THAT NIGERIA MAY SEE 2023
By ‘Diran ADEMIJU-BEPO
Do not be unnecessarily alarmed by the title. In another eighty-odd days, Nigeria will step into another Republic, in the year of our Lord 2023.
Exactly nine years and a few months after celebrating her centenary as a geographical expression and entity, carved out from the areas around the River Niger and proclaimed on January 1, 1914 by Lord Fredrick Lugard.
As you may be aware, in less than three months’ time, another democratic change of baton is expected at the centre and at both left, right, top and bottom of the centre, if you know what I mean.
In the history of this country, IBB once suspended the electoral process and dismantled all democratic structures, after terrorising all of us into believing he was sincerely interested in bequeathing a sustainable democratic order to us as a people. The
Politicians – either in khaki or babariga/agbada – have no other song but to grab the centre by whatever means possible. This was evident in the way and manner the recent Presidential and National Assembly elections were conducted on February 25, 2023. The interest has always shifted from developing the country from the local government areas, where indeed the wealth of the nation comes from, to the centre yet they pride themselves as grassroots politicians.
Once upon a time, in the recent history of our dear nation, before the 2007 elections, members of the fourth National Assembly passed the verdict that the elections that saw majority of them into the upper and lower chambers were very far from being free, fair and transparent. Even late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, on his inauguration on May 29, 2007, admitted that the electoral process that threw him into the Presidency was fraught with irregularities and he pledged to reform it. Unfortunately, he could not complete the work he began as he died in office on May 10, 2010. Prof. Jerry Gana, then political adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo, at a seminar organised by the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS Zone B, held in Awka, capital of Anambra state declared that Nigeria had the highest level and most refined system of rigging elections (see Daily Sun July 22, 2004, centrespread). All these coming from the centre or from state actors and gladiators on the centre stage, are pointers to the fact that the legitimacy of the then adminstration was in question.
This country witnessed an electoral charade once in recent times which the world described as an electoral fraud held on April 19, 2003, 4.19.2003 as the American would put it. The same political actors and parties who masterminded the landslide victory of APC in the past are still alive and part of the on-going plans to decide out fate come 2023. How many times did the party rejoice when welcoming decampees to its fold? Today, the lexicon is defection. Or Emi l’okan [It’s my turn]. How many times has the party thrown a bash and a rally to receive members of opposition parties into its fold on the inglorious altar of cross-carpeting, for the sake of political gains? In the months leading to the 2022 primary elections of all the parties, especially, the ruling APC and the ousted PDP, the electorates have been brazenly disenfranchised even before the polls. One wonders how democratic our current experiment is!
Recently too, key actors in PDP were quoted as saying that the party was going to take over power from the APC – All Progressives Congress – alleged sponsors of Boko Haram, the insurgent group which has held the nation by the jugular since 2007. By any stroke of surprise, the democratic experiment we have been on since 1999 has thrown up a lot of issues that even the erudite political scientist in the person of erstwhile INEC boss, Prof. Attahiru Jega cannot comprehend. He has not in four years been able to fully understand the nature of the Nigerian political and electoral processes.
One can only hope that the recently concluded Presidential and National Assembly which can best be described as a sham in states across the Federation will not stand the test of time. With obvious irregularities which are seen as pre-meditated to discredit the effort and disenfranchise many citizens, I have heard INEC scoring itself high and giving itself a pat on the back. But many of us know that there were underage voters registration in states in the North for instance. How can the exercise of election then be free, fair, credible and transparent?
With the budgetary appropriation to INEC for this and other activities leading to the 2023 general elections settled by the National Assembly and the Central Bank of Nigeria, in spite of the Naira Redesign/Swap Policy and the attendant hiccups, one would have expected a better outing for the Mahmood Yakubu-led Commission. But it appears as if the whole charade may still be repeated come Saturday, March 11, 2023 in the Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections. There are still the challenges of Presidential election which have not been resolved. Polling integrity must be adhered to, if Nigeria would not explode into chaos. Nigerians in the majority appear wiser now; let us hope they are ready to stand up and defend their votes. This underscores the point that many want a paradigm shift in the governance, going by the outcome of last weekend’s polls. The declared winner is revelling in his pyrrhic victory while the assumed losers are warming up for the judicial contestation, with evidence. The development that is expected to strengthen our democracy but may end up decimating same.
As several roads lead to the courts, in the next few days (already some documents are flying all over the social media space), many keen watchers are seriously of the opinion that the waste of resources on an expensive presidential system of government should be halted. A review and a return to the Parliamentary system should be on the front burner come 2023. With a dwindling economy, is the presidential system sustainable? The beneficiaries of the National Assembly elections are actually part-time lawmakers but earn humongous packages with other perks built into their severance allowances, if not re-elected. The parliamentary system is even more participatory, representative and symbiotic than the flamboyant and outrageously inimical presidential system. Ministers to oversee the various ministries will be chosen from among the elected Members of Parliament, MPs. Not from a pool of party loyalists who are most often than not, visionless hangers-on and terrible parasites on the system.
For our nation to survive, the Nigerian political class should be prepared for this long overdue change. Let us forget the 1999 Constitution and fashion out a new one in favour of Parliamentary democracy, which was jettisoned by the military in 1966 following their misadventure in the political space that lasted thirteen year in the first instance; and later from 1984 by the out-going President , Muhammadu Buhari and his cohorts till 1999. Nigerians are clamouring for this and Nigerians must have it. One day, soon. We say No! to the rape of the last sultan. We cry no more the taming hawks of election riggers and vote buyers. Farewell to a virus of anomie.
The aftermath of internal neo-colonialism has foisted a regime of waste on the nation. More than twenty years of resources have been wasted on the so-called unending amendment of the 1999 Constitution. Enough is enough! We need a new Nigeria. We need economic expediency, fairness, justice and equity which were part of the reasons for our amalgamation in 1914. By 2024, just next year, Nigerian will be one hundred and ten years as one unworkable entity. It is time to redefine our socio-political fortune. It is not enough redesigning the currency notes. All we need is a redesign of our political nation building and a leap into prosperity.
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