Monday, February 25, 2008
Africa's Fraudulent Elections - A Non-Violent Alternative (Atiku Abubakar)
Qorvis Communications (Washington, DC)
23 February 2008
Posted to the web 25 February 2008
By Atiku Abubakar
Nigeria will soon confront one of the most difficult challenges that any emerging Democracy must face, whether the rule of law as set by the courts will prevail. The Nigerian Supreme Court will soon decide if it will nullify last year's presidential elections on fraud charges. How the government reacts could well determine the future of the country. Nigeria is a sovereign nation, but the United States must urge the current leaders to abide by the Supreme Court's ruling. If not, the unfolding tragedy in Kenya and the violence in that neighboring country could well repeat itself.
On December 27th, Kenyans went to the polls to elect a president. The election was close, pitting an incumbent President Mwai Kibaki against opposition leader, Raila Odinga. Faced with the prospect of losing, President Kibaki apparently chose to steal the election, and in doing so, he precipitated an ethnic civil war. Thus far, about 1,000 Kenyans have died, and another 300,000 have fled their homes.
The election fraud last April in Nigeria was much worse than Kenya's. Incumbent President Obasanjo manipulated every stage of the process. Although I was elected as his Vice President, by the end of his second term, he used every instrument at his command to try to soil my reputation and prevent me from running so as to leave a clear path for him to change the constitution and allow himself a third term. I opposed his effort and was joined by a courageous majority in Parliament that prevented the constitutional change. The Supreme Court also stood up to him and rejected the charges of corruption that he trumped up against me. On the eve of the election, the Supreme Court ordered the Election Commission to put my name on the ballot.
By then, it was too late for my party to organize to win the election, but Obasanjo took no chances. He instructed the Chair of the Election Commission, Maurice Iwu, a pharmacist, to concoct the election results like a drug prescription.
Virtually every international and domestic observer denounced the fraud. General Buhari and I were the two principal opposition candidates, but instead of inflaming our supporters as the Kenyan leaders did, we encouraged our people to stay calm, and we took our case to court. The courts moved swiftly to nullify state elections, and they are now considering validity of the presidential election.
It is imperative that all of us have confidence that the Court will make the right decision, and I certainly have decided to place my trust there. If the Justices declare the election valid, I will accept the result. If they annul the election, the Court and our country will become a model for all of Africa, but we will need solidarity within Nigeria and help from the world to turn the promise of such a decision into a real democracy. The problem is that if a new election is held under Iwu and the same election law, it will be fraudulent, and the people will lose their patience.
If the Appeals Court declares the Presidential election invalid, I will urge my supporters to remain calm, and I will ask the other presidential candidates to join me to invite a group of world leaders to help us fashion a new Election Commission and a new Election Law that would permit us to adhere to the Constitution and prepare for Nigeria's first genuinely free and fair election.
Kenya has disillusioned many democrats in Africa. Our hope is that Nigeria's Supreme Court will send a message to all Africans that democracy is not only possible, it is essential to peace and ethnic coexistence. Incumbents will no longer be permitted to manipulate the electoral process. Election Commissions must be genuinely autonomous, impartial, and professional.
I pledge to do all that I can to assure that democracy and rule of law return to Nigeria peacefully. We hope that the world will stand with us and give Africans a reason again for hope."
Atiku Abubakar was Vice President of Nigeria from 1999-2007. He was the Presidential candidate of the Action Congress in the fraudulent election of April 2007.