CNNInternational: Interview with Nigeria'sObasanjo and USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu onDemocracyand Security Issues
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Nigeria and burden of the fraudulent2007 elections
By Dr. CHIDI AMUTA
Special to USAfricaonline.com,CLASSmagazine, USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston andTheBlack Business Journal
May 24, 2007, Lagos: In the unsettling aftermath of the 2007general elections, we come face to face with a rather uncanny choice:to accept the outcome of an electoral fraud or allow the nation todegenerate into anarchy. Quite understandably, the thrust of domesticpolitical opinion is today is ranged on both sides of thisunwholesome divide. Similarly, international impressions aboutNigeria are likely to be coloured by the shadow of those badelections.
For the triumphant ruling party (PDP), all is fair in politics asin war. What happened was not rigging. It was superior politics andcreative electioneering. The better party won. Political hard workhas been rewarded. Losers should concede, dry their tears and go hometo their disappointed wives and devastated kinsmen. Acceptance ofthat outcome, questionable as it may seem, constitutes, in the viewof the chivalrous PDP , the basis for continuing nationalstability. Those who question the moral basis of their victory are'enemies of democracy.'
On their part, the incoherent opposition have continued to cryfoul. What happened was not an election. It was a massive fraud.Their answer to this fraud is to threaten to contest the legitimacyof the imminent PDP governments if possible on the streets through'mass action', an open invitation to the kind of anarchy that breedscivil strife. To them, the electoral fraud perpetuated by theirtriumphant opponents is the real obstacle to democracy and the PDPthe greatest 'enemy of democracy.' To go to the election tribunalswould amount to dignifying an outrage and mistaking a fraud for anelection.
So far the response of the ordinary Nigerian has been a mixture ofhelpless acceptance and unspoken revulsion. People have not heededthe call of the opposition for civil unrest not because it lacksmerit but because the opposition itself lacks both the credibilityand coherence to be taken seriously.
The PDP stance is an uncanny political one while the opposition'sposition is mostly ultimately moralistic. Unfortunately, politics andmorality do not sleep comfortably in the same room. Elections areabout political outcomes. They are not necessarily moral contests.Even in the best of democracies, while a morally correct position canbe a political asset, it does not always guarantee electoral victory.Politicians win elections first and preach morality later.
Interestingly, it would appear that the gradual coming of age ofNigeria's civil society accounts for the relative popularindifference to the conflicting interpretations of the opposingpolitical camps. Quite uncharacteristically and very happily indeed,while both sides can lay claim to some followership, there is, in myview, no perceivable threat to the peace and stability of the nationas a result of this political divide. I cannot see too many Nigerianswho want to troop out to die for either the PDP or the so-calledopposition.
Most reasonable people, concede that the PDP victory, whileunderstandable, is in many places mathematically nonsensical.Similarly, there are people, even in Mr. Yar'dua's PDP or the largergeographical North, who insist that the opposition as a wholeprobably stood a chance of getting a few more votes if its riggingmachinery was nearly as sophisticated as that of the ruling party. Ihave not yet come across too many people who are prepared to bet thatthe absence of creative vote counting by the ruling party would havereturned any of the opposition candidates as president.
No doubt, the subdued partisan grand standing is likely to go onfor some time after the inauguration of Umar Yar'dua on 29th May.That is quite understandable. People have lost money, have had theirhopes for high political office dashed (some for life). Others havehad their lofty egos bruised while yet others cannot face theirfinanciers and followers to explain their loss in an economy sodependent on politics for access to wealth and opportunity.
But the national interest is best served if we interpret thepartisan affray into a contest of antithetical possiblities. Clearlythe choice is between accepting an electoral outcome largelycompromised by considerable malpractice and outright fraud on the onehand and agreeing to a descent into anarchy as a way of redressingthe fraud on the other. Neither possibility qualifies as a basis forthe sustenance of democracy or indeed the survival of thenation.
Electoral fraud belongs in the realm of political fidelity andpublic morality. Even in the most advanced democracies however,public morality is an area of perennial lively debate. It isimmaterial whether the issue is Monica Lewinsky's stained dress, theFlorida electoral fraud, the presence of 'Ghana must go' Naira bagsat the Nigerian national Assembly. At its extreme, massive electoralfraud as we have seen in the last elections is a scandalouscompromise of the most critical ritual of liberal democracy: theelectoral process itself.
The convenient argument is that once that process is flawed, thosewhom it produces cannot command legitimacy. A nation that selects itsleaders through a fraudulent electoral process undermines thesanctity of pubic office and compromises the integrity of those whoexercise sovereignty on behalf of the people. In the end, the moralcredential of the leadership is called to question and theeffectiveness of such a government as an instrument for the pursuitof the common good through a rigorous distinction between right andwrong is lost. The executive becomes a gathering of usurpingbandits. The legislative arm has no moral anchor from which to makelaws except laws fit for pirates while the judiciary is called uponto salvage its reputation only in civil matters of a private nature,for disputes between organs of the state become disputes amongillegitimates. In the worst of cases, every arm of the state is toosteeped in muck to even touch the constitution let alone govern byit.
But if the institutions of democracy are strong, the moral blitheof an electoral fraud can be healed, over time, by the rigorousapplications of the rule of law: petitions, tribunals, litigation,independent research into what really happened and a collectiveresolve to fine tune and cleanse the electoral process by enlightenedcivil society. Florida produced the Bush presidency but the USSupreme Court and the Congress largely succeeded in retrieving themoral soul of America from the fraud of Florida.
A fierce contestation of political fraud if allowed to shiftto the streets could breed anarchy. Anarchy has devastating andsometimes terminal political implications. In an anarchy, there isneither society nor polity. No institutions. No values. There is novenue for deliberation on morality because anomie is the rule. Thereis neither security nor order because the law of the jungle admits ofneither.
Of course anarchy has an ethic, it creates an ethos and evolves atragic logic: it includes the dark cycle of rape, murder, arson andbrigandry. In recent Afrcan history as exemplified by Sierra Leone,democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan's Darfur region, Liberia andSomalia, anarchy glorifies the hacking off of limps, thedismemberment of infants, the indiscriminate creation of orphans andwidows. Child soldiers, endless streams of refugees, sacked citiesand treasuries, a sea of destitutes and exiles: these are thestandard harvests of an anarchic situation.
Confronted with these two options, the choice becomes simpler. Thenation must survive preferably as a democracy first. Of course itshould not build its democratic tradition on fraud or unquestioningacquiescence to crooked ways. But we should also not ruin our chancesof collective survival by recourse to political rascality andunwarranted rehearsals in anarchy. Mr. Yar'dua's inaugural addresshas caught the essence of what needs to be done: reform the electoralsystem to prevent future fraud. I think the opposition should leadthis urgent crusade.
Dr. Amuta,Lagos-based Executive Editor of Houston-based USAfricaonline.com andUSAfrica multimedia networks, is author of the book, 'The Theory ofAfrican Literature: Implications for Practical Criticism.' He wrotein April 2007 the essay: PresidentialSuccession and National Stability following 2007 Nigeria'His column on public policy appears in our special eventsinternational magazine, CLASS
The European Parliament on Thursday (May 24, 2007) urged the EU towithhold all financial aid to the Nigerian government until theAfrican country holds new elections. "EU aid to Nigeria should not begiven to federal or state structures until new, credible electionshave been held," the European Parliament said in a non-bindingresolution. Such resolutions are often issued to pressure EU memberstates and the executive Commission in Brussels.
The EU said last month's state and federal elections in Nigeria,won by the governing party, fell short of basic standards and couldnot be considered credible, free and fair. The EU has earmarkednearly 500-million euro (about R4,7-billion) over the last five yearsfor different projects in Nigeria, most of them focused on goodgovernance, health and water supply and sanitation. Meanwhile, acoalition of Opposition Presidential Candidates asked SenatePresident Ken Nnamani to assume executive powers on May 29, whenObasanjo's term is up, and to disband the national electioncommission.
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.