Letter From The President: 419 elections
By: J. A. Fukuor/Daily Dispatch, (2007-04-27)
Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents,
I suppose you have all been following with keen interest the recent happenings in Naija. If you haven't, you should. Naija is our "big brother", it is Africa's most populous country, we get a lot of oil from them and, of course, they've promised to give us some electricity. We've recently seen a lot of Naija-owned businesses opening in Sikaman - providing employment for many.
Historically, we've been friends with Naija and as I heard someone say recently, 'when Naija sneezes, Sikaman catches a cold.' So we all need to follow what's happening there with keen interest, give praise where it is due, speak out against any injustice and do all we can to help them get through these trying times they seem to have brought upon themselves.
I have kept my ears and eyes wide open, following every bit of the unfolding drama in Africa's most populous country and in doing so, I have been bombarded with a flurry of emotions ranging from anger, amusement and shame to disappointment and regret.
I am angry because I believe both the legislative and presidential elections were rigged and everything was done to make sure that Olu's government continued to stay in power - from the ludicrous decision by the Electoral Commission to overstep its bounds and ban one of the candidates from contesting to the ill-conceived plan to print the ballot papers in South Africa and have them delivered less than 24 hours before the day of the presidential polls.
I am ashamed at the sheer scale of disorganisation which characterised the whole process. It appears very little thinking and planning (if there was any) went into the exercise. Instead of concentrating on the logistics of organising an election, the Electoral Commission decided to do the ruling party's dirty job by banning one of the presidential candidates from contesting. The ensuing legal battle, I believe, made them forget that there were more serious and challenging issues to deal with.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court did not kowtow to the government and ruled that the EC had no power to ban any candidate. This ruling was issued just a few days to d-day and under normal circumstances, one would have thought that the elections would have been postponed because for a country of 60 million voters, it is virtually impossible to reprint new ballots with re-instated candidate's name. But the EC claimed that they had a ˜Plan B". That plan meant that the new ballots would be printed in far away South Africa. And I am quite angry with this decision as well. In the spirit of sub-regional co-operation, I think our brothers and sisters in Naija could have printed their ballots here in Sikaman; we would have delivered the ballots much earlier than the South Africans did. As things turned out, the ballot papers were delivered less than 24 hours before the polls and if you consider that the EC had no contingency plans (say aircraft and helicopters) for distributing the papers within such a short space of time, you would very easily laugh at their folly and ask yourself: 'what do they have in their skulls: brains or grains?.'
The massive organisation failures meant that for so many polling stations, the ballot papers were delivered several hours after the time the polls were supposed to have ended. In other areas, voting materials were in very short supply. I have never seen such disorganisation in my life and that's why I am disappointed. I am disappointed that Africa's most populous country and one of its richest (in fact, Naija is considered a continental super power) was not able to organise a smooth election devoid of logistical hiccups.
Most annoyingly, amidst the chaos of disorganisation and the unanimous verdict of several election observer missions (including that of the African Union) that the polls were a charade, the chairman of the Naija EC was urging his compatriots to 'be proud.' Proud of what? That they succeeded in showing the rest of the world how to organise ˜shambolic" elections?
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that the organisational failures were all part of a grand plan to rig the election in favour of Olu's party. But why rig an election in such a blatant fashion, with all the major international news networks watching? Couldn't they have done it in a more intelligent fashion? I believe there are more subtle ways of rigging elections not that I am an expert, but I have seen it before.
In 1992 and 1996, Jerry Boom and his people used cunning and various other machinations to win the elections, forcing us to write the ˜Stolen Verdict". Remember? Olu and his cohorts should have consulted with Jerry's people and I believe they would have saved us all the embarrassment of being associated with them. I am now even reconsidering the folly that made us name a street in Accra after Olu.
I thought he was a sensible, forward-looking African president who would graciously step aside when his term ran out. But, alas, I was wrong. He doesn't want to go. He wants to rule by proxy and so he has gone to every length to make sure that his anointed one succeeds him. I am very appalled, to say the least, about his conduct. Apart from making his friends (like my excellent self) look stupid and power-drunk 'show me your friend and I'd show you your character' he's made Jerry Boom look like a hero. I mean, if upon all his excesses, Jerry Boom left power graciously without blatantly trying to subvert the will of the people, why would someone like Olu 'who claims to be a champion of the African renaissance ' go to such foolish and undemocratic lengths to perpetuate his rule, albeit through a chosen successor?
Olu might be thinking that he has won. Maybe he has. But his country (and the rest of Africa) has lost. The rest of the world know that we in Sikaman have organised better elections (not the best, just better than Naija's). But from now on, they are only going to associate our continent with late arrival of voting materials, polling stations remaining opened 18 hours after they were supposed to have closed and thugs snatching ballot boxes and running away with them.
What became of Olu's dream of an African renaissance? I want to say that if he really holds the interest of our continent and its people at heart, he should do as many have suggested: order a re-run of the polls. And instead of pulling every string to make his man win, he should just let the people decide. If what I know about him is anything to go by, I think Olu will not listen to anyone and he'll just allow things to be as they are. He won't order a re-run because I believe he's already started preparing his hand-over notes. And that concerns me. As I write this letter, the opposition parties are calling for daily street protests to compel the government to overturn the results of the ˜shambolic" polls. In a country like Naija, daily street protests could spell disaster. Many would die, several would be maimed, thousands would be displaced and lives would be destroyed.
Things are not looking good, and I'd urge you all to spare a moment of prayer for Naija. Let's pray that things do not get out of hand and that Olu's successor (even if he came in through a rigged election) will be accepted by all and he'd be a father to all the citizens of Naija. Most importantly, I hope that Olu's successor will be a friend of Sikaman and he'd give us oil and electricity.
J. A. Fukuor
Labels: Nigerian Elections, Obasanjo