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Politics and Policy

Mantu’s Rigging Confession: How To Shake the Table of Fraudsters

Type in the name on YouTube and scroll down carefully. There is a video of him speaking passionately at a rally of Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN), a Jonathan campaign group known for their green tops and caps. On duty as a PDP stalwart, the one-time deputy senate president can be seen bringing his political weight to the table for the re-election of then president Goodluck Jonathan.

In an interview with Channels TV’s Maupe Ogun, Ibrahim Mantu admitted to rigging elections during his time in active politics before he became “born again”. His exact words replying the interviewer’s question on whether he had rigged elections were:

“Yes, Yes, I did, because I am now confessing the truth. I don’t have to go and change election (results) but when you provide money, you give money to INEC boys that if they see any chance they should favour you, you provide money to the security (personnel). I tell you it’s not necessarily when I am contesting election but when my party sponsors a candidate, I will like that candidate to win election.”

In other words, Mantu confirms what every Nigerian voter has known for all of the past 19 years: that the powers that be pull out all the stops to win elections, thwarting the will of the people. Virtually every election before (and including) the 2015 polls were marred by massive irregularities, so much that former President Yar’Adua disavowed the process that made him president as flawed and in need of reform.

Though in a democracy, Nigerians have always had decisions forced on them and Mantu in particular has a bad record of making moves to force things on Nigerians. He was the de facto champion of the third term bid for President Obasanjo as the head of the National Assembly Joint Committee which proposed 116 amendments to the 1999 Constitution in 2005. Mantu once argued, according to an account in Bolaji Abdullahi’s ‘On A Platter of Gold’, that Obasanjo needed an elongated stay beyond 2007 for Nigeria was to make real progress drawing a reference to Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew.

As may be expected, the PDP has distanced itself from Mantu’s comments, basically saying “nobody sent him” to rig elections for anybody and that if he was so powerful, he should have won his 2007 elections to remain in the upper legislative chambers. However, it does not void the credibility of the confession. Every rigged election is a fraud, a deception and theft, but the past will probably not get the scrutiny it deserves to reveal and shame the key players and beneficiaries from the elections rigging value chain.

What then can be done? Of what use can Mantu’s confession be or will just be another trough in the news cycle as 2019 draws closer?

It should not.

Nigeria’s problem has been multiply identified as a failure of leadership and if the means of electing leaders remains in the control of money-bags, the national rot will run deeper. In effect, electoral transparency should become number one priority, from laws on campaign financing, to clear delineations in channels of communication between INEC and parties/aspirants, as well as independence in the operations of security officials.

While it would be commendable to see more Mantus come forward, their confessions are without any fruit to the ordinary Nigerian if (1) such persons do not get any justice for their crimes and (2) if no actual names are mentioned as beneficiaries of the rigging schemes. It does not seem any of the two will happen with Mantu; good TV without policy profit is a waste of time. The pontifications of “born again” politicians on the need for repentance will not change the situation as much as specific corrective actions advancing transparency will.

Mantu’s revelation reinforces the universal understanding that Nigeria has been a fraud for much of the fourth republic. Elections rigging have been swept under the carpet for long, even regarded as inevitable in some parts of the country. That is a table that must be shaken because those who continue to sit at it make decisions that will perpetually leave many at a stagnant spot in the society.

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