If an animal runs dangerously, the hunter shoots dangerously at it as well’ is a common proverb in Igboland. It is used to underscore the precariousness of a situation, especially that which has defied any rational solution. You will agree with me that the problems besetting our nation seem to have defied all known panaceas, including the use of even the military. That is why I have resorted to weeks of spiritual communing – to catch a glimpse of what might have been responsible for this near-hopeless situation. I did it in 1998 and what I saw marveled me. I tried it again in 2010, the result was amazing. I have attempted it yet the umpteenth time and what I saw is what I have shared with you below.
Going back to history, Nigeria has always had a rough political voyage each time an election year approaches. In the 60’s it was almost total chaos – everywhere was in turmoil as the west boiled. Politicians fought over one another to secure victory at the polls. It was UPGA up in arms against NCNC and NPC. All the alliances and bridge-building efforts went caput. As the politicians squabbled, the God of the masses was at work. In the end, reason prevailed and the volatility was brought under control. Then the 1979 elections came. It was the first election since the coup of 1966, which marked the foray of the military into governance. Though the military were in control there were still flashes of violence here and there. In the end the elections managed to hold against all negative speculations of the insincerity of the military to hand over power to civilians. The hullabaloo caused by the irresolvable mathematical puzzle of two-thirds of 19 states placed a question mark on the whole exercise. The alliance between NPP and NPN did not last because of the frostiness that characterized it. It was a cat-and-mouse game between the two, resulting in NPN choosing to go it alone after it had seemingly stabilized its hold on power.
By the time the 1983 elections came it had become clearer that the Second Republic was in grave danger as politicians threw caution to the dogs and conducted themselves in a most intolerant and uncivilized manner. Rigging and brigandage were the order of the day. It got to a point that lawlessness seemed to have been entrenched. Almost every part of Nigeria was affected by the unruly situation. Oyo State was on fire as Bola Ige (the incumbent governor then) fought to maintain the mandate his people had given him. Meanwhile, NPN had perfected a devious agenda to take over power at all costs in almost all the LOOBO (Lagos, Ondo, Oyo, Ogun and Bendel) states. It was a plot I found detestable and puerile.
How could they have thought that wrestling power from any state controlled by Awolowo’s party would be that easy? Dead or alive the image of Awolowo still looms colossally in the South West of Nigeria. Though Bola Ige is dead, Victor Olunloyo (his rival in NPN) is still alive to tell the story. As Oyo was boiling, Ondo State was conflagrating. The incumbent governor, Michael Ajasin, had just been ‘dethroned’ by FEDECO, umpired by Justice Ovie Whiskey (now late). FEDECO had announced Akin Omoboriowo as the winner in place of the actual winner, Ajasin, and hell was let loose. It was the reversal of the earlier announcement that saved the state from being swept away by the people’s anger.
Nonetheless, it was a different ballgame in Imo State where Dee Sam Mbakwe was in charge as governor. To drive home how bad the situation was Mbakwe had to relocate his office temporarily to FEDECO’s office in Owerri. Mbakwe told Mrs. Gomwalk (the state electoral commissioner at the time) pointblank that he was not ready to vacate her office until the right winner was announced. Sensing danger she had to announce Mbakwe (who truly won) as the winner. While Mbakwe battled to save his job his counterpart in Anambra State, Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, also of NPP, was not that lucky as he was swept away by the gale of vote-manipulation that hit the state. It was rumoured before the polls that NPN was ready to do anything to secure the state so that the then Vice President, Alex Ekwueme, would have a home base.
As the situation in Imo and Anambra States played out Kano State (under Aminu Kano’s PRP) was going through a political tsunami. Sabo Bakin Zuwo, the governorship candidate of PRP, had dusted Abubakar Rimi who had earlier resigned from PRP to fly the NPP flag in the 1983 elections. Zuwo was later tried by the Special Military Tribunal and sentenced to 300 years in jail. He died in 1989.
It was in this unfortunate atmosphere that the military led by General Muhammadu Buhari and Brigadier General Tunde Idiagbon struck and toppled the government of Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983. Many saw the coup as a huge relief to the mountainous malfeasance going on at the time in the name of democracy. But to me, there can never be any justification for military intervention. How can democracy take root if we did not make mistakes and correct them? It is a learning process, which gathers momentum as we make progress.
Then enter the June 12, 1983 presidential elections, which remain a watershed in the annals of Nigeria. It was the freest and fairest elections ever conducted in Nigeria. The umpire was Prof. Humphrey Nwosu and his credibility has never been in doubt. He did his best to rewrite the chequered history of elections in Nigeria, but was stopped by powerful forces from accomplishing his mission. The elections, believed to have been won by Moshood Abiola, marked the beginning of the end of military interventions in Nigeria’s political life. The uprising that trailed the annulment of the election result by the Babangida Government was so intense that it was clear that something dramatic would happen. And so when Babangida was pulled out of the Army it was not long before Abacha sacked the Interim National Government headed by Ernest Shonekan.
Abacha was in office for just four years. And so, his death on June 8, 1998 and the subsequent willingness of the administration of General A.A. Abubakar to hand over the reins of power to civilians accentuated the tempo of politicking in the country. Optimism among politicians was very high. The 1999 general elections were fairly credible, but events that followed were not as fair. The 8 years the administration of Obasanjo superintended over the affairs of Nigeria was marked by bad blood and horse-trading. His third term ambition nearly scuttled the democratic journey but for providence. Thank God he was able to handover to another person.
The 2007 elections were fairly okay. This does not mean there was no rigging. There was rigging but not on such a scale as to affect substantially the outcome of the election. The death of Musa Yar’Adua greatly affected the political equation and set the nation on the edge. The prompt intervention of the National Assembly at one point was what saved the 5th Republic from stillbirth.
By 2011, political tension in the country had risen to an uncontrollable level with the north showing signs of dissension. Some of them had thought that power would have reverted to the north after the short-lived tenure of Musa Yar’Adua. In his place Goodluck Jonathan emerged to steer the ship of state. Perhaps, the aggravation of hostility in the northern region could be blamed on this stance.
Now, we have a new dimension to political intriguing with the activities of the Islamist Sect, Boko Haram, in the north. For close to five years now, over 10,000 persons had been killed and properties worth billions of Nigeria destroyed.
What I have done so far is to put the incidents that occurred prior to this time in proper perspectives in order to make the reader take an unbiased position on the goings in the country. How will all this affect the 2015 elections? Judging by the incidents that had taken place between 1966 and now what do you think will happen in 2015? Do you fear we may have a repeat of the sad chapters of our national life?
If we take what has been said and written in the media thus far it can easily be deduced that there is trouble ahead. Even some prominent global figures have expressed the same trepidation over the direction the country is going, especially when viewed in the context of the heightening insurgencies across the country. The political class has not helped matters at all. Some of them had gone as far as stating categorically that elections would not hold in 2015. Whose spokesmen are they? What gave them such sureness that elections would not hold next year? I suspect they have their reasons for being cocksure. What is government waiting for before seeking their cooperation and solidarity? Such utterances have their security implications. Therefore, sweeping them under the carpet is not the proper thing to do in the face of mounting threat to national security.
Nobody should pretend that Boko Haram poses a serious threat to the 2015 elections. I was taken aback by the news last week of the discovery of some Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) hidden near a church in Owerri. Though the real intention of those that planted the devices was not yet known before going to press, I suspect foul play. It could be the devices were planted to instill fear in the minds of people and create a semblance of insecurity in the Southeast Zone, which has never experienced any Boko Haram-kind of bombing. The truth is that those that planted the devices did not mean well for our dear country. The Southeast has not done anything to deserve such a dastardly treatment.
We have remained a generally-peace-loving people, working hard to recover from the psychological traumas inflicted upon us by the war. So, we are not ready for another internecine war. Moreover, since the consequences of war are not usually palatable. I am pained that the killings in the north have not abated five years down the line. When will the north witness peace again? Of particular mention are the 230 Chibok school girls abducted over 60 days ago. Why have they not been released? Such innocent and harmless girls! I wonder what our nation is gradually turning into. I have never in my over 54 years on the earth planet seen such callousness. Venting anger on innocent school girls is want I am yet to comprehend.
We were told almost a month ago that the U.S. and other interested partners would intervene to get the girls freed. It is now over 40 days since the promise was made and we are yet to see any reasonable change in the status quo. Nevertheless, I have not lost confidence in the ability of our allies to justify their promise. All I am worried about is the welfare of the girls and the ensuing restiveness in Northern Nigeria.
I find it offensive that all that many of our politicians are interested in is 2015. Only a few of them are genuinely interested in working for the peaceful resolution of whatever caused the crisis in the first pace. Shamefully, there are some of them that dine and wine with the President in the daytime, pretending they love him, only to turn into wolves at night to hound him.
Nobody needs a soothsayer to tell him the enemies of Nigeria are at work. They are the same people sowing seeds of hate across the country for their selfish aggrandizement. What they hope to gain ultimately is best known to them alone. For me, I know no sin shall go unpunished. Those who waste human lives in whatever guise should know that any time God calls them in their last breath they must account for their iniquities. They may wield all the sophisticated weapons they can muster and flaunt their wealth now. It will not long before all these things come to naught.
It is not proper for politicians to make inflammatory and unpatriotic statements about their country, no matter the compelling emotionalist need to do so. It is more honourable to be on the right side of life at all times instead of the ignominious double-dealing that many of our politicians are known for.
It does not matter from which part of Nigeria anybody comes from or the religion he practices. What is important is to love Nigeria. Patriotism demands all of us to show love to Nigeria and to one another. If patriotism is allowed to permeate our individual lives, then nobody will have the boldness to inflict any bodily harm on a fellow citizen.
I have looked through my spiritual prism and all I can see is a bright future for Nigeria. There may be occasional sordid incidents here and there, but they will not torpedo our democracy. What the prophets of doom have not seen yet is the presence of God in our affairs. Times may be hard and perilous, we will survive it all. I see a truce between the federal government and Boko Haram. This will happen unexpectedly. The activities of the sect have been on the rise in recent times, because God wants to take all the glory. When God intervenes in a matter the result is always different. Government and its teeming partners and supporters may have done their best, which has not been good enough. Now that God is about to step in watch out for something different!
I urge all Nigerians to continue to hold on to their faith and do nothing to imperil our hard-earned democracy. A time will come very soon when Nigeria will bid farewell to violence and insurgency. When that time comes every Nigerian, including the adversaries of Nigeria, will sing in loud voices:”Truly our Redeemer lives”. Yes, he lives and will not allow us to be put to shame, no matter how high the tides rise.