As INEC prepares for elections in Kogi and Balyesa it might be useful to revisit the 2019 General Elections for some useful lessons.
For a time to come due reference would be made to the 2019 for both its merits and demerits. On the merit side it produced winners and losers but resting on the court for final verdict. No matter how one looks at it, on the demerit side, the 2019 elections based on media reports were severely marred by acts of violence and intimidation leading to inconclusive elections in some parts of the country. While these sad development eroded public confidence in the elections, the endorsement of elections by some citizens smacks of approval of wrong doing or evil in society.
The latter is unfortunate because the public was aware that the conduct of those elections was heavily flawed and it fell far below public expectation and even the standards attained by INEC in 2015 . Based on history and empirical evidence, it is going to be thuggery and blood- letting in both Kogi and Balyesa come Election Day. The purpose of this essay is to advocate for moral probity as basis of winning public confidence and support for elections in Nigeria.
Time heals every wound. With the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Atiku’s Appeal, it could be said that now is time of forgiveness, reconciliation for national healing in the national interest even if all was not happy or agreement with the verdict. It does not however preclude saying the truth. With the march of time, we can forgive past sins but we must remember the truth about them. Some ugly events can be be forgiven in the national interest but history continues. This demands abiding by the truth, respect for moral principles especially high probIty in office and learning good lessons from history. As one prominent politician once observed, outside legal judgment are moral judgment and God’s judgement. Our arguments is that INEC must work hard to earn the moral judgment, confidence and support of the populace.
LEARNING FROM OUR MISTAKES
It is not easy to forget the history of the sinner and his wrong doings. INEC must admit its past mistakes and learn useful lessons from them for better performance in the forthcoming elections. In other words mIstakes have their use. They can serve as useful learning materials. Here the 2019 general elections come handy.The truth is that the conduct of those elections was unsatisfactory and did not project integrity and excellence enough to win public confidence. While it is nice to forgive, it will be foolish to forget such ugly episode in our life and its useful lessons therefrom for a better election. This is the importance of institutional memory of which errors and mistakes are important parts.We must revisit the conduct of 2019 elections for other reasons not the least being the need for self correction by learning from our mistakes. INEC must avoid those lapses which cast much aspersions on the conduct of the 2019 General Elections.
We do not need aaa sooth sayer to tell us that there will be use of guns and other dangerous weapons, attempts to snatch ballot boxes etc in both Kogi and Balyesa. Elementary history of elections makes this clear. Balyesa and Kogi states are hot elections spots in Nigeria especially for the influence of thugs on elections. Both are notorious reckless users of the gun and other dangerous weapons to make a point . In they are dare- devil or evil genius.They trade in violence and love the use of the gun to settle electoral matters instead of the use of the ballot. But between the two Kogi appears to be nastier today. It therefore deserves more attention here as a misnomer.
As a writer I do not know Governor Bello. Being one the relatively young governors in the country, I hereby wish him good luck in his bid for second term . I make this good luck wish in my capacity as one working for the development and empowerment of the Nigerian youth. To be or not to be ought to prerogative of the electorate but in country where votes do not count due to the high manipulation of the electoral process and process has remained unclean and unholy, anything can happen including the emergency of the most unpopular and most unwanted. In this sense Bello though a beneficiary of the death of Audu is only a pawn in the chessboard of some powerful political elite in Nigeria.
POST AUDU KOGI AS THE DARKEST SPOT IN NIGERIAN DEMOCRACY
But while Bello seems to me as the luckiest politician in power today after the sudden death of Audu on the eve of imminent electoral victory, Kogi state which he governs represents the darkest spot in Nigerian democracy since 1999 when the military handed political power to civilians.In particular she represents the bad and the ugly in Nigerian politics. It is one state which had defiled all moral standards and rational considerations but got the nods of the courts. In short some events there following the death of Audu before his victory could be officially announced had been most unorthodox and illogical especially to non- lawyers.
As records have shown, it is place to watch with keen interest because anything strange and frightening could spring out of its bowel.For instance, history records it as a state where a man who did not contest an election became its winner and thus a Governor, a man who did not have running mate was sworn as governor and recently a state where one who was absolved by a judicial commission of Inquiry was impeached. It is land of many frightening apparitions and horrible wonders – a measure of the moral bankruptcy of our political development as a nation.
The whole Kogi experience since the demise o Prince Audu smacks of a rape of democracy or desecration of what is noble in a democratic culture. But wait a minute: while these ugly and embarrassing development in Kogi seem like aberration, a travesty of the norm, or to be morally wrong to the ordinary citizens. they were declared to be legally right by the courts. So morality can go to blazes. And society could get rotten the more. This is however dangerous. It is the road to perdition. We should reject such immoral and dangerous route. The immediate worry is that the elite warfare for power promises to be extremely rough and bloody. The deliberate efforts to make rational what has been irrational, immoral and ungodly would make the contest in Kogi rougher than elsewhere. The temptation to resort to the use of dangerous weapons to realize pet ambition is thus higher here. But generally based on historical experience, there will be thuggery, use of guns and other dangerous weapons in the forthcoming elections in Kogi and Balyesa. This is their own special characteristic as regards elections.
From all indications INEC has this evil premonition and the Police had declared a readiness to meet the security challenges. But these are not the correct answer.While it would be recalled that one of problems of the 2019 general elections was over bearing presence of security men and women bordering on intimidation of the voters, the simple antidote will be heavy moral armament – high ethical probity and honest conduct by INEC officials in the field.Thus INEC must come to the stage of the next elections with strong moral credentials-high moral probity and stoic determination to deliver a free, fair and credible elections both in words and actions. The world is watching. All eyes will be on INEC. Many are studying its records and evaluating its performance. Those watching and evaluating INEC include the Nigerian youth. This brings to mind the conduct of the heavily flawed 2019General Elections which cannot be commended to the youth for emulation as a nice model to follow in future. EVEN THE DEVIL HAS ITS FOLLOWERS-THE NEED FOR JUSTICE AND MORAL PROBITY
It is true that the 2019 elections had its supporters and endorsers but that does not make it a clean exercise worthy of emulation. Even the devil has its followers and admirers but that does not make it a righteous entirely- the way to heaven.Thus it was not surprising that in spite of the poor performance of INEC, there were endorsers of the 2019elections. According to newspapers’ report 75 political parties, civil society met and endorsed the conduct of the 2019 elections and passed vote of confidence on the INEC chairman (The Nation 7-5-2019). However as I have advised in an earlier outing, INEC should not be deceived because as equally widely reported in the Media those elections were marred. More specifically they were marked by unwarranted deaths-killing of innocent people who were out to discharge their civic responsibility, the snatching of ballot boxes, arson, hooliganism, militarization, inconclusive elections, under-age voting, vote buying etc. For me these are bad advertisement for INEC which a thousand endorsements cannot wash away. They are also frightening signs of the inability of the state to enforce extant laws and so ensure the integrity of the results of elections. Our fear of violence, intimidation, maiming and even death therefore had roots in the history and culture of elections in Nigeria which the 2019 elections ably exemplified.
While the endorsement simply boggles the mind, INEC must ensure that these leprous acts do not repeat themselves in the future. Contrary to the endorsers’ view, INEC needs to know the truth that the 2019 elections did not pass the moral test. They were poorly conducted and fell far short of being ” free, fair and credible” in many respects . Compared with the 2015 elections it brought the public esteem of the organization down by many points. INEC has to take the responsibility for the shoddy and disappointing performance. It must wear the moral coat and do the right and needful thing in the national interest. Generally , Truth, Justice and Fair-play, Honesty, Patriotism etc are the core foundational values which drive successful nations to peak performance. Also, they are the pillars of strength for any society. Now they are being steadily debased in Nigeria – perhaps unwittingly. Of course, they belong to the moral aspect of man.
NEED FOR CLEAN PROCESS
It could well be argued that the elections produced winners and losers . This true but as I stated earlier this is not my concern. My concern is with the sanity of the process of delivery and integrity of the result. The process is as important as the results- if not more. A violated process often leads to disputes and crisis.Thus the essential questions are : what manner of results? How were they produced? In short, there is no doubt that that the elections produced winners and losers but the exercise failed woefully to produce credibility, and to win public confidence and support. This was the main problem of those elections- the moral void, the moral bankruptcy, the loss of faith and confidence in them by the public.
It is needless to say that public faith and confidence in the elections is of critical importance in any society. We must work therefore to win public confidence and support and to avoid crisis or minimize its occurrence by ensuring a clean electoral process in Nigeria. Nothing hurts more than a feeling of injustice. A high sense of cheating from a deep feeling of injustice instigates crisis and protest after the announcement of elections ‘s results. A legal approach may not be enough. There has to be moral support or approval. For instance what is legally right may be morally wrong. And whereas legal rights require law enforcers to make them stand, moral right is self-enforcing though based on the shared values, the inner feeling of the people.
Thus some legal rights say court judgement, can conflict with moral values to produce and provoke moral crisis and social and political instability of serious proportions in any society that could lead to legal reforms. Just as any man can be fooled, so also any competition not driven by moral conscience, Justice and fairness can produce results which may conflict with public moral values. A badly conducted competition with weak moral base could result in protest, rejection of result etc. Unfortunately, the 2019 elections were weighed down by huge moral deficit. In most times we told lies and acted falsely. As it were truth travelled outside the country. Disputed results were some of the outcomes.
ONLY THE TRUTH CAN SET US FREE
In a nutshell, the moral question is ever and always so important. Truth is of essence here. A nation of lies and liars is doomed. As the Bible has observed only the truth will set you free…we perish for lack of correct or true knowledge. Any endorsement of 2019 elections amounts to falsehood being dressed in the garb of truth. It is a bad thing being called good. There appears to be acute shortage of courage especially after the elections to speak the truth in the face of National difficulty. This is even enough reason to worry because a society heads to debacle when its citizens lack the moral courage to speak truth to evil or to denounce it outrightly. Everyone especially the youth need to know the truth lest they begin to accept lies as a way of life.Thus it is not just enough to declare results, we must be concerned with how the results were produced.
ELECTIONS AS A FORM OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING FOR SOCIETY
There is the relative school of thought that sees morality as as a subjective issue- lacking of universal application. Thus what is morally good for instance for Society A may be morally bad or reprehensible to society. But I am not a moral relativist because I believe that there are universal moral principles such as the respect for the sanctity of human life that are universally recognized. It is against background that I regard it as unfortunate that many of the nation’s elite should prefer to ignore this all important fact in nation building. A well conducted election is a good form or source of education and training for society at large.
There is great irony here. The country earnestly needs to deepen its democracy and accelerate her pace of economic development. While this demands hard work and commitment, those in charge of execution do the opposite. They do everything or take every step to frustrate the realization of set goal or desire. They ignore the moral obligation to do the best. However such hurtful ignorance has proved extremely harmful to us all and has been a serious threat to democracy in Nigeria. We must therefore embark on the moral rearmament of the country as way forward.
Ordinarily Elections should not be a difficult task to conduct. In fact with deliberate commitment to the idea of goodness, it should be among the simplest things to do in a sane and moral society. Unfortunately elections in Nigeria had been complicated, polluted and made tedious by the political elite for selfish reasons. They make Nigeria to look and behave like an insane and morally bankrupt society. Instead of trading in ideas and offering policy options, the political elite buy guns and recruit thugs to use them to disrupt elections in their favor. It is ungodly and unacceptable approach to Democracy. It is evil.Otherwise how will a man with honest intention and high moral sense leave home for a pooling station with thugs and loaded guns to disrupt things?It is pure insanity. But they do so because of the weakness of the consequences management system. They do because they are so sure that they could get away with even treason unpunished.
IS NIGERIA CURSED?
The phenomenon of violence and malpractice raises a number of questions: How would the outcome of rigged elections be regarded by the public? For instance, can the result of elections got through intimidation, duress at gun point be taken as democratic, authentic, be respected or just seen simply as a rape or travesty of of democracy? Why are the Nigerian elite so unfair and unable to do things right? Why they embarrassingly incompetent? Is Nigeria a cursed country? Who placed the curse of incompetence, inability on her? Why are Nigerians so incapable of solving even simple problems? I ask such questions because of the long history of failure, poor performance in nearly all spheres of life except corruption.
With regard to the conduct and management of elections, I think part of the problem is with the undue hype and exaggerated importance attached to elections and their umpire in the country. For instance, why do we spend so much money to conduct elections in Nigeria, waste much time and energy on them? And only to have a caricature of our desire or what some had described as “fake democracy”. Something mighty has been wrong with our attitude and perception of elections in Nigeria that needs urgent correction.
While I blame the political elite, the heart of every patriot should bleed with pains when we continue to do even the simplest things such as conducting an election, voting according to our conscience wrongly. And when the culprits are left unpunished. In this sense of contradiction bordering on moral decay and inability to enforce relevant law, Nigeria must be seen to be living in a strange world where we cannot do things right, where we believe or think that evil will produce good. Perhaps it is the only country where the political elite do bad and expect good as reward. Though they hold elections as at when due, they know that votes do not count, and they do everything to frustrate the elections process and to make the exercise a mockery and a sham. They love to thwart or jettison morality which constitutes the strong pillars of development in any society.
NO REGARD FOR TOMORROW
Those who do violence and rig elections have no regard for tomorrow, pay no due attention to the kind of legacy or culture being passed to the succeeding generations especially the youth. This is the irony of our time. It is a biting contradiction that has almost crippled the country. For sure Nigerians want their country to get better, to be great, but their political elite do bad things that upset the apple carte. The progress and greatness of a society are not attained that way- through immorality, irresponsibility and selfishness. As nature has shown, we do not plant yams and expect to harvest mangoes. When we tell lies and display negative attitude to public works and rig elections, we should not expect a great and prosperous country. Those who conducted the 2019 elections had little or no regard for tomorrow. As could be gleaned from newspapers report it was characterized by many acts of immortality.
This was why this writer expressed disappointment in the 75 political parties and others that endorsed the elections and passed votes of confidence in the INEC chairman. It is difficult to fathom out what they were endorsing. The endorsement serves no useful purpose . It offers no good lessons. It was not a spur the youth.What useful lessons would the endorsers of poor work, lies and other unholy acts offer the youth? None . Truly I see the ruination of the country’s future by ignoring the moral failing of INEC and the erosion of public confidence in future elections. The group has the right to endorse anything but we have the right to draw attention to the negative and severe moral implications of their endorsement for the development of the country especially the negative effect on the youth. It is unhelpful even to INEC itself. The endorsement is unhelpful to the progress of the country in general and the cause of national unity and development in particular. This must not be allowed. It is not the way institutions are strengthened. The young ones are watching.
THE ENDORSEMENT NOT GOOD FOR YOUNG PEOPLE’S DEVELOPMENT
Every step taken today should be aimed at producing a decent, moral society anchored on the rule of law for all including the youth to groove and to learn correct lessons of life. Exemplary conduct by the elite in position of authority is of essence here. It is therefore shameful to link them to unclean and unpatriotic acts such as the rigging of elections and other forms of corruption. It is disappointing to observe that through the willful default by our elite, Nigeria has remained a safe and comfortable place for crooks including riggers of elections to live .It is land of unending chaos and many contradictions- a place we lay good plan but do the opposite. It is place where we do bad and get away with it because the enforcers of law and order are unable or unwilling to do their job. It is a country where we celebrate the ugly, the bad and the evil and shun the good and the upright as a way of life.
Nigeria is good and interesting to some people for bad reasons one of which is the large space for lawlessness. It is a country which leisurely allows criminals to move freely about with blood stained hands, get away with murder and proceed later to receive honors and patronage from both the traditional and modern authorities .It is a place where we like painting white what is obviously black. In short, Nigeria is nearly morally dead and extremely weak in the enforcement of laws and that is why election malpractices have continued .Nothing -no matter how extremely bad shocks the Nigerian any more. And no crime no matter how grievous troubles him because he is cocksure of freedom.And that is why no much progress has been made over time. Unfortunately these are no sound lessons for the youths who are watching. So let us be careful of what we do with our elections and how we do them in order to save the youth from copying the wrong thing.
Rightly, INEC had promised to deliver a free, fair and credible elections. The failure here can easily be excused because not all plans come to fruition. But it should not be celebrated as the action of the endorsers seems to suggest.The endorsements were therefore bad lessons for the youth because the conduct of the 2019 elections failed the moral test of “free, fair and credible” exercise which INEC promised. The elite should always be seen as promoting such core values as justice, truth, fairness, hard work, tolerance, and others contained in our constitution. This is the proper thing to do to set good standards for emulation. This is important because children including the youth learn the lessons of life in many ways especially by aping the way of the adult members of society.As we have noted earlier, the elections were poorly conducted and it helps no one to misinform the youth about them or any other developments for that matter. The endorsement amounts to misleading the youth and thus a big sin against public morality.
Perhaps I am more worried because I wrote some epistles to the youth before and during the 2019 elections on the need to show patriotism in the discharge of their civic responsibility, to vote according to the dictates of their conscience and to resist the temptation of being misused by the political elite. In particular they were urged to shun all evil moves and resist all temptations to sell their votes or act as thugs or in any capacity that might help to jeopardize the integrity of the electoral process. In a word, they were asked to be morally upright. But we wrongly assumed that the political elite would ply by the rules of the game.
Against our advice, It is only fair that the youth should expect the exhibition of the highest level of moral probity by the elite in the conduct of those elections. By the same token they expect a factual postmortem of the 2019 elections to let them have a correct picture of developments. The elite goofed. Rather than patriotism, they were partisan, selfish and at times destructive. With the appalling conduct, it becomes clear that those admonition, those morality preachings could have been better directed to the adults than the youth. As we prepare for the elections in Balyesa and KOGI, the political elite are hereby reminded of their moral responsibility or obligations to the voters. Things should be done properly to allow the votes to count.
The youth need to know the truth and the best way to do Things right. In honesty , we cannot tell the youth to copy the 2019 elections which some of us had endorsed as good example to follow when they want to conduct similar elections in future without feeling guilty or having bruised conscience. The conduct of the 2019 is unworthy of emulation by succeeding generations. While the challenge of the moment demands honesty of purpose and high moral standards, INEC must avoid all the pitfalls of those elections. We need a better from the organization. As already observed, we cannot truly recommend the conduct of the 2019 elections as model for emulation by the youth because of its high moral deficit. It thus behoves of the adults to be morally upright and to show good examples in any position of authority and high responsibility for the youth to emulate.
TOEING THE MORAL PATH – ONLY THE TRUTH WILL SAVE NIGERIA
Whatever we do today we must always bear in mind our tomorrow and its leaders – the youth. The right path to our tomorrow is the moral path. In the final analysis all crisis in society must be traced to moral decadence and value conflicts especially between the political elite. Morality is about what is right and good while value is about those things you cherish and over which you could fight to defend-those inner factor(s) that make you prefer one thing to the other. A man devoid of moral sense and conscience would easily resort to cheating of all sorts including rigging of elections. When one’s moral values are severely threatened, the tendency is to react to protect them. This explains why injustice has been a great source of crisis in organizations,in society. It also explains most of the acts of violence during elections. The moment any group feels a sense of injustice during elections or the prospect of it , such group would resort to negative form of participation to safeguard their cherished values.
As already indicated, tough times await INEC in Balyesa and Kogi which could be worsened by acts of immorality. In this connection the electoral moral path is the right to toe, the true and correct way of doing things in accordance with the relevant laws of the country. It is the most assured way to avert trouble, gain the cooperation of all parties, win public support and boost confidence in the exercise. When INEC wears the moral garb and toes the moral way that is paved with truth, justice for all parties, it would neutralize the tendency by contestants to resort to violence, win support of of the public, confidence of participants and lay solid foundation for youth development. In short only the moral path with respect for the truths Justice and fair-play can save the day.
There are many ways to develop and empower the citizens including the youth for effective participation in the development process. One of the foundational ways is through moral and ethical education for character molding and socialization of the citizens to a brace accepted mores and values of the land. These can be done using the formal method as in school education and informal way such as emulating the actions of parents, leaders, pop singers etc. Here children and youths are taught and encouraged to tread the moral path. While the moral path leads to better society, the dominant value in society is often that of the elite to which the youth are often socialized. And that is why the leaders should lead by good examples for the youth to emulate in their growth process. Towards this end, the youth should be made to toe the moral path driven by truth, justice,fair play etc as opposed to the profane path constructed and ordained by the political elite of today in Nigeria.
In the final analysts, society is a university of sort for all citizens. Here,the influence of the elite especially those in political leadership position has been very strong in molding the character and attitude of the youth to nation building. This makes the good conduct of the elite very important to youth development and empowerment. As one grew older, one discovers that man probably learns the ropes of life more from the informal setting than from the formal setting within the walls of educational institutions. Here the attitude of parents, leadership examples, shared beliefs and values, books read, these days TV, radio broadcast and and the internet media are among the influencers. It is within this context or sense that society at large becomes a university of sort where the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful can be learned especially by children and youth who as as observed by Einstadalt are only mere extension of the adult society.
But society is full of many contradictions and the adults especially the political elite are imbued with cunning ways that often shock the youth and turn them away from the moral path in emulation of the bad examples of their various ”teachers”? For instance based on agreed values of society, children are taught not to tell lies, to say the truth always, to honest, loyal and faithful to fatherland, not to steal, not to do any evil, not to break laws and customs of the land etc because according to cultural belief, they are sins against God and the spirits of the ancestors of our land. The teaching of religion ingrained these positive moral values deeply in us and our parents used the cane and other forms of disapproval to instill them even deeper and to check any violation. And the youth accept such preachings as the gospel truth until they discover to their chagrin that the adults who are their teachers and preachers of these sane values break them with impunity. It shocks the youth into new reality of immoral world led by the elite.
The youth are characterized by idealism and they look up to the adults for correct direction. Until proven otherwise, they often believe that the elders cannot be wrong and cannot do wrong. Thus they are often shocked and disappointed to see deviation from standards. Some of them even faint and subsequently resort to violent protest when confronted with the reality that the adults do tell lies and their world is full of deceits and cunningness. This is the beginning of their faith breaking which leads to their steadfast and conscious learning of the new lessons of life in devilry as unfold by the elite.
Though the elite know that the perpetuation of evil can destroy the foundation of society and to create or deepen discord between tribes or between ethnic groups yet they continue with the evil acts because of the benefits therefrom. And this makes it attractive to otherwise innocent citizens.For instance, the of telling lies has been known to tear friendship, create distrust, hatred, disunity and destroy communities and even nations. That is why any one cut spying for another country against his/ her own country is treated like an enemy, a scoundrel. But those behind the lies have been known to benefit from it. Society moulds the youth according to its own image.
Bad examples of leaders will thus produce bad youth behavior with destructive tendency. Society reaps what it has sowed. In other words, society has overwhelming influence on the development of the young people. Nigeria realizes this as could be seen in the second stanza of our national anthem where she asks “God…to direct our noble cause, guide our leaders right, help the youths the truth to know, in love ,honestly to grow…to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign”. And in the National Pledge she expects the youth to be “faithful, loyal and honest” in their service to the country.
Truthfulness and honesty are important values and strong pillars in nation building.That is why leaders of thought such as Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah who says he ‘hates the lie Nigeria is’ advised citizens to say “the truth and die” and show honesty because “it is what will save us” as a country. To him without truth and “justice for all, the country will end”( WhatApp as forwarded, May 2019). According to Obasanjo values such as justice, fair -play truth, honesty, equality etc are the foundation of any society. Without them no strong foundation can be laid and a “nation with faulty foundations wobbles with the tiniest turbulence”. To him, the issue of national identity, values , ethics and national dream must be settled once and for all” . As the the Bible had decreed: “only the truth shall set you free” .Our view is that the Nigerian Elite have not been truthful and honest in their dealings in public life. With lies always on their lips, the youth have nothing good but evil to learn from them. Our advice is that they should teach the Youth the truth to know so that they can act truthfully in the national interest always.
TRANSITION FROM THE STAGE OF INNOCENCE TO WORLD OF VOODOO
The transition of the youth from innocence of the uninitiated to the awareness and heartlessness of the occultist variety of the voodoo world is not swift or automatic. The youth still has to learn from the adults’ society how its ugliness can be dressed as beautiful without qualms. As Aristotle has observed, the youth remain pure until they are confronted and affected by the cunningness of the elite made so by the harshness of society. For example, when adults commit evil, the child is shocked, some may even protest as acts against the norm. However when such evil acts are not punished or denounced by the appropriate authorities, the youth would begin to accept and do them as approved standard way of life. Electoral violence is a reflection of warped values over time and the failure of the law enforcement agencies to do the needful. When the state demonstrates a readiness and willingness to enforce its law and punish law breakers appropriately then criminal acts including election malpractices will be drastically reduced.Thus consequence management is as important at the larger level of society as it is within the family where parents for instance use the whip to enforce compliance with the standard norms. So when the state fails to punish violators of laws, it is sending the wrong message across especially to the youth that breaking the rules of the game or crime pays.
It is important to recall here that students’ militancy reached its apogee in Nigeria during military rule and armed robbery sprang across the country after the civil war during which time human lives were cheapened and wasted. Force and guns were the language of those times and the youth learned them but put them to more dangerous use. In fact many of the active politicians of today grew up to find that elections were rigged and so learned the art and science of rigging as a way of life. The use of thugs and violence to achieve their unholy mission was an important part of the dirty culture.It was so in the first republic and has been so since 1999 when democracy returned to our shore. And it will be so in Kogi and Balyesa and even beyond until the state becomes serious with detecting and punishing offenders and INEC wears a new moral garb.
As hinted elsewhere, history shows that there are elections’ malpractice across the world including the U.S. But the difference between other countries and Nigeria is the attitude of the state to law breakers. In one law breakers are pursued, arrested and punished. In the other, criminals are tolerated- at times even celebrated and allowed to go free. However the danger here is that any criminal act left unpunished repeats itself. In other words, in other countries, the state and the public denounce law breakers and the authorities identify and punish offenders and tighten measures against offenders such as riggers of elections. In Nigeria the reverse is the case: the state an the public condone, endorse malpractices. More specifically the state does not identify and punish offenders. As it fails even to apply stringent measures to discourage electoral frauds, electoral malpractices have continued unabated.
Consequently, there has been the unmistakable belief among the Nigerian youth today that violence, rigging, thuggery are part of the standard way of conducting elections This is so because that has been the culture and practice since 1999 when the country returned to democratic governance. Democracy suffers in the process . Nigeria is the loser. And that is what happens when society denies the youth the truth to know and instead parade lies as the way forward. As Bishop Kukah has observed a country built on lies and injustice will go down the drain. Let this not be our portion as a people. I have no doubt that when the state demonstrates a willingness to enforce its laws and punish offenders and public institutions such as INEC wear the ethical coat and toe the moral path , Nigeria will become a better place for democracy.
*Prof Abhuere is the Director Centre For Child Care and Youth Development, Abuja