Monday, May 07, 2007

Election is not democracy.

"At this juncture one is tempted to ask, who is the Nigerian? My answer will not be for your comfort because I see the Nigerian as a materialist with yearnings for spiritual uplifment; a capitalist with socialist pretentions; a democrat with dictatorial traits of insufferable guile and intolerance, a welfarist with traits of sado-masochistic junketing who has raised philandering to an art form; he is a guru who dines with the devil, he is an intellectual with fear of flying beyond the horizon of mediocre intellectual aspirations; he is proud but has a sickening awareness of his inadequacies. He is, in short, a very normal person and a personality all of his own, which makes him stand out anywhere in the world as a Nigerian, regardless of his ethnic background".

by Phillip Effiong in Re-integration True or False.

A successful election is primarily a truimph of organisation and management not strictly speaking a moral process. The recent Nigerian elections were an honest reflection of the true organisational capacity of the country as a whole (not just government). Too much credit gets given to the the ruling party and the outgoing government for rigging the election while quite honestly they could not have organised it so well that the effort was that blantant. The questions critics never answer is that were they responsible for the many lives of Police officers lost? Did they organise the attempt to bomb their so called 'allies' in the INEC? A good friend once said to me when things fail in human affairs your character is reflected in your choice of the two options or explanation whether you choose, the Conspiracy or the Cock up. I see unfailingly that this was a traditional Nigerian cock up, fashioned by incompetence, grown by hyper competition and crowned by corruption. When you read the foriegn press especially the economist you read a lazy analysis and editorial that seems to equate successful elections with demoocracy. By that very token Iraq had a successful election which by all iintents and purpose was free and fair but so what? The only exception was the recent New York Times article that acknowledges that the institutional progress from the Supreme Court to the Military they all suggest that there are independent organizations that do not fold towards the creation or coronation of individuals. Successful countries are not just democracies but places where institutions represent the spirit of the people, protect their aspirations and embody their energies at its most productive. For many of us China has shown that success is not only western but it is actually about authenticity. In Nigeria as much as I dislike them the almost forever hysterical and incoherent Nigerian press which seems to have decided against the Obasanjo regime at any cost and gave so much free space to any innuendo or gossip, is an example of the health of the emerging country.

Nigerians made a choice even if they did not vote it. We all signed up for stability at any cost if not things would have been different. The many middle class people who did not register to vote, the many elites who jumped ship going abroad for premature summer holidays. Those who just could not be bothered to cast their vote at all. Many were tired of the hyper competition of the win at any cost political classes. Nothing in the election is different in fundamental nature from how election happens in many countries across the world even in Scotland where over 100,000 ballots were spoiled. The matrix for disorganisation was already in place from the hyper competitive politicos;the neopythe electorate; delayed list of candidates; the extreme lack of logistics, project and management capacity ; culture of owambe optmism or unrealistic last minute hopefulness; the fear of CIA break up prediction. It is in this cocktail of melodrama and incomptenece that many expected a open and free election? I often wonder where such expectations spring from. So is it as the Economist says it is or as the Chicage Tribune describes that Obasanjo is a disappointment and Nigeria an embarrasment?

In the 1960s India was all the hallmark of a failing state and would fall apart according to western press. The same people now cannot stop praising but then they used similar descriptions as they use for Nigeria. My view of Nigeria is as a work in progress. In some things we are worse than even our worst critics think, for one the failure to have a serious Vocational eduction regime and the fact that about 56 million young people have disappeared out of any education development after secondary and primary schools. On the other hand we wiped out nearly all of National debts, Per capita GDP growth of three folds passing the $1000 mark for the first time in over two decades, growth of GDP over 6% in the last two years, the fastest growing telecoms market in Africa, more than tripling of foriegn reserves and doubling of the record levels of Foriegn Direct Investment. In fact the remittances of Nigerian Diaspora far exceeded the levels of FDI and probably for the first time is rivalling the levels of Capital flight from the country. If that is not a vote of confidence then I wonder what is?

Something has changed forever and it might not show in the ballot but it shows in people getting motgages for the first time ever, safe enough to take money from cash points in the middle of the night, Nigerian businesses in aquisitions across West Africa , the middle class re emerging and the fastest growth of the non oil sector in nearly three decades.

So elections were not up to International standards so sue me. Lets get our country truly working through building capacity to truly organize and manage then eventually elections will be deliverered to the same international standards where rigging will be more sophisticated. Then we will debate hanging chards and computer glitches and not killing police officer and stealing ballot boxes. Then we would have achieved the international standards to the satisfaction of the Economist and its Nigerian acolytes.