Between June 12, April 2 and Keeping Hope Alive

The sudden “postponement” of the parliamentary (National Assembly) elections on April 2, 2011 was reminiscent of the annulment of the June 12 Presidential elections of 1993 in a number of ways. The elections had already commenced at some centres in which, in some cases, primary political stakeholders had been accredited and had even voted. But in the middle of the euphoria of a “peaceful” process, the electoral “umpire” announced a sudden postponement. By extension, the initial votes cast were cancelled and the entire process hurled into the pantheons of infamy. Inadequacies, allegedly characterized by the failure of arrival of election materials from South Africa due to Tsunami-influenced disorientation in the order of international flights, were posited as causation.

How different was this from what the big boys in jackboots did to June 12? An acclaimed nearly impeccable election process was drowned by allegations of the imperfections, malpractices of the politicians and impropriety of the electoral commission. Simply put, the democratic standards and stakes as set and raised by the army, were far from being met. Thus, the outcome was not acceptable by the military brass. They cancelled it. The election results were never officially released. The entire process was still-born.

That singular act denied us of sleep and stability for five years. Locally, Nigeria found itself on the edge of the precipice and internationally, it was isolated because of the succession of a poor human rights regime. The image problem soared.

A despotic, inept and dishonest military leadership annulled the June 12 elections. Could it have rather been the case of confusionists, charlatans (or was it saboteurs?) in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that prompted the cancellation of the April 2 elections? INEC has offered apologies and overlapping explanations. So have IBB and his co-shenanigans from 1993 to date. INEC has apologized so profusely and severally just as the commission has advanced the simple factors, such as last-minute let-downs, logistics, flight delays, inadequate voting materials, et cetera, et cetera. It has also insinuated delicate and complex factors like sabotage, an act for which certain INEC directors are already under fire.

In Nigeria, serious problems like the April 2 incident are condoned and considered as “one of those mundane issues” of a growing democracy. Such very costly act and flagrant display of ineptitude are excused away as minor and hushed away from public judgment. In the civilized world, such act constitutes gross misconduct and humanitarian issue, which would warrant thorough scrutiny, docking, condemnation and appropriate sanction. In such societies, by now, resignation letters would have been flying across the President’s table. Arrests might have been made. The courts would have gotten busier, while the media would have had a luxurious time with irresistible headlines of investigated and exhumed fresh facts.

But what do we have? Cancellation, two postponements in a week and more promises laced with fingers-pointing and transaction of blames, while the misadventures have not led to any sweeping or decisive change. In a similar vein, Babangida’s intransigence since 1993 has only fetched him more popularity as a superhero, who can sink the hopes of over 140 million people and still remain a free man, a presidential aspirant and a kingmaker.

In serious-minded societies, with such huge amount of national resources invested in the electoral regime; only a huge amount of success is expected of it. All the billions of naira INEC asked for, it got, to conduct the best elections in Nigeria. The fortunes were allocated to redeem Nigeria’s image in terms of inability to get it right in elections this time. Such fortunes are not given to cause more misfortunes or ruin our collective hope.

The hopes of the people are much alive now. The people want to vote, they want change. The least they expect now is for any social or political formations, including INEC to turn out as the one frustrating those hopes and truncate the political process. Like June 12, April 2 would only reinforce our hopes and conviction in what we seek to change.

Dr. Folarin, lectures in the Department of Political Science and International Relations, and is of the African Leadership and Development Centre (ALDC), Covenant University, Ota, Nigeria. 111

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