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 Published May 6th, 2010

There is no gainsaying that the foundation of every healthy democratic society is built on the principles of sound and reliable electoral culture. This is so because, it is only through free and fair elections that credible persons could be picked and entrusted with key leadership positions in society. In the last thirty years of Nigeriaís history, several bold attempts have been made by the political class, social-cultural, religious, and civil society organisations to find enduring solutions to the nationís weak and spongy electoral protocols. The faulty nature of the electoral system has helped to create room for the few moneybags to massage the conscience of electoral officials in order to rig elections in favour of themselves or their stooges. This is the reason why politicians respect electoral umpires far more than even the electorates. Without any fear of contradiction, this is the root causes of failing political leadership in the country.

Nigerians should not wait for Barrack Obama or Hillary Clinton to confirm to us that poor leadership culture has been the bane of Nigeria- the supposed Giant of Africa, now struggling to make impact even among Lilliputian nations. It is a common fact that poor political leadership breeds corruption, underdevelopment, poverty, crime, tribalism, nepotism, and ineptitude among others. Many have therefore not seen it as a surprise that over 90% of the nationís population are living below poverty line. To the utter dismay of many, a greater percentage of workers in both the private and public sectors earn salaries that are not enough to feed a family of three for just one week. Quite evidently, the rise in cases of ill health among Nigerians can be traced to poor dieting regime. Majority of Nigerian now eat between one and two low diet meals daily. This already bad situation is made worse by the non availability of access to clean drinking water most
especially in the rural areas. The international community is shocked that the worldís sixth largest producer of crude oil is relying on the importation of fuel to service her local market. It is an irony that Nigeria is still grappling with power generation with all the option of gas, hydro, wind, coal, and solar at our disposal. With an enormous population size, Nigeria is capable of generating enough power from waste products.

It is also very disturbing that job creation figures have fallen far below population growth levels. The authorities must understand that the consequences of high unemployment rate are capable of compromising the security of this nation. Governments at the local, state, and federal levels must therefore roll out practicable plans to stimulate economic and industrial growth. This will in turn create employment opportunities and improve the human worth of more of the nationís citizens. With all of the above in mind, one can easily appreciate the reasons for the enthusiasm shown by Nigerians concerning the attempt by the present administration to reform the nationís frail electoral framework.

While the Governorsí Forum are free to hold their opinions on issues bothering on the country, it is very clear that their hard-line position on the Chairmanship of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was very unfortunate. It bears clear traces of self help. The Governorsí Forum failed to convince Nigerians of what the nation stood to lose if Maurice Iwu is not retained for a second term. If one puts common sense to test, it would point to the fact that the nationís electoral system cannot be truly reformed with Iwu as INEC boss. This is so because, civil society groups, religious organisations, socio-cultural bodies, and several political actors are convinced that evidences volunteered at election tribunals has stained the hands of Maurice Iwu with blood. Many stakeholders believe that he played significant roles in aiding electoral frauds. Retaining him would therefore pose a whole lot of credibility problems for INEC. Integrity
is an important ingredient that cannot be divorced from the personality of electoral umpires.

The huge support that greeted the exit of Maurice Iwu last week was indeed unprecedented. By that singular action, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has made a bold statement that political leadership in Nigeria can surely rise above parochial interests. The only way Jonathan or any other political leader can be encouraged to always stand on the side of truth is for the political class, civil society, religious, and socio-cultural organisations to give them all the backing they deserve. But more importantly, the acting president should not ignore, but rather engage the Governorsí Forum in dialogues to remind them of the important need to put the nation first. In as much as state governors wield a lot of influence, I foresee a dull picture where their shallow and narrow minded opinions on key national issues would pitch the masses against them in the very near future.

Immediately after President Musa YaríAdua was flown out to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment, the Governorsí Forum quickly turned themselves into a mountain that Goodluck Jonathan must climb before taking important decisions. Even without the benefit of a prophet, one can see the handwriting clearly on the wall. The governors are trying to position themselves well ahead of the 2011 elections at the expense of the nation. Their shock and grief following the much expected exit of Maurice Iwu have no doubt distorted a well rehearsed cavalcade.

While there is nothing wrong in governors demanding to be consulted on key national issues, their attempts at sacrificing national interests for parochial ambitions should be resisted by both the presidency and the masses. This is one sure way we can safeguard our democracy. The time has therefore come for all to remind state governors of the important need for them to leave the acting president alone and face squarely the enormous responsibilities waiting for them in their various states. Under normal circumstances, they should not need Iwu to win elections. Let them allow their four year report cards to deliver them at the polls. The governors are certainly afraid that with the expected electoral reform exercise, the opportunity for rigging elections will be greatly reduced. A sound electoral culture will customarily make the electorates kings as is obtained in every democratically healthy society. Nigerian masses should start celebrating. The years of
poor political leadership will soon come to an end.

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