Monday, 20 January 2014

Revisiting Uwais

With the countdown to 2015, all the talk is about the coming showdown between PDP and APC. In Nigerian parlance: Who will win who? The assumption here is that APC is some sort of ‘opposition’ party which will liberate us from the sleaze-ridden behemoth in power since we became a democracy again, as if it was somehow different from the one it is seeking to replace. That it is not is self-evident, although why so many should choose to believe otherwise is a question all by itself. Perhaps it has something to do with our profound unbelief and its concomitant: our seeming helplessness to bring about the kinds of real changes that will indeed transform us into the economic powerhouse recently envisaged by a foreign economist on an eight-day freebie to the country, courtesy of a foreign network.

Following the ‘do or die’ 2007 elections, which even the normally complaisant international community baulked at (with one or two honourable exceptions), the recipient of the stolen mandate prevailed upon a retired chief justice of the federation to recommend how we might do better next time as a palliative to the insulted and injured. The Uwais Electoral Reform Panel made many suggestions. The two most important - independent candidates, and who gets to appoint the ‘independent’ Oga of INEC – were eventually jettisoned, but then it was all a scam from time (to stay with Nigerian parlance), much like the present National Dialogue. There’s nothing like appointing a committee to keep everyone distracted while also leveraging political patronage, this being the sum total of Nigerian politics with the oil money otherwise meant to transform us into the fabled economic powerhouse.

To all intents and purposes, we might as well still be under military rule given that the ‘ordinary’ Nigerian - the 80 per cent or so who apparently live on a dollar a day, according to the same foreign economist - are denied a voice in their own country given the amount of money needed to bankroll offices in 24 of the 36 states just to contest for local councillor. In other words, I must go all the way to Abuja, where I am to have my HQ, in order to contest Surulere Local Government. This is justified under the rubric of national spread, thereby engendering federal character. And it’s not as if Nigeria began life as a cohesive entity. On the contrary, there can hardly be a more patchwork arrangement under the sun, the majority of them too small and insignificant in the scheme of things to ever hope for any kind of representation in an arrangement so heavily skewed in favour of those with the sheer numbers. As with the unexpected bonanza of crude oil (to say nothing of the ‘good inner demographics’ identified by said foreign economist), our diversity is neither a curse nor a blessing but what we choose to make of it. That we have consistently embraced the former is a truism hardly worth repeating but then a cabal which writes the rules – which is permitted to write the rules – can hardly be expected to reform itself.

Among those rules is that only Oga at the top can appoint the person who will count the votes of the election he is contesting in. To know what will happen in 2015 we need only look at what recently happened in Anambra, where it was apparently difficult to ensure that the ballot papers arrived on time. We excused the 2011 lapses on the grounds that the new-look INEC headed by an incorruptible political scientist who once fought the detested military had little time to prepare even as it demanded – and speedily got - N87.72bn for laptops, and is now demanding N92.9bn for even more of the laptops which had problems – the heat! the dust! - keeping an up-to-date voters’ register, as also happened in Anambra. Perhaps our problem is too much money, as a former head of state once quipped, doubtless to his eternal regret now that the 20 per cent (if that) have cornered the bulk of it and are using it to ensure that everything stays the same, however they otherwise dub themselves.

Gone are the days when they could send in the Gestapo to ensure that the ‘people’ voted for the chosen candidate, even those who couldn’t attend the polling booth in person, which didn’t matter anyway when it came to the actual counting. Our foreign well-wishers who insist on monitoring our shenanigans profess not to like such heavy-handed tactics. It’s bad for business and anyway looks indecent, democracy, along with trade, being a game of numbers, as our politicians never tire of reminding us, hence all those laptops, which are hardly the neutral objects they would have us imagine (ask Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning, for starters), especially when it comes to number-crunching. But we are running ahead of ourselves. Nigeria’s ‘good inner demographics’, i.e. our excessively young population, can only be good if they can actually read and write, which most of them can’t, and never mind turning on the laptops they were once promised for free in the absence of electricity because they all had to go to INEC.

Whether APC will in fact hold together long enough to get to 2015 is in any case doubtful, although much the same might be said of PDP given its current woes under a clueless leadership. What we might be witnessing, in fact, is a case of thieves falling out among themselves in the scramble to acquire ever more wealth to add to the one they can’t finish in several lifetimes, although their children will probably do it for them in one lifetime. As the late Bola Ige put it, We go just siddon look, only a pity that he didn’t follow his own advice when he dined with the devil. Entertaining it will certainly be if you have the stomach for that kind of movie.

© Adewale Maja-Pearce

Adewale Maja-Pearce is the author of several books, including Loyalties
and Other Stories, In My Father's Country, How many miles to Babylon?, A
Mask Dancing, Who's Afraid of Wole Soyinka?, From Khaki to Agbada,
Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa and Other Essays, A Peculiar Tragedy, and
Counting the Cost, as well as the 1998 and 1999 annual reports on human
rights violations in Nigeria. He also edited The Heinemann Book of African
Poetry in English, Wole Soyinka: An Appraisal, Christopher Okigbo:
Collected Poems, The New Gong Book of New Nigerian Short Stories,

and Dream Chasers.

Click here to see Maja-Pearce's page:


1 comment:

  1. Why are they afraid of independent candidature @ least in the legislature? Decent (?) people will find it repulsive to hobnob with the present pack of thieves/thugs that call themselves politicians! Second bass jare!!!