Afolabi Gambari

Many things happen negatively in Nigeria these days
that should just be ignored. The seeming cluelessness by leaders at various
levels, especially in government, has posed a turn-off, if not altogether a potent
threat to national well being.

But it must be said with vehemence that things had
looked so positive in the years leading to the 1993 general election, so much
that even sworn antagonists of Nigeria could not but have a sharp re-think.
Calamitously, the chance for a turnaround, which looked far greater than ever
before, was blown by then military president Ibrahim Babangida who annulled
what was not only the freest and fairest election that Nigeria had organised
till then and to this day, but also easily an electoral process worth exporting
to earn huge reckon, if nothing else. It is worth recalling that South Africa,
at the time coming out of white minority rule to pave way for the black
majority to take over reins, had looked to emulating Nigeria to stabilise its
own emerging popular democracy.

 Indeed, not a
few of its electoral officers had literally descended on Nigeria during the
1993 election to prepare themselves for the South Africa’s first general
election the following year. Evidence suggested that they learned tremendous
lessons which they applied upon their return home. The rest, as they say, is
history.

Ironically, Nigeria’s democracy, which was left
gasping for breath after the aforementioned annulment, finally collapsed in
November 1993 after army General Sani Abacha took over power in a coup, leaving
the South Africans wondering what went wrong. But who would have known at the
time that Nigeria’s somersault was all that the learners needed to negotiate
the bend where they overtook the teachers in the race to sustainable democratic
governance? Playing catch-up is all that Nigeria has done ever since; agonising
at one point, enduring frustration at another and feeling helplessly diminished
at yet another.

A feeling of deep embarrassment also suffices till
this moment. One newspaper headline highlighted this embarrassment recently.
“Don urges Nigeria to emulate South Africa on electoral system,” the tell-tale
headline stated. The report said Associate Professor of Comparative Politics at
the University of Ilorin, Dr. ‘Gbade Ojo, had recently visited South Africa and
shared his experience with an audience at the university upon his return.

“Two things struck me about South during my visit
which coincided with the municipal election,” Ojo began.

“The first was that the election took place on a
Wednesday and voting hours were between 7am and 7pm. The second was that
although public holiday was declared, there was no restriction on movement.

“The beauty of the South Africa’s electoral system
is that it reduces both cost and frequency of elections at the municipal level.

“Provision for special voters is also a unique
feature of the municipal election and ultimately the electoral law which allows
those that apply for special consideration to vote two days before the actual
voting day. The people in this category are the aged and physically challenged,
in addition to others with genuine reasons not to be available on voting day.”

Drawing comparison with Nigeria, Ojo said,
regretfully: “Nigeria’s electoral system does not make provision for special
cases as these.” He could have as well added: “I was impressed at how much the
South African electoral officers have improved on what they learned from
Nigeria.”

On women participation in electoral process in South
Africa, Ojo said: “It is commendable, compared to Nigeria.”

Coverage of the election by the local media did not
escape the attention of the university don. Hear him: “In contrast with
Nigeria, the print and electronic media were objective in announcing the
results which trickled in before the official announcements were made by the
Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and it was remarkable that there was no
discrepancy between the officially announced results and the ones that the
local media had earlier announced.”

Outside of the election monitoring, the professor of
comparative politics also marveled at how South Africa has transformed as a
nation: Hear him again: “South Africa is endowed with national wealth as well
as solid infrastructure. Its relative technological advancement could allow its
people to pursue and live a comfortable economic life.”

The foregoing could simply elicit patriotic anger,
especially after weighing how the university teacher had recommended that
Nigeria ask South Africa to show the way.

So, how did we become big for nothing not too far
after we were acclaimed as the light that illuminated the tunnel?

It would have been enough if we admit our inequities
and self-inflicted backwardness and then mend our ways with a view to not only
catching up with the runaway South Africa, but also overtaking the Rainbow
Nation. But the more it seems we have scarcely realised we are on a reverse
gear.

Instead of consolidating on holding power, the
ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is still rocked by leadership crisis
that borders more on self-aggrandising than good governance. Hired (yes, hired)
protesters literally invaded the party’s National Secretariat in Abuja the
other day, calling for the head of the APC Chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun,
who was accused of being incompetent to lead the party. Among Oyegun’s myriad
of sins include, according to Acting National Publicity Secretary of the party,
Mr. Timi Frank, the chairman’s failure to “call for caucus meetings to discuss issues
of national importance and those confronting our great party.”

In Frank’s reckoning, meetings can be called even if
there is nothing concrete to discuss, as it were. So, the party’s chairman must
quit his post go if he cannot call such meetings.

At the Presidency, it is still vacuous and bland all
the way. Instead of appealing to plans that can endure in sustainable ways,
here is the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, taking Nigeria’s case to
God wholesale, ignoring the time-tested saying that heaven helps only those who
help themselves: “God knows that our country has a plan and the plan will never
diminish or be cut short.”

In light of the above, Nigeria may well be cruising
to theocracy!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

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