Last week the focus was on the state of ‘National Development’, and the consensus was that in-spite of what appears on the surface as development, we have not developed. We have succeeded in muddling up concepts and creating chaos rather than achieving sound development. The details were very clear in that discourse, so we need not worry ourselves with the sectorial issues here for now. What should bother us rather should be our inability to put a halt to our mistakes and to start a new order based on a very sound foundation.
We have expected a lot from the political class in this dispensation, as many factors account for this expectation. Our country is fifty-nine (59) years and by this May we have had twenty years of unbroken democratic practice. This period is long enough to identify what has been wrong with us and to take a resolve never to repeat those things that seemingly hold us back. But from what we see it would seem we still don’t have regard for retrospection, we forget that those who don’t have respect for the past would not have the ability to control today and the worse of it, would not be in a position to predict their tomorrow. This is why we must worry. We must not only show concern, we as a people must begin to rise and to demand that the right things and right steps be undertaken and be brought to conclusion.
We have just concluded a general election and like anyone would expect the conduct and outcomes have left us with fallouts; some of them pleasant and many of them very unsavoury. Fifty-nine years after independence the issue of credible electoral process has remained a burden. The elections that ended in March was no different and the throw-ups are so strong, the unity of the country is under obvious threats. The number of post-election litigations is now higher than at any other time, indicative of how bad things have gone. There is a fact our political class must take in if our quest for progressive development is to be attained, and that point is that some of the developments that took place during the 2019 elections ought not to have happened at all, and they should be of concern because of their capacity to throw the country into bloody chaos if they continue to repeat.
The disenfranchisement of a section of eligible voters, as we saw in Rivers and Zamfara states is obviously an aberration and ought not to be allowed to happen again in subsequent polls. The question of pre-election matters continuing even after elections have been done and won, is certainly not a healthy development. It is not democratic to allow a candidate to win and assume office and then defend himself using the influence conferred by the apparatus of state. It is not only unfair, it is undemocratic. It is one of the factors sustaining the circle of national mistakes. The point we are making is that, if things were properly structured, the issues that are engaging our attention at the moment would have been totally different from what they currently are. The country had just concluded the general elections and in the last two months all that we have done is to talk about filling of positions in the Executive and the Legislative offices, and we have gone about it in a manner suggestive that it is a big assignment; it came out that way because we have become a country that hates planning. If we had respect for structured organization, appointing or electing people into public offices would have been a routine matter.
It is wrong to finish elections and then begin to calculate and pontificate on who or which area should hold which offices; waiting till that point makes the contest unduly fierce and serves to provoke contestants to fall back to the country’s fault-lines. Candidates for elections ought to have two things ready, one is a comprehensive list of what they want to accomplish and the relevant hands to execute them as well. When they get to power and begin to source for agenda and personnel and even wasting months to do so, nothing exemplifies recklessness better than this narrative. Unfortunately, we have seen this become a tradition in our country and those of us who thought the All Progressives Congress (APC) would have made a change have become utterly disappointed. They have rather seemed to be worse than their predecessors, in the first tenure it took the president six wasted months to constitute a cabinet and over three years to fill boards of agencies and parastatals; and here again three weeks after his inauguration for a second tenure, cabinet constitution does not again seem like a serious business of state. It is the same as seen in the states where it has become more like a child’s play. Governors release one or two names and go back to rest for another period of two weeks or more.
No one democracy is exactly the same as the other, that we know, yet there is nothing wrong to examine other democracies once in a while and to pick good examples that could be very relevant to the goals we intend to achieve locally. South-Africa just had a national election few weeks ago and within three days all results were known. As you read this there is no single contest as to the genuineness of the results; the president was sworn in few hours after the results were declared, and same for the parliament. The cabinet now is in place and in the parliament all the officers are on their seats and business of state is in progress. It happened so because by their structure even the most illiterate citizen can say who will be who if any of the parties win; but in our case, we win and begin to dangle offices in the faces of different tribes. This process provokes undue tension and diverts attention. It was wrong to have brought the president openly into the struggle for positions in the national legislature; governors do same. It makes nonsense of the concept of separation of powers.
In the past the tradition has been for the president and governors to submit list of nominees to the legislature without attaching their portfolios; the system is anachronistic. It is one reason incompetent personnel are everywhere and the trend of round-pegs in square-holes subsists. It does not give the legislators enough chance to do their research on nominees and the office he intends to hold, so they allow them go. It also hinders the critical public from undertaking very transparent and close scrutiny of nominees for public offices. If Nigerians knew for instance that Raji Fashola and Lai Mohammed distinguished lawyers would head Power, Works and Information respectively, it is possible they would have resisted. The charade went through because there was no inkling on where they were headed for. We can change that process and that should start now.
Credibility of the electoral process is very important, electoral reform should be of top-most priority. The other will be making amends to the ways we have operated so far. Until we deal with the small issues and conquer them, the bigger ones may never be realized. We need to be proactive and innovative. We must run on well-defined vision; the way it is now, we run budgets yearly but cannot point to what we have achieved periodically with it. We have a country but what remains is to build it into a nation.