Saturday, April 2, 2011
The Need for Political Maturity in Nigerian. By Eucharia Mbachu
Nigeria has had its share of political instability; thank goodness things are shaping up for the better. However as Nigerians are preped up to go to the pools, every meaningful Nigerian is compelled by circumstances to hold his or her breath. Because of the size of the country a lot is expected from its leaders as the biblical saying goes, he whom much is given, much is expected. That is why most Nigerians carry the biggest weight both in Africa and other parts of the world when black performance is judged in the field of human development Nigeria comes to mind Going to the polls has emerged as one of the bones of contention that defines and determines the status and significance of any independent member of the United Nations. Since the declaration of independence in the majority of African countries in the ninety sixties, elections were considered the prelude to nationhood. Almost all the leaders who assumed power at this time in African history joined the UN as victors in their last elections before decolonization came into being. These founding fathers of the New Africa bragged about their performances at the polls. However, from the wider perspective of history, many of these leaders failed to honor and respect the acts of dignification conferred upon them at polling times. Instead of ruling for a short time and yield back power to their constituencies, they linked on and in the end suffered the fates of dictators who stayed too long. If not booted out through the ballot boxes, they were driven out of power by mad and hungry soldiers. Hence the first ten years after Ghana’s pioneering role as independent that country was a disaster for all Africans and blacks around the world. Coups detat came in rapid succession and elections gradually became the distant source of power. One –Party dictatorship became fashionable and coups detat became the alternative ways of sharing power among soldiers. Under the one-party dictatorship, civilians rule; under the military certain collaborating civilians got some little power as co-opted fellows of the ruling elites. . Nigeria provides an excellent case study of Africa’s encounter with elections. There are five ways in which the forthcoming elections separate the Nigerian road to democracy from others on the continent. First, Nigerians are similar to but different from other Africans in the sense that, on the one hand, they yearn for the ballot box, but on the other, they know the growing pain in getting their soldiers and civilian leaders to accept the demands of term limits and the need for political tolerance among the elites. Without political tolerance there will be little or no change after the elections. Either the electorate may feel disappointed or cajoled by deceptive politicians or the emotions may take over and the people might decide to follow their ethnic urges instead of their rational political and economic interests. Another way Nigerians are different from the other Africans stems from the demographic imperatives. With a population of almost one-half of the United States of America Nigeria caters to a large electorate and for this and other related reasons, it was impossible for either the civilians or the soldiers to impose a one-party state. Historically speaking, General Ironsi was a victim of this miscalculation when he declared Nigeria a unitary state after the 1965 coup detat The same circumstances made it impossible for both the two former military dictators Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha to mold the country according to their taste. The third point to make here rests on the circumstances that led to the rise of General Olusegun Obasanjo. One cannot appreciate the successes of the former President unless one looks at Nigerian elections in the circumstances and the political agitation of the Nigerian electorates and civil societies that brought him to power. Not only did he benefit from the rise and death of the late M.O.K. Abiola under very depressing and dangerous period, but he also contributed immeasurably to the harnessing of the special Nigerian political seeds to help advance Nigerians to the present level of political maturity. General Obasanjo may have his critics galore in the country, but the fact still remains to be said. It was during his leadership that a new generation of cooperating elites across ethnic lines began to form forcefully and nationally. Posterity will eventually know all the secret details about his successes in governing the country through an effective alliance between northern leaders and their counterparts in the southern parts of the country at such a critical moment. Those who are in the know can vouch for the great Obansanjo fascination with the candidacy of the late former President Yar Adua. The former President Obasanjo campaigned vigorously for the brother of his former colleague, senior Yar Adua during the fatal and bloody times of Abacha who contributed a great deal when younger Obasanjo took power after the assassination of Murtala Mohammed. He made sure also that he ruled with full party support. When we look at the fourth and fifth reasons why these forthcoming elections make Nigeria a different political space in Africa, three elements demand serious thought. There is the fact that during these elections, Nigerians will have more than two credible political parties and both of them, if enthusiastically voted for by the vast majority of the population, would raise the levels of political maturity in the country. Whosoever is elected would be privileged to govern with minimal tensions in the country. The second element, if things work out amicably, would be the growing decline of the significance of zoning. If the leaders in the country have learned to cooperate with Obasanjo’s successors after he was denied a third term, then we can here argue for a new passion for change in Nigerian political arithmetic and a new attitude towards civilian and military rulers. Here the fifth reason for Nigerians to look at the forthcoming elections critically lies in the opportunities for the larger ethnic groups to come together and demonstrate political maturity by choosing the best candidate. If the evidence suggest for them, as matters did for Americans during their elections of 2008 when Barrack Obama won, then the sitting President Jonathan is qualified to rule. Significantly, the whole process would be dignified by the competition of former President Buhari on the one hand and Presidential candidate Ribadu, on the other. Drawing a parallel with the 2008 American elections, one could now say honestly that General Buhari would be serving historically the same role as Senator McCain in the American elections. If the electorate across the great ethnic divide in the country favors President Jonathan, then chances are the zoning question will be fixed for all Nigerians. Truth be told, the participation of both northern politicians in this campaign could send a positive message to the country that the minorities deserve to be consoled by such acts of political unity and solidarity among the larger Nigerian ethnic groups who see this moment as a saving grace and a new salute to all Nigerians at home and abroad. It is in light of this, that we now turn to the elections and their significance for Nigerian political maturity. By political maturity one means the development of serious consciousness among the Nigerian electorate to stay away from political violence and thuggery during elections. If the political elites accept the ballot box as the instrument of the people to choose and select leaders, chances are Nigerians will gradually eliminate the corrupting powers of bad elections and political demagoguery. During these elections Nigerians are being asked to elect their new President and Vice President; they are challenge to elect new governors as well as new leaders of government in various levels of the federation and thirty-six constituting states. However, there are stumbling blocks that might likely work against the meaningful and effective conduct of elections. First of all, many Nigerians are mindful of the dangers that lay hidden from public view. There is apprehension about political intrigues and the rigging of elections on the side of one party or the other. Such approaches to politics under the present conditions in Nigeria are dangerous and unwise. If not avoided, chances of bloodshed and political chaos could set in. The only people who can avoid these eventualities are the political elites from all parts of the country. So long as the various states are able to elect their own governors unimpeded chances are Abuja would gradually become the haven of political compromise and national celebration. I will leave my readers with what we learned from the history of elections in Nigeria since decolonization. There was the politics of hope and expectation during the last days of colonialism and many of our leaders and elders enjoyed the arts of politicking. However, this love affair with political electioneering was short-lived, largely because of the political violence in the country. Since then political freedom was caught and mortgaged by military leaders through coup detats. Another factor to be considered is the nature of the Nigerian political animal. It is too big to be tamed under one-party domination. Nigeria never had one-party rule and their political developments revolved around civilian versus military rulers. It is very important to note the chemistry of Nigerian politics. Nigerians are allergic to political ideologies unlike other places in the world. Their intolerance for long-term dictatorship has made their electoral process a tough bargain for politicians. It is too costly to meet with the political demanding of the voters on the one hand, and to negotiate successfully with political rivals on the other, This is particularly so now, when bargaining and compromise are fully accepted as terms of reference in the political culture of the country. In light of this reasoning one is compelled to say these unforgettable words from one African thinker:: “Nigeria’s destiny is inextricably linked to the personal egos of every citizens who is sufficiently informed to use his or her voting power as a to effect positive change in the country from the leaders to restrain from the ugly thoughts and nefarious deeds that are bound to shame our national honor. It will be a disaster if democracy falls in Nigeria. What happened in Rwanda will be a child’s cry compared to what will happen if Nigeria fall short in her quest for democracy. That’s why it’s imperative that a serious caution be maintained both at the voting pools and outside. Hopefully, this election will be a critical test and our success after the voting could open the doors to social, economic and political developments which will clearly confirms that Nigeria as a partner in progress on international economic powerhouse.
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