoid social upheavals and preserve the fundamental principles that guarantee public good – preserves and expands employment. We need our people to have jobs, jobs, jobs. We need work. We need to work!
The millions of dollars squandered in the past six years to revitalize the energy sector, without tangible result shows clearly the level of massive corruption, coupled with the fact that Nigerians are not at work, as a result of the incapacity of the regime to get the people back to work. Otherwise the money could have been used in raising small and medium power stations, the fall out could have been the growth of small and medium support industries.
These are the paths that the Asian tigers navigated to their destination as industrialized nations. In studying the Asian Tigers, we should not forget that they benefited from the cold war, as the West encouraged their business men to invest in their allied countries. But with the collapse of communism, the West cannot conveniently invest in Africa the way they did in Asia. We therefore must create for ourselves the necessary environment for foreign investment to flood in.
We are yet to build the confidence of investors, to use our country as an out source country for local products, especially for Europe, Japan and America. This has been demonstrated in the lack luster approach in our privatization exercise. It seems that core investors are not impressed with what we are doing.
We in CNPP hope to build up a country Nigerians and foreigners alike can trust. For it is on record that in PDP’s privatization exercise lacks credible foreign investors, which forced the regime to deal with any comer. The privatization of NEPA might suffer this fate going by the past experience of confusion in NITEL, Daily Times, Alscon, Sugar companies, NAFCON, BCC to mention some of the disastrous examples.
Foreign investors will surely come one day, but for now lets invest as much as we can in building a favourable economic environment and the foreign investors will supplement us.
It is surprising to hear that the Chinese are being chided for bringing in only $300m. What are we doing with our own God given oil money? How much are we investing in the real sector?
RULE OF LAW
As strong and robust economy helps to sustain democracy, so is the sincere adherence to the rule of law.
Rule of law is one of the basic requirements of democracy, because the ground norm must be followed as a road map in consolidating democracy. You cannot be selective in which law to obey, and which man or woman is above the law.
Judicial institutions of the state are important and their capacity to function efficiently must be fully supported and strengthened.
In a situation where the judgment of the court is flagrantly violated by the executive, makes mockery of democracy, because the courts are supposed to be the last arbiter and the defender of the defenseless.
It is worse in a situation where the judgment of the highest court in the land – the Supreme Court – is vitiated as in the case of Lagos Council Funds. Consequently some of the judges al too often give in – if you can’t beat them join them!
In the area of capacity building, I on behalf of CNPP wish to sincerely commend the National Judicial Council (NJC) for the positive and progressive signs it has shown in administration of justice in the land. The NJC has given a lot of hope in building a strong, virile and independent judiciary.
I stated earlier in my campaign programme that good government requires sincere and purposeful leadership at all levels of authority, with obligation to be fair and accountable. It entails a commitment to be responsive, just and consultative in administration. Beyond these, good governance must aim at equitable and prudent use of resources to attain prosperity. The state of the nation and of our national economy today is crying for leadership with vision and a generous plan for the systematic development and efficient management of our national assets and national infrastructure, with the key aim of achieving national cohesion, economic well being, growth and employment.
Let me reiterate that our nation today must lay emphasis on focusing squarely on our present and on our future hopes and aspirations. While it is important for us to draw the proper lessons from our recent history, as we strive to build a fair and just nation, we must avoid excessively dwelling on the painful aspects of our past in a manner that engenders malice and vindictive pettiness. All we are saying is that we hope June 12 never happens again. April 19 never happens again!
This generation of Nigerians and indeed future generations have no other country than Nigeria. We shall remain here and salvage it together.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.