The 2019 general elections had come and gone. Like other other competitions, the elections produced winners, losers and lessons. In fact the winners had taken oath of office and commenced work while those dissatisfied went to the Tribunals in search of Justice. However, the memories of the elections linger on. Public reactions had varied. There had been approval and disapproval. Press reports seem to give a better picture of the situation. According to Media reports, the elections were flawed in many respects. For instance there were vote buying, violence, deaths, high presence of military and security personnel at the polling stations and in the streets, subdued form of intimidation, problems of logistics etc. the picture that emerged from the Press is that INEC did not live up to public expectations. While it would be helpful to recall that before the elections INEC had promised to do ” free, fair and credible elections but it was clear from various reports and field observations that the electoral umpire failed to deliver on its promise. Generally, the conduct of the elections was seen to be poor. It did not wear the badge of excellence, integrity or win the confidence of the public . More specifically, the elections could not be reasonably said to be “free, fair and credible”.
However since the end of the elections there had been endorsers of the exercise and movers of votes of confidence in the Umpire. Perhaps, this is typical case of “one man’s meat is another person’s poison”. Or “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”. But it is dangerous to declare what is obviously bad as good.The negative moral implication of such endorsement for national unity and development and the health of democracy in Nigeria is severe. You do not eat your cake and still expect to have it. You may wish to paper a cracked walls but sooner than later, the truth will emerge to shame the dark actions. We must make amends today to correct yesterday’s mistakes for a better tomorrow. This is the purpose of these notes aimed at providing some guidelines for tomorrow’s performance
Essentially the notes are largely a reaction to the endorsement of the 2019 general elections and the passing of votes confidence on INEC chairman by some groups of politicians and civil society organizations. The purpose is not only to show that such endorsement i was wrong, harmful to democracy and unhealthy in the national interest but also to point the way forward. Overall the notes are meant to prick the conscience of the citizens especially the elite for better performance in future. They are to point to the danger of such unwarranted endorsement and to plead for courage among the elite in telling the truth, and to promote justice and fair play as basis of growing and strengthening our institutions and accelerating national development. Truth and justice are the foundation of any sane society.
As the bible has taught us, nations perish for lack of knowledge, and only the truth and related sense of honesty and fairness can set us all free. A nation of lies and liars is doomed. The endorsement can only lead to the ruination of society especially through the temptation of the youth to embrace evils such as rigging, violence, voting and other forms malpractice as standard way of conducting elections. This will be dangerous for the country at large. We do not strengthen a building by papering over its cracked walls. In my view every citizen citizen ought to be concerned genuinely with the the outcomes of elections in Nigeria given the huge emotions and high budgets involved and the repeated promises by INEC to deliver free, fair and credible elections to the nation.There is cause for worry not only because of failed promises but also because of the readiness by the elite to accept failure as success.
Our immediate aim is to draw attention to the baneful effect of Lies and unholy endorsement on the economy. Were the elections free, fair and credible? Our answer is no. This is because almost all the observers are agreed that the 2019 elections were characterized by violence, killings , arson, doubtful results, poor system of collation, inconclusiveness , ballot box snatching, vote buying, militarization, intimidation, failed card readers, low turn out, non prosecution of past offenders etc. But as we saw above some elite have found the elections worthy of endorsement. The question is what were they endorsing? Failure or Success?
While this post Mortem examination is meant to answer such questions, we shall explore some of the memories of those elections in the face of fresh narratives that tend to endorse failure as success. The notes are not concerned with winners or losers per se because every competition for a prize was bound to produce its winners and losers. And there are steps to be taken for redress in case one is not satisfied with outcome. Luckily in the democratic tradition those steps are being taken by those concerned to seek redress. Democracy is on trial in Nigeria in the courts of Justice and only the judges by our constitution have the official pronouncement here. All we can pray for is courage to say the truth and deliver Justice as appropriate. This exercise is therefore only concerned with the raw process that led to the results at our disposal today.
To be more specific, it is concerned with the conduct of the elections and integrity of the process. Was it morally sound? For obvious reasons especially as a former Director NYSC but now involved in empowerment of young people by running a Centre for Child care and youth development, this writing is done with young people in mind. The aim is to help them to know what to embrace or reject in the 2019 elections for future actions. In particular what lessons for the youth? For instance what should we sell to the youth who were urged before the elections to be patriotic, to shun evil and to resist the temptation of being recruited as thugs to rig elections and so defy the integrity of the exercise? For many reasons, the endorsement was unnecessary and inimical to nation building, moral development of the youth and the advancement of democracy in the country. It is an attempt to tell lies instead of truth thereby raising doubts about our sense of morality and our moral obligation to the youth to make them know the truth so that they can act truthfully always in the national interest.
In general, what are the lessons for the society at large? The conduct of the elections shows that the country still has a long way to go to get things right with our elections. An important area to concentrate attention on is elite’s moral and ethical conduct . The conduct of the elections sends some unpleasant signal across that morality was on fast decline in Nigeria. It was sad, frightening and disappointing to observe the deteriorating level of morality in Nigeria as exemplified by murder, ballot box snatching etc. The elite’s sharp deviation from the moral path and the moving of the moral compass steadily to the direction of the danger zone remain horrible prospects for the future. In short, the notes are concerned with the failure of the elites to lead by good examples during the elections in order to show the youth the right way to go. For instance they seem to have abandoned the collective responsibility of developing and empowering the youth through positive actions as contained say in our national anthem stanza two: “Oh God of creation, Direct our noble cause, Guide our leaders right, Help our youth the truth to know,In love and honesty to grow”. With lies and deceits on our lips, the future is bleak and democracy is greatly endangered. As hinted above yesterday is gone, but we have today to plan for a better tomorrow. This is the challenge of the moment – to plan and work hard for better elections in future.
An essential requirement here is learning to say the truth about developments in Nigeria. Nations do not grow by telling lies, by tolerating incompetence of its institutions or deodorizing the fault of leaders and failure of its institutions. As I have observed in an earlier outing, INEC as the umpire of those highly flawed elections should take responsibility for the failure or observed lapses or short- coming. She must vow to do much better in future in the interest democracy. Nation building is a serious task that requires all hands on deck driven by hardworking people soaked in patriotism, honesty, truth, justice and fairness to all citizens.
Elite’s actions such as the endorsement of the conduct of those elections threaten our moral base and raise question about the endorsers’ sense of evaluation and judgement. It. smacks of attempts to paint white what was obviously black or to give approval to wrong- doing. On the whole truth was being sacrificed.There was a sort of elites’ conspiracy against the truth, decency and integrity of the conduct of the elections . The general attitude was that of “half bread is better than none” or agreement to paper over cracked walls perhaps in a bid “to save our fragile democracy”. There was deceit in the air as well as a readiness by the elite to accept sub- standard as noble deed or mark of high achievement.
2019 ELECTIONS & THE DWINDLING SENSE OF PUBLIC MORALITY
There are embarrassing signs of dwindling sense of morality in Nigeria of which the endorsement is one. In fact this essay is motivated by a number of factors including a concern for public morality, integrity and the future of our great country. All these are in short supply today in Nigeria.The endorsement is an embarrassment of sort. Morality is about what is right or wrong and the sense to do what is right as opposed to what is wrong for the common good of society. It constitutes the foundation of solid nation building- be you a moral relativist or universalist. Thus some of the post elections’ actions by some of our elite depicting untruths or deliberate lies have been cause for real worry because they are morally wrong.
In deed, some of the things our elite have done during and after the elections such as abetting election malpractices, some provocative statements they have made, and the values they had projected including telling lies make one to wonder aloud if they appreciate the harm they do to our collective growth and development and to the psyche and vision of our youth . Do they appreciate the fact that they owe the country a moral obligation to do good, to show good leadership examples for emulation by citizens and in particular to help the youth to know the truth and to accept it as a way of life so that the society can be good and goodness can be sustained through their acceptance and practice of what is good and abhorrence of evil as a way of life. This is important because a nation built on lies and moral bankruptcy is doomed or simply heading to perdition. They raise more questions than answer. We shall return to the moral imperative later. For now let it be known that INEC failed on its promise to deliver a clean elections. The failure to keep promises and to achieve set goal is a bad omen for any organization, and sad loss to society at large.
ACHIEVEMENT OF SET GOALS AS BASIS OF MEASURING SUCCESS
As already mentioned, one of the ways to measure the success of an organization is the extent of achievement of set goal(s). The ability to achieve set goal(s) is of critical importance to the survival of any organization. An organization that fails to achieve its set goal is sick and thus should seek treatment and redemption. And we do not heal administering placebo, or by papering cracked walls or by praising the board of directors or trustee of failed organization to high heavens. Rather we seek to solve problems or remove identified obstacles. Problems unsolved simply fester on to cause greater damage to the organization and society at large. This is one of the dangers of undue endorsement as it could encourage mediocrity and so allow problems to remain unsolved. Doubtlessly, the elections produced winners and losers, but was the process free, fair and credible? This is a moral question we should be interested in answering truthfully. When moral issues are neglected society suffers in the end.
When we asked what were the endorsers endorsing we had in mind the unfulfilled promise by INEC to conduct a free, fair and credible elections. Thus one of the reasons for writing this piece is to draw attention to the unmet collective goal of having “free, fair and credible elections”. This is the the collective emotions which INEC promised to fulfill but disappointed with shoddy conduct. The Authority newspaper of January 2, 2019 captured the general mood of the pre elections times when it called for “free, fair and general elections” . However for reasons best known to the paper it alarmed that:”Except care is taken, the integrity of the 2019 is in jeopardy”. But as the paper stressed the “integrity of an electoral process must not only be seen to have been put in place” also “the political stakeholders must satisfy themselves that the processes before,during and after an election satisfied all parameters of integrity,fairness and equity( Authority editorial January 21/2019 page 8).
Perhaps, some evaluative questions to ask the endorsers today are:Was INEC able to drive home the collective emotional desire for clean elections? Were the elections truly free, fair and credible ?Was the integrity of the process of the elections high? In short were the results truly the products of free, fair and credible elections? Given the many mass media reports of violence and related acts of electoral malpractices about the elections, Methinks not. Where the goal set by an organization was not achieved, then it has failed to that extent and should recoil to identify cause of failure for redress. For the avoidance of doubt, let it be stated clearly that many organizations do fail to achieve set goals but the response to failure is not to celebrate it but to look for solutions.
If all these are true, then what’s basis of praising INEC today. What is the purpose of the endorsement under reference? There is great danger in doing so. For instance it could give false sense of achievement to the organization, wrong notion of goodness and thus bad lesson for the youth who generally learn the ropes of life more from the Adult’s University of life. The adults have a duty to enrich the contents of that school of life with good deeds. While this is necessary to prevent calamity in society, the fear is that in their innocence, some of the youth may start to accept poor performance as the best or mistaken the bad for the good. For instance, they could believe that thuggery, ballot snatching, arson deaths etc are indeed the hallmarks of good elections. There is the urgent need to discourage such dangerous and wrong impression. The situation calls for courage and patriotism to speak the truth, to present the picture as it is and not to be celebrating or endorsing weakness as strength.
*Prof. John Abhuere wrote from the Centre for child Care and Youth Development, Abuja.