BY DELE MOMODU
Fellow Nigerians, how time flies indeed. About four years ago, we went through this very ritual, though the election was shifted by six weeks, for reasons we believed was an excuse to get the ruling government better prepared to consolidate its grip on power. Before long, the six weeks arrived, and there was no hiding place. Even as I write this, many doubting Thomases still believe the APC government is not sincerely ready for today’s Presidential election and that it may still spring a surprise on us. Thus, there have been unconfirmed stories of the elections being postponed for a matter of days because of logistic problems. For my own part, I doubt that the authorities will act in such a cavalier manner, particularly as there are numerous local and international observers and world media around. All eyes are on us.
As you know already, my people are never short of conspiracy theories. These have been fuelled by strange events and activities that are occurring very close to E-Day! For example, there have been reports of sporadic fire outbreaks in a few INEC centres, very strange indeed when one considers the proximity of such fires to the election date. However, I have not seen much coverage explaining the magnitude of the respective conflagrations. We have also read reports of some sample ballot papers being found inside many sacks in Kano. Again, no one has come out to explain what any sane human being could be doing with sample ballot papers. The main thing is that PDP is being treated to mind-games in this high-stakes plot, the end of which no one can predict.
Say what you will, I choose to trust two key people in the whole of this election saga. The first is the Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, who has already attained the peak of his academic career and would not want to taint and end his distinguished life as a fiendish villain despised by all and treated like a maggot. So far, Professor Yakubu and INEC have managed to acquit themselves well in the preparation and run up to these general elections. They may have blotted their copy book particularly with regard to INEC’s role in the Osun State governorship elections but as this is one of the election cases currently trundling through the courts, I will say no more. It would be the height of foolishness and foolhardiness on his part to lower the bar as set and measured by what his immediate predecessor, Professor Attahiru Jega, achieved with a resounding ovation, barely four years ago. I refuse to imagine that Professor Yakubu would sacrifice his personal reputation and remarkable life, for politicians whose lives have almost expired.
Two. The other important man I choose to trust, almost blindly, although I know little or nothing about him, is the new Acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, who recently took over from the querulous, cantankerous and rambunctious Ibrahim Idris who fought more battles against real and imaginary enemies than he tackled the horrendous security challenges in the land. I have taken time to watch and study Adamu, as meticulously as possible, in the short time since he has been appointed acting I-G. and I’m reasonably convinced that he is educated, intelligent, smart, charismatic and cosmopolitan. I am unsure about some of the decisions he has taken, one relating to the re-deployment of Commissioners of Police in Ogun State. It seems to me that this decision is in good faith and is made because of the disgraceful way in which street urchins and thugs were brought into the arena to hurl stones at the President and other APC leaders during the Presidential rally in Ogun State. This was a remarkable show of shame orchestrated to serve the interest of an opposition candidate and shows the real tragedy that has befallen APC, as the general elections loom. It is inconceivable that the Police would not take steps to ensure that the mayhem that occurred that day is not allowed to repeat itself during the elections. For me, it would be a calamity if it turns out later that I have wasted all these superlative adjectives on another recklessly irresponsible police officer. It is always a pity seeing some overzealous people throw decorum to the winds in order to please a god with feet of clay. Time will tell.
For whatever it means, and because I bear him no grudge, I have said it numerous times, and reiterate, that I personally like President Muhammadu Buhari. His personal attributes particularly his discipline and abstemiousness are worthy of emulation. He has demonstrated in the past that he is a credible person, although that has been put to question by some of the actions that his government has recently been taking. There is a hint of desperation to cling to power which does not augur well for our country or indeed the President himself. I therefore will wish, and pray, that President Buhari meant every word he uttered in his various promises to the nation that he’ll execute free, fair and credible elections starting from today. I have no reason to doubt him. He is acclaimed as a man of integrity. This is the time for him to prove that he is indeed a man who is passionate about Nigeria and means his word that the country will not be broken up and Balkanised. God has been very kind to President Buhari and his family. He practically returned from the dead less than two years ago and has somehow managed to steer the ship of State from then till today. Nigerians have not complained too much about the situation they found themselves. Rather, as is typical, they prayed for the restoration of good health to their President and their prayers were answered. Therefore, if Nigerians reject him at the polls, in a free and fair contest today, or whenever it pleases the almighty INEC, he should thank Allah for the uncommon opportunity and grace given to him for the second chance to serve Nigeria as it’s supreme ruler. He should go home in peace, to enjoy quality time with his gorgeous wife, beautiful children and adorable grandchildren. The Presidency is nobody’s personal property or fiefdom. He should take solace in joining the commendable and enviable company of other incumbent Presidents in Africa, like Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and John Dramani Mahama of Ghana, who made no fuss before accepting defeat in good faith, no matter the secret pains. President Buhari should remember to call his successful opponent, most likely, Atiku Abubakar, and offer his best wishes. I promise, this gesture will turn out to be an icing on Buhari’s cake for final retirement. His apotheosis would also have been guaranteed instantly.
On the other hand, if Atiku Abubakar, fails in a free and fair contest, he should accept his destiny with equanimity. I can understand that it would be a difficult time for him because it has been a long arduous journey for him to eventually land the presidential candidacy and ticket of a mainstream party. It is natural that he and his supporters will feel very disappointed having worked extremely hard to defeat and unseat President Buhari. Atiku should take solace in the fact that he has fought a good fight. His campaign has proceeded in a decent manner and he has concentrated mainly on the issues and not allowed himself to be dragged into the gutter politics that has sometimes been employed against him by some of his more overenthusiastic and fanatical opponents. Atiku must accept that in every contest, only one person can win. As long as the election is free and fair enough, the over-all interest of the country must be considered. Besides, there are remedies already embedded in the electoral act if there has been any unfairness. Justice may tarry, but it will come eventually, no matter how much people may try to manipulate the system and the judiciary.
My only worry is about President Buhari’s footsoldiers. From their utterances and body language, it is obvious that they are spoiling for war and are only ready to go down fighting. They do not seem to care about the outcome of free and fair elections as long as their candidate does not lose. They have boisterously announced to the world, and the President himself has echoed them, that no one can unseat him. That statement may be considered condescending and outrightly arrogant and capable of pouring petrol into the raging fire.
This is very sad because only four years ago, we witnessed the public ignominy suffered by Elder Peter Godsday Orubebe who was busy throwing tantrums like a baby while results of the contest between Buhari and President Jonathan were being announced. It was such a show of shame. Why would the government that came in after that disastrous melodrama repeat the same nonsense? Indeed, on reflection, it seems to me that this Government has in recent times been following the same path to perdition that the PDP and Jonathan followed towards the end of that administration. It is like history repeating itself. There is a surreal element of déjà vu playing out. It is my hope that the same silly season and scenario does not repeat itself come the final collation and announcement of results. Nigeria cannot afford such shame and indignity again.
What is wrong with some of the young folks in APC who behave as if they can’t find other things to do expect government work? And because of their own personal avarice and self-aggrandizement, they are unconcerned about the greater good of the greater number of people and their country. No one should ever think of setting Nigeria on fire again. Nigeria has been too kind to these people, and they should, please, leave Nigeria in peace and not in pieces.
From where I stand, I can see very clearly that whatever happens, whenever this election is held, now or in the near future, the ruling government is clearly in trouble and the ruling party has virtually collapsed, with almost no hope of redemption in sight. A house divided against itself that still wishes to stand tall may be mere wishful thinking. APC has abdicated governance and its leadership has started behaving like Emperors and conquerors. The in-fighting is so much that we no longer know who is actually in charge. In all honesty, how can a party that can no longer direct its own affairs, and a President who seems to be clueless about how to maintain party unity, discipline and loyalty, and is apparently not in charge of virtually anything, ask for people’s votes in good conscience? Such a party cannot deliver good governance, much more the change that was promised four years ago. However, it is ultimately the people’s choice as to which road they want to traverse.
From Lagos to Ogun to Adamawa to Imo to Rivers to Zamfara to Kaduna to Delta, it has been one tale of woe or the other. And it all boils down to the refusal of party chieftains to act as true democrats. What is worse, the party has rubbished some of the key figures that brought it to power, many of who have since returned to where they came from, PDP. The major assets that brought Buhari to power have all collapsed and it mainly liabilities that can be seen all around.
The day of reckoning is here. The People will have their say. The contending gladiators must also ensure that the People must have their way. Their choice must prevail no matter whose ox is gored. Nobody is bigger than Nigeria.