The electorate and legitimacy of electoral outcome (2)
CONTINUED FROM YESTERDAY
HOWEVER, where the electorate are not so enlightened their voting pattern is influenced and determined by issues such as ethnicity, religion, and financial and material inducements.
One critical desideratum in the electioneering towards the last general elections has been the total or near-total absence of the “weightier matters” and issues of nation-building and development. The politicians of today have not gone beyond the traditional empty “we will” and “we shall” promises. Indeed, bereft of manifestos that can be said to be the products of scientific understanding of the problem of the state, society, and economy, and conscious of the fact that the people have become weary of their empty promises, the politicians have left the realm of their good-for-nothing promises and now focus instead on mutual attack on personalities.
The diction of the political elite is abusive, derogatory, inciting, anarchistic and bellicose. The political elite seem to be in some competition for garlands and medals in the use of offensive adjectives in talking about rivals and their persons and personalities. Listening to some of these politicians or reading their reported expressions and paid advertorials in the media, one cannot but wonder whether these politicians ever listened to, or read any of the political speeches by African sages like Nelson Mandela, Nwalimu Nyerere, Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Bola Ige; whether they have ever listened to, or read living African statesmen like Kofi Anan and Emeka Anyaoku.
Without any political manifesto qua manifesto, the parties and their candidates have no leaflets, pamphlets and booklets for their supporters to distribute among the electorate. Instead, their supporters are mobilised as gangsters and thugs and charged to remove the campaign bill-boards of rivals and destroy their effigies. Besides, the gangsters and thugs are used to enforce decisions to deny rivals the use of public facilities such as stadia, electronic media, and schools for campaign in “enemy” states, i.e., states outside the political control of such rivals and their political parties. It is the same gangsters and thugs that are deployed to violently disrupt campaign rallies of rivals.
But why would the fundamental issues of development and progress not be left out? Few politicians are in politics for service. Besides, with the possible exception of very few, the politicians are blind and so they cannot see the plight of the people; they are deaf and so they cannot hear the cries of agony and anguish from the lower strata of society; they are dumb and so they cannot answer when the people speak. The blindness of the politicians, their deafness, and their dumbness are not physical; they are intellectual, ideological, moral, and ethical.
The Legitimacy of Electoral Outcome
The aim of any election is the constitution of a government or leadership. However, whether the government emerging from an election is acceptable to the people or not depends on a number of factors and issues. The management of the election by the electoral commission is very critical. Nigeria’s electoral commission is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Where there are irregularities or perception of them, the results may be contested. Any government constituted on the basis of the election will not be a popular government. Its authority will be illegitimate.
The two contenders, the PDP and the APC did not operate as equals in the real sense of it. First of all, the ruling party had the advantage of incumbency. Thus, the contest took the character of a contest between the federal government and the APC. The federal government controls the resources of the state and appropriates the resources as it chooses to do. The PDP federal government controlled the electoral body, INEC whose leadership and staff owe their position to the ruling party. It should be added that in the public fund-raising organised by Jonathan of the PDP and Buhari of the APC, while Jonathan realized ₦21 billion, Buhari got ₦54 million.
Nigeria has never had any experience of a union government or government of national unity. What Nigeria has had was a coalition government in the First Republic involving the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), and also in the Second Republic between the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP). In each case, it was necessitated by election outcome that did not confer comfortable parliamentary majority position on the ruling party, the NPC in the First Republic and the NPN in the Second Republic.
In each case also, coalition was formed because of shared antipathy to Chief Awolowo’s party, the Action Group (AG) in the First Republic and the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in the Second Republic. Besides, the NCNC and the NPP went into coalition with the NPC and the NPN respectively, because they (NCNC and NPP) wanted to be part of the federal government dominated by the NPC and the NPN. In the calculation of the leadership of the NCNC and the NPP, coalition with NPC and NPN respectively would guarantee allocation of resources and appointment to the eastern region controlled by the NCNC and the NPP. While the northern region was controlled by the NPC and the NPN, the western region was dominated by the AG and the UPN.
Elsewhere in Africa, efforts toward arresting post-election breakdown and disorder led to the engineering of power sharing between the ruling parties and the opposition parties which had revolted against unfavourable election results. The engineering in Zimbabwe and Kenya of some form of “union government” was either an admission by the winners – i.e., the ruling parties – of some manipulation of the electoral processes, or a demonstration of magnanimity by the ruling parties, or a disposition to conciliation, or a combination of all to save and secure the state.
However, the emergence of a “union government” in each case was after much violence associated with bestial killing and maiming of people including innocent and defenceless groups such as women, children, the sick, the old, and the physically challenged. Yet, the engineering in each case did not produce a lasting solution, as the emergent “union government” was a union of the cat and rat.
Which Way, Nigeria: What Is To Be Done?
As stated long ago by the greatest philosopher of the second millennium 1001 – 2000 AD, Karl Marx (1818 – 1883), “Philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways, the point, however, is to change it”.
The potential and diversity of Nigeria have not been managed for the transformation and sustainable development of the Nigerian state, society and economy.
We do not need any intellectual sagacity or sophistication to know that peace is a sine qua non for the survival of any nation as one entity and for its development and progress.
Electioneering, elections, and their outcomes in Nigeria have all been lawlessness and warfare. As a historian, it is my responsibility to remind politicians and their agents that the lawlessness and warfare built into the politics of the immediate post-independence decade in Africa were a major factor in the universality of military intervention in politics, political administration, and governance. In Nigeria the first coup of January 1966 and that of December, 1983 were typical examples. As political competition has again taken the character of lawlessness and warfare, lawless and bellicose politicians should beware.
Apart from the threat of election-related violence to the state and its order, many people get killed or maimed as a result of elections, all sacrificed on the altar of politicians’ inordinate Machiavellian and Mephistophelian quest for power. It has been pointed out that in the aftermath of the large-scale violence ordered by politicians who had rejected the results of the April 2011 presidential elections, 943 people were killed, while 838 were maimed. Each of these is somebody’s precious father, mother, husband, wife, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, friend and colleague.
At this juncture, we must commend the managers of the state and the people of Nigeria for the survival of democracy since May 1999, despite the ascendancy of centrifugal forces over centripetal ones. While we commend, we appeal to politicians to embrace the ideals of democracy. We cannot but rely on appeal. For, the political system, the constitutional framework, the electoral laws, and the nation’s historical experience are all laden with loopholes, nonsenses, and contradictions which allow politicians to act within the bounds of the laws and conventions and, yet, with detrimental effects on the state, society, and citizens.
Therefore, to ensure credible elections in future, to overcome the problem of life-and-death struggle for power at all levels, and to position the nation on the path to political stability, economic development, and social progress, we end our presentation with the following, viz:
Political offices and positions must be made less attractive;
Legislative work must be on part-time basis, so that, as much as possible, only gainfully employed and responsible people will be involved;
There must be trial and sanction for those who circumvent the rule of the game. This will serve as a deterrent. Many people whose elections were nullified by tribunals and courts of competent jurisdiction on account of irregularities are today back in political contest, to deploy their experience in irregular political action and behaviour against the people and their will;
The political system must be restructured to reduce the power, responsibilities, and fiscal resources of the central government where the struggle for power is fiercest;
Equity and egalitarianism must be adopted as fundamental objectives and principles of the state; then it would be clear, and serve as a warning, to politicians that there would be no room for looting of public treasury, or the commonwealth;
There must be emphasis on the development of institutions of the state rather than the promotion of the cults of occultic strongmen with Machiavellian outlook and values;
The electoral body must be a truly independent one; not one appointed by the ruling party at any given time;
Appropriate legislative promulgation must be put in place to check and curb incumbency advantage;
A two-party system based on ideology must be considered and evolved so that choice would be easy. The example of National Republican Convention (NRC) vs Social Democratic Party (SDP) created by the General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida administration (1985 – 1993) is a good precedent. With two dominant parties today, the PDP and the APC, Nigeria is a near-two party system. However, the two parties are not essentially different ideologically; hence the difference between them is not significantly more than that between six and half a dozen, between the kettle and pot, between tweedledee and tweedledum;
Mass political and civil education, and public enlightenment must be promoted;
For the purpose of rational judgement, there must be economic emancipation and empowerment of the people, so that inducements at elections such as presentation of items – rice, salt, cloths, bicycle, etc. – and cash gifts will become unnecessary and ineffective;
Property and financial requirements must be drastically reduced or abolished altogether to pave way for true patriots and progressives who are today excluded on account of their class background and material situation;
All loopholes built into the system for diversion of public fund must be blocked to reduce the attraction to seek public office as a means of self-aggrandisement;
Voting and counting of votes cast at elections must be open and transparent; and Winners must be magnanimous in victory, and losers gracious in defeat.
The last point is of utmost importance. The experience of Nigeria has been that winners deal with defeated opponents and rivals as eternal enemies and punish areas that they consider “enemy” areas in the “authoritarian” allocation of resources, distribution of public utilities and social amenities, and in political appointments. In a two-party or multi-party system voters should freely make their electoral choices and decide on who to vote for, and what party to support. Once the election is concluded and winners emerge, the entire unit should be seen by each winner as their constituency. In other words, as soon as elections are concluded politics should end, while political administration and governance should commence.
• Onyekpe, PhD, FHSN, MAPDHR, Department of History and Strategic Studies University of Lagos
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