Why did Mahmood Yakubu stop the beat?

It is no news that Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has postponed the presidential and National Assembly elections that were to hold yesterday. It is also no news that angers, frustration and condemnation of this decision have jammed the Nigerian electoral space. A number of contesting theories have sprung up across divides against the propriety of this decision. While those who propounded the hand of God theory claim that the cancellation was probably an unseen providential hand to redeem Nigeria through her electoral wrongs, some have offered a conspiracy theory, both with strikingly graphic defence of their claims.

The one that I have not reconciled myself with is that, as I write this, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of INEC, has not deemed it fit to apologize to Nigerians and our international friends – sorry, Nasir el-Rufai’s potential body bags – on how he had to, with a feeble stroke of the pen, cancel an election that Nigeria and the rest of the world hoped to go into with baited breath, some with massive investments of emotions, cash and expectations. I watched the clip of Yakubu’s address. It was peremptory, devoid of feeling of loss and empathy and, I dare say, analogous to a professional butcher’s effortless and expressionless taking of life of a cow, caring less that a nature’s creation had just lost its life in his hands. He had attributed the postponement to “logistic reason” – whatever that meant.

It bares retelling that Nigeria and Nigerians must have, by that unconscionable decision, lost a chunk in their bank savings of emotions, investments, inconveniences and expectations. The nation must have lost billions, through the INEC budget that must have necessarily suffered in logistic expenditures; political parties must have lost billions as well due to double investments in voting expenditure. Nigeria’s disregard in international circle must also have shot up by some diameters. Why would elections that are in saner countries of the world a mere routine, pose such a huge challenge to an umpire which had four years to prepare for the exercise? It is why this unfeeling and emotionless cancellation by Yakubu has elicited diverse reactions. And why the conspiracy theorists, in the last 24 hours, seem to have been seizing the dais in the public sphere. Because the Nigerian national institutions are so weak or totally absent and are thus subjected to the vagaries and whims of men in power and their cold and selfish calculations, powerful men in government are thus suspected to behind most national anomalies which stand to give them a crude jumpstart in national contests.

The questions being asked as a result of the cancellation are: Could it be a ploy to favour the ruling party? Could it be that the pronouncement was necessary to throw spanners into the sure victory of the opposition? So many questions, yet no answer. The questions become very critical and germane, not only because a proper conduct of the elections could set the country on the path of national redemption, but because the nation’s investment in this election is so humongous and she could barely afford to offload such huge sum into the lagoon. INEC’s budget for these two-day elections is N143 billion, a little less than a fourth of the nation’s entire budget for education of N620.5 billion. Also, some have said that the off-handed and effortless manner with which Yakubu postponed such a consequential national task and offering a very vague, ambiguous and impenetrable alibi of “logistics,” like a randy lover boy cancels a dinner date with a liaison, is symptomatic of the disregard with which he holds the Nigerian electorate. This is why calls on some patriotic insiders to help, for the sake of Nigeria, lift the veil of the actual reasons for the cancellation are very high in national discourse circle. No one should be shocked to hear that the actual reason for Yakubu’s postponement of the elections is ooze from the mounds of excrement and maggots inside the Nigerian national skewer which the incestuous intercourse between the electoral umpire and government has always been since its creation.

Two other very curious events had earlier hit Nigeria like a thunderbolt as the week that ended hit its cusp. One was President Muhammadu Buhari, in an interview with the CNN, vowing that “Nobody would unseat me,” a few hours to the rescheduled polls, and another statement attributed to Kaduna State governor, el-Rufai, alleging that 62 “Fulani” people were killed in his state. Using the two statements as signs and symbols, semiotic analyses of the statements have erupted in few hours of their hitting the public space. Is it that nobody can or could unseat Buhari? Buhari’s statement has the flavor of despotism, an index of a profession wherein Buhari gained notoriety as head of some military coupists in 1984. The latter scents heavily of the bravado associated with Nigerian politicians. In which regard was Buhari making that statement? We are used to the latter as a people but the former is highly frightening, due largely to Buhari’s antecedents of intolerance. If you use as your departure of analysis Buhari’s statement in Kaduna in May, 2012 as presidential candidate of the CPC, shortly after the 2011 national election, in which he lost, where he boasted that “baboons and dogs will be soaked in blood,” your analysis will be very barren if you exculpate his presidency of tendency to go violent if the 2019 election disfavours him. Anyway, if he chooses that ruinous path, he has Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire as an eternal footprint that a local tyrant shouldn’t tread.

As I write this, el-Rufai’s claim, a few hours to a very consequential national election, has not been verified. Neither the DSS, the police nor any other national security agency, had affirmed the governor’s claim that sounds like a hoax. If you conduct an evidential analysis of that statement, you will cry for fatherland. First, the insertion of “Fulani” into that statement is suspicious, tending towards a probable incitement of some people against the other, on the eve of a national election. Would it have been all right if he had claimed that some 66 persons had been killed, electing to delete the “Fulani” identifier? No, it would not still. Such a call, a few hours to a national election, in my view, is irresponsible, taking into consideration its potential for national conflagration. It could set brothers against brothers. With the postponement of the elections by Yakubu a few hours after, the question is, was there a curious choreography, an unholy linkage, between the two events?

By now, more than 12 hours after the completion of voting process in the proposed elections, barring rigging and vote-buying, politicians would have started to receive testimonials of public estimation of their service. It reminds me of this popular allegory that gained notorious retelling in homes in the immediate post-colonial Yoruba-speaking Nigeria. Its motif was to advise anyone invested with fiduciary duty of care and honesty to others to dispense same with honesty and sincerity. It is woven round a farmer in the hinterland who went to the farm with his two children. One morning, as he busied himself with cultivation of hectares of his farmland, rather than ask the two children to join him to cultivate and till the land, he asked them to, since rainfall had just stopped, go up farmland and pick snails. He enjoined them to pick enough. Hours after, the two children came back, both excitedly claiming to have caught enough snails. All of them subsequently concentrated on cultivating the farmland. When it was nearing dusk however, tired and hungry, the children approached their father for what to eat for dinner. “Since you both caught enough snails,” he began, “retire into the hovel and roast some out of your catch which you could wash down with a bowl of gari.” One of the children was excited and the other downcast. “I was only being sarcastic, my father,” he said pleadingly. “I didn’t catch any snail.” Like the judge in Peter Tosh’s Here comes the judge, the father pronounced his judgment: “Then, young man, retire into the hovel and roast your sarcasm for dinner.” The allegory birthed the popular Yoruba wise saying that if alo (an event) goes on a journey, abo (the recompense) will closely follow in its footsteps.

Alo was Nigerian politicians riding roughshod on us the electorate, as if the day of reckoning, the abo, would not come. Alo is an elected politician who junkets the globe with state funds, talking down on the people and offering tokenism as dividends of democracy. Alo is an elected leader who had the opportunity to make life worthwhile for his people but chose to enrich a narrow confine of hirelings and bootlickers. Indeed, the allegory of alo and abo is replicable in the law of karma. The abo is right here for Nigerian politicians; it is in the PVCs of the people. May the ancestors of Nigeria, those who died at the hands of colonialists for a great Nigeria; those who were killed fighting for a great Nigeria and many others, frustrate the counsel of politicians and their allies who are intent on crippling Nigeria.

As Skippo takes his bow

Former Shooting Stars of Ibadan player and Secretary General of the Nigerian Football Federation, (NFF) between 2002 and 2005, Taiwo Ogunjobi, aka Skippo, took his bow from life’s field of play last week. Aside the NFF, he also served on the NFF Executive Committee between 2006 and 2010. His exit was shocking to his army of friends and teeming cult of fans who saw him as a gentleman to the hilt.  From testimonials that flooded the media at his exit, Ogunjobi was no doubt a gentleman who was widely loved and respected.

While on the staff of the Tribune in the 1990s and even up to early 2000, Ogunjobi was a usual guest at the Sports Desk, pumping hands with all who milled round him and reporters generally, acknowledging his genial disposition. But because I was never a football fan, I merely watched him from afar. I doubt if he could single me out of a crowd.

Close to ten years of my exit from the newspaper and providence situating me as publicist of the Oyo State governor, I walked into office one Saturday afternoon at the outset of the administration and a list of board members was thrust onto me to go announce their names to the world. Ogunjobi was listed as chairman of the state’s sports club. A few days earlier, however, I had read a story in one of the national newspapers which claimed that the highly loved football impresario had been invited by one of the anti-corruption agencies in the country. So I hinted that the new administration, whose mantra was good governance, could not afford to trifle with public condemnation at such a teething stage. I however quipped that the writer could be one of those who couldn’t stand Skippo. Unfortunately, the people at the decision table immediately agreed with my opinion and Ogunjobi’s name was spiked off the list.

Unfortunately too, unbeknown to me, a Judas stood in that office of decision that comprised me and three other high-ranking state officials. The Judas ostensibly leaked my name as author of that decision to Ogunjobi. A number of my friends who were his fans called me severally but I told them I swore to the people and the governor of Oyo State that I would do right to them. I owed this twin a greater allegiance than Ogunjobi. I am sure Skippo never forgave me as he breathed his last.

Details of this and sundry other unpleasant decisions I took in my unequal yoke with politicians are in my memoir which my laziness is stalling its publication. Here is wishing the great Skippo a restful sleep in the bosom of his creator. I loved him.