JUNE 12,1993 ELECTION AND FAIR POLLS IN NIGERIA
By ANTHONY OKOSUN ( Tonyosun@yahoo.co.uk)
"The man who can right himself by a vote will seldom resort to a musket." James Fenimore Cooper, The American Democrat.
"The first step toward liberation for any group is to use the power in hand....And the power in hand is the vote." Helen Gahagan Douglas
The biggest problem clogging the wheel of Nigeria's ride to social, economic and political self-actualization, is Nigeria's inability to conduct free and fair elections. Properly conducted elections provide the citizens, that awesome opportunity to peacefully and democratically register their corporate and individual opinions regarding the destiny of the polity. Where citizens are able to cast their votes, and their votes actually count; the citizens will able to determine the shape and direction of the economy, political and social developments, as their electoral preferences will reflect their dream ideas and profound desires. Unfortunately, Nigerians have regularly been denied the opportunity to enjoy proper democracy as is ideally reflected through a free and fair electoral process. It is not uncommon to hear of false election results been announced in Nigeria. The stealing of ballot boxes and the manhandling of polling officers and representatives of the opposing political parties are well entrenched in Nigeria.
Against the backdrop of the afore-described scenario, the genius with which Professor Humphrey Nwosu conducted the June 12, 1993 presidential election was a healing fresh breath in the stench known as Nigeria's political terrain. The June 12, 1993 election annulment was predictable, after a very major political miscalculation by General Ibrahim Babangida and the members of his military junta. There were two government created political parties at the time. The National Republican Party (N. R. C.) and the Social Democratic Party (S. D. P). After the presidential primaries conducted by the two parties, only northerners emerged as the leading contenders in both political parties. These persons were Adamu Chiroma and Umaru Shinkafi in the NRC and Shehu Musa Yar Adua in the SDP. The self styled military President at the time, General Ibrahim Babangida, who in his characteristic ÔÇśmaradonic' dribbling runs and swerves, attempted to prevent a "northernization of Nigeria" by annulling the presidential primaries of the two political parties.
Now, the other major mistake that laid the foundation for the annulment of June 12th, 1993 presidential elections, occurred when the leading contenders in both the NRC and SDP were kept by the government in detention and disqualified from participating in the re-conducted presidential primaries. In the re-conducted primaries Chief Moshood Abiola emerged as the flag bearer of the SDP, while Alhaji Bashir Tofa, emerged as the flag bearer of the NRC. Bashir Tofa, a polital and social light weight from Kano, was very easily defeated by the well known international business mogul and national and international philanthropist, Aare Moshood Abiola, in the June 12, 1993 presidential elections. Suddenly the northern military and civilian elite remembered and felt short-changed, by the disqualification of the leading politicians and presidential contenders from the North. Thus, the long, sad, laborious and energy sapping, journey and high level rumblings that culminated in the annulment of the June 12th, 1993 elections commenced.
One of the interesting developments in 1993, was the fact that Nigerians were so much desirous of reclaiming political power from the military, that they subdued all their differences and built one of the most sophisticated political machines ever assembled in Nigeria. This unprecedented, gigantic, political machine catapulted, Aare Moshood Abiola to victory. The SDP that made Abiola's victory possible, was an umbrella amalgam of political godfathers from every Nigerian tribe. Abubakar Rimi, Sule Lamido, Anthony Anenih, Jim Nwobodo, Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, Solomon Lar, Atiku Abubakar, Shehu Musa Yar Adua, Olusola Saraki, Alex Ekwueme, Bamangar Tukur, Babagana Kingibe among others too numerous to mention. These men were some of the political pillars that brought their political machines together under the SDP umbrella, to make Abiola's victory possible
Another interesting development at the time, was the observation, that a genuinely kind and generous Nigeria can win the hearts and minds of all Nigerians from the North to the South and from the East to the West. Aare Moshood Abiola's kindness and generosity was so well known, that ordinary Nigerians from across the tribal and religious divide, had no trouble campaigning for and voting for him.
It is interesting too, to take cognizance of the way Nigerians from every tribe and walk of life rallied together to fight for the validation of June 12
1993 presidential election. The struggle for the validation of the sanctity of the June 12th 1993 elections and the victory thereof, was a national affair. Chief Alfred Rewane(God bless his soul) who lost his life, for financing the struggle for the validation of June 12th, was an itsekiri man. Chief Anthony Enahoro who went into exile, in his old age over June 12, is an Esan(Edo) man. Vice Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu is an Ibo man. Air Commodore Dan Suleiman is a Middle Beltan. Air Commodore Jonah Jang is a middle beltan. Colonel Umar who lost his commission in the army for supporting the validation of the June 12th election results, is a fulani man. Balarabe Musa is an hausa man. This is just to name a few. leaders of non -governmental bodies, like Olisa Agbakoba, Mike Ozekhome and Femi Falana, bravely and boldly led demonstrations all over lagos agitating for the validation of the June 12th, presidential elections . At the time, Nigerians demonstrated their resolve to protect the mandate won in the June 12th, 1993 elections and to sustain a culture of democracy. Despite the military junta's deployment of the much dreaded Sgt. Rogers and the other apparatchiks to snipe out any opposition or appearance of opposition, Nigerians remained faithful to their belief in the sanctity of the June 12th, 1993 elections. For the courage and fearlesness shown by the Guardian, Alex Ibru, lost an eye, and the Guardian was razed down. Aare M.k.O. Abiola's wife, Kudirat Abiola was cut down by the hounds
Some of the very important questions that must be answered, are, why were Nigerians so desirous of a culture of free and fair elections in 1993, and even more so today ? and what can be done to attain this elusive dream of conducting free and fair elections in Nigeria ? Why are Nigerians ready to discard their differences, real or imaginary to fight for a culture of free and fair elections in Nigeria ? According to Eric Brahm "Elections are a cornerstone of democracy and, hence, figure prominently in democratization efforts around the world. This is in large part because elections serve a number of significant functions that are seen to be important in conflict management. First, elections provide the government with legitimacy, as officials are chosen through the popular will. Second, in principle, they allow for the alternation of governing coalitions, which ostensibly permits the entry of new ideas into policy debates and different approaches to governance. Simply put, it allows for diverse voices to have a role in governing. What is more, with respect to conflict management, alternation of power builds confidence in former opponents, encourages stability, and allows the public to learn visions, different groups have for the country." Eric Brahm further added "The importance of elections is underscored by the fact that some of the world's most unreformed autocrats still feel the need to at least go through the motions. The Soviet Union held elections throughout its history and many contemporary dictators such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak regularly hold flawed votes. This attests to the power of elections to legitimate political authority in the late 20th and 21st centuries, but also points to the risks of fetishizing elections as an unqualified solution to conflict."
Yes, it is possible to have free and fair elections in Nigeria; but it is not possible to do so within the current legislative framework, in which the Electoral Commission is composed of government appointees, and operates the policy of the government in power, in the electoral process. There is need for an autonomous electoral body, whose head and members are democratically elected. The leadership of such autonomous electoral body must have a democratic leadership, committed to attaining sustainable socio-economic development in the Nigeria. The autonomous electoral body must be able to fight for, and secure for all Nigerians, freedom from violence, intimidation nor coercion and the freedom to question, challenge and register complaints or objections without negative repercussions. The autonomous electoral body must secure equitable and dignified treatment for all the electors, candidates and the political parties; by the election officials, the government, the police, the military and the judiciary. The autonomous electoral body must be able to ensure an open and transparent ballot counting process. This body must ensure that all Nigerians have equal access to polling places. The composition of this commission, must be well balanced and must represent the rich tribal diversity of Nigeria.
A culture of free and fair elections in a polity, helps to secure the inauguration of a truly representative government. When the people's true representatives are put in power; stability, progress and prosperity will be fostered. Representatives, who are truly elected, always see themselves as agents of progress and they are always accountable to the electorates. There is a vital link between free and fair elections and national stability, economic and social development. The government of the day determines much of the economic and social destinies of the polity and peoples of the polity. Judges are appointed and approved by those elected by the electorates. The economy that is managed by the elected government, directly impacts the electors. Those elected, initiate policies that determines, whether the masses will prosper or sink in poverty. Those who are elected determine, whether to throw the country into a war or allow space for peace. Those elected by the people, decide whether to build new hospitals, roads, bridges and schools and maintain old ones or whether to rob the common treasury of the masses and allow the masses to wallow in poverty and disease. The inter-connectivity between free and fair elections and the socio-politico and economic destinies of the people cannot be over emphasized. Thus Nigeria must first pursue a culture of free and fair elections, as a platform for social economic and political advancement in the polity. In this regard, it is my humble opinion, that the Option A-4 genius, of the June 12, 1993 election saga; Professor Humphrey Nwosu, should be recalled, to help lay the foundation for a culture of free and fair elections in Nigeria.
ANTHONY OKOSUN (Tonyosun@yahoo.co.uk)