Penultimate Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections are sad reminders of how elections generally have been in this country since pre-Independence period – warped, rigged, and discredited; thus tearing us apart rather than uniting us. This is one major reason why this country is not meshing into a nation. It is why we pull apart rather than pull together. It will not matter who wins an election once it is free and fair and the will of the people is allowed to stand but where not, loyalty is not kindled in the polity and no patriotic zeal can be engendered in any so-called national project; least of all nation-building.
President Muhammadu Buhari, declared winner by INEC, gave an inkling of what to expect before the election, only people were dumb enough not to have accurately read his lips. Asked if he would concede defeat in the event he lost the election, he retorted he could never lose the election. The owner of the kitchen sure knew what he had cooked! During his visits to Ogun and Imo states where his party, the APC, was mindlessly fractured, Buhari told the people to just ensure they voted for him. As for the other candidates, they should vote the party or candidate of their choice. That self-centredness played out on February 23. All stops were uprooted to ensure Buhari had his way while other APC candidates were in many instances left to their own devices. Those who could muscle their way through like Gov. Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State and Gov. Rochas Okorocha of Imo State did while those who could not, like Senator Godswill Akpabio and Gov. Isiaka Ajimobi of Oyo State, were left reeling. If you review the election on that score alone, it gives a semblance of credibility.
But in actual sense, we have learnt nothing from our previous experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and in so doing, we seem to have forgotten nothing. We fall into the diverse errors of the past and move in circles. Yet, those who fail to learn from history, posits George Santayana, are condemned to repeating its mistakes. And the consequences could get more fatal as we go by! Why are we like this? Where lays the fault, O Caesar? Is it in us or in our stars? O Oedipus, do we have ourselves to blame or the gods are to blame? Doing the same thing the same way all over again, how come we expected a different result? O Paul, which is to blame for this, is it too much knowledge or too much religiosity? I said it before in this column when the PDP ran roughshod over the polity and the APC hollered, that the tragedy of this country is that the moment APC torpedoes PDP and mounts the saddle, it will not reform the system but will rather make it worse, piling all the odds against the opposition. That prediction has come true. Let me predict here again that if and when the PDP regains their “mandate”; rather than plug the loopholes that the APC has so blatantly exploited, they may likely just step into APC’s shoes and make matters even worse.
Going by our history, one should have expected our politicians to look over their shoulders and be wary of tainted elections. This has been one excuse that soldiers have latched onto to truncate democracy and impose military rule again and again. The other excuse has been the corruption of the political class. Both usually walk in tandem. Corruption taints elections while tainted election itself is corruption personified. It delivers corrupt leaders who in turn make free and fair elections impossible. In January 1966, those were the excuses given by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu and his colleagues to sound the death knell of the First Republic and usher in the first in a series of military misrule. The ills noted by Nzeogwu have not abated but have become exacerbated. Except with the June 12, 1993 presidential election, which was adjudged free and fair by all, no other election in this country has passed the mark. Umaru Yar’Adua, a president forthright and determined enough to do the needful had terminal disease to contend with. He had hardly started the task before he gave up the ghost. His dithering successor threw feeble jabs at the monster before he himself was swept off his feet.
Since then we had been back to square one. The great hope the populace pinned on those who campaigned as CHANGE agents proved grossly misplaced. It appears they now have an opportunity to re-sit the class. For every step taken forward in the direction of credible polls under Yar’Adua and Jonathan, we have taken two backward under the current powers-that-be. The vilest of election-rigging methods have returned full blast: Ballot-box snatching, ballot-box burning; ballot-box stuffing; falsification of election results; conjuring up of figures; intimidation and killing of voters; maiming, kidnapping, and killing of electoral officers; under-age voting; name it!. These days, election is war. Or to paraphrase war Clausewitz, election has become war continued by other means! Chairman Mao Zedong, leader of the Chinese revolution, said, “To have peace, prepare for war” Now in Nigeria, to go for an election, prepare for war. You need a standing army. You also need humongous sums of money in both local and foreign currencies. You have got to hire a Josef Goebbels to lead your propaganda army, diverting attention from your foibles or the real issues and focusing every effort at demonising your hapless opponent. Sitting governments are at an advantage; especially the Federal Government which controls the State apparatuses of power, such as the military, but not forgetting the Central Bank and NNPC, among others. And make no mistake: Emasculate the Judiciary to boot!
Military power and power of the purse win elections here hands down. The will of the people take the back seat. Not only do we have errant politicians to contend with, we now also have openly conniving military commanders shamelessly barking orders to the rank and file to file behind the government of the day. Is it illiteracy or reckless partisanship that makes them confuse their loyalty to the Constitution and the State with their taking illegal orders from mere agents of State power? It cannot but be deliberate choice because these same elements are wont to say “soldier come; soldier go but barrack remains the same” Interpolate that with governance and they should have no problem understanding that they stand on slippery grounds when they side with the temporary wielders of State power. We yell against State police because in the First Republic, we saw how it was abused to victimise opponents and rig elections – but in what way is Federal police or the military as a whole better? It would seem that the very first step towards credible elections is to have State police so that the monopoly of State coercive power will not tilt heavily in favour of one side alone. We will need to apply the principle of mutual assured destruction (MAD) or detente to have a balance of terror.
Even the EFCC was a visible participant in the last election! That was taking the most ridiculous to subliminal level. It was a measure of the desperation to rail-road Buhari’s second term. They were said to be on the look-out for those buying votes but they never looked in the direction of Trader Moni. Bullion vans and private jets ferried money to a location that was known to all; they never ventured there with their sniffer dogs. Never mind that the photographs were awash on social media. Such shenanigans! It is appalling how little-minded are many of the people taking critical decisions for this country! Don’t they know they are killing this country by instalments? No country dies at just one poke; damages inflicted incrementally inexorably kill a nation on the long run. And we have a few examples: Boko Haram, which started as a motley crowd of election-riggers and enforcers for godfathers, today holds the entire country by the jugular. Protests against injustice and demands for resource control in the South-South have birthed the militancy that today whacks the entire geopolitical zone. In the South-West, the trend of cultist groups and motor-park touts determining the fate of, interestingly, one of the most sophisticated people on earth, is a sorry and sordid spectacle to behold. When under-age children are lined up and given handouts to vote and they do so without consequence, we sow the seeds of our future destruction. All over the country, Frankenstein monsters are being sired by desperate politicians. When the chickens come home to roost in the not-too-distant future, shall we be able to handle the situation? Those who have eyes to see will notice that Nigeria, haemorrhaging for quite some time, has lost a lot of blood and is pale already.
Who will rescue Nigeria? Has Atiku Abubakar the spine? Has he the stomach for a fight? Fat cats seldom take up dangerous fights. Class suicide is not an easy thing to commit. Not everyone will be an MKO Abiola. Even in the present climate, you must have a willing horse before you talk of the Venezuelan option. Of course I recognise that at the appointed time, situation and circumstance do revolutionise even the most conservative of conservatives. Is this the hour? Will objective and subjective conditions find a historical meeting point to give Nigeria the push that will CHANGE its history for good and take it to the NEXT LEVEL properly so-called? Miracles do happen, though. Some said cloud technology will come to the rescue. That a hobbled Judiciary may still manage a bite? That the international community may still do the needful! We wait to see! The APC template made so vast an improvement on PDP’s amateurish rigging system that winning elections here has become an uphill task for anyone not controlling State power and sitting atop the Federation Account.
Should Atiku, then, simply throw up his hands in the air and cave in to the pressure being mounted on him in some quarters? Should he, Buhari would once more – undeservedly – go unchallenged. Thrice in 2003, 2007and 2011, Buhari approached the tribunal, going all the way to the apex court, but in 2015 when he was proclaimed the winner, President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat – not that there were no ample grounds for him to raise some dust. Now again, there are ample grounds for PDP/Atiku to approach the courts but the choice is theirs. There are positives to take away from whichever of the choices they make. If contesting election results makes you a bad loser like APC chairman, Adams Oshiomhole would have the world believe, then, Buhari was a bad loser three times over. I doubt if anyone will ever snatch that record from him!