The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law has observed that the major bane of Nigeria’s social, cultural, economic and political development in recent times is the return and entrenchment of sectional human rights, media and political activism on the country’s polity. These anti modernity forces dangerously affected Nigeria and Nigerians particularly during the Obasanjo’s civilian presidency from 1999. During the military era, activist, media and political forces and their agendas were focused and pluralistically homogeneous. That is to say that they spoke with one voice and pursued same goals irrespective of religion, sex, section or class.
But since the return of civil rule in 1999, what looks like irreparable damage has been done and still being done to the country’s rights, media and political communities in Nigeria. The shocking aspect of it all is that the decadence gets worse as days go by. Of all these, the rights based Civil Society Organizations are worse hit. During the military, Lagos was famously and internationally feared and respected as the citadel of freedom and democratic struggle in Nigeria. This was because of large concentration in the State of rights based groups like Civil Liberties Organization and Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, etc and leading pro democracy groups such as Campaign for Democracy and the United Action for Democracy, etc. There were also activist elders’ bodies like NADECO, Afenifere, etc.
During the referenced period, independent research and investigation, documentation, report, litigation and publicity were their major weapons of pen and voice warfare declared against the agents of social darkness. The CSOs under reference were very proactive and responsive and operated beyond ethno-religious chauvinism and cleavages. In the media, the print held sway with the likes of Tell, the News and the Newswatch magazines, etc as well Punch Newspaper, etc as the leading print media section of the war against anti democracy and human rights forces. Then, they were highly respected and celebrated locally and internationally for impeccability and independence of their researches and reports.
Conversely, it is alarming and shocking to observe that the reverse is extremely the case in recent times with the worst era being the present political dispensation particularly the ongoing 2015 electioneering. Both the Lagos based rights CSOs and print media have diminished and stained to the extent of relapsing to reactive, sensational and sectional rights and media activism. Thorough research and investigation as well as independence are no longer found in their respective lexicons.
If a respected rights group called “SERAP”, for instance, can reportedly issue a threat of lawsuit against the headship of the Federal Ministry of Finance over grossly unsubstantiated allegation by one Charles Soludo that “over N30 trillion went missing or stolen under the watch of the Minister of Finance”; then it simply shows how Nigerian rights CSOs have decayed. Such allegation made in an electioneering era and victimized by a political virus called “psychology of politics” requires further forensic and independent investigations before it can be adopted and incorporated into a policy statement of a respected CSO.
The outcome of our careful observations of the activities of the Lagos based rights CSOs particularly in the ongoing electioneering is rather shocking and alarming. Real issues affecting Nigerian masses are no longer independently taken up by the so called “Nigeria’s mainstream rights CSOs”, except where they suit or subjected to the whims and caprices of socio-political interest of “the Alahausa political engineers”. For instance, the extremely important issue of skewed and uneven distribution of PVCs as well as their untimely production and delivery did not worth taking up critically by the referenced rights CSOs.
This is because the opposition political party controlled by “the Alahausa political engineers” appeared to have had a hand in the way and manner the PVCs processes got lopsidedly engineered. That many Nigerian registered voters numbering over 26m are yet to be issued Permanent Voters Cards barely a week to the all important presidential poll does not concern the referenced rights CSOs as long as the candidate of their partners uses it to emerge.
In other words, it does not matter to them if over 26m registered voters are disenfranchised and excluded from the all important voting. This is not to talk of millions of other Nigerians of Southern extraction, geopolitically disenfranchised following politically oiled insecurity and other unsafe conditions in the Northeast and the Northwest, which forced them to flee or relocate. There are further reports of burning of and seizure of PVCs of non indigenes in Lagos and other parts of the North. In Anambra State, INEC adhoc staff dominated by corpers of the Southwest zone posted to ward collection centers openly demand N200,00 for each PVC (i.e. Odekpe and Otumoye Primary Schools in Ogbaru LGA) among other frustrating procedures all to muzzle the voting strength of the Southeast and other Southern minorities. Out of estimated voting capacity of 12m Southeast residents, only 7, 178, 185 were captured as registered voters; yet less than 4.5m have been given PVCs till date.
Instead, trivial national issues and politically fabricated others have become the major pre-occupation of the referenced rights CSOs of Lagos axis. The creation of the so called “election situation room dialogue” has dealt a fatal blow to the image and assertiveness of the referenced rights CSOs. In the Anambra governorship poll of 2013, for instance, what came out of the so called “election situation room dialogue” as in type of fabricated pieces of information released and posted online by some characters peopling the “room” were hugely disappointing and unbecoming of supposedly respected and independent minded CSO figures. One of such reports held thus: “this is to alert the public that trucks loaded with Ghana-Must-Go bags containing N1,000 notes from Peter Obi at Amawbia Governor’s Lodge are on their way to some polling booths in Idemili North LGA to be shared to voters not to vote for Ngige”. When local activists monitoring the poll in the area were alerted, it was all false. The referenced is just one out of many.
In the ongoing electioneering, similar parasitic characteristics and activities have dominated the mindset of the referenced rights CSOs. Until our leadership exclusively came on board, investigated and exposed the dark side of the Jega’s INEC particularly as it concerns PVCs manipulation, the headship of the Commission has been celebrated saintly by the referenced rights CSOs. Even when the dirty and manipulative conducts were empirically exposed, the referenced rights CSOs tried in vain to divert the attention of Nigerians and international watchers by introducing “poll postponement and INEC Chairman’s forced resignation attempts mantras”.
The other day, it was “interim government mantra”. From the tenures of INEC Chairman and the President to shifting poll date or otherwise, they do not hold water because there are clear constitutional provisions. On the fabricated issue of “Interim government”, for instance, assuming the APC wins presidency on February 14, President Goodluck Jonathan will remain in office till May 29, 2015. The tenure of INEC Chairman elapses around June 2015 and in the “shifting of poll date”, INEC can or cannot adjust the date if it so wishes because the Constitution and the Electoral Act of 2010 provide for the conduct of the polls even thirty days to the next handover and this means polls conducted now or in April are both constitutionally grounded.
All in all, the unfolding events are not surprising to us at Intersociety. Rather, they have added momentum to our strong view that the Jega’s INEC is determined and bent on returning the Presidency to the core North at all costs using lopsided PVCs distribution, whereby the North edges out the South with over 8m PVCs. It is also schemed and skewed in such ways that the more PVCs are distributed country-wide, the higher the number for the referenced North. The speechlessness of the leading opposition political party and its partners in Lagos section of the Nigerian rights CSOs is not surprising. This is because Nigeria is now a theatre of politics of slave masters versus slaves. It is also now when the Alahausa political engineers speak, their partners in its own axis of rights CSOs concur. Once a minority says Nigeria will burn, there will be thunderous calls in print media for his or her arrest and prosecution; but when a slave master says same, it becomes a national issue warranting conferment of a merit award on him or her.
Further, our latest finding appears to suggest that INEC has mischievously been advised by its “technical partners” in the referenced rights CSOs to continuously hype the PVCs distribution figures to create an impression to Nigerians and international watchers that it has successfully overcome the PVCs distribution challenges. This may have explained the reason behind latest public disclosure (05/02/2015) by one Kayode Idowu of INEC that “INEC has so far distributed as at Monday, 02/02/2015 a total of 45, 098, 876 PVCs across the country”. Unlike the Commission’s last update of 42, 779, 339 given on 27th January, 2015, no State-by-State breakdown was provided. Though the Commission is making Nigerians to believe that it distributed 2, 319, 337 additional PVCs between 27th January and 2nd January 2015; a period of five days, but until a State-by-State breakdown is provided, the seemingly acceptable figure remains “42, 779, 948”. Even at the referenced latest un-clarified figure, up to 24m registered voters are still potentially disenfranchised with utter alacrity.
Finally, the return of sectional human rights, media and political activism in Nigeria quickly reminds of infamy of the long past such as wild-wild west, Kano Igbo massacres of 50s and 60s as well as pogroms and other butcheries in the North of 80s, 90s and 2000s. In nowadays rights CSO activism in Nigeria, unless you are a “Comrade of Lagos progressivism”, otherwise, you are a tribally leprous comrade.
In politics, once you can steal in public office within the confines of Alahausa school of political engineering or join the school in the context of defection, you are canonized and sainted with your thievery sins forgiven. In Lagos print media industry, you are leprous and pariah clothed unless you sing, chaplet and uphold Alahausa political hegemony. In all these, our beloved country and her long suffering people pay the price. Like we earlier stated, with the exception of the European Union poll observers and to an extent, one Women Arise for Change Initiative, no other domestic observers particularly those from Lagos axis, no matter what names called, should be taken serious as per this month poll monitoring and reports. They are seen in many quarters as five fingers of the hand of the Alahausa school of political engineering. The referenced rights CSOs urgently need to be rescued from sinking further into the abyss of irretrievable entrapment.
We wish to assert very strongly that Nigeria’s politicians who are bandying about change or transformation as their campaign slogans must be clearly told that both change and transformation are tautological. If change or transformation is to be represented in the context of animal riding, then, with abysmal performances of the federally incumbent and the opposition political parties in their political campaigns so far, rested in the layers of campaigns of primordialism and clannishness, Nigeria is set to be taken one hundred years backward from today.
This is because using speedy horse riding as Nigeria’s optimum aim; neither the federal incumbent using transformation mantra nor the federal opposition using change mantra, has the requisite competence and capability to take Nigeria and Nigerians to the cradle of horse riding. Nigeria and Nigerians having being taken to camel riding by the federal incumbent in the past four years, risks being taken back to same camel riding by the transformers or descended to the level of goat riding courtesy of latter day changers or change agents.
In other words, until and unless Nigeria and Nigerians jettison the current primordial and Yorean culture of socio-political practices and approaches, we can never get to the confines of much needed and desired speedy horse riding. To achieve horse riding speed, Nigeria must be a country practically founded on social, cultural, ethnic, religious, economic and political pluralism; where an Ijaw, Ibibio, Igbo, Yoruba, Fulani, Hausa, Christian and Muslim live and cohabit and enjoy available resources accordingly. We say no to sectional human rights, media and political activism that see some as slave masters and others as slaves.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, B.Sc. (Hons.) Criminology & Security Studies
Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., (LLB, BL), Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program