by Sam Omatseye
Atahiru Jega is a typical Nigerian in the game of deceit. His face does not show it. His voice does not tell it. His manners do not demonstrate it. But his results devastate us. Like his boss Gooduck Jonathan, he carries a mien of deceptive gentility.
This image made many acclaim Jonathan for appointing a former don as our electoral umpire. He introduced himself with a cherubic face, a fragile pair of eyes and a voice immune to the vulgarities of the age.
He cut that cartoon figure last week as he tried to explain away his incompetence over the Anambra governorship elections.
In one breath, he told us he did a shoddy job. In another breath, he asked us to abide with it. The election, he confessed, was inconclusive. But there was nothing he could do about it. His hands were tied. We are supposed to accept the violation like a raped nubile. The experience was awful. Blood abounded. But the deed was already done. The rapist told us it was a pity we did not enjoy the performance. But we could go to the bathroom and wash up and hope the next experience would be worth the moans and screams.
He gave us the result as a fait accompli. Hear him: “we regret shattering the expectations of Nigerians but we did our best under very difficult circumstances to have a free, fair and credible election.” In one word, the results that made the Fidelity Bank candidate, Obiano of Governor Obi’s APGA, were not credible. He now says the aggrieved should go to court. Yet he wants to pour more sand in the garri of the other parties by setting the supplementary elections for another date. The foundation, by his own confession, was frail. How do you want to build on it?
Those who were supposed to register did not see their names on the list. Those who were supposed to vote did not have voting materials in the booths. In a case, a candidate could not vote, as well as his family. A family is the basic unit of a society. That shows basic failure. While adults could not vote, minors were allowed to vote. Underage girls smothered their heads with Brazilian and Venezuelan hair in tune with the fashion of the day. So, a girl that should be 16 is portrayed as 31 at the polls.
We understand the power of incumbency in an election. Governor Obi of the feminine voice wanted to show that having ruled the roost for eight years he should be able to anoint his successor and hand over to him. He claims to have deserved that honour from the Anambra people for his doings in eight years. Obi has not done such groundbreaking work for his people. His performance as governor can at best be described as modest. Such performances do not enthuse a crowd or stir the blood of loyalty. Rather they rake up lukewarm zeal.
Lukewarm zeal does not give a governor that automatic honour of anointing a successor. That was Ngige’s strength. The APC candidate is the most important personality to have emerged in this generation from that state. We cannot forget so easily the theatrics of gods and godfathers when he was governor. He allegedly swore to a god at Okija that he would bow to his godfathers. When he became governor, he bowed neither to the gods nor to his godfathers. Rather he kneeled to the people and the constitution. He swapped the oath to gods with those to his citizens, the secret oath fell to the public one.
The politicians inaugurated the theatre of kidnapping by first nabbing an elected governor. He would not yield to them. He would rather pay the money to the people in terms of infrastructure, education and healthcare than ply the pockets of peacocks. He was held hostage by Anambra and Abuja, but he never chafed. He would rather fail his godfathers and their gods, rather than the people. He left office on those terms.
A few years after he left office, I visited Anambra State when Obi was governor, and I travelled to some of the towns. The motif of my conversations with the ordinary people was a nostalgia for the days of Ngige. A driver taking me from Awka to a neighbouring town exhaled that his car was guaranteed some longevity because Ngige had opened up quite a few roads and tarred them. The bumps and potholes would not flog his car to premature death.
That billed the Anambra State election as an election between nostalgia and now, between Obi of the feminine voice and Ngige of the legend. It was a surprise that Nwoye, who never campaigned much, and whose candidacy threw a storm within the PDP, could have even come off second.
It all shows that the results followed a clandestine script. President Jonathan entered a pact with Obi of the feminine voice who has been one of Jonathan’s ardent supporters. Remember the NGF elections and all he did? They fear Ngige the most. To deny Ngige any prayer, he had to come third. It was the same script in Ondo State, when Jonathan entered a pact with the whitlow of the west against his own party. The dreaded candidate came third.
So the cry by Jega that the Anambra election was unfortunate and we should just abide it is part of a system that imposes mediocrity on all. Being afraid of Ngige’s return, they are engaged in a battle against memory. So we can say the Anambra election is an example of what Tatalo Alamu called the politics of memory. They are also cringing from the memory of politics and that is Ngige’s soldiery against the mainstays of decrepit system. Stephanie Meyer once wrote in her New Moon of a person “forbidden to remember; terrified to forget…”
Anambrarians who were terrified to forget voted for Ngige. Those who hated Ngige’s guts are forbidding the people to remember. Conscience has accused them. They cannot have a clear conscience now, because Mark Twain said “a clear conscience is a sign of a bad memory.” They remember the days of Ngige and it sends shivers.
Ironically, this column fought for Obi to remain and be governor in those heady days. He knows what it means to deny a person of his due. Why is he accepting an election that even the umpire decries as inconclusive? He has become a godfather himself, a status bred in Fidelity Bank and anointed with money.
Jega should resign if he has honour. He knew early enough that things did not work and he could have canceled the polls like he did in 2011. But he allowed the rotten egg to release its odour before he uttered his lachrymose regret.
Rather we have an election as a failure of mathematics. The number of invalid votes is more than the valid ones and only 27 per cent of valid votes counted with more than that percentage invalidated. Ngige’s place had to be the area that elections did not happen. And the winner was declared when the number of votes not counted surpassed the difference between the winner and the contestants.
It is also a failure of English language. How can you say something is inconclusive and the result is announced, and you want a supplementary election because you want to avoid the word rerun? It is also the failure of logic when the party in the state cries foul and the PDP in the centre says halleluiah. Who does not see the Jonathan-Obi pact here? It is a failure of law when the law produces injustice. When values fail us, the law cannot rescue us. In a sane society, our sense of right and wrong will force all parties to withdraw and ask for a rerun. Values save laws. But the gods of greed and godfathers of fraud will accept a cesspit of an election, no matter the cries for justice.
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Sam Omatseye/The Nation