Ambrose Ehirim/The Ambrose Ehirim Files
Andy Uba on Wednesday, December 12, 2012, declined to a long agitated debate for the eligibility of Nigerians in Diaspora to vote in the country’s conducted elections as part of their constitutional rights. Uba had ruled out the concept on the basis that a “legal framework was not worked out,” and that informations on Nigerians living in any particular country “cannot be obtained from any of the Nigerian embassies.” The announcement came during the Fourth Quarter Lecture of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Abuja, Uba is currently Chairman Senate Committee on Electoral Matters, which he lobbied for, and thus ruled out a Diaspora vote come the 2015 elections.
Nigeria has been a country that does things by way of figures and the magic of manipulating such figures, negating the importance of what matters realistically to produce better outcomes. Dating way back to the pre independence constitutional conferences and what had led to the swearing in, October 1, 1960, of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, as party leader and Prime Minister which ushered in the nation’s first republic, the magical compilation of numbers did it for Balewa’s Northern Peoples Congress when it was handed over the affairs of state by an outgoing colonial rule.
Uba may be gearing for the magical numbers which suggests his sudden reason to have ruled out a Diaspora eligibility to vote for elections in Nigeria, especially, with a fast approaching 2014 off year elections and a 2015 presidential elections that is now full of uncertainties. Uba, an indigene of Anambra State, may have figured out the possibilities of a gubernatorial mandate for his pick and an overwhelming Diaspora count through what he had seen as the magical counts which may limit the chances of his party’s presidential mandate, to continue in its experiment of ruining the nation’s democratic fabric.
And, as a matter of fact, the numbers are pretty much what Uba seems to be looking for, in his favor, now that his home state of Anambra governorship and the PDP leadership in the state is up for grabs; and numbers have been the factors that determines which party runs the affairs of state, which is also why most elections had been flawed as a result of the inflated numbers through unimaginable accounts of irregularities.
Uba is no stranger to Diaspora. Uba attended schools and earned a living in Los Angeles, and experienced how a system works thoroughly through a sound democratic fabric, and should have known better how that could influence and make the nation’s corruption-addled, fledgling democracy, where nothing seemed to have worked in its practice, a little bit better. What Uba needed since he was seeking relevance in a nation he had dabbled into by manipulations on a haul of a widespread scandals of a corrupt Olusegun Obasanjo’s kitchen cabinet where they all fed fat overnight, losing the grip to how organized societies function from around which he lived the experience should take a close look and cross examine the two democracies - United States and Nigeria - he lived in.
Uba did not consider finding grounds of a workable order in the thirteen years he has been part of a corrupt bunch since the military juntas moved back into the barracks without interference ever since.
Uba’s arbitral actions to personally declare null and void a measure that had long been motioned for deliberations and which should have been presented to the floor of the national Assembly for relative discourses, or by way of propositions to be included in the ballot for voters to decide, that is, if not prescribed by the constitution through a legislative consensus.
Politics and other related differences put aside, the issue here is about one denied the right to vote in his or her native land because the government agencies responsible for keeping viable and intact its records and assignments for Diaspora access just would not do it.
As it had unfolded, and Uba having the audacity to speak with impunity, declining a Diaspora voting eligibility null and void in what should be blamed on a federal government inability to collect required information from its citizens which could be easily done and accessible by any format than the lousy excuses we now hear from the Chairman Senate Committee on Electoral Matters.
And where actually would the Uba be speaking from a diplomatic point of view when the nation’s diplomatic missions and embassies all around the world have one fundamental function, supposedly - to have accurate data and indexes of its citizens by way of collaborative work with other diplomatic communities, and checking regularly by a margin of error citizens not captured by its radar? And why has that become so much of a big deal for a nation like Nigeria with huge amount of human capital and excessive natural resources not able to put together records of its citizens in Diaspora? And what guarantees that if a commission is established to take it head on with a report at a certain time, data on its citizens in Diaspora that it would not be hijacked and diverted to some loopholes with probes that never gets the desired results?
In most countries, its diplomatic missions entice and create incentives for people of its nationals and others of interest to use. The diplomatic missions in most countries carries out the responsibilities of series of programs that benefit its citizens - subsidized insurance, travel agencies, libraries, resource and information services, banking, business related opportunities and things like that, for its citizens to use. What stops Uba and his coattails of the electoral commission from having all the embassies, if they are effective and efficient, consult with other diplomatic corps in reaching out for records regarding its citizens?
For Uba who lived the system and had known the involvement the foreign mission had on him while he was still in Los Angeles, and for him to utter words not relevant to one who once lived on the shores of the Western Hemisphere, shows clearly how tardy and inept a nation’s foreign diplomatic mission could be.
But then, and again, when you have a weakened, confused and permanently disfigured Diaspora bunch that couldn’t create an impact in persuading the nation’s legislative organ through a timely and appropriate representation of their respective districts, to act swiftly in addressing Diaspora concerns, what would one expect?
When a Diaspora has lived in a thorough and advanced society, knowing how the system works by way of conduct and organization, and couldn’t use that means to compel its home government like folks of other Diaspora have done over time, effecting change and governance in their respective countries; influencing decisions which brings about the desired changes, then something must be done to deal with the situation.
The idea that data on Nigerians in Diaspora could not be obtained is a clear indication how Uba and his mischievous party's track team, the most corrupt political party in the nation's history tend to manipulate yet again another election they have felt threatened, using a weakened Diaspora voting status to throw in another nightmare to the 2015 presidential elections, where Diaspora would not be able to exercise their right to vote in continuity of the democratic process which destroys in its entirety the natural workings of a self-governing nation.
Uba's ideal has no basis and dumb on its grounding. Uba should start rethinking his strategies, and start putting together the nuts and bolts required to give access for a Diaspora vote as soon as possible. Anything coming short of that, in this day and time, is a mockery to democracy and the nation's corrupt, inept and struggling Fourth Republic.