Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Can mere words stop election fraud?

Can mere words stop election fraud?

Asks Kabiru Muhammad Gwangwazo

Journalist and Politician, former ANPP Kano State
Chairman Kabiru Muhammad Gwangwazo reviews submissions
by top politicians on ways to stop electoral fraud at the Arewa Media
Forum held September 8th, 2007 at the Arewa House.
He asks: Can mere words stop election fraud?

Frustration is so apparent in the manner they presented their papers. The three main submissions were well and evenly distributed. One was from a top cop and former Assistant Inspector-General of Police, the other the nation’s one time chief federal administrator as SGF and the last one an ex-chief legislator at the head of the national assembly. Chief Olu Falae, former secretary to the federal government was represented by first elected Kaduna state governor, Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa impeached by his state house of assembly over irreconcilable political differences and Aminu Bello Masari, immediate past Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives. They all delivered great addresses to seek out ways of stopping electoral fraud.
            They delivered fine speeches at the Arewa House under the auspices of the Arewa (Northern) Media Forum. But the frustration in their submissions was so clear; it was so thick you could almost cut it with a knife, as it were.
All were agreed there is hardly anything anyone could do about election fraud. That didn’t stop them from making suggestions and pontificating that it wasn’t right. That in Nigeria electoral fraud peaked at the 2007 elections. That it was not only at the level of the central government or with the PDP rigging machine or INEC that electoral fraud started and ended. That even states held by parties other than PDP were as guilty; just as all parties were guilty of running closed primaries.
What struck me at the Arewa Forum’s parley on election fraud is the surprisingly low turn out recorded. The meager turn out makes you wonder for whom the event was meant. And it is about the masses and there fate that the conveners ostensibly were said to be so agitated. The masses however apparently have other more important things in Kaduna that day. As for the political elite who turned up, it appears only those who couldn’t get an in, in the current dispensation were about.
Chairman of the event which held on September 8th was ageing retired Justice Anthony Aniagolu who rose to fame in Kano as chairman of a judicial panel that probed the Maitatsine Disturbances of 1980 while PRP’s Muhammadu Abubakar Rimi was Kano state Governor and NPN’s Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari was President of the Federal Republic.
I don’t know much about the service of AIG Albasu. All I do know of him is the fact that he was one of the prominent Kano elite who supported our successful bid to get ANPP’s Shekarau and Buhari to win the 2003 elections. Even if there were some who claimed he was found to have served both sides, ANPP and PDP in the heat of the elections, subsequent events confirm he was firmly planted on our side. He is a lawyer apart from being a retired police top gun. He was thus part of the legal team that volunteered their services for Buhari at the 2003 election petition tribunal. He is still a firm supporter of the ANPP and Shekarau despite all the ups and downs that literally dismembered the party since the party’s clear and undisputed victory of 2003 in Kano..
As for Balarabe Musa in the case at hand he was just a representative. Falae was expected to submit the lead paper. An incident at his country home was what was said to have stopped him from attending the Kaduna event, leaving his paper with Balarabe Musa. Balarabe has impeccable credentials as a politician and elder statesman to speak on fraud in whatever form. That would be quite difficult for his principal in this lecture, Olu Falae. I am not going to cast my mind back to his days as SGF of Military president, General Ibrahim Babangida’s Government. I won’t recall SAP or the multiple bans on old breed politicians creating the new breed for that government’s convenience and leading us into the subsequent degeneration of politics. Or the allowance for money politics made by IBB with Falae as SGF. For now I remember how Falae was imposed on us as a contrived candidate in APP for the 1999 presidential election when he wasn’t even in our party.
I recall the heartache we suffered when Senator Mahmud Waziri then APP chairman and some agents of the Nigerian establishment working for the PDP and its puppet-masters led by Falae’s ex-boss led us APP national delegates on a wild goose chase at the APP national convention in Kaduna. I was one of Kano’s delegates to the convention that did not hold where Ogbonnaya Onu, a former civilian governor in IBB’s transition was simply picked by the Mahmud Waziri clique even when he was not a prominent contestant for the party’s presidential ticket.
This paved the way for the unexplainable marriage between APP and AD bringing in someone who had not contested for anything at all, Umaru Shinkafi, a former security chief to serve as Vice Presidential candidate to Falae of AD. At that time APP had more than twice the number of states AD controlled. Now a beneficiary of that unprecedented fraud was asked to deliver a paper on election fraud. I’d say with this, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and his INEC boss Maurice Iwu do qualify as well as Falae. Of course he made all the right noises. But why should we listen to what he says? Should his words have any meaning when his actions were/are so far off the mark?
In the case of Aminu Bello Masari, a veteran of the establishment in Katsina who had served severally as a commissioner in the state he was said to have become a member of the Federal House of Representatives in very controversial circumstances in the first term. APP’s candidate had to be courted and lobbied to allow for smooth sailing for Masari in the national assembly. In his second term I understand it was the same story again. In fact he had to sweat and squirm through the purgatory of his colleagues when a story came up about his qualification for membership of the House in the first instance. He was only saved by the Obasanjo PDP machine that always gave cover to those with doubtful credentials for their blackmail value.
Whether or not he was in the House with a plumber’s certificate, or none at all for that matter, didn’t matter for the rest of his tenure as Speaker after Obasanjo had flexed his muscles in his favour. Masari only became a true democrat when he had fallen out of favour with his Master. It was then that the restive House he headed discovered and found its voice with the help of Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the hundreds of millions of Naira he was alleged to have mustered and strategically deployed in the hallowed lawmakers’ chambers to check his estranged boss, President Obasanjo’s third term bid Naira for Naira, dollar for dollar, pound sterling for pound sterling and indeed euro for euro.
Now, I am not against the laudable effort by the Northern Media Forum to seek out ways to stop election fraud. It would only benefit people like me who have been on the political terrain for almost three decades insisting on true democracy and averse to any form of electoral fraud within political parties and the more observed and reported types outside the parties because of their more public and general appeal and observance. 
The highest form of election fraud at all the levels, within parties in the first instance giving birth to the more devastating and pervasive type at general elections has been the norm in Nigeria since 1998 after General Abacha had transited to heaven. When the then three political parties, AD, APP and PDP set up after Abacha in 1998 held their no-convention conventions they gave us an indication of what we should expect at the general elections. They were more fraudulent than any ever held before then in history. I remember how the most transparent electoral fraud of the set took place in Jos, the Plateau state capital. It was widely covered by the media. The apparent excuse for turning a blind eye then was the haste to hand over to a democratically elected civilian government after the Almighty had mercifully truncated the efforts at Tazarce by the late strongman of the Nigerian military, General Sani Abacha.
Respected retired northern bureaucrat, Chief Sunday Awoniyi was chairman of the PDP’s Jos convention. In the spirit of haste to transit to what they believed would be better days Awoniyi and his co-travellers then in PDP allowed the fraud that the Party’s Convention and selection process was.
They all forgot the most basic lessons of morality, religion and history; that when the source of any matter was rotten the end result was bound to be worse. Bags of Ghana Must Go changed hands publicly getting Obasanjo his controversial win leaving the only other money bag contestant Alex Ekwueme, a prominent founding father of the PDP from its take off as G34 in the lurch. This was despite the fact that he was said to have had bank bullion vans at his beck and call to service PDP delegates at the convention. Neither Ekwueme nor Obasanjo, the other money bag candidate was banned. And Obasanjo, the lucky one anointed in Jos was only playing civilian politics for the very first time. That is if you’d agree with the thesis (which I for one don’t!) of some politicians that politics is a game. Older politicians who wanted the coveted position were edged out by the fraudulent handling of the PDP convention, the party they formed. Abubakar Rimi whose war chest was much leaner, whose only qualification was the years of experience as a practicing politician wasn’t enough in the new dispensation was totally routed and neutralized. That was fraud unprecedented. 
That is why I have a feeling with the current set of politicians in charge of our affairs who at one time or the other have benefited from or participated in enthroning fraud it would be very difficult to convince other Nigerians to stop fraud and go for proper electioneering. Those involved who are now pontificating will have to stop mere words of condemning fraud because they have been outdone today. No. They should first of all confess to their crimes no matter how far back in history. Then they can come to equity with clean hands. Then the Good Lord may touch the hearts of other Nigerians to join them and work with them and all those Mai Gaskiyas, including Buhari and Yar’adua to a better Nigeria. I put Yar’adua and Buhari on the same footing here because while Buhari is acknowledged as Mai Gaskiya, Yar’adua has surprised everyone by confessing that his election was fraud riddled.
That is a good start, especially when you consider his set up of a review of INEC and election rules under former chief judge Justice Muhammad Uwais. Whether the Uwais panel works or not what Yar’adua has done by confessing is a sound beginning to ensuring more truly representative and less contentious elections. The next thing is for all those who had been involved to also confess and seek Allah’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of Nigerians and agree to work towards proper elections in future.
Mere words condemning the fraud of others and ignoring their own roles will not help politicians. The people will not, do not believe or trust them collectively. The people just see them as some clowns whining over their failure to rig or have the process rigged in their favour. To make any real impact they would have to pool together with all contrite and truly honest politicians who detest fraud to fight it. And sooner or later they would emerge winners. And even when they lose elections it would only be a momentary loss. In the long run they will win. For God is always on the side of the truth. But truth requires strength and strength is only possible in numbers; in working together. Words alone of the type I heard and saw in film clips of the Arewa Media Forum event aren’t enough. No. At least not from the losers I saw on the clip. Sorry to say so: losers who are now democrats simply because they lost. Not because they don’t approve of the procedure. They would have applauded it had they had been declared winners.
Kabiru Muhammad Gwangwazo ( writes from Kano City. He can be reached on 0803-4511721.

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