Politics, Elections: A Testament of Our Corruption by Debo Adejugbe
Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost. – John Quincy Adams
– Washinghton Post. October 6, 2007:
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., Oct. 5, 2007 — Onetime track superstarMarion Jones pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of lying to federal investigators and admitted in a packed U.S. District courtroom that she took steroids before the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, all but ensuring that she will be stripped of the five medals she won there.
– Associated Press. August 20, 2012:
HEFEI, China (AP) — (Gu Kailai) The wife of a disgraced Chinese politician (Bo Xilai) received a suspended death sentence Monday for the murder of a British businessman, as authorities move to tidy up a huge political scandal ahead of a once-in-a-decade leadership transition this fall………. State media say Guy-53, confessed to intentional homicide at a one- day trial held in this eastern China city on August 9th.
– Huffington Post. October 25, 2012:
It is the end of an era for Lance Armstrong. Unfortunately, according to the International Cycling Union and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, that era was based on one giant lie.
Given the amount of evidence, including the reportedly 11 former teammates who have testified against him, it would only be sensible for Armstrong to admit his guilt. Instead, the 41-year-old continues to maintain his innocence, almost laughably, for fans of cycling and onetime admirers of his brand.
On January 28, 2009. llinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was charged with conspiracy to commit mail, wire fraud and solicitation of bribery. He was impeached and removed from office by 59-0 votes of the Illinois Senate. On August 17, 2010, he was convicted on just one of 24 federal charges. In a retrial in 2011, he was found guilty on 17 other counts and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Missouri State Senator Jeff Smith Resigned from the Senate effective August 25, 2009 after confessing to two counts of obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to 1 year and a day of prison and was fined $50,000.
Here is a list of American state and local politicians who were convicted of crimes. Try to check it out. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_American_state_and_local_politicians_convicted_of_crimes
What’s with all these jargons I copied out from different websites ? How does it affect your lives or your daily activities? Do you even have to care about the several cases, irrespective of my point for bringing them out?
Well, the answer depends on who is asking.
These newspaper cuttings-if I may call it that-shows us a trend. A trend of powerful personalities-Governors, Senators, Unmoveable Politicians, extremely popular sports personalities etc-owning up to their crimes or being caught with their hand in the cookie jar, tried in the process and getting the deserved-or sometimes not-justice and punishment.
I heard that!
You are saying: “its not possible in Nigeria”; “Who will bell the cat?”; “Can we get someone extremely focused on the tenets of democracy to push for such reforms?……
Well, it starts with you! Yes, YOU!
It’s as simple as this: “An Acceptable Electoral Process”. It’ll be a very long, hard bumpy road but it is achievable if we make plans ahead. Do we really scrutinize our candidates?
It was an interesting day on my timeline on twitter when Obama won his 2nd term as the 44th American President, but the significance of such momentous and historical moment, was lost on 99%-just an arbitrary figure to drive home my point-of those jumping up and down, congratulating Obama and spitting fire on those who dared questioning their motives and what they really gained.
But, there are simple answers to that, and I will try my best to talk through some of it here.
-Keenly Contested Primaries: We only have to look at the republican side of things here. Did our young adults, fighting each other on twitter-on who knows best-follow this election at inception or we just took it with the same pinch that Nigeria elections are taken. The Republican ticket was a keen contest, drawing several permutations and theories, on who will best fly its flag amongst Ron Paul, Michele Bachman, John Huntsman, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Fred Karger etc with several debates organized to sample the candidates’ thought process and suitability for the job. Do we understand the importance of this at all?
Ondo comes to mind! The leaders of a certain political party vetoed their gubernatorial candidate, rubbishing the very essence on which democratic institutions are built – CHOICE.
-The Presidential debates: It gets really interesting here. Between October 3rd and 22nd, Three Presidential and one vice presidential, debates were held for the major candidates in the US. The purpose of debates in contests such as this is to sample the candidates’ composure and temperament under the spotlight, examine local and foreign policy focus-in truth, a debate hardly does justice to policies, as the time for answers are very short-and thrust etc. While most voters are already decided on what to do, they get a chance to see these candidates go to head-to-head.
Ronald Reagan’s “There you go again” retorts at Jimmy Carter’s accusations and insinuations in 1980 comes to mind – Reagan was the winner there.
If you are a keen US election follower, you will remember the image of a visibly enraged Al Gore shaking his head while G.W. Bush was speaking during their debate in 2000. Days after, owing to several dedicated air plays and analysis of that incident, people started seeing Gore as an irritated and annoyed fellow. You all know the result of that controversial election.
I still remember a certain “shoeless man” who debated himself not long ago, that’s the Nigerian way though, where a sitting president dreads debates against his opponents, passing up on the opportunityto defend his presidency and give a proper first person account of his stewardship.
-The Electoral Process itself: Do you actually know who heads the USA’s electoral body? How many times did his/her name pop up during the elections like Guobadia, Iwu and Jega are wont to do immediately they are appointed in Nigeria?
It was a question asked by Dupe Killa and echoed by Ogunyemi Bukola, when he said that he had to google it to have an idea. It shouldn’t be about the umpires but the integrity and transparency of the process.
-Concessions by losing candidates: I know this is very hard to understand when we fashion in our very rotten electroral process where ballot snatching and stuffing, progressive rigging- the one done in advance, politicians cross-carpeting just to win tickets / elections, post-election violence, a suppressed electorate and other forms of our unique brand of electoral lawlessness.
For close watchers of the brand of democracy the United States practices, it is an embedded part of the process because the election is mostly free, fair and generally accepted as representing the wishes of the people. The loser calls the winner and then makes a concession statement-mostly short, emotional with slight punches on the winner not to disappoint the populace-and then move on. Never doubt the fact that he is bitter after going through a gruelling campaign period and a close election, yet losing. Nevertheless he concedes the election for the good of the country.
The winner on his part, graciously, with a hint of fulfilment accepts the enormous work that has been thrusted upon him and makes a promise to be a president for all. Like Obama rightly pointed out, politics is a test of egos, in America. In Nigeria, its much more, you will factor in ego, unfettered access to the treasury, political might, the allure of power and the competition of who makes the most ridiculous-cum-senseless statements.
-Real People are Involved in the process: I’ll start with a quote from Akin Akintayo. He says: “What we learnt from the US elections is that, it takes people to carry plans to execution, ideas are not enough”.
I absolutely agree. There are several plans/ideas churned out by politicians, but they’re just ideas if you don’t have competent and driven people to execute them for you.
People are very important-the right ones!
I’m not talking about election riggers, ritual killers, thugs or political intimidators who breathe fire whenever things don’t go their way. I mean the people who can transform ideas into reality, those who can reach out to the grassroots and relay the candidate’s message effectively and work tirelessly in support of their beliefs.
-It was free of Disenfranchisement and Violence: While there were few misbehaving voting machines, that allows you to vote for all candidates except one, allocating your votes to candidates other than your choice-which was resolved by switching to paper ballots-the election was devoid of any flashpoint like we normally experience, even during councillorship elections in Nigeria.
I’m not in any way comparing our electoral maturity to that of the US, but it is important to ask those who kill others to curry electoral gains: “what exactly is the point?”
There were no inflamatory speeches from candidates, threatening to “kill or maim” if things don’t go their way. There have been four Presidential elections in US history where the candidate that won the popular vote ended up losing out on the presidency.
I’ll allow you to sink that in, reason it the “Nigerian way” and give your comments on it.
-Issue-based campaign: I can’t but help myself with a little dig at a certain “shoeless” fellow who felt the conditions of his childhood and not his competence should be the determining factor in a presidential debate he had against himself.
You see, real issues were discussed and that was a major point in who eventually won the election. Obama provided real leadership by suspending his campaign train for 3 days during the “Hurricane Sandy” disaster, he didn’t just sit there waiting for someone to give him details to study before assessing the situation or shedding crocodile tears at the scene, forgetting about his promises thereafter – he was on ground.
The Economy, The congress, Gay marriage, Abortion and Contraception, Wealth of the candidates, Taxing of millionaires, Immigration, Foreign policy, Keystone pipeline, Online piracy, Endorsments etc were some of the issues that the election opened up.
Not how many shoes they had while growing up or the swagger of their torn or ironed elementary school uniforms. Not jamboree-like campaigns where they distribute top-up cards, kerosene, cash, umbrellas, brooms, raincoats etc. You get my point?
-Candidates were well-scrutinized: This point brings me to the various quotes I listed out at the beginning of this article. You see, to be an accomplished and trusted politician, your life goes under the microscope to actually determine if you are not the “Voice-of-Jacob or Hand-of-Esau” type.
If you are clean as a person, questions may arise concerning your parents and siblings, family business or voting trend (if you’ve served in the congress-state or national). The several cases I listed out were just examples of people that fell from grace and thus went down with their reputations, and probably the reputation of some of their family members and the staff under their employ. It has far reaching effects on their family and everyone they’ve had dealings with prior to their fall.
They are now DAMAGED GOODS!
Picture the above scenario in Nigeria! Their corruption and obvious deficiency in fair play is exactly what qualifies them for “service”.
A governor and a senator were elected while they cooled their heels holed up in a prison somewhere, released with fanfare and took oath of offices under heavy security.
Indictment as a public official guarantees that you will dine at the president’s table. You will be feared and respected-if both can go together-in high places and courted by the high and mighty in the society.
To summarize, we love those with a checkered past in power. We rally round them, dance to their tunes, rig for them, spend part of their loot, help them embezzle more funds, worship them and see them as demi-gods while we envy what the Americans enjoy. We, just like our leaders are the problems we face.
The brand of Politics we play and the way we approach our electroral process is “A TESTAMENT OF OUR CORRUPTION”. The type that throws up 10 mediocre aspirants for one position, guaranteeing that an average winner emerges when the “best rigger” has triumphed.
I can’t ever imagine Nigeria having a 538 Electoral College body; it will translate to (in our usual way) knowing the next president years ahead, because they will be available to the best bidder.
As 2015 beckons, the question remains: Have we learnt our lessons?
Do not hesitate to leave your opinion in the comment section below.
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