2011: A Prelude to Good Governance

May I begin, by thanking the president and members of the executive committee of DNKI; an organization of enterprising professionals with the objective and desire of promoting service to humanity, effective leadership and good governance, (ideals that I personally subscribe to), for inviting me to come and share some thoughts on our nation, Nigeria with you. Indeed, I am honoured by the singular opportunity delivering this talk as your guest speaker on your second annual convention holding this day in our capital city of Imo state Owerri. May I hasten to add, that the privilege I have, to give this lecture is made a lot easier by the fact that I am doing so before eminent Nigerians and distinguished ladies and gentlemen who already are vey conversant with the totality of our National ailment which includes the hiccups associated with and the apprehensions attendant to the forth coming elections.

BACKGROUND: As we all know, Nigerians gained political independence on October 1st, 1960 and so became the 99th member of the United Nations in 1993. Nigerian committed itself to a republican constitution. Since independence therefore, Nigeria’s political foundations have been variously shaken by one crises after the other followed by consequent regime changes. Let’s look at a few major examples: (a) Western Region Crises (1963-1965); (b) Tiv Riots (1964); (c) First Military Coup (1966); (d) Mass Killings of Ndigbo (pogrom) in North (1966); and (e) The Declaration of the Sovereign State of Biafra and the civil war that followed (1967-1970).

In addition, Nigeria witnessed many military interventions and incursions into the political system via coups and counter-coups and even threats of coups all in regular sequence 1975, 1976, 1983, 1985, 1990, 1995 and 1997.

1999 ushered in Nigeria’s fourth Republic. On May 29th, 1999, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn-in as the President and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. State Governors of the constituent units (states) of the Federation and a minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were also sworn in on the same day.

THE CONCERN OF THIS LECTURE: With this not-so bright a background, the question, now is, with the elections in Nigeria billed for (I understand) April, 2011 Quo va dis? Where are we and where do we go from here? I observe and I understand that these are rather inauspicious times in the lives of our nation. In any sane country, we should by now be in a jolly expectant mood looking forward to a change of batton. We should be focused and eager to tell with a determined voice to those who have failed our mandate-“please come back home for you have failed”. In the same vain, we should be encouraging young, focused, and visionary minds “go forth and execute our needs/revised mandate”. Sadly enough, we cannot, rather, we are bogged down with fear of the unknown. The fear of rigging, the fear of political assassinations which have already started, the fear of snatching of election boxes, police inefficiency, contrived inability to have a credible voters register etc.

That is why, we gather again today to talk about the questions that we all know the answers but seem endlessly unwilling to brave the answer for one selfish, ethnic, parochial, religious, zonal and mindless reason. Need I really say more?

There is an old adage in this parts which says – that an insincere person is he who pretends he is working hard but only digs up a hole, covers it up, digs it up again, covers it, digs it up again all in the pretence of working hard. That is exactly the political mental state of the nation. We all know what the problem is, but we are most unwilling for one selfish reason or the other to face up to the realities:- the challenge of national purposefulness, sincerity, honesty and fairness.

WHAT DOES FREE AND FAIR ELECTION REALLY MEAN?: Put simply- there are two groups of political animals in Nigeria. The one and often the loudest, the richest, the most powerful and yet the most unpopular are those who seek to obtain and remain in power at all costs. The other, often meek, poor, voiceless but popular are those who seek and canvass the philosophy that the people, through their vote must mandate and be seen to have mandated the politician by the process of one man-one woman one vote. In addition, they seek accountability from those they have voted into power.

These conditions seem unacceptable to the first group- i.e. those who seek to obtain power by ll dubious means i.e. through rigging, snatching of ballot boxes, manipulation of election figures, political assassinations, bribery, corruption, e.t.c.

These groups of political cut-throats have for the past 30 years or more cornered the political cake and the struggle among them is to capture bigger and bigger slices. For instance, all the political parties currently on ground are bound in a silent expression of spirit de corps to preserve this unsustainable and selfish political process. No Nation that places self-service over and above national and social service ever survives as a valuable nation. When wholesome political actions are challenged politicians accuse the challengers of heating up the polity. This is very sad indeed.

There are certain wedge points in the political evolution in Nigeria. For instance, our political leaders before now, in search of a rather naïve solution to a much bigger problem, tried to bring some sanity, I would say, to the acrimony, insecurity and potential instability generated by the struggle for lucrative federal centre with the simplistic concept of rotation, i.e. rotating the presidency or zoning same between the North and the south or put simply between the federating six political zones in the country.

This naïve and simplistic solution has not brought with it the very much desired answers. It simply empowers in a very unacceptable way mediocrity and would by implication exclude socially committed presidential materials from other zones at any point in time-who would have to wait in the event for 48 years to have their chance to serve the nation (8 years x 6 = 48 years).

In the present day political dispensation in Nigeria, the feverish urge to win elections at all cost, and as a result be part of the plunder party of our national resource, takes precedence over service and wealth creation. If we must have peace in this country, if we must get out of the eminent suicide that we are heading towards, if we must have stability, the we must ensure that our constitution is changed to give the fairest opportunity to the best and available presidential materials unfettered access to contest for and achieve success to the highest post in the land.

We must in addition, over anything else ensure that the vote of every Nigerian counts during elections. We must ensure that the rule of law is adhered to. We must do away with the Godfather syndrome in our politics. We must identify and empower merit, honesty and sincerity in Nigerian politics. Above all, we must be bold enough to say “no” to dubious politicians, who seemingly have formed themselves into a dangerous cabal-a cabal that has defiantly cornered power and resources of the Nigerian nation.

GOOD GOVERNANCE: During elections, politicians of all shades and character make pledges and promises to the electorates. Regardless that in the end, the votes of the electorates may not necessarily count in determining who wins the election; the fact still remains that the electorates cast their votes based on conviction as to which politician may – “repeat may” fulfill his or her pledge. Repeatedly however, such promises made during elections are never kept. Whether kept or not, the fact remains that good governance means the ability to address the concerns – immediate and distant of the electorates. Such concerns emanate from their social concerns for basic life necessities – food, water, shelter, good roads, affordable education, affordable health care, security of life and property, respect of human dignity anf human freedom. A government that provides and or seriously addresses these basic human concerns can, in my opinion be described as a good government. A bad government is one that does not.

The link therefore between a free and fair election and good governance would appear to be clear. To have good governance, you need a free and fair election. An election where the best available persons are elected into office with the assurances that such persons will govern well particularly as such governance can address the concerns of those who elected them. The formula is therefore simple. Elect freely, person of integrity, then you have good governance. Conversely, if persons of low integrity and little or no honour are elected-then you have bad governance.

CONCLUDING REMARKS: We have tried in this paper to discus a fairly familiar topic to almost every Nigerian. The problem that I have had doing this paper is that I am talking to the already converted Nigerian public who feel the pains of bad elections, who know the consequences of bad elections but sadly enough who remain docile, frightened and detached from the sad realities of our political scheme. In the face of the apparent apathy of most Nigerians, the political class keeps having their way, while the rest of us keep grumbling without succour. Within the past week or so, EFCC issued the list of dishonest and discredited politicians of one of the parties – infact members of the ruling party adjudged by EFCC as unsuitable to contest for any elective position in Nigeria. It did not surprise anyone certainly not me, when the ruling party – a party that has been albeit preventively in support of transparency, rule of law and all that; coming out in an outrage against the list submitted to INEC seeking to restrain the corrupt politicians from seeking elections into any office in Nigeria. If one may ask, is the ruling party telling the rest of us that they condone the corrupt actions of these politicians whose names appeared in the EFCC list? When must the political class in this country stop speaking from both sides of their mouths? Somewhere earlier in this paper, I described Obsanjo’s swearing in as the Commander-in-Chief of Nigerian Armed Forces and Head of State as regrettable. Why, we may ask? Recall that Yar’adua took over from Obasanjo, certainly not because he was the best available Nigerian material for the job. We may hazard a guess if we assert that he simply gap-filled for his late brother the general who was to take over from obasanjo in the Pre-planned turn by turn arrangement of ex-Army Generals. Therefore, the reason may not be farfetched why the generals are all lined up in the spirit of pre-planned turn by turn arrangement to become president of the federal Republic come 2011. We know them. Yet, Nigerians are naively watching the scenario play out. Don’t say I told you, but if care is not taken, they might hide under the spurious argument of zoning to achieve their heinous desire.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have offered these acerbic, painful and sad comments yet the problem still will remain. The conclusion question is; how do we use free and fair election in 2011 to achieve good governance? You may not easily notice that in this question we have simply returned to where we started. Funny isn’t it? But that is the Nigerian factor. We talk a-lot about problems without providing answers and just like the Irish clergy told his congregations:

“Dear faithful, Here indeed lies the problem, let us simply talk about the problem, look at the problem in the face and pass on.”.. I pray we do not simply look at the 2011 election in the face and merely talk about it and in consequence allow bad governance at the state and National levels to continue.

I thank you.

Professor Tony Gozie Anwukahformer vice chancellor, Imo State Universisty, Owerri.

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