Let me come straight out with this: I do not think elections should hold on March 28. But if we insist that they must, high level discussions, far above the Abuja Peace Accord must precede the elections.
I know this cannot be a popular view, I even anticipate condemnation of my position but it doesn’t bother me. I am used to people thinking democracy is the way forward yet failing at the most fundamental tenet of democracy – allowing free speech.
When Nigerians are in the majority, they do not just want to have their way, they also want to stop the minority from having their say. That is the way we are!
So back to my point, unless God intervenes, I think we are walking into what might be the greatest threat to nationhood, if we go on to the polls with the current mood. To the best of my recollection, Nigeria has never been more divided along ethnic and religious lines than we currently are.
And that is not all, these extant divisions tend toward the violent. Such that regardless of who of the two main candidates wins the elections, Nigeria will have some measure of violence, more especially now that campaigns are on to exclude the armed forces for the elections. Let us do a bit of scenario painting here.
If, General Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) wins, what do we expect from people of the south -south, most especially from the Ijaw kinsmen of the incumbent president. I sense violent resistance. And I am not just saying this on the strength of previous threats; I am saying this because the structural injustice in Nigerian lends some probability to this kind of reaction.
President Goodluck Jonathan is the first leader from any minority ethnic group in Nigeria, his people believe that he has the right to a second term but for the first time in the history of Nigeria, there is a concerted effort against the president having a second term.
Incidentally, that president is from a minority group in the oil producing part of the country and when he loses that opportunity, his people would wonder when another of their own would have the opportunity to lead the country. And who says they would be wrong wonder? Hasn’t the office of President become a turn by turn venture in Nigeria? So anyone who assumes they would just go back into their creeks to lick their wounds should have another think coming. Even if their president son is willing and able to hold them from making trouble between the end of the elections and the hand over date, what happens when he leaves power can only be imagined.
Now you can propound any kind of theory that you want but here is the Nigerian reality, all we think about is our ethnicity and religion. This is the same reason why the north, starving from exclusion from Nigeria’s number one position for a cumulative 17 out of the 54 years of Nigeria’s independence, promised to make the country ungovernable if their own did not get the seat in 2011. So what makes it ungodly for the South-South to have a feel of this turn-by turn arrangement?
Now, let’s look at the flip side; if Jonathan wins again, the North will revolt like it happened in 2011. People of southern extradition would be easy targets and before we know it, the violence might spread round the country with retaliatory attacks from the south. Again, since we insist that it is unconstitutional for the military to be part of our elections, response to this violence would hardly be swift, God help us that we do not burn the country.
Indeed the prognosis for a Jonathan win is bad. For starters, the main opposition party in effective partnership with a large chunk of the media has laid a foundation for the general belief that a Jonathan win is only possible with rigging. And Jonathan’s PDP has not helped itself much on this front. For I keep wondering what the campaign against the card readers introduced by the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC) is all about. Having said that, however, elections are the very essence of the saying that it is not over until it is over as it is possible that events on the eve of an election may affect the swing of the pendulum. As a result, the general perception that Jonathan’s emergence could only be due to manipulations of the elections is a definite recipe for violence.
So, what should we do since we are determined that the elections must hold? We must work toward reducing the tension in the country. The violent disruption of the APC rally in Okrika, River State last week shows the desperation of our political class, the stakes are just too high.
Former heads of government in Nigeria, working with traditional and religious leaders, should rather than be part of the problem, institute a non-partisan initiative, which will address the misgivings of the ethnic groups that the two main contenders belong to, ensure the assurance of fairness to all by the winner and get the commitment of the incoming government to dismantle the deformed structure that has hobbled Nigeria since independence.
I agree with Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly who said that elections have never solved Nigeria’s problem. As a matter of fact, we will need a lot of prayers and tact for this one not to compound our problems.
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