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SWINGING ALONG WITH THE PENDULUM by @joshuaotene April 14, 2015

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The 2015 General Election has ushered-in a new exciting epoch in the political memoirs of Nigeria. For the first time in our checkered history as a democratic nation, an incumbent president habeen shown the way out of office via the power of the ballot. Also for the first time since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), self-acclaimed largest political party in Africa, has suffered a humiliating defeat in the hands of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) at practically all levels of electoral contest. It is therefore clearthat the political power pendulum in Nigeria has switcheddirectionsthe effects of which will become more evident after May 29th2015.

 

However even prior to the official handover date, the effects of the historic swing of Nigeria’s power pendulum have begun to manifest. Far withdrawn from the thought of political existence as an opposition party figure at least for the next four yearsPDP bigwigs across the nation startedto cross-carpet in droves to the APC barely days after the result of the presidential poll was announced. Following the gubernatorial election of Saturday 11th April, in which the APC consolidated its position as the ruling party by claiming victory in majority of the states, there is likely to be an avalanche of decampments to the APC in the daysahead

 

Students of politics and all keen observers of the dynamics of power would concur to the notion that power is transient’. Power is also dynamic and if there is one lesson Nigerian politicians must learn from the 2015 Election, it is that political power rests with the electorates and they can confer it on trust to whomsoever they deem worthy. Indeedthe PDP has suffered electoral defeat but contrariwise, the loss presents an opportunity for the party’s membership to return to the drawing board and ask itself some pertinent questions. How well did we utilize the enormous powerentrusted into our hands by Nigerians in the last 16 years? Where did we get it wrong, and how can we navigate our party out of the marshlands it icurrently enmeshed in?

 

But rather than working together to reposition the PDP to win back the hearts of the electorate towards future electoral conquests, the power mongers in the PDP are betraying their insatiable lusts for political influence by clinging tenaciously to the pendulum of power and swinging freely along with it in the direction that it goes. The ex-PDP members that are currently trooping unabashedly into the APC should probe themselves on what their true motive is for deserting the party that they only recently swore allegiance to. Apart from the expected mourning resulting from the tragic electoral loss, there is presently no internal crisis within the PDP to provide even the subtlest of excuses for its members to decamp to the APC.  This will therefore confirm that the decampees areinfluenced only by their avarice and thirsts for power and all the lucre that accompanies political power.

 

 

 

Recall that President Goodluck Jonathan’s timely congratulatory message to the President-Elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) several hours before the final set of election results were announced at the International Conference Centre, venue of INEC’s National Collation Exercise, has been widely adjudged as one of the highpoints of the Jonathan administration.  Even the fiercest antagonists of President Jonathan could not but own up publicly to the fact that the relative peace witnessed across the country after the presidential poll, a complete departure from history, was largely attributable to the gallantry displayed by Mr. President in conceding electoral defeat and the subsequent broadcast message he sent to his teeming supporters, urging them not to thread outside the ambits of the law in seeking redress if they harboured any reservations about the election results.

 

Despite the torrent of plaudits that have greeted President Jonathan’s sportsmanly disposition to the election, theflurry of secret (or even open) condemnations that Mr. President must have to contend with from stratums of his party membership, his kinsmen and teeming beneficiariesremains incontestable. After 16 consecutive years in the mainstream of power and all the associated trimmings, it is not impossible to find PDP members that would choke (or almost choke) at the thought of being stripped of all the bounties and privileges they are currently enjoying. Again, there are others whose ethnic, social or religious affinities to President Jonathan has over the years given them unfettered access to numerous dividends of democracy, dividends which ordinarily do not trickle down to the common man on the streets. 

 

But as repugnant as the reality is, PDP (and of course its many beneficiaries) has found itself in opposition politics and it is a fate that the party and its teeming members, especially those that have benefitted enormously from its good fortunes, must embrace wholeheartedly. For our democracy to continue to take roots, there is need for virile and vibrant opposition party to be in place. A viable opposition will not only put the incumbent on its toes, but also provide an alternative to the electorate in subsequent elections. However the APC cannot deter interested individuals from joining its fold. As a political organization, the APC must uphold the tenets of freedom of association as enshrined in our constitution. But the statement credited to the President-Elect, Gen. Buhari, that the recent decampees will not be offered appointments into his cabinet is quite commendable. It should sound a clearwarning to intending decampees that they cannot have their cakes and eat them.

 

For the political power that they so covet, our politicians must be willing to pay the right price. The ‘change’ slogan that many Nigerians are basking in today was made possible through the diligence and sacrifice of a few people, who weathered the turbulent storms of opposition politics for 16 solid years! The President-Elect, GenMuhammadu Buhari stands tall on the list of the pillars of contemporary opposition politics in Nigeria and thereforedeserves to be its leading beneficiary. Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu also runs atop the list of champions of opposition politics in Nigeria. The efforts and sacrifices of these two,among other men of conscience and principle, have altered the equation in Nigeria’s political landscape today.

 

Although it is often argued that majority of Nigerian politicians do not uphold clear-cut philosophies, I am of the view that the seeming lack of political philosophy on the part of our politicians is attributable to the low level of the nation’s political maturity. I have argued that time and events will eventually shape Nigerian politicians, as well asthe electorate along party philosophies. This is so long asthe country does not slide into a one-party state. With time and further realization of the power of the ballot, the parties will be compelled to fine-tune their philosophies and also educate the electorate on these philosophies. It is then that we can have issues-based politics, rather than the politics of primordial sentiments that we are currently practicing.

 

For instance in the United States, being the democratic model which Nigeria appears to be emulating, the issue of politicians decamping across political parties has not been a matter of reckoning in recent years. This is because in the US, it is easy to identify politicians with the party manifestoes that they stand for. The conviction of an average American politician vis-à-vis party manifesto has made party loyalty a transcendent issue within any particular family. With the passage of time, I am optimistic that the culture of democracy in Nigeria will rival that of the US. But that time can be shortened considerably, if only our politicians would stick to objectivity, principle and character, and quit oscillating with the pendulum of power 


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NOT SO SOON NIGERIA by Okey Onyejekwe April 5, 2015

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The certificate issue almost led to a constitutional crisis on the eve of the Presidential Election. General Mummadu Buhari has consistently maintained that his High School certificate was in the custody of the military. He was scorned and vilified by the PDP. Several Radio, TV and newspaper advertisements ran, days on end, calling him a liar, a cheat, an illiterate. Presidential spokespersons, namely: Dr. Doyin Okupe, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode and Dr. Reuben Abati all took turns to ramp up the “Certificate-gate”. They saw this as their ace against Buhari. As all these efforts failed to resonate with the public, they engaged all manner of surrogates to file lawsuits hoping to find any willing and purchasable judge who would disqualify Buhari. The man himself possesses unassailable integrity and honesty, tested over decades. There must be a thorough investigation on how some in the military became complicit in this travesty. There must be accountability.

Meanwhile, Jonathan is being hailed now as the “New Mandela” of Africa for conceding defeat after he was rejected by the Nigerian electorate. I am astounded and feel insulted that we are being sold a bill of goods that a Statesman status is conferred by simply conceding an electoral defeat. Never mind that the new “Statesman” presided over a totally failed and massively corrupt administration, coopted all the security agencies to thwart the democratic process in many despicable ways at every step of the way; trying to stop the use of PVCs, Card Readers (designed to eliminate all forms of electoral fraud), including violence and massive vote rigging on Election Day. In the South-South and South East States, in full view of the security agencies, polling officials were video taped filling out ballot papers and result sheets. Bags and bags of dollars from public coffers were doled out in public view to many “ethnic brokers” to buy votes. Paradoxically Nigeria just recently made the dubious list of “extremely poor nations”, with over 70 % rate.

In Ekiti and other States, touts were recruited and given military and police uniforms to intimidate and brutalize voters in order to assure victory for the ruling party.
The world watched a last ditch effort by the incumbent party to derail our democracy. While the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega was announcing the last batch of the election results, lo and behold, [Jonathan’s] former Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, [Elder] Godsday Orubebe, appeared and held the nation/world hostage in an orchestrated last ditch ploy to stop the announcement and render the election inconclusive. They expected the security forces to engage him and all hell would break loose in the room and then his touts in the Conference Center, outside and in the States were ready to cause mayhem. Thanks to the steel disposition of Jega, Nigerians will be telling a different story today. Mr. Orubebe was not a lonely wild wolf on the prowl. He was acting from a script, which came out of a meeting held the previous evening and chaired by PDP elder “statesman”, former Minister Edwin Clark, also a political Godfather of President Goodluck Jonathan.

Apologists are arguing that President Jonathan deserves to be hailed as a Statesman for saving Nigeria from violence and also for setting an example for Africa on how to concede when defeated. Some are even more bizarre to suggest that he should be awarded a Nobel Prize! Obviously, Nigerians are glad that he, egged on by the insane sycophants and self-centered praise-singers, did not act foolishly in an attempt to truncate the process. But having said this, please let us not get carried away, totally out of context and proportionality. The incumbent created a situation ante, which led to a context in which the whole world was forced to hold its breath.

The question we must ask is this: when you contest an election and you lose, are you not supposed to concede? Why is this an extraordinary feat deserving of a Nobel Prize, regardless of his extremely anti-democratic record leading to the elections? Incumbents in other African states have lost elections, conceded and left office in Benin twice. Didn’t President Diouf of Senegal lose and concede to Wade? Didn’t President Wade of same Senegal lose to Macky Sall and conceded? Didn’t President Thabo Mbeki bow out, without a whimper when he was defeated by Zuma in the ANC convention? Incumbent parties have lost elections in Ghana and all hell did not break loose. Come to think of it, didn’t President Olusegun Obasanjo, a military Head of State, hand over to a civilian regime in 1979? It is even more noteworthy for a military regime to voluntarily surrender power to a civilian dispensation, given its monopoly of the instruments of violence, than from one “democratic” dispensation to another.

I can understand it when the Western world hails Jonathan’s concession as an earth-shattering event because in their usual condescending way, they don’t expect higher standards from us. Foreign observers will usually adjudge African elections to be “free and fair, by African Standards” no matter how flawed. We are often judged by a minimalist threshold. But it is more painful when we ourselves begin to tout the same nonsense and judge ourselves by the same threshold and expect to be taken seriously.

This whole issue has become a total distraction from what was a courageous and remarkable effort, against all odds, by the Nigerian electorate to reclaim their mandate. That should be the real story, not on President Jonathan’s concession whose administration and party, had turned the whole electoral process into a war like exercise in which they were determined to hang on to power by any means necessary. Nigerians must continually ask how we got to this point where we are willing to award a Nobel Prize just for conceding a defeat. It is because we are relieved that we averted a conflagration because the incumbent was determined to stay on by hook or crook? Or because when pressured by the “big boys” and the enormity of the defeat he did the right thing at the nick of time, especially after the “Orubebe Show of Ignominy” had failed? We are glad nevertheless.

Some are claiming that he could have clung on to power had he chosen to hang on. I argue that every action of the administration, including the postponement of the election, leading to the election suggest otherwise. The electorate had spoken thunderously and the world community, in unison, had warned, in no uncertain terms, that the will of the people must not be subverted. Most of the average members of the security agencies would not have acquiesced in any forlorn attempt at foolishness. Evidence: The president lost decisively in the polling units in the Army and Police barracks, as well as those in Aso Rock, the seat of power. The appetite for Change was voracious and insatiable.

We must not forget that many were brutalized, imprisoned, even died before, during and after the elections just for daring to exercise their constitutional rights, in what is supposed to be a democracy. We must not forget that these are the real heroes before we are affected by collective amnesia in the quest to move on quickly and forget the ugly past. Not so soon please! We cannot say “Never again”, if we chose the convenient path – The Big Lie!

Professor Okeychukwu Onyejekwe was African Governance Expert at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)

ELECTION 2015: TIME FOR REAL CHANGE April 3, 2015

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Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power”– (Abraham Lincoln; Civil Right Activist, Lawyer & 16th U.S. President; February 12 1809 – April 15 1865

PRESIDENT Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan rode into Nigerian national consciousness upon the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua on May 5, 2010 after a protracted illness. Jonathan’s ascension  to the Presidency was not without rancour but the Nigerian masses, intelligentsia, Labour and a voluble section of the political class stood by him as he served out the late President’s term of office. When he stood for the Presidency in his own right, most of us supported him against retired General Muhammadu Buhari. His rag to riches or rather a shoeless kid to a Doctorate degree and to the leadership of the world’s most populous black nation won the heart of most Nigerians including this writer. Here was a man you could trust to be on the side of the impoverished Nigerian masses. Events over the last five and a half years of Jonathan Presidency have proven most of us wrong and President Lincoln right – Jonathan withstood his childhood adversity but doesn’t know what to do with power!

    The Nigerian masses were tired of Military Rule and their recklessness. We decided that democracy, with all its faults, was the way forward. Thus we chose the Presidential type of Government. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been the Party in power since our current democratic dispensation, which started in 1999 with the coming to power of President Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo. Obasanjo was the choice of the Nigerian establishment. He was a relic of the past Military misrule having been a Military Head of State between 1976 until he voluntarily returned power to a democratically elected government in 1979. That singular action cemented Obasanjo’s place in Nigerian history. Obasanjo’s return to power in 1999 as PDP’s candidate was to most Nigerians the better of two evils. In fairness to the man, his government stabilised the polity, negotiated us out of the crippling Nigerian  debts , recreated the Nigerian middle-class, introduced the now familiar mobile  phone system , refurbished Nigerian University Teaching Hospitals, established the anti-corruption agencies such as Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) etc. Under him, Nigeria regained some international respectability.

    The coming to power of PDP’s YarAdua/Jonathan was to herald a much acceptable phase of Nigerian democracy. Both of them were young and well read. Both were scientists and were hailed as our bridge to the future. With the passing of Yar’Adua, the mantle of leadership soon fell on the unprepared shoulders of Jonathan and the rest, as they say, is history. One struggles to pin down a significant achievement to Jonathan’s Presidency. This amiable man under the Fedora hat just doesn’t know how to exercise the enormous responsibility and power entrusted to him. I reluctantly agreed with a friend who labelled him Shagari Mark 2 in reference to the government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari who also ran Nigeria aground in the 1980s. Under Jonathan, the poverty level has climbed to excruciating levels; criminals have been given Presidential pardons thus allowing them to contest for elective offices; the oil subsidy criminals are  roaming  around and contributing to his campaign  funds; the universities were shut for almost a year while the students roamed the streets; the unemployment rate is at a record level; the much promised improvement in  electricity generation and supply haven’t happened; the anti-corruption agencies have been emasculated, and properties and lives are no longer secure. Most importantly the security and corporate existence of our nation are being threatened by Boko Haram.

   The next Nigerian election is just around the corner in February 2015. The Peoples Democratic Party has Jonathan as its Presidential candidate. It is the belief of this writer that the PDP as a Party in power since 1999 has run out of ideas. One wish to point out that Ghana, a smaller version of Nigeria with similar problems started democratic practices around the same time as Nigeria. She has succeeded in changing her ruling parties on three occasions since then and she is better for it to the extent that a lot of Nigerian businesses relocated to Ghana. Nigerian students now flood Ghanaian universities in search of educational stability lacking in the Nigerian universities. The situation in our dear Nigeria is now hovering perilously towards the Zimbabwean situation. Even the megalomaniac President Robert Mugabe who ran Zimbabwe aground took a potshot at Nigeria’s failings! That’s how low we have sunk. 

    The question is – can we continue like this? The honest answer is NO! This writer was one of those against General Muhammadu Buhari in 2011 on account of his military past. Time has changed and one must change with it. Buhari was a Military Head of State between 1983 and 1985. He was known to be highly disciplined, honest, hardworking and incorruptible. He was a no-nonsense soldier who valued the security of our nation above everything else as can be attested to by the Maitatsine Islamic militants. Buhari served as a military governor, oil Minister, Chairman of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Military Head of State and Chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund. To a criminally minded person, these were avenues to amass wealth but not a Buhari. He retired a decent poor man for which he is now derided by a Jonathan’s crony in the person of Dr. Doyin Okupe. Buhari is a statesman and not a politician. According to Lincoln, “a statesman is he who thinks in the future generations, and a politician is he who thinks in the coming elections.” That is the difference between Buhari and Jonathan. Buhari has offered himself for election in 2015 as President to save his country from impending calamity. For the first time, one thinks that Nigeria needs and deserves to give Buhari a chance to turn her fortunes round come 2015.

• Bamigboye is a Consultant Gynaecologist based in the United Kingdom.

Election 2015: Nigerian democracy comes of age by Vincent Bamigboye April 2, 2015

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“We don’t vote for people because they are the exact embodiment of our values, but because they are likely to be the most responsive to them.”

– Charles M. Blow (American Journalist; 11 August 1970 – Date)

ELECTIONS allow democratic nations a chance to celebrate the rebirth of values of popular representation of the interest of the people. Nigerians have, through the recent 2015 General Elections, celebrated this important aspect of democracy. More importantly, the loss of an election by an incumbent Nigerian President in Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to an opposition candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, signifies the coming of age of the Nigerian democracy. While congratulating Muhammadu Buhari, one must thank President Goodluck Jonathan for living up to his oath of office and promise that he would conduct a credible election. This is to his eternal credit and history will forever be kind to him. We Nigerians are very religious people; thus one can say that God has been very kind to Dr. Jonathan. He has scored so many firsts that one has almost lost count – first Nigerian President from the South South; first southern minority elected President; first Nigerian President with no shoes while growing up, etc. Jonathan is on his way out with our prayers and gratitude ringing in his ears. This is no time for recriminations. This is a time for celebrations by the generality of Nigerians. We have every cause to be happy.

A few years ago, an American think-tank  came up with the notion that our nation is at a risk of a cataclysmic breakup come 2015. Neither this group, nor the generality of Nigerians, ever envisaged that the dreaded year 2015 would be the year that elections would be held. To worsen our situation, the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists made life very difficult for Nigerians especially in the North eastern part of the country through mindless attacks. They were intent on not only disrupting our hard-worn democracy but creating divisions as well as instigating a possible civil war in the country. Thus the fact that the elections were held, winners emerged and were generally accepted, represent small victory for our beloved Nigeria. For these, and much more, Nigerians of all backgrounds deserve praise and congratulations. We now call on all the candidates to call their men and women to order. The country had witnessed some caustic pronouncements over the last one year or so. We put that down to exuberance in politicking, although it has been at a great cost to our relations as well as the economy. Fear of a possible post-election mayhem has led to capital flight and loss of investments. However, we must accept this as the pains of democracy at its infancy.  The time now is for healing the wounds and engaging in nation-building. We owe it to future generations not to orchestrate upheavals that would set our nation backwards.  One

congratulates and welcomes our new President, Muhammadu Buhari. One remembers his time as a Military Head of State way back between December 1983 and August 1985. One wishes to remind him that this is no time to fight old battles. He should forgive and forget for the sake of Nigeria. The world of the 1980s has changed remarkably. The Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Sudan have all disintegrated. Our country share similar fault lines with these aforementioned countries, not least because of religious, ethnic and relative poverty. You, General Buhari has been accused of being a religious bigot and an Islamist. Most of us do not believe a word of this, hence we voted for you. Moderation is the part to toe Sir. Leave religion to the individual and his / her God. We fought for democracy and Press freedom. We know there cannot be a renewal of that notorious Decree 4 but we want a moral rebirth all the same. One would want to see Boko Haram wiped off the map. Our military should be empowered and provided to protect us. One wants to see the excesses of all those ethnic militias or paramilitary organisations curtailed. The economy would have to be developed to absorb these people in productive and legitimate ventures. The new Nigeria we believe you can build, you will build, must accommodate all of us.

Finally, one wishes to call on those of us who have no political affiliations that the job of shaping the nation and the behaviour of its politicians is only half done. We should let the new government know that desperate individuals or political opportunists have no place in civilised government. The corruption and profligacy that characterised the last government must never be allowed in this or any other Nigerian government at any level. The security of our nation must never be allowed to be jeopardised by any group however powerful. We should be ready to put the new government under strict watch. We voted for General Buhari, not because he is a saint, but because we think he is likely to be more responsive to our national aspirations and yearnings. Our democracy and freedom were won with the blood and sweat of great Nigerian nationalists and these must be protected. Echoing the words of the immortal President Nelson Mandela of South Africa – never, never again must our beautiful and fertile country Nigeria be allowed to degenerate to the levels we had witnessed in the last six years when a group was completely excluded from the governance and all good things seemed to flow in the direction of a particular ethnic grouping to the detriment of others. Nor must we allow or encourage the oppression of one group by another. • Bamigboye, a consultant gynaecologist, lives in the UK

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