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WEEKEND with Ibraheem Sulaiman

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The ongoing political standoff in Corte d'Ivoire should compel us in Nigeria and indeed in the whole of Africa to begin a critical and intelligent examination and appraisal of democracy in all its forms, contents, contexts and ramifications. As human beings we should think deeply and dispassionately about what we are doing in the political sphere, how we are doing it and the consequences of what we are doing for the present and the future. At the moment, the world watches with utter disbelief, embarrassment and trepidation at the extreme folly and disingenuous and naked lust for power which Africa displays so often. In this folly it doesn't seem to matter the size and color of the country; the desire to subvert the will of the people, corrupt the political process or ridicule the principle of good governance appear to be growing, not diminishing. There is hardly any evidence to suggest that many of the African leaders truly believe that people have any legitimate role to play in determining who governs them, and how and when. To many of them the nation is a personal fiefdom, a personal property. The idea that the leader should seek the mandate of the people, or share power with others, or govern according to agreed rules, regulation and procedure seems absurd and inconceivable; and to require the leader to transfer power voluntarily to another under whatever guise or arrangement or principle is quite simply an abomination. Even the most vehement and passionate advocates of democracy feel no obligation whatsoever to surrender power as and when due. They are there forever and in perpetuity.
The tragedy in Corte d'Ivoire is now a common knowledge and its ramifications for that unhappy nation and for Africa are indeed far-reaching. 'The fiasco carries the risk of fresh conflict and cementing the country's de facto partition', London's Financial Times observes in an editorial on December 12. 'This is not only destabilizing for neighboring states, recovering from civil wars, but also a dangerous precedent that could, without care, be replicated in other parts of Africa.' What happens is that after a free and fair election the winner is denied victory and the loser claims victory. All this takes place in broad daylight, the whole world watching. Never has impunity been carried to such  extreme or a nation treated with such an extreme contempt. And given the fact that the country has yet to recover fully from a civil war caused by the inordinate ambition of a minority to lord it over the entire nation indefinitely regardless of cost and consequence, the extent and ramifications of the tragedy can be properly imagined. The loser at the polls who now seeks to usurp power by despicable and foul means has ruled the country for ten years, five illegal and unconstitutional, yet he felt he must rule by hook or by crook, even if the heaven falls and breaks asunder, even if the nation goes up in flames.
Look at the cost of one man's inordinate and primitive ambition to rule his nation perpetually. First there was the reign of terror inflicted on the nation by the death squads  created by Government resulting in the killing of hundred of innocent people from a particular part of the country. Secondly, the terror and persecution and ethnic cleansing unleashed by one section of the nation upon another triggered the uprising which led to civil war and the partition of Corte d'Ivoire into two, North and South. Thirdly, the once thriving and flourishing economy fell rapidly into ruin due to pressure of instability and bloodshed and war. Fourthly, the nation's political fortunes declined to the point of paralysis as the destiny of the nation is in fact reduced to the narrow and illegal ambition of just one man. And finally the current tragedy is likely to plunge the nation further into chaos and more suffering and misery for the people and instability and uncertainty for the nation. The once proud and prosperous nation is hurled into the abyss by a president who thinks and believes he is bigger and worthier that the nation and her over twenty million inhabitants. To add insult to injury the nation's army threw away all its constitutional and moral obligations to the people and the country to the dogs and gives its support to the usurper. Luckily the entire world has risen in support of truth and justice and legitimacy. The world community, the African community, the West African community as well as the global, continental and regional institutions have thrown their weight behind the winner and have expressed disdain and contempt for the loser of the elections and loser of his nation. May we salute the people of Corte d'Ivoire for their courage and steadfastness in the face a long decade of terror and humiliation.
Now the next big event will be in Nigeria, the coming elections. Can Corte d'Ivoire repeat itself in this mighty nation? The answer is definitely yes. The method may be different but the outcome will be the same and the repercussions will be far more profound. Nigeria has never rejected the opportunity to undermine, thwart or otherwise negate the mandate of the people, nor feared the consequences. Democracy may be loved here but never defended. And Nigeria, like Corte d'Ivoire has North and South and the language of the politicians is slowly echoing the language of the Ivorians. And more ominously, the notion that one man whose inordinate ambition is boundless is greater and worthier than Nigeria and her one hundred and fifty million inhabitants is being peddled repeatedly and persistently and with all the force that can be mustered. So the nation can go to blazes as long as the dream of one person intent on sitting on the throne at all cost is realized. Not very far is Nigeria from the Ivorian nation and her tragedy.
How will Nigeria behave if after free and free polls the loser becomes the winner, and the winner the loser? Where will the loyalty of the national army and the police lie, to the people and the nation or the lose? Will the nation retain its unity and cohesion or will it succumb to the forces of anarchy and disintegration? Will the North and South ever come together again or will it be the ultimate break? Or looked at from another angle, will the emirs and chiefs, upon instruction from the 'winner' call upon the people to accept and obey the 'will of God' who had made it possible for the elections to be rigged and the winner to be robbed of victory and the nation to be politically raped? Will the army warn all disgruntled elements to desist from causing trouble or else...? Or will the good people of Nigeria rise to the occasion for once and defend their right, their choice, their mandate, and deny victory to the loser and grant victory to the winner, in which case they are assured of the respect and admiration of the entire world and humanity? We don't know what might happen. But what we know is that the only way for Nigeria is to avoid the tragedy altogether and abide by the constitution and the rules of decency and integrity. We are confident that Nigeria will as usual choose wisdom over folly, honor over shame, safety over peril, success over tragedy. After all it  is quite clear to all that the world is scandalized by Africa's impunity and political thuggery.


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Last Updated ( Friday, 10 December 2010 23:24 )  



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