Saint Mantu, I presume?
Why I am saying this is because I am tired of being seen as a criminal in the streets of the world because I am a Nigerian.
- Senator Ibrahim Mantu
Imissed the momentous news. Senator Ibrahim Mantu, former deputy senate president and a chieftain of the PDP, became a born-again politician last year. How did I miss that?
As evidence of his political repentance, Mantu has admitted he rigged elections. In a Channels Television Programme, Hard Copy, last week, Mantu told his interviewers that he had been involved in election rigging in his 40 years in politics. I bet he does not keep count of the number of unfit men and women he rigged into office in the executive and the legislative branches of government at federal, state and local government levels at the expense of good men and women. Just because he could. It is good that his conscience now troubles him.
Election rigging is a) supposedly a criminal offence in our land and b) it is the bane of our democracy. That should help you to appreciate the courage of the repentant senator in making his confession at this time. His party has disowned his confession but that amounts to nothing. No one expected PDP to admit that its men and women rigged elections that kept the party in power for 16 years. Should Mantu be arrested and prosecuted for his confession? I do not think so.
It may seem awkward for a politician to claim to be born again. Being born again is a critical step Christians who forsake their sinful ways take in order to be admitted into heaven when the rolls are called up yonder. Politicians are not in the habit of repenting for their evil deeds. They perpetuate them. Heaven is not that close to their hearts. When you can rig an election and build your kingdom here on earth, why bother about the airy promises of a better life in the hereafter? You might find yourself living in a hovel even.
A free passage into heaven was far from Mantu’s mind when he took the unusual step of deciding to be among fellow politicians but not of them any longer. People usually take this sort of decision when their mortality stares them in the face. Mantu offered some pragmatic reasons for becoming a born-again politician. It worries him that on what he called “the street of the world,” if “they see that you are Nigerian, even if you are a pastor or an imam, they will assume that you are criminally-minded or you have criminal tendencies just because of where you come from.”
He admitted that by helping to compromise our elections, he and his fellow political travellers imposed on us incompetent men who squandered our riches, impoverished us and left our richly-endowed nation playing catch-up with poorer third world nations. He now realises, halleluiah, that “we need good governance, good governance can only be provided by good people, good people who are truly repentant, who are actually there to serve the people…”
I do not see the possibility of our politicians falling over themselves to confess their grievous mortal sins against us. One repentant politician would make no difference to a system built on compromises. Mantu might remain a lonely born again in the very colourful world of our politics and politicians for a long time to come. Nothing really would change for the better. Election rigging would go on; incompetent people, including known thieves and drug barons, would find themselves in political offices. In our national politics, money talks and you-know-what walks.
My colleagues and I once interviewed Otunba Gbenga Daniel when he was governor of Ogun State. He told us that in his preparation to contest the governorship election, he commissioned studies on election rigging. His study groups found that there were 22 ways that elections were rigged in the country. He did not give us details of those finding. I now wish we had pressed him. But according to Mantu here is how they compromise the guardians of the polling booths and the ballot boxes. “We make provision for INEC, we make provision for security, we make provision for even agents of other political parties so that they will not raise any objection to whatever we are able to get.”
He would be pushing it if he told his interviewers that that was how he too became a senator and the number two man in the senate. I am waiting to hear him confess his part in Obasanjo’s expensive third-term gamble in 2006-2007. The information he provided here is not exactly news. None of us is that ignorant about how rich thieves who sponsored candidates for elections, used their financial muscle to change results and made the winners the losers - and compromise election tribunals too. But coming from one of the characters in the sordid treachery of arresting our democracy, it is still news. What Mantu said and why he said it are worth remembering as the clock ticks on, taking us and the nation towards our 2019 destiny at the polls.
The problem is that we are helpless in the face of this brazen compromise of our elections by our politicians, the main beneficiaries of election rigging. The only step open to the nation to arrest this deterioration in our electoral system is to have an electoral offences tribunal. It may not exactly end election rigging but it would help to stem the rising tide of the rich and the crooked making a mockery of our electoral system. The Uwais electoral reform committee set up by the late President Musa Yar’Adua recommended the electoral offences tribunal. It offered cogent reasons for its recommendation. But who cares?
I doubt that such a tribunal would ever be set up. The fate of such a proposed legislation would be determined by the politicians. It would be naïve to expect them to support a legal system that would make it harder for them to coast home with tainted election victories. They need no one to tell them they would be shooting themselves in the foot with such a shiny Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads and those of their thugs. Without the tribunal the politicians would continue to brazenly rig our elections and compromise their integrity. Sadly, INEC would be made to carry the watering can.
Meanwhile, let us keep praying that Mantu’s tribe of born again politicians would increase. I am tempted to recommend the senator for canonisation.