Ogbodo: John Kerry Was Here Seeking Democracy
IN a previous article, I had written glowingly about the capacity of the United States of America to literally carry on its shoulders the burden of the globe without stretching to breaking points. It is the only nation on earth that can be everywhere at the same time and still function optimally. The rest of the world looks up to it when the chips are down. Even sworn enemies of the US will come to it for deliverance in times of trouble.
This status has earned the US the sobriquet of Global Policeman. In truth, every society needs some form of policing to keep trouble at bay and if the world, as they say, has become a sociological unit, it needs a United States to police it so that there will be peace everywhere.
But it is not every time that the policeman is needed. Sometimes, some level of turbulence is required without police intervention to achieve lasting tranquility. And so, an efficient cop does not react to every piece of noise made in the corner of the street because he wants to maintain peace. For instance, when there is a small scuffle among family members to straighten issues, the policeman in the streets does not race to the scene to make peace. He has no role to play at that stage, until perhaps tempers rise above what the family can contain.
On the global stage, nations, which are aggregations of families and ethnic groups become the family units which must attain some degree of internal order, using their own processes, to become good world players. And good nations are self-regulating and not necessarily a creation of a global policing order.
This is a vital point the US must imbibe. Its reaction to the postponement of Nigeria’s general elections by six weeks from February 14 and 28 to March 28 and April 11was alarming, to say the least. Senator John Kerry, the American Secretary of State described the postponement as “political interference,” which is the same as saying President Goodluck Jonathan caused the polls to be shifted. He also described the reason of insecurity cited by the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega for the shift as “a PRETEXT for impeding the democratic process.”Emphasis is mine.
I sincerely do not know what this global policeman is talking about here. He is closing his eyes to the real issue while talking as if he has become one of us. Instead of election, I had expected the US through Secretary Kerry, to be more bothered about the clear absence of the structural fundamentals which make the Nigerian brand of democracy so different from what obtains in the US and elsewhere.The issues about this election that frighten Kerry flow from this structural deficiency. It is the thing that turns election in Nigeria into a life and death contest and not a process to call the political leadership to account as it is done in the US.
I am saying if the Nigerian federation runs on the same framework as the American or any other federal system, the issues that will define presidential contest in Nigeria will be so much different from what they are currently. Put differently, if the resources of the United States are appropriated and consolidated in the centre and the accountants-general of the 50 federating states have to go to Washington DC every month to collect allocations to run their states, the American presidential election will come close to what obtains in Nigeria – a do or die affair because whoever holds the presidency holds the power to dispense life or death at all levels.
In case the US is unaware, Nigeria is also a federation. So much may change if the US helps Nigeria with a blue print on how to operate true federalism. The operators here say there is no such description as ‘true federalism,’ and that federalism has many brands and it is fallacious to adopt one brand practised in the US as the pure form universally.
Consequently, Nigeria is running a brand that makes the centre owner of the units and not the other way round. Resources of the units, especially the oil and gas rich states of the Niger Delta and the taxes arising from the commercial activities in Lagos States are exploited and consolidated at the centre for the benefit of all the federating units, some of which do not contribute a dime to the so-called common wealth. They are parasitic consumers who only suck without giving.
I don’t know if I am making good sense. What I am saying, in essence, is something close to having all the resources of the State of California, described as fifth biggest economy in the world and those of the oil State of Texas taken to Washington for sharing among all the states in the US, using subjective parameters such as landmass, population and number of municipalities!
This is the Nigerian story and while there is increasing demand by one side for this unrealistic narrative to change for something more sustainable, the other side wants a stay of the status quo. This anomaly underlies all socio-political contentions in Nigeria, including general elections. It is the point that should worry the true friends of Nigeria.
Altogether, John Kerry would have cut an everlasting impression if he had preached political reforms, instead of a plea for a general election that will at best replace one bad thief with another or even a worse one. I am less emphatic on the immediate conditions that led to the postponement of the election by INEC because we shouldn’t be discussing the whereabouts of the hat when the head is missing. Although Prof. Jega was economical with the truth regarding INEC’s preparedness to deliver a free and fair election, even if every concern expressed or implied by Jega is addressed this moment and the elections successfully conducted as rescheduled, it will only amount to postponement of the evil day. The snake will have been only scorched but not killed and it will recover and return more envenomed.
This is the big point Secretary Kerry failed to grasp because it is in the character of America not to give a damn! It takes blind plunges most time, seeking grounds to enforce democracy where the conditions do not exist. For this, America has been reaping large scale crisis from its unsolicited interventions worldwide. Instead of flourishing democracies, the US has left in its trail, a loaded catalogue of failed states – Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, Ukraine and now Yemen and still counting.
When the same US refused to sell arms to the Nigerian government to contain the Boko Haram terror, citing human rights abuse by the Nigerian military, it had practically endorsed the disintegration of Nigerian house. It cannot turn around so soon sounding more concerned than the owners of the house. Elections alone do not deliver democracy and political stability. If they do, there will not be problems in Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and even Libya, where so-called elections have held under US guidelines to democratize power.
What delivers peace and stability is the presence of justice at all layers of society. John Kerry and the Americans should learn that there is no justice in Nigeria as currently structured. It is a country where the monkey produces and the baboon consumes. For instance, while it is politically correct to posture that Boko Haram is a terror machine against all Nigerians, those in the frontline communities will tell that the casualty scale in terms of loss of lives and properties is tilted heavily against the Christians.
Today, in many parts of Northern Nigeria, Christians operate under a different set of rules, a fact that is being perpetually down played because its mention, they say, can heat up Nigeria to breaking points. But if truth be told, Nigeria is still a fraudulent arrangement 101 years after it was put together by one Lord Frederick Luggard. It is sliding precariously beyond the precipice into a free fall. The political leadership has chosen to live in self denial in the face of this reality. The critical issue of the day – political restructuring to create justice across board – is not being discussed in the deafening staccato of the political campaigns that attend this general election that is so dear to the heart of America.
No doubt, we need a major force to stem gravity and save Nigeria from ultimate crash. Unfortunately, General Mohammadu Buhari who is being bandied about as the saviour does not represent that force. If anything, he is part of the counter-force dragging down Nigeria from the height because of his mindset. And in the clear absence of an intervening force, Nigeria should, perhaps, be allowed to crash after which its pieces can be reworked to regain the momentum required to take it even higher.