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Date Published: 05/06/10

A new stage of the Nigerian Revolution By Nwokedi Nworisara

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At the last count the Nigerian revolution was at the stage of choices. Honestly I thought it had reached a climax when President Obama met with our [Acting] President Goodluck Jonathan in Washington recently, but I was proved wrong by recent events. In the first place I was disappointed that our President did not really make firm commitments towards systemic changes during his short tenure in acting capacity. Many would not have known it but the President seemed to me non committal even to comprehensive electoral reforms because he reasoned that he could bring about a free and fair election without it and he cited the Anambra State example amongst others. At first I took it that He was only envisaging the problems he could face rallying two thirds of both Assemblies at a time he was likely to be sharing power with so many contending forces. However with the passage of time during my short break, it became increasingly obvious that we would likely face 2011 elections without clear cut rules because all we witness here are  Assembly debates avoiding fundamental constitutional issues  but rather dwelling on the  short term realization of political calculation of aspirants some of whom sit in their own judgments  Aside from some vital changes made by the acting President since assuming office, unfortunately What  appears today to carry more weight are inconsequential topics such as State creation , pardon of political offenders, appointment into offices etc. These diversions are far from the reason that moved the Nigerian Revolution, hence its continuation.

I feel really sad because I thought we would not ever come back to this situation after our collective efforts saved Nigeria from the brink of instability a while ago. We are just months away from the heat of this struggle and everyone seems to have forgotten the lessons. Everyone is jumping and scheming into the Presidential race as if it can happen without clear cut restructuring of the system. I see my respected friends jumping into this unknown sea staking their reputation, their energy. I see others trying to position themselves for appointments as if the problem is men no longer the system .I weep for them. I have been there before. In 1992, it was the same ‘learning process’ and many of these aspirants will be part of this grim education sooner than later. At that time we were made to run on equal footing as both joiners and founders of the government funded and sanctioned political parties, NRC, SDP. The military was the umpire and we tried to live up to their expectation to avoid being disrobed. They widened the goalpost weekly and changed the game when they wake up from the wrong side f the bed. The Military then was also an interested party and anyone who criticized the status quo was quickly arraigned for corruption or would be recalled by his constituents. If on the other hand you praise the status quo, you dig your political grave amongst the electorate. At the end of the day no one survived, everyone was disqualified. It happened because we did not wait for proper guidelines before we declared our presidential ambitions. We thought it did not really matter. Later on when the military put forward a proper electoral procedure known as the option A-4, as usual our colleagues jumped into it without reading or understanding the trap woven into it by the military. I took time to read it and discovered it was worse than not having a guideline at all. I withdrew from the race citing the undemocratic nature of the option. Many laughed at me with derision.

The option A-4 which some people are asking for today, was the major reason for the confusion in 1993. First it did not allow Nigerians to contest the election except from their hometown ward. You start campaign from your ward thereby making you a tribalist because you have to be forced to make sectional statements to win your ward. You have to promise you would be partial to your town’s people if you become president or they will not vote for you. You have to deal with their long dispute with neighboring town and you have to back them to the detriment of their enemies. So you must become a tribalist before you become a nationalist. If you aren’t lucky the tribalist in you will take precedent at the national level as Chief Abiola found out during his time, for his perceived derogatory remark about a nearby tribe cost him overwhelming sympathy during his ordeal after the annulment in 1993.So it is not enough to have electoral reform, but any Presidential Aspirant unable to study the laws before declaring deserves no sympathy for any self chosen road to nowhere. You can imagine that today May2010, already we do not yet have any new law to govern the elections, the old ones are in force. The Assemblies are still debating and yet many people have joined the race. You can imagine what sorts of Presidents these people will be. Maybe they like the business as usual which we are trying to change for your actions reveal truly who you are. It would have been more honorable for them to spend these money and time pushing further the tenets of the Nigerian revolution by helping to push through legislation and systemic changes needed to build the basis for free and fair election in Nigeria instead of joining a race to nowhere.

I want to differ with those who believe that the Nigerian problem is fixable by changing people. Of course people are part of it and for public relations you can symbolically change people to further a cause. However our problem is systemic and so far even the Uwais electoral recommendations is cosmetic compared to what we need change to get it right. Nevertheless it is a big step towards the change we seek. I agree with Former President Obasanjo when he said that even if our Lord Jesus Christ was the returning Officer, that Nigerians will dispute the election. However, this is not to defend Iwu who deserves to retire after the disastrous 2007 elections, but because it buttresses the need for deep systemic reforms. What President Obasanjo did not elaborate however is whether our Lord Christ would agree to be involved in this dark system we run today? In fact the impurity of the job will repel him. It tells us something about those who get appointed to such jobs without question as they cannot separate themselves from the mess since ignorance is no valid excuse in law.

I wish to remind all Nigerian who may feign ignorance about this our collective mission that the major basis for the Nigerian revolution is systemic change. Nothing can stop it. As long as this change is yet to take on form no body should be deceived that business can continue as usual. It has taken years of intense prayers and suffering of the masses to get the concessions we are enjoying today but no one should dare play it away. Political aspirants can position themselves only to achieve this goal. Any other role will backfire on the one involved sooner than later.

As for those who want to take us back to the dark days, it is worth their try this time around so they can be convinced of the power of the light. I watched quietly within the last fortnight as the dark clouds threatened to envelop Nigeria once more. The Coercive psyche was awash and for once they were already in power, trying to get as much attention as they would use to justify any forceful takeover since they are not really in earnest about your one man one vote thing. I kept to myself since I am too aware of this strategy of incrimination through spiritual linkage and debates on a subject that deserves utmost contempt. Even when they threw the open invitation to me I denied them the pleasure of soiling my reputation among the dustbin of time.

Let me be more explicit, last week you saw the result of giving too much credence to what you loath. As the Presidential aspirations and their false rent a crowd debates progressed taking Nigeria away from the true goals, the unforgettable aura of military psyche hovered invitingly over Nigeria we were forcefully reminded of death threats to journalists, even of Dele Giwa. It is all too fresh in our memories to forget. Why must people think that free speech should not be part of electoral reforms; why should fear become a recurring decimal I our public life? I don’t understand why nobody is pushing for the freedom of information bill passage as part of electoral reform. Why do we think that Electricity is a major problem of Nigeria when it is only a symptom of our systemic decay? Why are we always disputing what a television or reporter has to say about the conditions in our country? Is it not true that Nigerians have started feeding from the dust bins or should BBC where there is freedom of Information reject a good story? We must wake up to the new reality that times have changed and we cannot afford to be left behind. And for those merchants of fear, they need to be told that their old press gag strategy is also history even in Nigeria. The lesson to learn here is also that campaigning in an open sesame has its limitations for all concerned. We must resolve collectively to come together at this time and press irresolutely for more important-systemic changes for we cannot afford to give this constitution another chance to ruin our country.

Mr. Nworisara aspired to be President of Nigeria in 1992.

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