The All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu alleged last week that there were subterranean forces working behind-the-scenes to disrupt the 2023 general election in a bid to impose an interim government on Nigeria. “They want to provoke you to violence, so that election will be disrupted and postponed, and they can cunningly introduce an interim government, that’s their plot,” Tinubu said at his campaign rally in Ekiti State.
Although Tinubu did not mention names or elaborate on how this scheme would work, coming from the candidate of the ruling party at the centre, such a weighty allegation is enough for us to warn against any attempt to scuttle the presidential election slated for February 25. Whoever may be behind an idea of interim government, we must remind them that in the Nigeria of today, nobody can get power through the backdoor or by trying to foist their will on the collective.
To entrench constitutional democracy, credible periodic elections must be sacrosanct with the liberties and political rights of citizens guaranteed and protected. Any attempt to short-circuit that process under any guise is unacceptable. And it will be resisted by Nigerians. Democracy may not be perfect but the idea that leaders can be peacefully replaced weakens all attempts at arbitrariness that were at the core of the other forms of government we tried in the past.
Nigerians may need to be reminded that the democracy we now enjoy took the sacrifice of far too many people. Some were killed or maimed for life. Many were forced into exiles from which they have not recovered. Families and businesses were ruined. Besides, for a generation participating in their first election, attempts to scuttle the process before, during or after the ballots are cast will break their spirits in a way that the other failings of government have not done. The damage will be difficult to repair.
We have three weeks before the beginning of our seventh cycle of election in a republic. There is absolutely nothing to suggest that the elections cannot hold. So, the idea of forming an interim government is diversionary and dangerous. Elections must therefore hold as scheduled and President Muhammadu Buhari, who has pledged many times to leave a legacy of credible polls, must do everything to keep his pledge.
The 1999 constitution that we operate has no space for any interim government arrangement and the military can no longer be co-opted to initiate such illegality. On that score, the military must remain apolitical and uphold the constitution which they swore to uphold. Military involvement in governance is not only old fashioned but it also did the country no good.
Against the background of the relatively successful experiment with democracy in the last 24 years, the idea of an interim government is clearly an odious proposition. But this week will be crucial for the federal government to remove all elements of a crisis which some dark forces could opportunistically exploit to foist on the nation such sinister agenda. A noxious combination of lingering insecurity in parts of Nigeria with fuel scarcity and cash shortage is a recipe for a breakdown of the social order. Decisive steps should be taken by the federal government to bring stability in the various departments of the nation’s life to create genuine conditions for the February 25 and March 11 elections.
However, there is nothing in the present challenges facing the nation that constitute a mortal threat to the elections. In any case, the business of the state is to confront and surmount challenges like insecurity, periodic fuel supply and the unintended consequences of a currency change.
Only the democratic process unhindered by extraneous machinations offers the society and the state the opportunity to change faulty governments and replace them with something better. To interfere with the democratic process is to deny the nation the opportunity of peaceful transition, credible change, and sustainable self renewal.
More pointedly, the subversive suggestion of some interim government if the elections are sabotaged must be resisted. Any such plan, if established as true, must be treated as a treasonous undertaking with all its implications. To seek to undermine the democratic process is to subvert the state and thwart the popular will. It is to expose the nation to international ridicule.
However, the Most effective deterrence to such a toxic proposition is to promptly eliminate all the pitfalls in the system that currently suggest state dysfunction. We must get gasoline to petrol stations across the nation. We must get the Naira into banking halls and the pockets of every citizen as quickly as possible. The security forces must demonstrate the capability to put all troublemakers in check through a superiority of convincing force.
Above all, the federal government must support the last line preparations of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the elections. In cases and places where the credible threat of insecurity threatens the elections, special security arrangements must be put in place to ensure that elections take place all over the country as scheduled.
The federal government must come out forcefully to insist that it is not in support of any such move that is likely to roll back all the gains Nigeria has recorded in the last 24 years and could set in motion actions that can destabilise the country and our fragile subregion. The responsibility lies with President Muhammadu Buhari. If there are anti-democratic forces around him, he must rein in such people. Let all those interested in power use the platform of electoral politics and let’s all have faith in the inbuilt self-correcting capacity of the democratic order.