I woke up this morning to hear the breaking news on BBC on the outcome of the Indian elections which have been going on for weeks in what I call the greatest democracy in the history of the third world. That is if you agree that the Indian nation is even a third world country. Many of you reading this would probably agree it is a misnomer to still classify India as a third world country given her technological breakthrough in the Sciences and Education, her physical development and the sophistication of of her history and culture, and her political evolution since her independence from Great Britain in 1947 only 10 years before Ghana became independent and 13 years before Nigeria’s own independence in 1960.
Ghanaians and Nigerians have lost count of how many times the Military have struck in Ghana and Nigeria but not once have we heard of a military coup in India. The present generation of Indian leadership and their followers would appear to have embraced and upheld the fine traditions of their founding fathers like Mahatma Gandhi who led the movement to free India, but never aspired to rule the country for one day. The cumulative achievements of India remind one of her first Prime Minister, the great Pandit Nheru of blessed memory. The huge strides India has continued to make all over the world in all fields of endeavor has stunned the world to say the least. India added yet another feather to her cap today by reminding countries like Nigeria that even though India gained her freedom from colonial rule 13 short years before Nigeria, the Nigerian nation is still a very long way from the progress India has made as an economic power house and a nuclear power.
What if Pakistan another nuclear nation and Bangladesh have remained part of India to this day? India would have been far ahead of China which now has the second largest economy in the world putting Germany and Japan to third and fourth places. India with her population of over a billion people and a multiplicity of religions and ethnic rivalries and loyalties have managed to remain one of the leading lights for Democracy and progress despite the pockets of pervasive poverty across the country which the incoming Government has a blue print to fully address. India has, by and large, confronted the forces of nature and climate change it has endured and overcome from time to time. India has proved herself to be a very resourceful nation ready and determined to overcome all the natural disasters and political upheavals she has faced and continue to face in her 67 years as a sovereign state.
As a young boy growing up in Nigeria and a great fan of Indian movies at the great Odeon Cinema at Ibadan, my early recollections of India were shaped by my love and admiration of India as a country of magicians and love songs. As I became an adult and was exposed to some of the magic displays of Professor Moshood Peller, the great Nigerian magician trained in India, all I could think about when I think of India is their magic and traditional institutions and religious piety. All those impressions began to change after I went into Secondary school, and graduated from the University to take up a teaching job first at St Thomas Aquinas College Akure and later on at Igbobi College Lagos where most of my fellow lecturers were Indian science teachers. Few of them were Muslims but the great majority of them were Sikhs. But they were all highly educated and brilliant. I knew right there and then that India has to be a great country
I took my first trip to New Delhi in 1983 as Secretary to the Joint Economic Commissions of Nigeria with other countries of the world including India. It was then I realized that India was a very serious country moving on a very fast lane to greatness. The different positions occupied by American citizens of Indian descent in the United States bear an eloquent testimony to that observation. Indian doctors and lawyers and business men and women are everywhere. The current Governor of Louisiana is an Indian American. One of my favorite internationalist journalists and reporter, Fareed Zakaria of Gobal Public Square on CNN is an Indian American. So is Dr. Gupta Sanjay of CNN to mention a few. They are all Ivy League University products and can hold their own anywhere in the world. India has continued to distinguish herself as a bastion of Democracy and a force to reckon with around the world as we speak.
Voting is the language of Democracy. India has proved to the world she has mastered that language over and above any of her competitors around the world. India understands that the whole concept of elections is all about the future and making choices and picking leaders and parties that can best serve their bread and butter needs and their economic interest. India has managed to create two dominant parties in her political system making it possible for them to nullify any attempt by one of those parties to forever dominate the governance of their country. That was a major achievement and one of the biggest lessons to learn from the outcome of the recent elections in India. You hardly hear of the Chairman of the so-called Independent Electoral Commission like you do in Nigeria where individuals like Professor Jega and many of his predecessors in that office are worshiped as semi gods who have the opportunity to conduct a free and fair election from one election circle to another but collude with Government to manipulate those election in favor of the President and his ruling party. They are ever so ready to mortgage their conscience and collude with the Military and Law Enforcement agents to bastardize those elections. India has clearly shown the world she is clearly above that and that is something for the world to celebrate.
Indian voters understand that Democracy thrives the best when voters are allowed to freely pick and choose their leaders based on their party manifestos and their track record in public office the same way it is done in much of the civilized world like the United States and Great Britain to mention one or two. Nigerians should be ashamed of ourselves that more than 53 years after independence, we are still not able to understand that we short-change our country by refusing to do what is right for our country.
The victory of the B.J.P opposition party in the Indian elections and the emergence of Nerendra Modi as the next Prime Minister eloquently speaks to the huge strides India has made. Mr. Modi has recorded a landslide victory against the ruling party which has dominated the Indian political landscape for years and was projected in some quarters to win the just concluded elections in India despite their abysmal performance and the level of Corruption in the country under their watch. The Indian voters have voted their hopes and not their fears by massively voting for the opposition party while totally rejecting the ruling Congress Party. If the opposition does not deliver on her promise to make a difference, the same fate awaits them in the next election circle. The Indian voters in my view would appear to have even performed a lot better than American voters who often sent mixed messages to the winning party by not giving them a margin of victory that would make it easier for them to govern. They have proved they do not subscribe to the so-called idea of divided Government whereby one party controls the Senate while the other party controls the other Chamber. The Indians see that as a recipe for stalemate and crippling instability like we currently witness in the United States where the Republican-controlled lower House is trying to sabotage the President and his progressive agenda for the country because the President is black. The B.J.P opposition has a commanding lead in the national Assembly that would make it easy for the new ruling party to govern and to assume full responsibility for whatever happens without making excuses or blaming the opposition for its failure and non-performance. That is the way Democracy is supposed to function in every country because no political party has a monopoly of wisdom and the nation belongs to all and not just one party.
The beauty of the Indian example can be seen from the willingness of the ruling party to admit their failure and to respect the peoples’ verdict without pulling punches or rushing out to Court to start disputing the outcome of the elections like politicians in Ngeria would have done because they don’t believe that a Party that controls the Military, the Police and all law enforcement agents and State Security could ever lose an election. What they do is just deploy such agencies to guarantee their victory in the elections regardless of their performance and track record. Rahul Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the Congress Party did not waster time conceding victory and congratulating Narendra Modi, the new Prime Minister for a victory well deserved.
That is the example we are all hoping that Nigeria can emulate in 2015 if Nigeria survives till then. Professor Jega the INEC chairman and the other state chairmen have their jobs cut out for them, and the litmus test for them should be the Ekiti State Gubernatorial election coming up on June 19 and the Osun Gubernatorial election in August. Let the chips fall where they may. Let the verdict of the voters be sustained by conducting a free and fair election in both states as a rehearsal for 2015. The P.D.P candidates in both states going round shouting “P.D.P Power” like we see them shout on Television and on You tube and face book is definitely sending the wrong messages to the voters that power belongs to the ruling party alone and it can use that power any way it likes. If the Indian Congress Party and their leaders have done that, the whole world would not be paying such a glowing tribute to India like I am doing now with this column. It is true that the truth is bitter but it still must be told for those who have the ears to hear.
I rest my case.