JUST a fortnight ago I wrote my first ever article on Nigeria for a journal. I quoted the late British Prime Minister Harold Wilson who said that a week is a long time in politics. Little did I know that 73 hours which I gave as the due date for the birth of a New Nigerian Nation would turn out to be an even longer time in politics!
As Joseph Stalin once said in his heydays in the Soviet Union, “those who cast their votes do not decide anything. It is those who count the votes that do.” It is quite fair to say that in Nigeria it is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that counts the votes and does arbitrarily decide who is elected! But in other to determine how arbitrary INEC’s decision is, we have to establish how INDEPENDENT INEC really is. You really believe that a body whose leadership is appointed by the President and is rubberstamped by the President’s ruling party in the National Assembly is truly unbiased merely because it is pre-fixed with the word INDEPENDENT? Who is there when the President reaches under his desk and pulls the INEC string? And who will ask the INEC Chair to exercise his independence and risk one of the cushiest jobs in the Nigerian federation?
You do hear Nigerians speak rather proudly about borrowing their democracy from the US. But what did we borrow? Did we borrow only the shadow or the substance which is born out of their colonial experience? Have we heard any mention of their own Electoral systems whether independent or not? Have we heard that they interfered with the electoral process? Or indeed that the President of the United States appointed the Chair? The same with UK and all other Western democracies. If a body is independent, you don’t have to attach it to their name. You just have to watch them in operation.
Now we don’t have much to say about the INEC Chair of these days. Ironically, things have gotten worse since government decided that professors who are what Igbo people will call “OKACHA MARA” – the man who knows everything = are the best breed for this job. We have had four of them as Chairmen of INEC. With the exception of Professor Humphery Nwosu whose election was upturned by General Ibrahim Babangida in his attempt to perpetuate himself in power, no professor has counted the votes and conducted an election worthy of a country that is now 63 years old! Nwosu’s election is generally believed to have been the first and best in all of Africa. He did not have much technology. His option A4 which produced the unquestionable result was not followed by subsequent Professors. They rather introduced new technologies from which they made their cuts! And these are professors who will gladly punish students in a class of 100 for examination malpractices but have no qualms engaging in Electoral malpractices that disenfranchise millions of citizens! And when they are called upon to give an account of their stewardship, they would say “My NAME is Professor…,’ as if his parents named him professor at birth!
As for General Muhammadu Buhari, I wish some local journalist will ask him if this was the legacy of a clean election he hoped to bequeath to Nigerians before he packs his bags to Daura finally. Because if justice is clear in Nigeria as day light, the Supreme Court will declare Peter Gregory Obi the winner of the February 25, 1923, election!