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January 12, 2010

Nigeria: This stage in the struggle

The process of bringing development and economic liberation to millions of Nigerians is and has been a struggle. Most of Africa as we know it today is actually a strong hold of poverty, uncontrolled afflictions and oppression. Yes, never mind China and India or even Latin America. These regions have developed some level of capacity and leadership that is practically over and above the adverse situation there, in all its forms. But in most of sub- Saharan Africa this is not so.

In the case of Nigeria the struggle has been long and has been fought on many fronts. First it was oppression by the colonists. Though with the colonists came other groups with better intentions. The Missionaries: No matter how we look at it the coming of the European missionaries, businessmen, colonists etc was necessary towards the liberation of Africa. What good that achieved, how it was appreciated later as time went on or how it was detested (largely because of the abuses which they fostered on the people) was also necessary. But that was a stage. Nigeria got past it thorough the independence struggle. And there were great names in that era who helped the country through that stage. I love the statesmanship displayed by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, he is my foremost hero among the nationalists. When I was in high school my principal told us that Herbert Macaulay while on his sick bed said this “tell the young Nigerians when they come that for their tomorrow we sold our today”. Space will not allow me to discuss the heroism of Dr Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and many others.

Right on the heels of the nationalists came the militarists ( in my view this was the worst thing to ever happen to Nigeria. The saying, absolute power corrupts absolutely was never truer. At first they were also welcome and celebrated but with time most Nigerian came to understand how disorderly, suppressive and oppressive regime that form of government is. Civil society rejected that government. How that happened is common knowledge. I am glad the return of the militarists is now a very very rare possibility.

Now at this time is a struggle to be able to conduct credible elections reflecting the will of the people and the ability of the electorate to hold elected officials completely accountable for the mandate they are given. This is the stage Nigeria is at. Foreign governments should find all avenues not to recognize leaders elected during corrupt elections. It would not be out of place if the rest on the world, through the UN, should place travel ban (or other restrictions) on corrupt officials especially those elected through flawed elections. We must find a way to implement this especially for Africa. This is what Africa needs right now, not aid, not a dole and not pity. Africa has got the leaders, the talent, the resources to get itself out of the woods. But more often the leaders they are getting and the leaders the West is able to support is often the wrong one. Now is the time to support and foster the right leadership, the one elected properly, elected through the proper process and supported by the masses. This is what Africa needs. Of course the main resistance must again be done by the people of Nigeria themselves as they have done before through total and outright civil rejection of such elections. Nigeria has come close to having this liberation at least twice. The first was when MKO Abiola was elected president but the military annulled the election. And the second was when the current ruling party was formed and Alex Ekwueme (not Olusegun Obasanjo) would have been the president (according to the will of most of the people at that time). The primary election that put Pres. Yar’adua in power was likewise flawed. It does not matter if all the nation does is conduct elections again and again until they get it right but there is no other way. Leaders must be accountable for the mandate they receive legitimately from the people. There is no other way in my view. It is a good thing that the laws are being fixed and the judiciary has been a pillar in this process at this stage. That is a positive to take from here.

Another sore point is the fixing of election funding. Today most elections in Africa especially Nigeria are won by the contestant with the most money. This must change. The systems  must allow for ideologies and personal qualities of candidates to override this. There must be a way to do this. Campaign funding must be looked at by the current electoral laws.S88K97SVHVKW

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