Morality and Integrity in Party Politics in Nigeria
Dr. S. Okechukwu Mezu
The Presidential, national Assembly, gubernatorial and state assembly elections of 2015 have come and gone. They were not perfect but with few unfortunate exceptions here and there, including the very regrettable violence leading to loss of lives and other anti-democratic activities, they were the closest Nigeria had come to a free and fair election. The nation is definitely maturing in its electoral journey since 1999.
For instance, as early as December 2006, Nigerians knew and the world confirmed it that the government and INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) would not be ready for the election. As pointed out by Pierre-Richard Prosper, a former US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crime Issues, who led a ten-man delegation from the International Republican Institute (IRI), Washington D. C that spent one week in Nigeria to assess the country’s readiness for a free and fair election in April, 2007. He observed that with only two weeks remaining before registration deadline, less than half of the machines and only 3.5 million of the potential 60 million eligible voters had been registered. Furthermore, INEC’s noble and ambitious goal of implementing a cutting edge system to deter the past fraud in the registration efforts was turning problematical. Dr. Maurice Iwu, INEC Chairman claimed to have awarded about 1000 contracts for the election supplies including the introduction of the Direct Data Capture Machine(DDC), that was “to prevent all loopholes that existed in the past for fraudulent politicians to rig elections.” The DDC machines were neither available for registration purposes nor for the actual election.
Warnings came from at home and abroad, including from the Sultan of Sokoto, , Alhaji Mohammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, who on March 15, 2007 in Kaduna described the INEC as “unserious and ill-prepared for the April 2007 general elections,” and warned about the dangers of a failed transition program and characterized the INEC’s efforts as being tantamount to “manifest un-seriousness.” The Nigerian Elections of 2007 turned out to be a chronicle of shame and deceit: shame to the country and deceit of the population. One CIA agent in a moment of unguarded indiscretion or blunt honesty quipped that: “No country of this [Nigeria’s] size and financial structure has much to say about its operation. The big money-men of the world who decide whether to invest or not; and the big governments of the world who decide whether or not to give aid, run just as much of Nigeria (or maybe more) than the Nigerians.”
Today we live in a global village complicated by events in other parts of the world. The Nine-Eleven tragedy in America had hardened the attitude of the former colonial masters and the United States. Life has become a serious matter of survival. Irrespective of the government in power in America and the Western world, the economy must be fueled. The millions of vehicles in the Western world must be fueled; the houses need heat; electricity is taken for granted. Every second in life needs oil to function. There are no sentiments about this. It is a matter of survival. The Mid-Eastern oil has become problematic with the posture of Iran, the debacle in Iraq, the intractable problems between Israel and Palestine, the fragility and nervous vulnerability of Saudi Arabia. The western world does not care what sort of government is in power in Nigeria as long as the flow of Nigeria’s sweet crude oil continues whether through the black or white market. The illegitimate devil you think you know that came to power through undemocratic means is better that a legitimate democratically elected government whose tomorrow is unpredictable to the West and possibly inimical to its interests.
Democracy and government of the people by the people for the people has never been donated as a gift to the people. No it was not so in France in the eighteenth century; neither was that the case in Britain with the Monarchy. Even colonial America had to fight the British government not the people for their independence and democracy. Any Nigerian who believes that the Western world and foreign countries will fight to install democracy in Nigeria for Nigerians is living in a volcanic fool’s paradise. The rigging of Nigerian elections in 1963 was child’s play compared to the rigging in 1983 and each one was followed by a military take-over. The rigging in 1999 was out of the playing field when placed side by side with that of 1983. Because Nigerians accepted the election sham of 1999, the players of the political parties perfected the rigging and killing and maiming in 2003.
Many of the present civilian governments of Nigeria on the Local, State and National levels have failed the people woefully. The hope that Nigeria’s civilian leaders would accomplish for the nation what military rulers hungry for adulation at home and meteoric respect abroad failed to achieve has been dashed. Nigeria continues to be buffeted by the very same pressures and centrifugal forces that led to the demise of the regimes of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, General Aguiyi Ironsi, General Gowon, General Murtala Muhamed, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Generals Buhari and Idiagbon, General Babangida and General Sanni Abacha. Any Government that comes to power without the will and concurrence of the people is doomed to failure. The eventual security and salvation of the individual Nigerian and the individual component ethnic groups in Nigeria lie not in the disintegration of the country and/or ethnic control of the sector’s natural resources, but in the eventual further amalgamation of the component elements of black Africa under a government of the people for the people where the resources of the whole are used for the benefit of the many and not expropriated by the few for abuse by privileged aliens and non indigenes. This is a task Nigerians and Africans alone can and must do.
The Presidential Elections of 2011
The 2011 Elections was a repeat of the electoral farce of 2007. Two examples will suffice. I contested as a deputy gubernatorial candidate for CPC in Imo State, Nigeria in 2011.
- During the Presidential elections, 734 votes for the CPC Presidential candidate in one Ikeduru polling station metamorphosed to 34 by the time it reached the Local government collation center and further became 4 votes for candidate Buhari at the Imo State Central Collation center.
- Following the 2011 presidential elections, I was in the office of the then State Commissioner of Police’s to secure the release of one of our polling agents, a young married man with four children from Ohaji who tried to stop the presiding officer, the police and PDP polling agents from openly thumb-printing ballot papers for PDP. They were being given out in batches of twenty ballot papers. He risked his live after severally warning them. He snatched from the presiding officer a batch of twenty ballot papers destined for further thumb-printing as evidence and ran out of the polling booth. They called for police reinforcement and he was arrested for ballot snatching, mercilessly beaten, stripped naked and locked up in Owerri police detention station. This incident was widely reported on the internet immediately to the extent that INEC in Abuja sought clarification from Imo State about what happened. After I explained the situation to the State Commissioner of Police, he could not control his laughter and almost fell of his chair. He immediately ordered the immediate release of the young man and the interrogation of all those involved. He wanted to handle the matter himself. While in the office a phone call came from Abuja, complaining that the Presidential votes ascribed to PDP from Imo State exceeded the number of registered voters. They required the State Commissioner of Police to fly to Abuja immediately with the corrected results that showed total votes that are less than the number of registered voters.
The main reason for some improvement in the running of 2015 general elections was the insistence on the use of the Permanent Voters Card (PVC). The use of PVC led to a decrease in the number of eligible voters. The number of eligible voters dropped from 67,422,005 voters to the only 56,431,255 who collected, or were able to collect, their PVC that would enable them to vote. In the 2015 presidential election approximately there were 31,746,490 accredited voters from these eligible voters’ group. The total number of votes cast was 29,432,083. The rejection of 844,519 votes brought the number of valid votes to 28,587,564. Out of this number, APC General Buhari scored 15,424,921 votes to President Jonathan’s 12,853,162 votes. The other twelve candidates shared the remaining votes. In the case of the 2011 presidential election, by January/February 2011, INEC had registered over 73.5 million voters and had registered also 63 political parties. In the actual election these were the scores of the leading political parties and their candidates.
|People’s Democratic Party (PDP)
|Congress for Progressive Change (CPC)
|Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN)
|All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP)
In the actual so-called election, President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) thus scored 22,495,187 votes to General Buhari’s 12,214,853. The valid votes cast were quoted by INEC as 39,469,484 with 1,259,506 as invalid votes. The turn-out was put at 53%. When compared with the 2015 election figures of 67,422,005 registered voters and the figure of 56,431,255 who collected their PVC and the actual number (29,432,083) of people who voted, one can deduce that the rigging in 2011 surpassed the worst fears of many. Like the 2007 election, it could be said quoting, the 2007 Movement of the Nigeria House of Representatives that: “[By] any standard, this election cannot be called free, or fair, much less credible. It was a predetermined systematically orchestrated exercise that was out to return the ruling party at all cost. The barbarism, violation, etc, were as outrageous as they were unprecedented.” Foreign election observers and observers from Nigeria have confirmed that that was probably the worst election ever not only in Nigeria but in the history of electoral democracy. The electoral crimes ranged from the stuffing of ballot boxes, to the hijacking of ballot papers. Several polling stations were not opened. The ones that opened had no ballot boxes. During the gubernatorial and state assembly elections, many people lost their lives; there was thuggery and burning and intimidation using state security services which was unleashed to stymie opposition.
In that Presidential election, it was been adduced that more than seventy percent of the sixty million ballot papers (printed in South Africa at the very last minute by INEC for the Presidential election) were deliberately abandoned in the cargo wing of the airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. This means that about eighteen million ballot papers only were delivered in Nigeria for the sixty million prospective registered voters. Since these arrived in Nigeria on the very night before the election, how were those delivered to the nooks and corners of Nigeria’s 923,768 square kilometers stretching from the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean (Bights of Benin and Biafra) to areas bordering with Cameroon in the East and Chad in the North-East, Niger in the North, and Benin Republic to the West? How were these ballot papers and election materials delivered over night to the low coastal zone, the hills and plateaus of the Center, to the mountainous zones of the East, some between 1,200 and 2,042 meters high and this including the riverine areas of the Delta region and the impassable gullies of the hinterland.
General Buhari – a constant in Nigerian presidential elections
General Muhammadu Buhari has been the one constant in Nigerian presidential elections since 2003. He has also brought morality and integrity into Nigeria’s political landscape. He contested the presidential election in 2003 on the platform of All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) and was defeated by President Obasanjo with over eleven million votes margin. Again he was nominated as the presidential candidate of the All Nigeria People’s Party for the 2007 election to contest against Umaru Yar’Adua, the candidate of the PDP. The April 2007 elections awarded the PDP presidential candidate 70% of the votes and 18% to General Buhari. These results were flatly unacceptable and not based on voting or on reality. The results were rejected by General Buhari. On invitation by the Yar’Adua government, following the election, the All Nigeria People’s Party. (ANPP) agreed to join the government, but Buhari denounced this betrayal and accommodation and in March 2010. Buhari left the ANPP and helped form a new party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), to pursue his ideal of progressive change in Nigeria “as a solution to the debilitating, ethical and ideological conflicts in my former party the ANPP”. This represents morality and integrity in party politics in Nigeria. General Buhari became the candidate of the quickly formed CPC. Even though he had no funds of his own, he rejected as gubernatorial candidates in his party some who wanted to fund CPC with what he believed was ill-gotten wealth. Despite contesting against two other Muslim and Northern Nigeria Presidential candidates in the April 16, 2011 general election, – Mallam Nuhu Ribadu of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau of ANPP amongst twenty other contestants – General Buhari, the CPC Presidential candidate in the 16 April 2011 general election, was the main opponent of President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
With barely one year to the presidential elections, Buhari had a hard time organizing ground support and had barely time for zonal rallies before the elections. For instance, barely one week after I joined CPC in Imo State as the Deputy Gubernatorial candidate, the party (CPC) scheduled the Southeast zonal rally in Owerri. The PDP Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State, denied CPC the use of the Owerri Stadium for the rally, denied the party the use of any other location in Owerri; refused even a courtesy call on him by the former President and Commander in Chief, General Buhari. The State Chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers refused a courtesy call by General Buhari. I had to overnight organize the Southeast zonal CPC rally in front of Our Lady’s School, Emekuku, my home town. To fill up the program, I arranged a courtesy call on the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri, Dr. Anthony Obinna (incidentally a native of Emekuku) who gave me one sole condition that no pictures of the visit would be allowed to be taken. I also finally arranged a courtesy call on the traditional ruler of Emekuku, Eze Peter Obi. People traveled from all corners of South Eastern states to the rally that saw over a hundred thousand participants. Yet when the presidential election came votes were counted in my Emekuku polling station, my own vote apparently disappeared as Buhari scored zero votes at the polling station and some CPC party agents who tried to follow the ballot box to the Owerri North Local Government collating center at Uratta, came back with broken skulls.
Where then in 2011 did the 22,495,187 votes for President Jonathan come from when he only scored 12,853,162 in 2015? General Buhari’s winning score of 15,424,921 votes in 2015 was a mere marginal increase over his losing score of 12,214,853 votes in 2011. The introduction of PVC in 2015 more than any other measure curtailed the inordinate harvesting of spurious votes but it did not eliminate it because the real or engineered malfunction of card readers and the substitution of voting with incident forms became the new vehicle for vote rigging and inflation of votes. In the actual so-called election 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) thus scored 22,495,187 votes to CPC General Buhari’s 12,214,853. The valid votes cast were quoted by INEC as 39,469,484 with 1,259,506 as invalid votes. The turn-out was put at 53%. When compared with the 2015 election figures of 67,422,005 registered voters and the figure of 56,431,255 as those who collected their PVC and the actual number (29,432,083) of people who voted, one can deduce that the rigging in 2011 and consequent vote inflation surpassed the worst fears of many. It is interesting to note that the combined votes of General Buhari (CPC), Nuhu Ribadu (ACN) and Ibrahim Shekarau (ANPP) totaled 15,211,016 in 2011, a few votes shy of the 15,424,921 votes secured by General Buhari in 2015 to win the Presidential election.
Morality and Integrity in Politics
The formation of All Progressives Congress (APC) was due to the collective effort and personal sacrifices made by the leaders and members of the Legacy Parties. That was the epitome of morality and integrity in politics. President Jonathan, in defeat also became magnanimous by conceding even before INEC announced the actual results of the 2015 presidential elections. Supporters of the President took the cue and saved the country Nigeria from violence and kata-kata and possible disintegration. The country had had enough of it already. Congratulations galore flowed from all over the country, all deserved and merited – from friends and foes, some out of sportsmanship, others out of greed, avarice and pandering. Overnight, the worst enemies of the opposition party and their antecedents the past fifteen years now defect in droves to the winning All Progressives Congress (APC). Politics should be made of sterner stuff, of greater morality and integrity. Congratulations to the winner are in order, understandable and commendable but defection from PDP to APC within hours of APC victory is self-serving, reprehensible and offensive. General Buhari has maintained his moral and political integrity all these years and refused even to serve in Yar’Adua’s government when invited to do so and had to leave the ANPP on the basis of principle when ANPP, his party elected to join the PDP government. What respect then would a man like Buhari have for those apostles of Any Government In Power (AGIP) who defect to the winning party on the morning of victory?. Politics should be made of sterner stuff and greater integrity and morality. The five PDP governors that left the governing party PDP and joined the nascent opposition party APC not only showed political courage but moral integrity in the face of the venomous and slanderous onslaught from the impolitic elements that surrounded and led a President Jonathan who was rather lukewarm to a second or third term. We salute the courage of PDP members of the National Assembly who defected from PDP when they had nothing to gain but everything to lose.
A Buhari government should and could appoint men of integrity (and some there are) from the PDP because of their integrity, expertise and devotion to the nation. A Monday morning defection from PDP to APC should be enough reason for a PDP candidate to be disqualified from consideration for any meaningful post in an APC government. The Good Lord once said: “I have chosen you, you have not chosen me.” For the growth of democracy in Nigeria, PDP must not be allowed or helped to crumble leading to a one party system. Only 2,357,854 presidential election votes separate APC from PDP whose members should show political courage and moral integrity like General Buhari, rebuild the party, dress themselves in a newer fashion and robes and look for a less difficult electorate to paraphrase Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer.
Dr. S. Okechukwu Mezu