Ethical, moral imperative of credible elections (2)
PROFESSOR Atahiru Jega, our immediate past Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, was a participant at the 2007 Conference in Germany referred to above, and this is what he had to say about the succession of leaders in Nigeria: “With very few exceptions, our crop of so-called leaders have essentially been self-serving rulers, some even despots… They lack vision, focus, selflessness and even enlightened self-interest.
Most of our so-called leaders are unimaginably corrupt; they are greedy, they are vindictive, they are callous and in many fundamental respects, senseless and even reckless… There is perhaps no other country in the world where power corrupts and absolute power corrupts as absolutely as in Nigeria.”
It is now eight years after such a damning moral judgment on the Nigerian political elite was made, yet the situation is not much different today. I just pray that it has not gotten worse. The truth is that Nigerians of integrity and credibility have little chance in contemporary Nigerian politics, as greedy merchants, power mongers, common criminals, charlatans and mediocre functionaries, have often taken control of the political machinery, forcing the men and women of reason and conscience to disengage. Many knowledgeable and principled Nigerians – who in saner climes should assume the responsibility of leadership – can often not make sense out of the elite madness and corporate death-wish that we witness in our political, and particularly electioneering engagements, and so they have become cynical, apathetic, despondent and resentful.
Many ordinary Nigerians have almost completely lost faith and trust in government and in the electioneering processes that they have over the years come to see as a monumental fraud. This is why in many areas of life they simply resort to self-help. Yet these ordinary Nigerians are daily sinking further into dehumanising poverty, while the insecurity of lives and property in our towns and villages and on the highways and alleys may soon degenerate into a state of anarchy.
The Nigerian situation is however not irredeemable. We read in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If the people who are called by my name, humble themselves, and pray and seek my presence and turn from their wicked ways, I myself will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and restore their land.” Nigerians are not a different breed of human beings from citizens elsewhere such as in Singapore or Malaysia, South Africa or Ghana. Many of us do not believe that Nigeria is so difficult to organise and lead unto peaceful co-existence, political stability and economic prosperity. Yet, if this country of 160 million people must make any headway, if the progressive decay in the polity must be halted, if the descent into anarchy in Nigeria must be averted, if in the words of Heinrich Bergstresser the fragile political balance in Nigeria must be tilted towards the first stage of nation building, then it cannot be business as usual.
There must be a paradigm shift. And this paradigm shift must begin from the character and conduct of elections, as no illegitimate government can champion the moral and ethical revolution that Nigeria today desperately needs. If the fragile political balance in Kogi and Bayelsa states is to be tilted to peaceful co-existence and wholesome development, then the processes leading to the emergence of new leaders at the executive and legislative arms must be sufficiently insulated from the menace of corruption, acrimony, rancor and violence. The Rule of Law must be brought to bear on the entire electioneering mechanisms and processes. And law here must be aimed preeminently at attaining justice and equity, not one that is manipulated by smart jurists and ingenious attorneys to protect and defend the all-powerful villain against the innocent victim.
The central responsibility of politics and obligation of politicians is the just ordering of society. The task of ensuring justice and equity in the entire polity belongs to those who answer the call to public service. St. Augustine observes that “a state or a government that does not function according to the rules of justice would be nothing but a bunch of thieves or a gang of robbers! Americans identify such governments as “rogue regimes.” A rogue government, an illegitimate government or a government with a stolen mandate, cannot tilt today’s delicate political balance towards a stable and progressive polity. Instead, a government with a stolen mandate can only hasten the society’s descent into anarchy; for as Proverbs 29:18 puts it, where there is no vision (or where there is no integrity) the people perish.
Free, fair and credible elections are an element of social morality, an ingredient of the rule of law and an imperative of good governance, stability, peace and progress. If therefore the forthcoming elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states turn out to be another exercise in elite brigandage, then the political elite in these states and the co-conspirators in INEC, the security agencies, the Bar and the Bench, must be held responsible for the crime of under-developing the people of these states at this point in history. Failure to execute the remaining stages of our electioneering processes with all civility and justice, and with utmost commitment to peace and the security of lives and property in these states, will result in an increase in the level of anger in the land.
If the elections are rigged by any means whatsoever, our courts and tribunals will be flooded with litigations that are capable of rendering government practically dysfunctional. If the rules of engagement are violated and the processes are manipulated in any way, then many more private militias will emerge; much more sophisticated weapons will find their way into the hands of thugs and criminally-minded people; and the plight of the generality of people will be worse than we have ever seen before. Indeed, where there is no vision, the people perish!
• To be continued tomorrow.
• Rev. Fr. Ehusani, Executive Director, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation, delivered this as Keynote Address at the Symposium organised by the Voter Education Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association for stakeholders in preparation for the 2015 gubernatorial elections of Kogi and Bayelsa states, at Lokoja, on September 18, 2015.