Friday, April 27, 2007

Here is a recipe for democracy, Nigerian style. Please, note some of the ingredients ...

  1. Court cases (add as many as you wish to suite personal taste)
  2. 3 tablespoons of impromptu public holidays
  3. A fuel tanker to blow up INEC headquarters
  4. Loads of pre- and post election violence
  5. Ballots printed outside the country
  6. Stolen ballots
All jokes aside, the Nigerian elections were a serious matter and present important issues that need to be addressed. The election process was marred by the ingredients listed above and many more that I did not include. As a result, election observers in Nigeria and around the world have called the elections flawed and Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), the nation's largest election observer, has called for the election results to be nullified and recommended new polls. Various opposition parties have also called for a repeat of the polls and some have even called for protests and riots. In fact, a poll on The Guardian's website shows that 74% of responders do not believe that the April 14 and 21 polls in Nigeria was sufficiently credible to produce legitimate new office holders, reflecting the sense of apathy among many Nigerians.

Despite the negative characterization of the polls, Obasanjo and other public officials have been quick to acknowledge that the election process was far from perfect but not problematic enough to warrant a re-do.

Additionally, Obasanjo has told various media outlets that Nigeria should not be held to the standards of other democracies because it is a developing nation. I personally disagree with this position. Despite our problems, ordinary Nigerians have historically exemplified excellence through hardwork and perseverance. I find it mind boggling that these very characteristics were blatantly lacking in the run up to the election. That is why ballots were still on their way to the country from South Africa 24 hours before the presidential elections. Or why voters showed up at polling stations and met disorganization, if anything at all.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary online defines democracy as follows,
a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority
b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.

Most people would agree that this is an apt, though idyllic, description of the term. I wonder, however, how many Nigerians would agree that this description applies to Nigeria. Something tells me, that in light of our recent experience with elections, not too many will see similarities between the definition and the Nigerian election process.

Anyway, if the election process is illustrative of country's democracy, what do the recent elections say about the state of politics in our nation? Is Obasanjo correct in stating that Nigeria should be held to a different standard? If, so, why? Considering the definition above, is 'democracy' possible in Nigeria and are there any suggestions on how to get closer to the democratic ideal? Or, should we simply accept the Nigerian recipe for democracy?

I know that this post presents many questions, but this issue of Nigerian democracy is not easily delineated into a few neat, well-crafted questions. Therefore, I implore you to consider these questions and share your opinions.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Nigerian presidential election has mercifully come to an end. Like all things Nigerian, it was a complex and convoluted process. Cases are still brewing in court, people lost their lives on account of violence, an attempt was made to blow up INEC headquaters (please see Ijebuman's top ten reasons why the attempt failed) and ballots did not arrive on time and in some places, never at all.

I have been thinking about the various incidences that led up to the election and have come to some not so positive conclusions. I love Nigeria and always will, but despite my love for the country, I must grieve for my people, grieve for the opportunities that have been squandered, the chances wasted and the dreams denied.

Consider that 24 hours before the elections ballots were still on their way to Nigeria from South Africa. Why, do you ask? Well, Maurice Iwu explained that Nigeria did not have the capacity to print approximately 65 million ballots within 3 days, thus the need to outsource the job. Why did we need 3 days to print ballots? Well, maybe, because the Supreme Court announced that Atiku may run for president within days of April 21st, leaving little time to include his name on the ballots.

But, here is the puzzling thing, though. All Nigerians have known that there were two options - that Atiku will or will not run for president. The only issue was whether the courts would grant his wish. That being said, why did INEC not print two sets of ballots ahead of time - one set with his name and the other set without it. Would that have not been the prudent way of preventing exactly what happened - the embarrassment of telling the world that we cannot print ballots within 3 days and must wait on South Africa to get our order to us? I personally believe that our leaders used this opportunity to embarrass us. Remember that they recently told the world that our health system is non-existent and that politicians have no interest in changing the problem because people like Buhari, Yar'Adua and Atiku can simply hop a flight to Europe for health care. I also believe that this 'rush' printing job is typically Nigerian - by rushing at the last moment, lots of money can be stolen, after all "We had to rush, now!" Rather than being prepared for as many potential outcomes, we waited to rush and proved ourselves to be unprepared and quite frankly dumb. I declare that the world is laughing at us. Yes, I said it.

The election process could have been an opportunity to leave a positive and lasting legacy for future Nigerians and other Africans as well. Nigeria could have used this opportunity to illustrate the proper way to make a smooth and violent free, democratic transition. Instead, our outgoing president has declared that Nigeria should not be expected to carry out elections the way other countries would because we are a developing nation.

I don't know about you, but I have never considered myself less than anyone else simply because I come from a developing nation. Obasanjo's attitude once again reflects the betrayal of Nigerian leadership. Our 'leaders' simply have no respect for the people and consider ordinary Nigerians inferior and insignificant. To get a feel for what I am talking about, take a look at White Man's Magic or read 'Beasts of No Nation' for the lyrics of Fela's song which describes the problem. Why do our 'leaders' continue to sell us short? Because there is no accountability. The masses do not matter and for this very fact, I continue to grieve for my people. Who will fight for us if our own representatives are our own worst enemy? How will we change the tide and turn Nigeria into the nation it is destined to be?

I have to remain optimistic. I have to believe that change will happen. I have to believe that the tears I cry are not for nothing, that the sleepless nights are not for naught. I have to believe that the poor people of Nigeria will someday rise up and demand the respect they deserve - that they will require that the politicians actually serve Nigerians. I cannot allow this 'incident' to leave me disillusioned. There is a bright future for Nigeria. I don't see it yet, but I know it is out there, somewhere. I just have to work a little harder to see it and I have to support progressive minds in the quest to achieve it.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It has been a while since I have spotlighted a Nigerian song and/or artist. I have been focused on politics and its implications for Nigerian society.

Now that the elections are finally over, I am avoiding putting down my thoughts about the process. Fortunately, I found a song to spotlight and will focus on this rather than the negative thoughts I have stirring in my head post election.

So, here is Tu Face's "For instance". I first got to see a 20 second clip on Naija Vixen's blog a long time ago and a recent visit to Bella Naija's blog let me know that the entire version of the song is available online.

I must warn you, you might not care much for the video. It appears to be animated/simulated. So, you don't actually see Tu Face in the video. In order to give you a clue as to what he looks like, I will include an additional video of his, "Ole", for your viewing pleasure.

"For instance" speaks to the current situation in Nigeria and illustrates the disillusionment of its youth. Tu Face, thankfully, acts as a mouthpiece for all concerned Nigerians about 'our situation'. It is always refreshing to see our artists attack the hard issues that are Nigeria and Tu Face has done so beautifully in this song. Enjoy.

Here is a video for his song "Ole", as promised. It is a beautiful song about getting one's heart broken. I also like the video.

Does anyone know if a video was ever made for King Sunny Ade's song, "Ja Funmi"? Have been searching. I wouldn't even mind a link to the vocals. Please help, if you can. I would love to spotlight this classic song and artist.
Further Reading:

-Nigeria vs. The African Continent II - P-Square "Say your Love"
-Nigeria vs. The African Continent III - Infinity's "Olori Oko"
-Nigeria vs. The African Continent IV - Tuface
-Nigeria vs. The African Continent V - Ty Bello's "Greenland"

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Did anyone notice what happened on Wall Street on Monday? Well, it seems that news of the Nigerian elections reached the US shores and had an impact on the market. Apparently, the results of our elections did not give much confidence to investors that the security situation will change. As a result, the price of gas went up and consequently, stocks rose.

The US, like other foreign groups and entities, announced concern about the validity of the Nigerian election process. It seems those concerns had an impact on market factors. This reminds me of how small the world is and illustrates how important Nigeria is to the world. If only we could get our act together so as to use our significance to the advantage of our people.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Yar'Adua will be the new president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The PDP candidate apparently won 70% of the vote (24.6 million) leaving other competitors in the dust. Buhari came in second with 6.6 million votes while Atiku came in third with 2.6 million.

However, this victory is not free from allegations and concerns over the validity of the results. Nigeria's largest election monitoring group alleges that the results cannot be trusted and that the elections should be re-held. Other international watch groups have also called into question the results of both the state and presidential elections. The US announced that it was "deeply troubled" by the weekend polls which it referred to as "flawed".

Additionally, the elections were marred by violence with recent reports putting the deaths at 200. There was even an attempt to blow up INEC headquarters in Abuja with a fuel truck. Witnesses at the polls say that there was general confusion at the polling stations, as well, what with the failure to receive ballots within a reasonable time.

Anyway, another election down. Thank God. I just hope that this new president will actually have the people's interests in mind and will take Nigeria forward, not backward. Only time will tell.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

This one made me laugh. Hope it brings a smile to your face as well.

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Despite their inability to create a unified coalition earlier this week, it seems Atiku and Buhari both agree that they will oppose the results of the Presidential election.

Both men allege that the elections were rigged. Atiku claimed he will challenge the results and declared "INEC only tried to hold elections in some urban centres, declaring that voting did not take place in most rural areas where 70 per cent of the Nigerian populace live."

I wonder if there would be less complaining if these two had managed to work together a little earlier? Maybe not, but curious minds can only wonder. Right?

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

To read more, please visit Transatlantic Times.

The official results should be released on Monday evening. Stay tuned.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

I clearly had no idea what to name this entry. If you keep reading, you will understand why.

At least 18 political parties are requesting a delay of tomorrow's presidential election. They filed papers in a Federal High Court on Thursday asking that the election be postponed pending their case and asked that the results from last weekend's elections be thrown out. Specifically, they claimed a case filed by the National Democratic Party (NDP) was not decided because a judge refused to hear the case, citing that time was too short. NDP's original suit pointed out that INEC was in violation of its mandate by failing to "to meet with various pre-conditions for the conduct of the poll including its inability to publish the Voter’s Register within the time limit stipulated by the Electoral Act 2006" among other things.

Last week, I had high hopes about A Unified Opposition but it is a shame that the opposition could not get their act together earlier. Now, it shall be constant and continuous whining about flawed elections, which true or not, could have been addressed and maybe even abated through proper planning and the creation of a political coalition.

The suit filed by the 18 opposition parties should have been filed earlier than Thursday because, today, Friday, April 20th, has been declared another public holiday. (Didn't I just discuss this in Another Public Holiday?) Consequently, courts are closed and any decision made by the Federal High Court will happen after tomorrow's election and could thus be rendered moot.

Nevertheless, the opposition parties could get their wish. One day before presidential elections, ballots are yet to arrive from South Africa. INEC stated that Nigeria did not have the capacity to print 65 million new ballots within 3 days, thus the need to outsource the work to South Africa. But, please note that the new ballots do not have the names of the candidates on them, only the logos of their political parties.

INEC chairman, Mr. Iwu, declared that polling stations will open 2 hours late to accommodate for the delay.

Nigeria, Nigeria, Nigeria. Na wa oh!

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

For full information on who won what after the state elections, please visit Reuters here.

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Waffarian women are protesting the results of last weekend's state elections. According to The Gaurdian, Warri women, like women in Imo and Ondo states only 24 hours earlier, hit the streets half naked.

For those who know anything about Nigerian culture, it is practically an abomination for our elderly mothers to show their nakedness. As such, women have challenged various situations and happenings by threatening to, and actually, walking the streets naked. Such protests have worked in the past, but we are yet to see if it will work now.

To read up on the story, please click here.

UPDATE: Nigerian mother's continue to use 'naked protest' in response to pilitical incidents. Please read The Female Body & Political Protest.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

It seems that with Atiku now in the running, the opposition parties believe they can knock out the PDP in the polls this coming weekend. Apparently, opposition parties are trying to get Buhari to step down so the opposition can unite behind Atiku and hopefully take advantage of a sympathy vote from voters.

Unfortunately for them, they were unable to agree. The main issue of discontent seems to be whether or not to boycott the Presidential elections, with Buhari said to be opposed to the idea. Supporters of the boycott want assurances from INEC that the polls will be fair. The Nigerian Bar Association, despite criticizing INEC's performance in the state elections, is imploring all Nigerians to participate in this weekend's polls.

In other news, there is an increasing amount of tension in Kano following the death of a cleric last week. On Tuesday, militants attacked a police station killing the Divisional Police Officer and his wife among many others in retaliation for the clerics murder.

All sorts...

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

There is another twist to the upcoming presidential elections. Today, the Supreme Court finally rendered its decision and declared that INEC "has no powers whatsoever to disqualify any candidate from the general elections." (The Guardian).

The Court's decison was unanimous, however, its reasons were not shared. The Court will provide its reasoning on June 29th. Nevertheless, this judgment settles the inconsistency between the earlier rulings issued by the Federal High Court in Abuja and the court of appeals. Consequently, INEC announced that it will honor the Court's decision. One can only hope that the Federal Government and the Big Boys will also respect this decision.

So, what's next? INEC's Chariman, Professor Maurice Iwu, was quoted as saying that "[w]e did make contingency plans to have the photographs and logos of the candidate in our ballot papers" which suggests that INEC has a plan to get the ballots modified or reprinted within a short period of time.

Only a few days to go and anything can happen....

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

State elections took place yesterday and unfortunately, there was violence. There were reports of approximately 52 deaths.

Ballots were stolen in broad daylight at various polling stations. Some state polls were even declared null and void as a result of violence and serious irregularities such as the presence of children waiting in line to vote.

Although things did not go as smoothly as possible, we must all thank God that the first half of this year's voting process is over. We must also take the time to remember those who lost their lives in pre-election and election day violence. Finally, we must pray for an end to all future election-related violence and have faith that things will improve in Nigeria.

No matter the dark spots, these are interesting times and we must remain optimistic for the possible entrenchment of democratic practices in a nation that has known little but dictatorships and excessive misrule. Although we are yet to cross the finish line, the fact that we are still in the race, no matter how slow we are, should be reason to rejoice. We will get there eventually.


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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Every time I call Nigeria, I am told that they have a public holiday. I always find it strange and wonder how anyone can actually get work done in a country that is constantly on shut down.

As if there weren't enough bloody holidays, OBJ just declared another one. On Wednesday, the Federal Government informed all Nigerians that Thursday and Friday will be public holidays. Banks and other "essential services" are, however, exempt. The government explained that the previously unscheduled holiday was announced to give people time to travel in order to vote in Saturday's state-level elections.

Something smells fishy.

Remember that Atiku is trying to get a decision from the Supreme Court as to whether or not he can participate in the upcoming polls. It was only on Tuesday that Nigerian newspapers reported that the Supreme Court would issue a verdict on Thursday. Well, one can speculate that the Court will be unable to issue a decision because, yes, you guessed right - the nation is on holiday. The Court will also be unable to release its decision on Friday because, yes, you guessed right, again, it will be a public holiday.

I have always heralded the courts as being the one part of the government structure that can and has the ability to be unbiased and I would be extremely pleased if the decision is released, regardless of this two-day 'holiday'. Nothing happened today, but the Court has tomorrow to do the right thing.

If they choose to not announce their ruling until Monday, that will leave only five days to the April 21st election. Assuming that the Court decides that Atiku can participate in the polls, INEC will most likely be unable to hold the elections as planned because it probably needs more than 5 days to reprint ballots and circulate them to the necessary polling stations.

However, if the Court decides that Atiku can not participate in the polls, well, only God knows what will happen. I fear that there will be violence, but hope that tolerance and patience will prevail instead.

I wonder why OBJ continues to take steps that appear manipulative of the demoratic process and quite frankly, desperate. Honesty is always the best policy and as a man who claims to be a born-again Christian, he should be more conscious of his decisions and more aware of their potential consequences on Nigeria, now and in the future. Even if these elections happen as planned without major incident, they will forever be plagued with a cloud of suspicion. Not something an emerging democracy needs.

I guess this is the legacy OBJ has chosen to leave in his wake - desperation, manipulation and impromptu public holidays. He will be leaving these and other questionable elements as an example of how to conduct elections in Nigeria. An interesting example and legacy, indeed.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Buhari recently called for the various opposition parties to unite in their attempt to outdo the PDP candidates - Yar'Adua and Goodluck. A meeting of the various opposition parties is scheduled for Thursday, April 12th.

Such strategy can prove effective for various reasons. The most significant of which is that by unifying and presenting a single opposition candidate, the opposition reduces the risk of 'splitting the vote' - voters that would have splintered their votes over various candidates instead vote for the opposition candidate and increase the chance of defeating the incumbent candidate or in this case, party.

This kind of strategic voting has proven essential in the many multiparty political systems across the world. Think of Italy or various Latin American democracies. The problem with this approach is that it can spell political instability when the various factions in the opposition unravel due to disagreement. Any unraveling within the opposition weakens the coalition and can spell political instability and meltdown.

Unfortunately, Yar'Adua has taken this example of political strategy and maneuvering to suggest that the proposed "coalition ... was a sign of defeat on the part of the opposition." I wonder, why the need for the bravado? After all, didn't he 'almost die' last month? If Yar'Adua and the PDP have any sense, they should show a little respect for their opponents. Such condescending comments will only fuel the rumors that the PDP plans on winning the election 'at any cost' and will continue to foment the bad blood between the supporters of the various parties. This bad blood is constantly illustrated in the clashes between supporters and three more just died when PDP and AC supporters went at each other in Lagos. One of many recent violent clashes that resulted in deaths.

We will have to wait and see whether the various opposition parties will be willing to make sacrifices in order to unite and possibly weaken the PDP by fronting a candidate with the potential to win the presidential election. I am just glad that people are beginning to consider the various options available to them in the quest for continued democracy in Nigeria. This, regardless of how things go and/or who becomes president, is another step in the development of Nigerian democratic politics and as long as we can keep the violence to a minimum, we will all be better off for it.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Dami recently asked about whether INEC will postpone the Presidential election given that the AD candidate, Adefarati, recently died. Well, according to The Guardian, a Federal High Court determined that despite Section 37(1) of INEC's rules, any attempt to postpone the election would be in violation of the Constitution. See recent discussion on the pertinent Constitutional law - Section 132(2).

In addition, the Supreme Court will announce whether Atiku can run in the April 21 presidential election on Thursday. Keep your fingers crossed people, whatever the Court's decision, there will be a lot of upset people.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

As I noted in 'Constitutional Dilemma', I am a strong believer in the development of Nigerian Constitutional law through the constant back and forth of legal cases. Alas, I am presented with a salivating situation and I am chomping at the bit to figure it out. Unfortunately, as I am unfamiliar with the Nigerian legal system, I must confess that I am looking for clarification and will probably be on the phone a lot trying to get a clear answer.

Anyway, confusion has reared its ugly head today in Nigeria regarding Atiku's quest to represent the AC party in the April 21 presidential election. As you should know by now, his name was absent on a list of 'cleared' politicians eligible to run for public office. He was also recently indicted by a panel on charges of corruption. He promptly went to court and now there are 2 contradicting decisions on whether or not he can run for president.

Earlier today, I read that an appeals court in Abuja rejected Atiku's contention that INEC had no authority to disqualify political candidates. Based on this ruling, Atiku cannot contest in the upcoming election. However, another court in Abuja, The Federal High Court, also released its decision, which unlike the appeals court, declared that INEC lacked the power to disqualify candidates.

So, now what? That is the question. According to the BBC, the appeals court is a higher court and thus it's decision will trump that of the high court. If that is the case, then Atiku will not be running for the highest office in the land. He does, however, still have the option of taking his case to the supreme court.

But, the plot thickens even more. INEC apparently stated that it might have to delay the elections because it is involved, as a legal party, in a "multiplicity of litigation" that "threatens to derail the coming elections." The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) released a statement advising INEC to drop all cases because it lacks "the right of appeal as an umpire," and because "the appeals threaten the holding of the April polls." There is actually a case on point - Jesse Balowu v. INEC, which holds that INEC does not have the right of appeal and must not take sides with any candidates. Of course, the NBA's suggestion does not answer what INEC should do when it is named as a defendant in a case. At that point, it has to go to court and might still be able to argue that as long as it continues to be dragged to court, INEC cannot focus on its prime duty, namely the conduct of the elections.

I do not know which specific court issued this holding (Balowu v. INEC), but if the NBA is relying on it, I can only assume that the issuing court was competent and that it's holding should have prevented most of the current legal madness. Anyway, as is always the case with Nigeria, things get as e be. That being said, we all have to wait a little longer to figure out if Atiku will seek a decision from the Supreme Court (which would be able to settle the inconsistency between the appeals court and the High Court's rulings) and we also have to wait and see if INEC will find a basis upon which to delay the elections.

Now, if you have read this far and for some reason are not convinced that the current political and legal wrangling is cause for concern, here is a perfect example of why you should change your attitude, quickly. The Tribune reported that 8 people were killed during clashes between AC and PDP supporters in Ibadan on Monday. Nigeria is a country in flux and is currently standing on a precipice. It does not take much for violence to erupt and other than religion, there is nothing like politics to get people riled up. I simply wish that people would not allow themselves to be manipulated by individuals and forces that will be financially comfortable regardless of whether or not they run for office or win said office.

All Nigerians should be very concerned about the threat of violence as a result of the current political situation. We must allow our differences to be settled in courts and not on the streets with blood. As a wise old man told me "[f]ighting in court is much better than fighting in the streets. That is the most efficacious process for entrenching the rule of law. Everyone has legal recourse, and after a long drawn out battle, someone will win, someone will lose, and Nigerians will develop a sense of comfort with the process." Truer words have never been spoken.

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