Second Republic politician, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, speaks with Sunday Adepoju on the implications of the processes of the November 16 governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States, among other issues.
How would you assess the recent governorship elections that were held in Bayelsa and Kogi states?
Well, from the reports that we got from the media, the elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states were not free, fair and transparent. Particularly, that of Kogi was exceptionally not free, not fair, and not transparent. In the two states, there was great use of force to stop people from voting.
Now, all this is not surprising because this has been the feature of election in Nigeria for a very long time, particularly since the Second Republic. Nobody can deceive him or herself that there won’t be a recurrence of such irregularities. People have no hope that there will be free, fair and credible elections in the country.
Did the exercise show that all the stakeholders have learnt a lesson from similar elections in the past?
No! No! No, the stakeholders have not learnt anything and they will not learn anything. They will continue to bleed the country until the inevitable happens. And the inevitable that will happen is social revolution. At the moment, Nigeria is suffering from what we can call ‘bureaucratic anarchy,’ in which case there is no law and order. This bureaucratic anarchy can only be settled by social revolution. This is also the experience in other countries. I am saying that whatever other nations of the world did to save themselves from slavery and bring about freedom, Nigeria has to do the same.
What do you think should be done by the country to avoid similar problem in the future?
First, let me say that electoral irregularities can be avoided by whatever means, by whatever strategies or initiatives that will bring the desired result. Let us stand and fight for free, fair, transparent and credible elections leading to a legitimate government at every level. We must be committed to the cause of flawless elections, if possible. We have to reconstruct the country along socialist principles. Let us bring about socialist reconstruction of Nigeria, starting from the legal way and the state’s economy to ensure peace, equality, justice, security and human development of the whole country. Yes, we have to do that. The politics that has been in practice in Nigeria all along has to end with this situation whereby people can freely elect their representatives. The system and the political leadership must be changed. It is only through the sanitation of our political system that we can upgrade and progress in Nigeria. Voters should decide the fate of political parties and candidates in elections. This has to be done. Another thing that we must abolish the leading role of money power in politics, because money power has given room for rigging and other malpractices.
People have always claimed that they want credible elections and still the story is always that elections are violent, deadly and eventually rigged. What is responsible for this?
People are not committed to the claim. Those in power will ensure that they continue to be in power. Those in power have to be challenged at polls. The electorate should go out and ensure that they obey the law by voting for credible candidates. When they do this, then, we will have legitimate government that will be committed to them because that is the beauty of democracy. What should be our watchword is that there must be free, fair and credible elections at every level in the country. To ensure this, we have to change the system.
From your experience as seasoned politician, who was fully involved in the politics of the Second Republic, do you think the elite, especially the political elite, have succeeded in improving the political practice, party organisation and delivering good governance in Nigeria?
No! They have not succeeded in improving the system. During the period, there were two forces, namely; the neo-colonialist force and the military dictatorship force that boxed in the elite. People are particularly overwhelmed by poverty and they are after how to get rich from the system. Everybody is after empowering of himself or herself.
On the comparison of the politics of the Second Republic and the current one, what we have now is worse. What is happening in the country now is what I never experienced in the history of our country in terms of electoral malpractices. It is worrisome because the judicial system is not doing justice to the cases of elections. What we have now is far below what we expected. It is far below international standard. Corruption, you will recall, affects everything in Nigeria.
Money politics has become more pronounced in the country, threatening democratic practice generally. How did we get it wrong?
We got it wrong first when morality became so low in the system. People care much about how to get money or how to get rich. This menace of money politics has its implications. If it is not checked, it will destroy the country, because there will not be anything that will lead to unity, peace and success. People will always run after money and the country will suffer. Everything will be determined by money power.
It will be very difficult for good candidates to emerge in an election where money power reigns supreme. The unfortunate practice now is that candidates in elections look for huge sums of money in order to win the hearts of voters. Sadly enough, the country is in mess, because many of those contesting in elections cannot win without bribing the voters. Depending on the positions that they are vying for, politicians may look for as much as N5 billion before they can stand in elections.
Moreover, most of the time, such money spent was not gotten through legitimate means.
What is the way out of the mess of money politics that has taken root in Nigeria?
The way forward is to change the socio-economic and other systems that have to do with the control of development in the system. There must be a paradigm shift. We must, as a country, move away from self-interest and tilt towards public interest which will be rooted in our value system. This struggle towards public interest will, no doubt, lead us to free, fair, transparent and credible election. This will lead to legitimate government at every level. The menace of money politics will also be eradicated, if the country changes the socio-economic and political system from self-based to public-based orientation. We must put public interest first in whatever we do as citizens of the country.
How can we prevent the kind of violence that characterised Kogi and Bayelsa elections?
Those in power in Nigeria knew it would happen because conditions for it existed ab initio. There was no how they could stop the violence because it has, unfortunately, become part of our system. The All Progressives Congress (APC) is in power now in Kogi and Bayelsa. It would have been the same thing if it lost to its main contender. There wouldn’t have been any difference if it were to be the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).