FEATURE ARTICLE

Thursday, February 14, 2019
[email protected]
New York, USA
WHY NIGERIANS SHOULD REJECT FOREIGN INTERFERENCE IN THEIR ELECTIONS

critical reason why the American political landscape has been unusually divisive and contentious since the ascendancy of President Trump is the fact of the very controversial nature of that ascendancy. Suspected foreign meddling or interference, some of it allegedly solicited by individuals in the Trump camp, has, to say the least, cast a cloud of louche legitimacy on the current presidency in Washington.

Ahead of the 2019 elections in Nigeria, in one of those ironies, a Trump adjunct in the person of the American ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Symington, seems to have found a self-appointed role as leader of a pack of foreign representatives dutifully and scandalously aping the shrill antics of crying foul by Atiku's PDP in their futile bid to discredit the electoral process and, by implication, the re-election bid of President Muhammadu Buhari and his APC. Such unconscionable meddling by Ambassador Stuart Symington and those influences that are tacitly supportive of an Atiku/PDP presidential ambition must be repudiated as being disdainful of the Nigerian people - a terrible affront to their sovereignty and democratic aspirations.

In the light of the topicality of this matter of foreign meddling in our elections, I find it timely to repost an enlightening article which I wrote in 2010 at the height of the controversy around the acting presidency of Goodluck Jonathan. It has as title "Why Nigerians must say no to America's meddling in their affairs".

Why Nigerians Must Say No To America's Meddling In Their Affairs

An observer of the Nigerian media scene these days would be forgiven for imagining that they have been transported back in time under either the Ronald Reagan or the George Bush Snr. regime and have found themselves in one of Central and South America's banana republics.

________________________________________

An observer of the Nigerian media scene these days would be forgiven for imagining that they have been transported back in time under either the Ronald Reagan or the George Bush Snr. regime and have found themselves in one of Central and South America's banana republics.

In these economic backwaters of American imperialism, decades of America's doctrine of 'manifest destiny' had taken their toll to the extent that the local political leadership and the autochthonous elites in general had, until very recently, historically envisaged governance responsibilities only as actors playing out the roles that were pre-determined by American hegemony and what it defined as its national interests. Nowadays, it would seem, the other two countries where one can expect an uncritical pro-America stand, at least amongst the ruling elite, are war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq that are effectively under American military occupation and whose rulers are, to a great extent, the products of America's gunboat diplomacy. But even in Afghanistan and Iraq, there are strong currents of opposition that view the American presence with caution, if not with outright suspicion and hostility. In Nigeria, by contrast, to question America's intrusions in our national affairs, is to risk sanctions, that is to say blackmail, and very few politicians or media men and women have dared go down that route of late. Not since the previous Obasanjo tyranny whose hallmarks were an exasperating tendency to court powerful 'friends' by subjecting the country's socio-economic interests to the voracious appetites of nebulous and not-so-nebulous external forces have we witnessed the kind of worrisome submission by the current potentate at Aso Rock to the increasingly vulgar hectoring and meddlesomeness by the Obama administration and its operatives. The unbecoming attitude on the part of Obama and his underlings should disabuse the minds of those who have been naive enough to believe that an American president of African origin who keeps preaching the gospel of strong democratic institutions that are a reflection of the sovereign will of the people would substantially be different in his dealings with Africa and its peoples.

The extent to which Nigerian politicians and their allies in the civil society are prepared to go these days in a vainglorious quest for illusory relevance may be anybody's guess, but what is certain is the fact that beneath the veneer of 'cordial' Nigeria-America relations, can be detected, on the one hand, a national Nigerian psyche that suffers from the stubborn vestiges of our collective experience as vassals - a brazenly uncle tomist abdication that is reinforced by decades of generalized post-independence anomie - , and on the other, the unnerving and in-your-face reflexes of an overbearing Uncle Sam whose representatives are increasingly exhibiting a superiority complex that is obscene, to say the least.

Our ancestors used to say that a man without a sense of dignity is like a man without balls. His bearing, or more appropriately, the lack of it, would invariably lead him into making compromises that others with an ethical backbone would normally refuse to accommodate. In most societies around the globe, it is still considered as culturally and morally reprehensible to be lacking in self-respect, no matter one's material circumstances. Unfortunately, in today's Nigeria, there seems to be a paucity of self-worth amongst strategic segments of society that manifests itself by way of disquieting rituals of self-flagellation and obsequious conduct vis-à-vis the United Sates of America and other alien influences. By far the worst culprits are the politicians - the "big ogas" - , the civil servants and the media practitioners. We ignore the short and long-term consequences of this disturbing state of affairs to our own peril. In his assessment of the pro-democracy agitation against the usurpation that saw the annulment by the former autocrat called Babangida of the presidential election won by the late Abiola, a key ally of the ex-dictator from Minna once wrote that Nigeria's rulers have only but the most casual regard for local objections to their official misconduct and that they would instead readily defer to the whims and caprices of representatives of foreign governments like Britain, France and the USA. That viewpoint is still valid today. But it is not only politicians that bear a tangible part of the responsibility in this matter of self-debasement in our dealings with outsiders. When it comes to fawning at the feet of what must be termed the latter-day reconstruction in Nigeria of a colonialist model of international relations, our journalists and media men in general seem to be competing favorably with the politicians. And by politicians, one should include the army of generals and other ranks in uniform who have over the years seemed obsessed with politicking and the acquisition of power.

Nigerian newspapers routinely carry headlines that roughly go like this: " The Obama administration asks Nigeria to fire Iwu", "America wants Nuhu Ribadu back as EFCC chairman", "America calls for transparent elections in Anambra", "The American ambassador decries the lack of due process", President Obama and Prime Minister Brown support Jonathan". Such headlines are repeated at an alarming rate and in a frame of mind that suggests a troubling acquiescence to foreign influences in our socio-economic spaces. We know, for instance, that as INEC boss, Iwu has been a scoundrel and his own statements and conduct attest to that, but it is not up to America or any other external body to decide for us what is in our best interest .Another dimension of the Nigerian media's uncritical relationship with notable foreign forces and especially the American one is the deliberate canvassing, supposedly in the name of an ill-defined 'global village' concept, by some key media figures or columnists for active and even partisan American and British intervention in our internal politics. A case in point is the coverage by the local Nigerian media of Goodluck Jonathan's ascendancy as acting president. There is also the "View from Abroad" or its variant that is favored by some media outfits which, beyond offering a diversity of opinions on any given issue, would seem intended as a form of external validation of certain editorial positions. In the final analysis, consciously or unconsciously, by uncritically ( and sometimes in a puerile manner ) presenting America as a legitimate and transparent arbiter of our national transactions, so to speak, the Nigerian media and especially the local press is helping provide the intellectual as well as "cultural" context, if not the "acceptability" , for America's current stranglehold on the Jonathan 'acting presidency' and the polity in general.

With very few exceptions, the coverage by the Nigerian newspapers of Goodluck Jonathan's visit to the United States of America was dismal. It was as if the reportage was orchestrated to legitimize America's preponderance and interference in our affairs by perpetuating the myth that at this critical juncture of our nation's history, America does offer an incandescent and inspirational defense of the Nigerian democratic ideal. Monotonously, Nigerian journalists and commentators regurgitated the preachment of the Obama administration which harped on the need for Jonathan to fight corruption and organize free and fair elections. With the support of America, of course! Dutifully, Nigeria's acting president is said to have vowed to do a thorough house-cleaning at the INEC even though his antics and those of his allies, both local and foreign, do speak of a desperate and power-hungry Jonathan that is resorting to all manner of devious and foul means in order to remain at Aso Rock beyond 2011. The point needs to be made that Jonathan and his handlers are doing more harm than good to his image by their desperation to cast the acting president as a creature or beneficiary of America's duplicitous diplomacy.

A close scrutiny of America's role in the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria would suggest an appalling track record that is at variance with the sugar-coated diplomatic discourse emanating from the White House and the various foyers of Nigeria-related scholarship and advocacy in the USA. All that, to say that neither London nor Washington have shown the commitment to reassure anybody that they ought to be seen as truly respecting the Nigerian people's sovereignty as well as their legitimate aspirations one of which is to freely choose their leaders without the obtrusive meddling from foreign elements.

The political support which America and other Western democracies have historically accorded successive dictatorships in Nigeria, whether civilian or military, is a source of constant worry to those who wish the country well. From the Obasanjo despotism of the late seventies though the inept and corrupt administration of Shehu Shagari, the sleazy and anti-people military despotism of Babangida , the corrupt, election-rigging and violent PDP-led tyranny of Obasanjo to the Yar'Adua/Jonathan sinecure that is the product of the worst electoral banditry in the history of the country, America has consistently erred on the side of Nigeria's petty tin gods. A few years ago, in an act of patriotic angst, Obasanjo's son, Gbenga, publicly denounced the perfidious behavior of his father whom he said was having an incestuous liaison with his wife. Remarkably also, Gbenga told the world that key agents of the American government, amongst other foreign voices, were supporting his father's devilish gambit to illegally extend his tenure as president. Gbenga's was the first public admission by someone close to the former dictator regarding the existence of a so-called term elongation plot on the part of the latter. When that wayward scheme ended in a deserved debacle, America and other democracies soon rallied around the Yar'Adua/Jonathan impostors, beneficiaries of perhaps the worst electoral heist in history. It is high time Nigerians re-evaluated the way they view themselves in relation to the world's self-appointed guarantors of democracy and good governance.

We used to provide raw materials for industries in the lands of our colonial masters. That role as "hewers of wood and drawers of water" has not substantially changed in the context of our mono-economy with Nigeria being heavily dependent on the export of its oil to more developed economies. Today, the raw materials base has been slightly diversified. We send our young men to die in places like Liberia, Sierra Leone and Sudan. And for what? As Acting President Jonathan has been saying , to the rapt attention and joy of his American audience, Nigeria will continue to bear the brunt of the international humanitarian effort in Sudan, Somalia and elsewhere, theatres where a lot of our able-bodied men and women have met their untimely deaths in civil wars whose economic dimension has been of greater interest to the Americans, the French, the British, the Germans and the Chinese. In a statement to the media in Lagos, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation ( SGF ), Yayale Ahmed, did say, inter alia, in response to a question on the inauguration, earlier this month, of the so-called Bi-National Commission ( BNC ) involving Nigeria and the USA : "…We have existing bilateral relationships and agreements with them, which we are honouring. And they also depend on us on peace-keeping internationally…" ! The words of this high profile member of the Nigerian government are disheartening when viewed from the perspective of America's current posture in Nigeria. Daniel Volman, director of the African Security Research Project in Washington, DC. , has, in a recent article, highlighted the sad reality of African countries like Nigeria being co-opted by America, and conceivably by other powers, to participate in dangerous international operations that are primarily of strategic significance to those powers. Mr. Volman has alluded to an article by an American military officer attached to the USA's AFRICOM. Writing in the Strategic Studies Quaterly of the American Air University, the unnamed officer did state bluntly: " We don't want to see our guys going in and getting wacked…We want Africans to go in" ! Add to this grim picture the stark but sobering reality that America's military assistance to Africa is expected to escalate under the Obama presidency. In the guise of fighting terrorism and Islamist extremism in particular, the USA is offering more "technical aid" to regimes with awful human rights records in places like Uganda, Rwanda, Tunisia, Algeria, Nigeria, RDC and Kenya , with the resultant effect that Africa's strong men are feeling more emboldened in their crackdown on legitimate dissent. What an inspirational way to develop the continent's national institutions! In the light of all this, Nigerians are justifiably worried that Acting President Jonathan is hastily entering into bilateral agreements with the Americans without having sufficiently subjected such to any rigorous scrutiny by the citizenry. This is quite agonizing and scary. And it gets scarier.

Ahead of the 2011 presidential election in Nigeria, the Americans are sending out very troubling signals. A subaltern of President Obama who goes by the name of Johnny Carson is notorious for his brazenly disdainful interjections in our politics. Apart from his rude and insolent outburst condemning the return to Nigeria earlier this year of President Yar'Adua, this character has reportedly been acting as his government's resource person charged with organizing support for the former despot called Babangida who has already made known his perverse ambition to be president next year. Nigerians must rise and reject any attempt by the USA and any other country or entity for that matter aimed at foisting yet another impostor on the nation. We must say 'no' to the retrogressive fantasies of self-acclaimed godfathers, both local and foreign. America and its leaders should be told in no uncertain terms that as their country struggles to project its power and influence abroad, it is neither in their interest nor that of Nigeria and her citizens to have the USA or any other alien force meddling in our politics and especially in our elections. As for those misguided citizens who are willing to submit both the country and themselves to a client status, they must be made to realize that it is a suicidal option. 2011 should be the year when Nigerians in their majority head for the ramparts to say "enough is enough" and truly mean it. Now, that is how to save Nigeria! Let's get rid of a mindset that makes us behave as if Nigeria is an overseas appendage of the White House. In the long term, there ought to be a re-orientation in our formal education and values with more emphasis being placed on the promotion of redeeming attributes and less on the idealization of questionable attractions. There is the urgent need to reposition our country's diplomacy by placing it at the centre of our developmental priorities. Reciprocity and mutual respect should be part and parcel of the guiding principles informing our relations with the world at large.


NEWS SECTIONS