FEATURE ARTICLE

Babs AjayiTuesday, July 22, 2014
Babsajayi@yahoo.com
Gatineau, Quebec, Canada

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BRIBES, CORRUPTION AND ELECTIONS

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he election of Ayo Fayose has successfully exposed the level of corruption in Nigeria. It is not only the people in Aso Rock who are corrupt and who live off the nation and use government treasury as their piggy bank a la Goodluck Jonathan, but most of our people are now taking part in bribery and accepting inducement in exchange for votes. That in itself is an indication of the level of poverty and want among the people; it has reached a level where a society of knowledgeable people can be bought with a bag of rice and a few Naira notes. Most Nigerian newspapers reported the sharing of various bribes in various forms by Mr. Ayo Fayose to the people of Ekiti State, but none of them saw anything wrong with it. It appears giving bribes to the electorate is now part of the electoral process in Nigeria. It is not that this practice is new but bribing the electorate is now producing results, it is now producing votes! This is alarming and troubling. Or was the governorship election in Ekiti State rigged? It is shocking that the candidate of a very corrupt, very irresponsible and very greedy political party, the PDP, won a gubernatorial election with the support, attendance and campaign contribution of Goodluck Jonathan, a leader-in-denial whose tenure has been overtaken by endless improprieties, misuse and abuse of government funds, and an open endorsement of corruption. Ayo Fayose distributed rice and cash, and induced the electorate in other ways that would have been nothing but an offence in civilized and decent societies. It is possible that the people of Ekiti State would have voted for a rice-giver and cash-dasher if Chief Awolowo had been his opponent in that election, because Chief Awolowo will not induce anyone with rice or cash?

A friend and regular debate sparring partner was so concerned he referred me to Ohio State Laws (just one example from many others in decent societies) and Rules relating to electoral offences and penalties. I searched and found some US Federal Laws that also frowned at bribing voters and offering any inducement to win an election. The Ohio State Law, among other penalties, prescribed that any candidate "who give, lend, offer, or procure or promise to give, lend, offer, or procure any money, office, position, place or employment, influence shall forfeit the nomination he received, or if elected to any office he shall forfeit the office to which he was elected at the election with reference to which such offence was committed," which means that Ayo Fayose would have lost his position if we were in a civilized society. Even Goodluck Jonathan who promised to induce the people of Ekiti State would have been charged for and found guilty of felony. Jonathan also ran afoul of the United States' Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 that regulates the conduct of election campaigns. Such an act ought to be added to our electoral laws.

Chapter 3599: Offences and Penalties (http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/3599) is produced below:

Chapter 3599: OFFENSES AND PENALTIES

3599.01 Bribery. (A) No person shall before, during, or after any primary, convention, or election:

(1) Give, lend, offer, or procure or promise to give, lend, offer, or procure any money, office, position, place or employment, influence, or any other valuable consideration to or for a delegate, elector, or other person;

(2) Attempt by intimidation, coercion, or other unlawful means to induce such delegate or elector to register or refrain from registering or to vote or refrain from voting at a primary, convention, or election for a particular person, question, or issue;

(3) Advance, pay, or cause to be paid or procure or offer to procure money or other valuable thing to or for the use of another, with the intent that it or part thereof shall be used to induce such person to vote or to refrain from voting.

(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of bribery, a felony of the fourth degree; and if he is a candidate he shall forfeit the nomination he received, or if elected to any office he shall forfeit the office to which he was elected at the election with reference to which such offense was committed.

Effective Date: 01-01-1983

3599.02 Bribery - offenses concerning voters or voting. No person shall before, during, or after any primary, general, or special election or convention solicit, request, demand, receive, or contract for any money, gift, loan, property, influence, position, employment, or other thing of value for that person or for another person for doing any of the following:

(A) Registering or refraining from registering to vote;

(B) Agreeing to register or to refrain from registering to vote;

(C) Agreeing to vote or to refrain from voting;

(D) Voting or refraining from voting at any primary, general, or special election or convention for a particular person, question, or issue;

(E) Registering or voting, or refraining from registering or voting, or voting or refraining from voting for a particular person, question, or issue.

Whoever violates this section is guilty of bribery, a felony of the fourth degree, and shall be disfranchised and excluded from holding any public office for five years immediately following such conviction.

My friend appropriately titled the screen capture of the images of Fayose rice and its recipients from the Internet 'Free and fair Elections - Nigeria Style'. People queued up and, in some cases, happily displayed their trophies, the bags of Fayose rice, for the world to see. And this was right in the public space! It was very sickening and saddening - very frustrating and a drawback. I guess corruption has come full circle and come home to roost. This is the legacy of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, a man who has successfully taken corruption to a new level in Nigeria. Even the political rice merchant and face of corruption in the former National Party of Nigeria (NPN) who died recently must concede that Jonathan has outdone him as the king of ethika revolution. Umaru Dikko must have been perplexed, shocked and dazed by how they 'out-corrupt' him. Various offences relating to elections and political offices are also very clear and well outlined in all the States in the US (http://www.ncsl.org/research/ethics/50-state-chart-criminal-penalties-for-public-corr.aspx). It was just recently that the former Mayor of New Orleans was sentenced to 10 years in prison for offences including bribery, conspiracy and wire fraud. Former Mayor C. Ray Nagin was found to have accepted illegal gifts from contractors - bribes such as gifts, money, free vacation travel and truckloads of granite. The granite part of it reminds me of what construction companies give to governors and top government officials in Nigeria - they build dream homes for them at zero cost! All of the crimes Nagin was charged with are considered trivial matters by Jonathan and his co-travellers.

Even Diepreye Alamieyeseigha is now talking in the public space and has a seat at the Come-and-Chop National Conference in Abuja! These matters are so trivial that the government of Goodluck Jonathan will no longer put Sani Abacha's son on trial for monumental theft and looting. Mohammed Abacha was previously charged with the theft of N446.3 billion and nine counts have been brought against him, but now Mohammed Abacha will run for the governorship of Kano State under the banner of Goodluck Jonathan's political party, the PDP! "Fresh facts" concerning the case have emerged - straight from the blues - according to Attorney General and Minister of (Perverse) Justice, Mohammed Adoke and that the case is no longer necessary. This was nothing but the betrayal of the people's trust.

Asking for, giving and accepting bribes and looting the treasury at an alarming rate are just what makes the people in Aso Rock thick and their families robust and round like newly produced Michelin tyres. Former President Obasasnjo told the world that $1 billion stolen by Sani Abacha was in a Swiss Bank when he left office. How much of this has Jonathan retrieved? Is there a deal between Jonathan and the Abachas to share Sani Abacha's loot and to re-loot it? What with the cosy relationship that now exist between the Abachas and Jonathan; can anyone really doubt that there is no deal between the two? And then you wonder why Jonathan has kept in office a petroleum minister who has so many allegations of corruption and abuse of state funds that ran into billions of Naira, but refused to respect and honour the summons of the House of Representatives? She ignores the summons and Jonathan is on her side, she would not let NNPC staff attend, she has refused to provide evidence and documents to the panel, and she has refused to co-operate in a very serious matter that involves so much. Just recently, Senate President David Mark said the National Assembly was also guilty for its failure to carry out its oversight functions over the failure of the NNPC to remit $49.8 billion oil revenue to the Federation Account. It was the then Mallam Lamido Sanusi, the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, now Emir of Kano, who raised the alarm about the recklessness at the NNPC. But nothing has changed; probity, transparency and accountability have suffered so badly under Jonathan, and Oronto Douglas is there working for and with Jonathan, the very same Oronto Douglas, as I said last week, who had once described Jonathan to the Americans as "part of the system of corruption that had impoverished the Niger Delta for decades." Oronto is now Jonathan's front-in-chief and his split image with a different name.

It seems every problem provides the people in Aso Rock with an opportunity to loot and steal government money. Nearly 300 Chibok girls cannot be traced or found, Jonathan has not even seen the need to visit their families to commiserate with them, he has so far demonstrated that he has no clue and is bereft of ideas that will lead to the quick (quick is out of the matter now since the girls have been abducted now for months!) release of the girls, but he wants the National Assembly to quickly approve $1 billion to fight Boko Haram! Whatever happened to the billions allocated to defence in the nation's 2014 budget? Aso Rock is on looting spree, and Jonathan is behind the looters' truck driving it and the nation into previously unknown poverty, insurmountable foreign debt, and a bottomless pit. You cannot whitewash your reputation and a legion of corrupt acts by simply hiring public relations firms to remake your image. The only image of Jonathan out there is that of a corrupt, clueless, colluding and irresponsible lame duck.

The hired PR firm knows that Jonathan's reputation is set in stone in the minds of the people, because the people know the truth; the Nigerian people have the figures, they know about oil subsidy looting, missing billions from the Federation Account, they know about mismanagement, corruption and abuse of funds in NNPC, they know about SURE-P, NNDC and other about other looting spree that is going on with impunity, but the PR firm will go ahead and work for Jonathan for professional fees that is in excess of $1 million. I am sure the PR firm will not forget to add out-of-pocket expenses to the fees. Who will say no to a million dollars as professional fees from a corrupt government? If you don't take it from them, then others are waiting to take it, so you better grab it and promise you will rebuild their image and rebrand a dead, rotten brand. Femi Kuti said recently in an interview that the government is like a house help who should be there to help the people - and this is true - but the house-help has become the house master. Nigeria we hail thee! Our own corrupt land, good luck we see, bad luck we know with hands soiled in greed and graft. Nigeria they failed thee!

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