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How Obasanjo rewarded Nigerians with a farcecalled elections
By Muhammad Al-Ghazali
Special to USAfricaonline.com,CLASSmagazine, USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston andTheBlack Business Journal
Abuja: April 24, 2007
"Neither the spirit of Nigerians who went to the polls to casttheir ballots nor the dedication of thousands of poll workersstruggling to execute their responsibilities in polling stationsthroughout the country was matched by their leaders. These electionsdid not measure up to those observed by members of the IRI'sinternational delegation in other countries, whether in Africa, Asia,Europe or the Western hemisphere" - The International RepublicanInstitute (IRI) on Nigeria's April 2007 elections
Wherever he may be today, and the possibilities are limitlesssince God Almighty is the final arbiter in all our earthly affairs,the late Afrobeat icon, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, deserves a posthumousnational award, not only for the sheer artistry and prophetic ring tohis lyrics, but also for their befitting titles which captured notonly the mood of the nation, but also the trend of events even today.But if Fela in those rosy days ofthe 70s appeared to some like a rebel without a cause, the samecannot be said of ordinary Nigerians at this moment and at this epicperiod in our history.
For that purpose, let me proceed by appealing to all readers whohave kept faith with this column for some measure of understanding.It has never been my habit to write in anger, but if at all there isany venom in my choice of words today, it must be because of the masshysteria and degree of helplessness in the land today on account ofwhich I am actually pleased to make an exception.
I am embarrassed to call myself the citizen of a nation whoseleaders lack the necessary credibility and decency to organise simpleelections forty-seven years after our independence, I am ashamed andbadly traumatised to belong to the era in which the people's ballotscould be stolen with such brazen impunity and shameless audacity; Iam horrified to be led by men who claim to be reformers but whosemind-sets and personal qualities actually belong to the stone age; Iam deeply humiliated to belong to a country which ordinarily shouldbe a leader and beacon of hope to all of Africa, but which sadly hasbecome the subject of scorn and derision over the conduct of the sameelections.
If most Nigerians, as well as the damning reports of the local andinternational election observer missions including that of the IRIare to be believed, the general elections concluded last weekend madeeven the 2003 polls pale in comparison with the massive rigging andwidespread irregularities never experienced before in our history.Not only did election materials fail to arrive polling stations ontime, in most instances, the elections never held at all but'results' were declared all the same.
Reacting to the corrupt manipulation of votes over the weekend,even the normally modest and respected Archbishop Olubunmi Okogiedeclared that leadership in the country had gone to blazes and hecouldn't have been more apt! Never in the history of this greatnation have the various institutions of leadership been so wantonlydesecrated, and I dare add that never have we had the misfortune ofbeing led by a more twisted or dishonest president.
Yet, it wasn't as if Nigerians were actually taken by surprisethis time around. Unless we delude ourselves, the tune for theunprecedented tragedy was set midway into the president's first termwhen some northern leaders somehow contrived to ensure that the samerogue elements got away with a virtual coup against the Nigerianstate and its people in the name of the preservation of nationalunity and harmony.
Now, we are only left to mull over what could have been had wesupported Ghali Umar Na'Abba and other progressive elements in thecountry to impeach the president over his serial attempts to corruptthe National Assembly; the perpetration of the electoral bill fraud,as well as the failure to implement the appropriation bills forseveral successive years in open and flagrant breach of theconstitution.
Unfortunately, because we wallowed in such unpardonable docility,Obasanjopromptly rewarded us by superintending over the farce that passed forthe 2003 elections; Nigeria's version of the Night of the Long Knivesduring which the PDP, a party most Nigerians placed high hopes on in1999, not only metamorphosed into a de-facto Politburo, but waspurged of its last remaining pillars of honour and integrity only tobe replaced by sycophants like Ojo Maduekwe who once told the lateAbacha that he was indispensable.
If truth must be told, our passivity, quite inevitably, onlyserved to embolden the president as could be gleaned from the crudeand divisive methods he later employed in the failed attempt toelongate his tenure through the back door. Even without labelling thejust-concluded elections a do-or-die affair, the signs were there allthe time that Obasanjo had become a desperate man, and desperatepeople are always dangerous even if they don't get to command aPolice Force led by Sunday Ehindero or an agency like INEC headed bya pathological liar like Maurice Iwu.
It was Iwu who addressed the National Council of State andproclaimed that INEC was ready for the elections in its entirety. Asit were, not only did the ballot papers not carry serial numbers,apparently, the only people who were 'ready' were the contractors theagency engaged for various services including RETEL, owned by a manthought to be a close associate of Andy Uba! The company was given afour-billion-naira contract for the 'transmission' of electoralresults, whatever that means. In this information age, and given thefact that Nigerians had to wait for nearly four days in some casesfor the outcome of polling 'results', the EFCC may require no furtherinvitation to beam its searchlight on most of such hastily-awardedcontracts, but obviously, I may only be wasting my time.
Still, when Nigerians trooped out to vote during the gubernatorialelections, it wasn't as if they were not conscious of what they wereup against. They knew that beyond the natural elements, they also hadto contend with the antics of a vile and most despicable dictator anda habitual liar whose words not only counted for very little, butcould not be relied upon. Even when he made the comical nationalbroadcast promising free and fair elections, they were conscious thathe only made the effort to fool the hundreds of election observerswho had descended on the country for the polls. But still, many choseto give him the benefit of the doubt. Despite the widespread apathy,many still trooped out to vote for the president and legislators oftheir choice last weekend. The rest is now history.
Abraham Lincoln once wrote that nearly all men could withstandadversity, but if we wanted a measure of a man's true character, weneeded to tempt him with power. We may never know the full reasonswhy a posse of retired northern military/political class sprung ChiefOlusegun Obasanjofrom Abacha's gulag in 1998, and proceeded to present him with thepresidency on a platter of gold in 1999; but to say that Obasanjo hasproved to be a complete disaster is actually a huge understatement.Nigerians have endured so much in their lifetimes, of course,including decades of military rule it must be emphasised, but neverhave they experienced so much sadism, crudity and vulgarity in thedefinition of statecraft like we have to contend with presently.
The main reasons for status quo without a shred of doubt weremanifested in the flawed electoral processes and the seamless interand intra-party crises the president and his party have foisted onthe polity since 2003. Quite inevitably, because they thrived onstolen mandates and had no need to feel accountable for theiractions, they had no compulsion to yield to our needs or even bend toour aspirations. Arrogance, rudeness and crass ineptitude became theorder of the day. The president behaved like a raging bull in a Chinashop, while his lieutenants routinely assailed our collectiveintelligence for daring to question the theft of our nationalheritage by a tiny cabal of his cronies under the cover of economicreforms. And now, obviously, we don't only have to contend with thetheft of our national assets, but the brazen theft of our ballots yetagain!
Indeed, complacency appears to have defined the way Nigerians havereacted to Obasanjo since he stole his way back to power in 2003. Wesnored when he overran the opposition parties and gave some of theiropposition chairmen choice appointments in the Presidency. We couldnot be bothered when he reconstituted INEC and sneaked in Maurice Iwuas its chairman. We displayed even lesser interest in the appointmentof virtually all the Resident Electoral Commissioners who playedtheir roles with decisive effect these past few weeks. And, morefundamentally, we showed little interest when he allowed the IGPSunday Ehindero to remain in office despite attaining the mandatoryretirement age!
But even so, nothing could have prepared us for the monumentalcrises of legitimacy the patently flawed electoral processes weexperienced in the past two weeks now confront us with. From everyindication, the results so far declared in Abuja and Lagos appear toreflect the true pattern of voting across the country before the PDPshowed its diabolical hand. Two reasons account for my belief. First,both Lagos and Abuja are microcosms of greater Nigeria; as such, thevoting patterns in those specific locations offer a fair reflectionof how people voted on account of their ethnic group, religion oreven gender. Second, both cities enjoyed a heavy concentration ofinternational election observers, thereby minimising incidents ofwholesale fraud and manipulations at the collation centres.Obviously, the difference clearly showed in the sanity of the figuresso far declared for both cities.
So, where do we go from here? Clearly, this infamy must not beallowed to stand under the excuse of underdevelopment because smallerand bigger nations like Ghana and the Democratic Republic of theCongo [DRC] - in terms of land mass - have been able toorganise credible elections with distinction and without muchrancour. Given our human and material superiority, there isabsolutely no reason under the sun why their successes cannot bereplicated here. Most influential Nigerians I have spoken to whoshould know were unanimous on how best to tackle the situation.
Nigerians must resist every attempt to seek redress throughunconstitutional and extra-judicial means. We must reject violenceand show our new colonisers the true meaning of civility by takingour grievances to the electoral tribunals to reverse the greatinjustice inflicted on our national psyche through the dubious polls.With the judiciary enjoying a new lease of life under Chief JusticeKutigi, the chances are that they are unlikely to come awayempty-handed. We must also encourage the National Assembly, led byKen Nnamani, to show its clout by rising to the occasion at this mostimportant epoch in our history.
And, as for the identity of Fela's vagabonds, well, by now,Nigerians must be under few illusions that they are not anywhere nearour high security jails, but in the various government houses theyoccupy against our wishes and collective aspirations!
Al-Ghazali, a keycommentator on Nigeria's politics, is a columnist for the Daily Trustnewspaper, Abuja, Nigeria.
Many Nigerians still feel disappointed that a man (Obasanjo)who had gained so much from Nigeria would cling so tightly to power,even against the popular will of the people, moreso with age, energyand fresh ideas for a new era not on his side.
Also, USAfricaonline.com review of Nigeria's recent history show thatPresident Obasanjo seems to be moving rapidly into the zone ofill-repute of his former military colleagues who, like him, refusedto leave office when it was time to go. Gen. yakubu Gowon in 1975;Gen. Ibrahim Babangida in 1993; Gen. Sani Abacha in1995, 1996, 1997,1998. More baffling many Nigerians we interviewed recall is thelessons of the excesses of the late Gen. Abach who jailed Obasanjowhile the former schemed to remain in power. For the specialreport by USAfrica multimedia networks' Publisher Chido Nwangwu,click on 3rdterm.
DEMOCRACYWATCH: What Bush Should TellObasanjo.... By ChidoNwangwu (Founder and Publisher of USAfricaonline.com)
His globalist underpinnings and outlook are truly reflective ofthe true essence of his Igbo world-view, his Igbo upbringing anddisposition. Igbos and Jews share (with a few other other cultures)this pan-global disposition to issues of art, life, commerce,juridical pursuits, and quest to be republicanist in terms of thevitality of the individual/self. In Achebe's works, the centrality ofChi (God) attains an additional clarity in the Igbo cosmology... itis a world which prefers a quasi-capitalistic business attitude whiletaking due cognizance of the usefulness of the whole, the community.I've studied, lived and tried to better understand, essentially, therigor and towering moral certainties which Achebe have employed inmost of his works and his world. I know, among other reasons, becauseI share the same ancestry with him. Permit me to attempt a briefsentence, with that Achebean simplicty and clarity. Here,folks, what the world has known since 1958: Achebe is good! Eagle onthe Iroko, may your Lineage endure! There has never been one likeyou!
Ugo n'abo, chukwu gozie gi oo!. ChidoNwangwu, recipient of the Journalism Excellence award (1997), isFounder and Publisher of USAfricaonline.com (first African-ownedU.S.-based professional newspaper to be published on the internet),USAfrica The Newspaper,CLASS magazine and TheBlack Business Journal. He has served as an adviser to theMayor of Houston on international business (Africa) and appears as ananalyst on CNN, VOA, NPR, CBS News, NBC and ABC news affiliates.
This USAfricaonline.com commentary is copyrighted. Archivingon any other web site or newspaper is unauthorized except with aWritten Approval by USAfricaonline.comFounder. CLASSis the social events, heritage excellence and style magazine forAfricans in north America, described by The New York Times as themagazine for affluent Africansin America. It is published byprofessional journalists and leading mulitmedia leaders andpioneers.
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Since 1958, Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" set a standard of artistic excellence, and more. By Douglas Killam
Why Chinua Achebe, the Eagle on the Iroko, is Africa's writer of the century. By Chido Nwangwu(First written on March 1, 2002, for USAfrica, updated for Prof. Achebe's 74th Birthday tribute on November 16, 2004, and published in CLASS magazine same month): Africa's most acclaimed and fluent writer of the English Language, the most translated writer of Black heritage in the world, broadcaster extraordinaire, social conscience of millions, cultural custodian and elevator, chronicler and essayist, goodwill ambassador and man of progressive rock-ribbed principles, the Eagle on the Iroko, Ugo n'abo Professor Chinua Achebe, has recently been selected by a distinguished jury of scholars and critics (from 13 countries of African life and literature) as the writer of the Best book (Things Fall Apart, 1958) written in the twentieth century regarding Africa. Reasonably, Achebe's message has been neither dimmed nor dulled by time and clime. He's our pathfinder, the intellectual godfather of millions of Africans and lovers of the fine art of good writing. Achebe's cultural contexts are, at once, pan-African, globalist and local; hence, his literary contextualizations soar beyond the confines of Umuofia and any Igbo or Nigerian setting of his creative imagination or historical recall.
His globalist underpinnings and outlook are truly reflective of the true essence of his Igbo world-view, his Igbo upbringing and disposition. Igbos and Jews share (with a few other other cultures) this pan-global disposition to issues of art, life, commerce, juridical pursuits, and quest to be republicanist in terms of the vitality of the individual/self. In Achebe's works, the centrality of Chi (God) attains an additional clarity in the Igbo cosmology... it is a world which prefers a quasi-capitalistic business attitude while taking due cognizance of the usefulness of the whole, the community. I've studied, lived and tried to better understand, essentially, the rigor and towering moral certainties which Achebe have employed in most of his works and his world. I know, among other reasons, because I share the same ancestry with him. Permit me to attempt a brief sentence, with that Achebean simplicty and clarity. Here, folks, what the world has known since 1958: Achebe is good! Eagle on the Iroko, may your Lineage endure! There has never been one like you!
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In a special report a few hours after the history-making nomination, USAfricaonline.com Founder and Publisher Chido Nwangwu places Powell within the trajectory of history and into his unfolding clout and relevance in an essay titled 'Why Colin Powell brings gravitas, credibility and star power to Bush presidency.'
Powell named Secretary State by G.W. Bush; bipartisan commendations follow.
AFRICA AND THE U.S. ELECTIONS
Beyond U.S. electoral shenanigans, rewards and dynamics of a democratic republic hold lessons for African politics.
Bush's position on Africa is "ill-advised." The position stated by Republican presidential aspirant and Governor of Texas, George Bush where he said that "Africa will not be an area of priority" in his presidency has been questioned by USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu. He added that Bush's "pre-election position was neither validated by the economic exchanges nor geo-strategic interests of our two continents."
These views were stated during an interview CNN's anchor Bernard Shaw and senior analyst Jeff Greenfield had with Mr. Nwangwu on Saturday November 18, 2000 during a special edition of 'Inside Politics 2000.'
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CLASS is the social events, heritage excellence and style magazine for Africans in north America, described by The New York Times as the magazine for affluent Africans in America. It is published by professional journalists and leading mulitmedia leaders and pioneers.