Friday, April 8, 2011

April 9th Showdown...Reginald Bassey speaks.

With just barely 24 hours to the elections and a myriad of political drama, what's your view on the current situation of things?
Reginald Bassey
      I think we are witnessing for the first time a virile political climate in the country where there is a symbolic engagement of a large portion of the voting population. The events that led up to the elections on June 12, 1993 seem like a shadow in the light of the present political climate. This is simply because Nigerians are at the intersection of progress and retrogression; we either move forward or backward. So this situation has kept most people, especially the youths very active in the political leadership discourse and a fresh willingness to determine who leads the country and the character of that leadership.
However, it is still very obvious we are yet lacking in strong political institutions like a well organized electoral body that ensures the delivery of the citizen’s hopes. This has been revealed by the latest postponement of the National Assembly elections and thus the entire process, revealing the lack of electoral structures in the country. However, I am generally satisfied with the potency of the discussions so far. By now, from listening to the several candidates, Nigerians should have decided who they are pitching their tents with. And I hope what happens in the end is that we will elect a candidate that most Nigerians choose and work towards a national renaissance. 

Professor Jega, renowned professor of Political Science, though issuing threats of resignation still holds the coordinates to steer the Ship of Nigerian Elections to a fair and credible would you react to this?

Prof. Attahiru Jega - INEC Chairman
-       I am not sure I can effectively rate his performance until we see the outcome and reports of the entire process. We will see then if the investments were worth it and if the process was effectively and efficiently managed. I think no one will question his integrity and competence given his antecedents as an academic scholar and consultant.  He is very qualified to head INEC, and to some extent was clear in his assessment of the need of the organization in ensuring smooth elections given the time constraints before it. However, the events of April 2nd have began to cast doubts on the minds of many Nigerians if he is a good manager of the process, seeing the logistical problems INEC faced. We have to wait to determine if indeed he will deliver as he has promised.

Many publicity posters and media awareness have reinstated the fact of voting for the 'person' and not the party. But in a case whereby the right person is in the wrong party, what does that leave us with?
-       A square peg cannot fit a round hole. You will have to hard-knock it in and taking it off will be hard labour. How can you clearly articulate your desire for a whole country without recourse to the platform that you are standing on? It’s like standing on a swamp and claiming you want to build a skyscraper. The cost will weigh too much. While we must be objective enough to assess the personality, but must be wise enough to consider the party as well. President Jonathan may have noble intentions, but can he effective manage the cantankerous PDP to ensure that his goals are met? From the inception of the era of our democracy, we have seen what the PDP dominated National Assembly has produced. From one fight to another, starting with furniture allowance to salaries, and end to increase in allocations. Besides that, the intense party politics, which they have tried to tag on the whole country, has shown every Nigerian that the part is driven by the interest of greedy men and not the nation. Be that as it may, we still have the option of changing the entire political landscape and ensuring that not only one party holds sway over the country. We can get a CPC president and an AC/PDP/ANPP house, or a reverse case. This will make us more reflective of the differing interests in the country.

GEJ, Buhari, Ribadu, Shekarau and the likes...who in your view can really deliver the much-craved dividends of democracy? and why sir?
-       Since the question says “in my view”, I will go ahead an opinionate on the issue. In all honesty, I like all the characters in the frontline of the race to the presidency. They all have something unique about them and I have personally met one of the candidates and spoken one-on-one to him on two occasions. A basic concern for me in choosing a candidate is who can deal decisively with the issue of executive and bureaucratic corruption. Which of the candidates will have the capacity and willingness to take on establishments of corruption without fear or favour? Who is it that can revisit thieves who have raided the public treasury and bring them to book as a deterrent to potential thieves? Who is it that can set in motion certain mechanisms that will ensure public funds are treated with respect and used for its intended purpose? That person for me is Muhammadu Buhari. The reason is that from precedence, and given his antecedence, he has no fear and of a strong will. He may not be a good orator or communicator, but he says what he will do and delivers on his promise. So while I recognize that we do not need strong men but strong institutions, it will be foolhardy to believe that weak men will build strong institutions. So of the pack, I will go with the former General.

Some states have made it a compulsion for the NYSC members to take part in the voting exercise, what advice would you give to them being fully aware of the weak security measures in place?
-       It is a wonderful thing that our young people are actively engaged in the process through the NYSC scheme. It would have even be more amiable to see that they handled the entire voter registration and voting process. During an election year, if I were in charge, I would use only Corpers to carry out the entire process and ensure that before that year, of all the students that are going to be serving, proper training and orientation would have carried out to prepare them for the tasks. This way, we ensure that more competent hands are doing the job and they can be easily monitored through the already existing NYSC framework. I do not think security should be much of a big concern to these one since they have spent a few weeks in paramilitary training. They only have to be sensitive to the environment and report quickly any infractions they may observe. In the face of weak security measures, they should fill in the gap and ensure the process is safe for other citizens.

As a proud and patriotic Nigerian in Diaspora, how do you portray and sustain the Nigerian brand on the international scene?
-       I am not sure Nigeria has a brand yet. We will get there someday. As a Nigerian abroad, I recognize that we mostly we mostly fall into the category of talkers and social media and cyber activists, who have no tangible effort to show in contributing to Nigeria’s development. So one way I try to represent my country well and be an example of a great and progressive nation is to work on small initiatives that can bring little changes to sectors in need of change. I work tirelessly at engaging other Nigerians in the Diaspora to create shared spaces where ideas and innovations are brought to bear in contributing something to making the country better.

Any words in closing sir?
-       I will not deceive myself in assuming that this year will change everything for us. No! it will not. And I think it is even better that way because not all peoples know how to manage sudden change very well. But at least as a people we can change something year, something that will determine how much positive change we encounter from now on. This starts with a honed-in commitment to do something no matter how little to change society. Doing something tangible and measurable is the only way we can look back after many years and see that our collective efforts created a better future for us all. So beyond the excitement and romancing of the political process is the need for a service-oriented relationship with our country. 

      Think of a small solution to a problem, share this with others, and then find a way to carrying it out.


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