Monday, December 13, 2010

Why Nigeria May Go Nowhere

  By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye 
I am sad today. The dangerous old men whom we have foolishly (or is it helplessly) allowed to run our affairs in Nigeria have once again demonstrated their demonic resolve to ensure that this nation never experiences any progress in their lifetime. President Olusegun Obasanjo and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), together with their licensed agent, Prof Maurice Iwu, and his “Independent” Electoral Commission (INEC), have allocated the votes as they liked and announced their pre-determined results, whether voting took place in the areas or not. And to ensure we dared not open our mouths to say anything, they quickly filled everywhere with a swarm of stern-faced, gun-wielding soldiers, to intimidate us into silence, and force us to accept the very unappetizing products of election robbery.  

In Imo State, for instance, the Governorship elections were cancelled because of alleged eruptions of violence in several parts of the state, yet in some states where worse things happened, the elections were announced and applauded by the PDP/INEC, because, the PDP had “won” in those states. And because the PDP achieved a “fraudslide” victory in the “elections” into the State House of Assembly in Imo State it was NOT cancelled. I am waiting for Iwu and his INEC to unravel the mystery of how  they were able to determine that “the violence” that occurred in Imo State was only perpetrated in respect of the governorship polls, even though both the Governorship and House of Assembly elections ran simultaneously. What do these people really take Nigerians for? A bunch of fools?

Well, everyone knows that INEC/PDP cancelled the Gubernatorial elections in Imo State because the PDP, as a result of the strange politics it plays had no candidate for the Governorship elections to rig in. So, INEC/PDP has now fixed a run-off election on April 28, to enable the PDP field a candidate (whether a new one or the one it had expelled) and equally rig him into office. Nothing can be so outrageous and provocative. Indeed, Iwu does not even care to pretend anymore that he is working for the PDP and no one else. 

Just before the Presidential “election results” were announced last Monday, President Obasanjo made a broadcast to the nation, perhaps, to prepare our minds for the bitter pill. He admitted that there were cases of electoral malpractices but failed to inform us when those who perpetrated those criminal acts would be charged to court. Obviously, since they were working for the “right” party, they may have merely been cautioned, paid handsomely, and asked to “go and sin no more”.

And from the way the president and his party members are eagerly and enthusiastically singing to everyone who feels shortchanged in the votes allocation process to go to the Election Tribunals, my guess is that, just like the so-called elections, the verdicts of the election courts may have been written already. It would seem that those who have strong cases against the “elected” people may have to wait till beyond May 29, when the lawless dispensation may have, hopefully, expired, to go to the normal courts to get fair hearing. 

*Olusegun Obasanjo on Election Day
In the entire South East, reports say virtually no voting took place. I was dismayed when I saw the Presidential Candidate of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) and Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu,  on TV casting his vote in pitch darkness.  In most places in the South East, election materials arrived as late as 5pm and before they could be distributed to the various polling centres, darkness has already enveloped the whole place. And considering that the PDP government had plunged the nation in darkness due to the total collapse of the power sector under its watch, one can now imagine how voting could have been carried out in those areas so late in the day. Maybe it served their purpose very well. With darkness engulfing the land, and the people having dispersed with the belief that no voting would take place again, all it would remain for the INEC/PDP gang to achieve their habitual “fraudslide” victory would be to gather their men of darkness to some darker corner to mass thumbprint the ballot papers and declare victory for the “victorious, largest party in Africa”. 

Now, in all these brazen display ungodly desperation, where is the interest of the masses factored in? Can we find a single candidate out there who is minded to improve the welfare of the masses? Everybody is pursuing his or her narrow interests, including those who would soon start calling on Nigerians to accept the “vote allocations” in the interest of peace.  

Indeed, the Nigerian state thrives on a very a solid foundation and enduring, pervasive culture of very crude selfishness. Maybe, “selfishness” is not the most appropriate word to convey the exact meaning I have in mind; but there is this consuming desire and deep craving by the average Nigerian to always have an unfair advantage over his neighbour, to ensure and emphasize the exclusive, distinct nature of whatever he does or possesses, and ultimately become the envy of others. This should, however, not be confused with healthy striving for excellence and distinction. Rather it is a mindset that makes someone to value whatever he has, only when it is obvious that no one else has it, or that only a select, privileged few have it. 

I don’t know whether it was the British that planted this insidious seed in Nigerians or merely helped to water and tend it, for their own self-serving reasons. The British had created the Government Reserved Areas (GRAs) and several other segregating and divisive facilities, and took some special “natives”, the educated and privileged few, away from their own people, put them in those secluded areas and planted in them a deep feeling of being “special” or “different” from the rest. This may have helped the British to perfect their divide-and-rule policy, but it equally succeeded in engraving in the minds of those lucky natives this consciousness of being better or higher than the rest. And so, when the British unwillingly granted what they called Independence to Nigeria, they ensured that this iniquitous status quo remained. Through this privileged class, which they had created and successfully alienated from their own people, the British still ruled Nigeria. That is why our rulers live in fortresses, far removed from the people they claim to be serving, unlike what obtains in almost every other nation. 

In Nigeria today, a successful man is one who has “left the others” to join the privileged, eating class. In most cases, this does not happen as result of hard work, but merely because of the “lucky” fellow’s sudden acquaintance with some other fellow in the corridors of power. Indeed, one may just start swimming in boundless opulence tomorrow just because he had got the “right connections”, which may just be that he is a distant to cousin to the hairdresser of  the girlfriend of the ADC of one of our rulers. When that happens, the person quickly leaves his fellows behind to “join them” to enjoy. And that is why, at the slightest opportunity, anyone with access to the public till would seek to corner all the juicy advantages there to himself, and create another world of limitless comfort for himself which would automatically place him far above the rest of the people. This is the situation that produced the “big-man” syndrome in the country.  

Sometime last year, one of my ardent readers sent me an email to say that in Warri where he grew up, what they call these toy generators from China is: I-Better-Pass-My-Neighbour. So, when NEPA/PHCN envelopes everyone with impenetrable darkness, and those who have these Chinese toys put them on to supply power to their places of abode, all they are trying to demonstrate to their “unlucky” neighbours choking with thick, oppressive darkness is that they are simply better than them. Yes, I better pass my neighbour! This mentality appears to regulate  the conducts of public officers in Nigeria. And when you look at the situation closely, you then begin to understand why Nigerians are suffering in the midst of plenty, and why people are still stealing and plundering even when they have accumulated so much. 

I-better-Pass-My-Neighbour. Once the president was asked during a phone-in radio/television programme why he banned tokunbo vehicles, and he immediately spewed up his grouse. What people understood by his outburst that day was that he was not too happy that too many cars were competing for space with his large convoy on the streets of Abuja! “Everywhere in Abuja, what is you see is Golf, Golf! Golf!” he fumed. Now “Golf” is that small Volkswagen vehicle which Nigerians call “pure water”, which the poor man, at his own level, too, flaunts, to show that he is now better than his waka-waka neighbour. Now the Oga up there is not happy that cars were becoming too common, that it was no longer the exclusive preserve of rulers and the rich, their children, cronies and “woman friends”.   

Now tell me, all these do-or-die struggles to gain power, are they because of any love for the masses? Certainly not. The deadly determination of Obasanjo to foist on the nation his own self-serving choice as his successor, was it done out of any form of love for the Nigerian people? Certainly, no! The people I pity so much are these people who call themselves party supporters who go out there to fight and die for those who would not even allow them to get near their gates once they gain power. These are the most unfortunate victims.  And the real tragedy is that even in 2011, we will still have people like that! 

Until we kill this spirit of “I-Better-Pass-My-Neighbour”, looting will never stop in Nigeria. The rulers would always ensure that mass poverty continue in the land because that is the only situation that emphasizes how “lucky” they, their families, cronies and “woman friends” are. That would also ensure that during elections, the poor can easily be manipulated with little gifts to sell-off their votes and even their lives. In many countries there is nothing like “inferior” or “superior” hospitals. Everybody, whether President, Governor, Senator, the jobless or schoolboy, is entitled to quality healthcare. But here, the craving is to show our advantage over others. Some even ensure they prepare their executive graves before they die, so that even in death, they would still be able to make the statement: I-better-Pass-My-Neighbour. Na waa for this country!

First published in SCRUPLES,  Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye's  Wednesday column in Daily Independent ( on April 25, 2007.

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