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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ijebuman said...

thanks for the plug. The situation in naija is sad, we can only hope that more people will be disgusted by the situation there and that will act as a catalyst for change.
And hopefully people like me will not have to rely on cynical humour to highlight the rot in our society

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