Monday 27 May 2013

Nigeria: The NGF saga is the biggest fight for democracy today

The leadership deficit
Friday evening presented us with a clear indication of the leadership deficit that has plagued Nigeria for decades and still continues to haunt the country without abatement or respite, the trajectory to progress is not in the remotest sights, it is depressing.
As the day closed, we all waited on social media for the results of the election of the new chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) which as a political block within the Council of State, though not constitutionally relevant is significant in the power brokerage that defines the distribution of power and privilege in our federal republic.
Who they are
In some ways, it determines whether the executive at the centre will have untrammelled lien or negotiated settlements as regards federal and state distributions of the largesse of oil money amongst many other issues that could pertain to the ratification of federally promulgated laws at the state legislature – much of the dynamic is unscripted but it is by no means to be pooh-poohed.
It claims to draw its legality from Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which loosely guarantees the freedom of association and assembly. [Chapter 4 of the Constitution]
A battle royal so despicable
The apparently outgoing chairman of the forum is the governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi who recently had somewhat fallen out with the President over matters unnecessary for comment here apart from the fact that proxies of the Federal Government had engaged in frustrating and embarrassing the man. [Grounding of aircraft – Vanguard Nigeria]
The Nigerian House of Assembly had only the previous day excoriated certain federal agencies for overreach, lack of due process, bias and dissimulation, much of which should have embarrassed all the parties involved, but embarrassment is an unknown emotion in Nigeria - where in other countries there will be contrition, apology and restitution, maybe resignations, one cannot expect the slightest regret of officialdom if they can help it.
A vision unseen
Now, it would appear that the NGF works from this basic premise as articulated in their vision statement – to be, “An effective, proactive, inclusive, non-partisan forum which actively fosters, promotes and sustains democratic values, good governance and sustainable development in Nigeria.” [NGF – Our Vision and Mission]
They acknowledge this goal is idealistic but they believe that they have both the capacity and determination to realise and project this vision and thereby achieve it.
The reading of yesterday’s events shows that these gentlemen and that is a too effusive a compliment for them but for the want of a collective term, failed to attain in the slightest, the effectiveness, the proactiveness, the inclusiveness or non-partisan aims so succinctly expressed in the NGF vision.
Rotten politics at play
As it transpired, an election took place and Governor Rotimi Amaechi took 19 votes to Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State’s 16 votes and was duly elected the Chairman of the NGF.
However, it is the intrigue and machinations behind the scenes before the election that needs some scrutiny exacting excoriation in the starkest terms because it was tyrannous, underhand and atrocious at best.
The ruling party (PDP) has a majority of governors in Nigeria and so it is very likely that any vote will produce a PDP chairman and as a sop to the other parties, the deputy chairman might well land in their docket.
Really rotten politics at play
What really happened was that the PDP governors, 23 of them met and of the lot 19 resolved to post the governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, as the Chairman of the NGF with Governor Segun Mimiko of Ondo State from one of the minority parties as the vice Chairman.
This is after having persuaded other interested governors to withdraw their candidacy whilst Jonah Jang filed his nomination papers well after the deadline necessary to indicate interest in the chairmanship, something people have not yet touched upon.
The mover of this scheme was Governor Godswill or better still Devilswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State whose democratic antecedents is one of rigging, manipulation and dishonesty having confessed in March 2013 that he manipulated the PDP senatorial primaries in favour of his preferred candidate in 2007. [Akpabio Rigging - Punch][Video – Sahara Reporters]
Democracy is opportunity for all
One can easily say the non-partisan aims of the NGF were seriously violated with this factionalisation within the group along party lines but there is a more atrocious issue in play.
The PDP governors numbering 23 constitute a majority within the NGF but the other 5 parties sharing just 13 states are not insignificant. The governors had gathered in Abuja to vote for chairmanship of the NGF and the basic democratic principle will suggest that all of them will be given the opportunity to exercise a voting privilege together in the same place and at the same time.
For the PDP faction of the NGF to have engineered a resolution that garnered 19 votes to install Jonah Jang without the whole group constituting the NGF being present was wholly reprehensible apart from constituting themselves into a tyranny of the majority overriding the wishes of the minority even if eventually the result might go the way of the majority – that patently was not democracy at play, it reeked of subterfuge and dishonest politicking to ulterior ends.
Winning the argument
It is the victory of reason over corrupt enterprise that an election eventually took place because it gave everyone of the governors a say in who to lead the NGF, though one governor was absent; and if the resolution was really worth the paper it was written on, after being tested by secret ballot of all the governors, it should have stood – it fell.
Whereas 19 governors resolved to support Jonah Jang, by the time the votes of the secret ballot were counted, 3 of those governors had dissolved to renew Rotimi Amaechi’s tenure with 19 votes against 16 votes for Jonah Jang.
Secret ballots reveal truth
That in my view was democracy expressed as best as it should, a secret ballot with a count to determine who wins and it must for all intents and purposes if there is any justice and fairness in this world carry the greatest validation and authority over an open resolution that denied the full house of governors the opportunity together to decide who to lead their forum.
Sadly, the Presidency with its interference and weak leadership having been humbled and trounced by the basic tenets of simple democracy in action has not found the strong voice to support a clear democratic verdict that the spokespersons have vacillated and prevaricated on a matter of clear and honest principle, epithets none of the lot appear to possess to any discernable extent and I mean, honesty, character or principle.
This must not stand
The government with all its Machiavellian apparatus of state and calumny will do everything to undermine a democratic verdict for political and pecuniary advantage without scruples – this leaves Nigeria the much poorer where opportunity to show that progressive change is possible it is aborted for selfish interest and megalomania.
A parallel NGF organisation with allegiance to the President is now operating without a democratic mandate having conducted a selection rather than an election, claiming the election by secret ballot after the resolution was rigged, when it was not. The gormless men could not present their ploy to the full house of NGF governors and win the argument by persuasion where everyone had the opportunity to vote without coercion and menace – the NGF vision has well and truly been blinded and abrogated completely on the capriciousness of objectionable men.
We must stand with truth
I would hope that Nigerians will see what is happening in this machination of the utmost evil in high places and refuse to be conscripted into this rotten enterprise just for the aggrandisement of the powerful – Rotimi Amaechi won that election fair and square, the democratic principle should stand regardless of whether we like him or not – it is a matter of the basic tenet of democracy, the man is simply necessary to represent its purpose, somebody needs to be elected when people have voted and the votes have been counted.
The other issue of men who signed a resolution in the open not being able to stand with what they signed when presented with a secret ballot is simply expressive of the absence of good virtue in the men that lead Nigeria; it has been our eternal plague, I am sad to say.
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