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Sunday, 23 June 2013

Why Incumbents Often Win


By: Aniebo Nwamu 
Conducting elections is one huge irritant that has been overheating the nation’s polity. I can’t remember any time since 1999 we’ve enjoyed a respite. Yet, each round of elections has been a fraud. Why do we keep wasting our scarce resources on meaningless elections that cause us to lose even more funds? If that is democracy, then, democracy is the worst form of government.
In the run-up to the 2011 polls, I begged INEC chairman Attahiru Jega to return the N84billion or so he had been given to the treasury. An accurate audit of the polls is near-impossible, but I guess over N200billion was wasted that year on “elections”. And what they produced? Almost a thousand people killed in post-election violence, heightened insecurity across the country and more Nigerians slipping into the poverty cesspool. The nation has not recovered; it is sinking deeper as 2015 approaches.
Let us therefore reason together. Rather than waste perhaps N500billion more on elections that can only create more instability, more rancour, and more deaths, let’s find a better way of selecting our leaders.  I can state authoritatively that the 2015 “elections” have been concluded already: the votes have been counted and we are only waiting for INEC to announce the results. The politicians’ influence is telling on the news media too. Every day, headlines are donated to divisive characters that have never contributed anything to this country – except pain. See how our national politics has been reduced to what one Ijaw leader said and Arewa’s reply.
The other day, it was a group of “south-south and middle-belt leaders” led by Chief EK Clark joining forces to endorse President Jonathan’s candidacy in 2015. The group comprising “northerners” like Gen. Lawrence Onoja and Senator Wash Pam went to the villa to “persuade” the president to run, prompting the northern socio-political group, Arewa Consultative Forum, to allege that it’s the president’s plan to divide the north.
I believe the 2015 election is over because INEC is not prepared to conduct free and fair polls; it is never ready. Today, there is no authentic voter register and there won’t be one up until the eleventh hour, as usual. And, in a non-credible poll, the incumbent always stands to win, or else… The Nigeria Governors’ Forum election held on May 24 should serve as a reminder. Asking an incumbent government to supervise free and fair polls in this country is like asking it to wage war on itself. So why are we deceiving ourselves?
The “war” may be shifting to the floor of the National Assembly where some spoilers are hoping to adopt a new constitution that will prevent the incumbent president and governors from benefiting from a six-year single tenure. Again, I expect President Jonathan to win this “war”, and, should he lose, nothing stops his kinsman DSP Alamieyeseigha from stepping in! This is a great country indeed. 
If angels were sent from heaven to conduct free and fair elections here, few of the current politicians would be elected. But they would get substantial votes because they have more money to share, too many voters are impoverished and most of those that could make right choices do not even have voter cards. So, the opposition parties or politicians seeking to dethrone the incumbents should tackle the election process and reawaken apathetic voters.
They can’t accomplish either, without first raising enough money to match the funds controlled by guardians of the public treasuries. Where will such money come from?  Even if a benevolent foreign power sent it to the opposition, would greed and clannishness allow them to deploy it wisely? When chieftains of the ruling PDP say that the emerging APC will break in one year, that’s what they mean. The struggle over sharing of party positions and candidates would be a child’s play. Knowing all these, then, I suggest that we spend the next two years at a (sovereign) national conference writing a new constitution. Let INEC be dismantled.
The money that would have been wasted on elections can fix the country’s electricity problem. And let nobody tell me that any such step would be in conflict with the law. Have we been observing the law all along? Creativity pays.
A More Realistic War On Terror
Many cynics see the current inflated budget for defence (upwards of N1.5trillion per year) as the outcome of a conspiracy of gangsters that created the terrorism industry in Nigeria. After all, security-vote managers thrive most in times of crisis! Until I listened to the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) on Friday, I didn’t really consider such viewpoint foolish.
I have wondered whether anybody in the presidential villa has a workable plan for ending terrorism in the country. Is it just a matter of fishing for Boko Haram, clamping kidnap suspects in jail and shooting Niger Delta militants? Are the security forces ready to kill more than 20 million street children and young adults or, as the latest statistic suggests, 10.5 million out-of-school kids in Nigeria? With the nation’s economy closing up, with more than 80 per cent of youths unemployed or underemployed, and with over 120 million Nigerians living in penury, the rate of crime and hopelessness can only grow higher.
It appears some people have been thinking in the right direction. However, I won’t praise them until I see the plan presented by Dr Fatima Akilu, director, behavioural analysis and strategic communication in the ONSA, put into action. Based on the strength of the blueprint, the national security adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), deserves high marks. At least, it’s very realistic.
Fighting terror, as the America-trained psychologist (Dr Akilu) explained, is not all about hunting for Boko Haram but about understanding the psychology of the group, rehabilitating former insurgents and preventing future insurgents. De-radicalising them will, of course, require education and good programmes that can put food on the table. I have stated several times that stomach security is the ultimate security. To this could be added: good governance that entails eradicating corruption, creating jobs and ensuring social justice.
I also agree with Dr Akilu and her boss NSA Dasuki that the best deterrent for terrorism is to not let it take root in the country. I’m not sure we’ve not missed the mark already: how long will it take to rehabilitate 20 million hungry, unschooled, unemployable young adults who have been indoctrinated into believing that crime pays better than hard work? No doubt, we’re in for the long haul. It may take five or even 10 years before we start seeing the results of the ONSA’s efforts; that is, if the blueprint is ever implemented.
Leadership

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