Learning from history, the 1979 Constitution and Sections 73 and 146 of the 1977 Electoral Decree made it possible for FEDECO to disqualify certain Nigerians from contesting; resulting in a dossier of the disgraced and discredited. Today, it might be easier to simply use the National Honours List as a guide to dishonourable Nigerians who should not hold public office.
The quality and principles of the people in government in Nigeria is not important. It is not a matter of life and death for us to have politicians who want to change the status quo. No. We need those for whom winning elections is a do or die affair and who want to continue serving the political and economic interests of a select few to the detriment of the majority.
In describing the last election conducted before Nigeria plunged into a civil war, Ahmadu Kurfi in his book Sixty Years Long March Towards Democracy, said, “Almost all the major parties that contested the 1964 elections had their fair share of ex-convicts amongst the candidates sponsored by them”. The implications run deep. The mindset of criminals is to manipulate the system to their advantage: to be ruthless, violent and selfish in pursing objectives. As a result, the credibility of the 1964 elections was severely compromised with shenanigans worthy of a blockbuster movie. Candidates from opposing parties were kidnapped or worse killed, electoral officers responsible for receiving and processing nomination forms were abducted and held until after the nomination process closed and ballot rigging was compulsory. Besides, because leaders of the political parties loom large in the minds of the mostly ‘illiterate and unsophisticated electorate’, Nigerians trust the parties to field the right candidates.
Learning from history, the 1979 Constitution and Sections 73 and 146 of the 1977 Electoral Decree made it possible for the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) to disqualify certain Nigerians from contesting; resulting in a dossier of the disgraced and discredited.
In the dossier, FEDECO kept records of people who they considered unfit to run for office i.e., who had been dismissed or removed from office on grounds of dishonesty or abuse of office or found guilty of corruption by any court, tribunal or commission of inquiry. And in some cases, as in the case of Odimegu Ojukwu who, still in exile, wanted to contest to represent Nnewi in the House of Representatives on the ticket of the Great Nigeria People’s Party, there was no need for evidence of conviction – because he was then a fugitive from Nigeria and had not yet received his pardon.
Today, it might be easier to simply use the National Honours List as a guide to dishonorable Nigerians who should not hold public office. As we prepare for the next general elections some might encourage INEC to start a dossier and because the current Electoral Act does not provide for this, they might call upon the National Assembly to amend the Act to provide and safe guard these powers for INEC. If this happens, then concerned Nigerians might just have to respond with the creation their own dossiers of the discredited and dishonourable to counter INEC’s list. The three-day celebration of James Ibori’s birthday in Oghara last week, topped with advise from a reverend that Nigerians emulate Ibori and the Presidential pardon of Diepreye Alamieyeseigha gives us a fair inkling of those who will definitely not make it to the list of the discredited and dishonourable if it were left to us.
This is because we seem of have our special guide for determining who is worthy to control the levers of government, making decisions that will scar generations to come. For those in doubt, here is a guide to Nigerians who will never make it to a dossier of the discredited.
The first group are the likes of Farouk Lawan and Femi Otedola, firmly captured on celluloid for prosperity but who, over a year later have not been convicted for the bribery allegations around the House’s fuel subsidy probe. And considering our commitment to justice, it is unlikely that they ever will. Besides, even if they are, they can always get a pardon.
The second category of persons who are unlikely to make the list are the former ministers, governors and senators running for the office of Senator, Governor or President. It matters not that as Governors they have left their states eyebrow deep in debt and nothing as mundane as their states having embarrassingly low cut off points for entrance into Unity Schools can scuttle their ambition. All that matters is how much money they have and how securely they have left the affairs of their state in the hands of a minion. For Ministers, the yardstick would be the number of contracts awarded which never got executed or how loyal they were in making returns to the Presidency. While for legislators, it would be anything from how inconspicuous they were during their tenure or what they did to ensure Nigerian legislators maintained their record as the highest paid in the world.
Politicians who can’t set foot in their state capitals for fear of being stoned and or chased out by angry Nigerians who feel cheated, also don’t belong on the list. They can safely go on to be President because Aso Rock is neutral territory and those from their village hamlet will soon be lining up to honour them.
Finally other things which have no weight on the discredited and dishonourable scales include hate speech; ethnic chauvinism, religious bigotry and intolerance; misogyny; domestic violence; flagrant disregard for basic requirements of self proclaimed tenets within Christianity and Islam or anything else which indicates less than sterling leadership qualities.
There are only a handful of things Nigerians are united about, but they are united in this: there is equal opportunity in being bad and antecedents mean nothing when it comes choosing who to delegate our authority to. It’s the only explanation for why regardless of how bad things are in Nigeria, the major actors in our politics and governance barely change in character or deeds.