Saint Mantu, I pre­sume?

Sunday Trust - - VIEWPOINT -

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.

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