Under intense pressure from many fronts last Saturday, Prof. Atahiru Jega’s Independent National Election Commission (INEC) postponed the Presidential election from February 14 to March 26. That is a whopping 40 days ample leg room for President Jonathan and the PDP which can make or unmake the success chances of many politicians. President Ebere Jonathan, rated far behind challenger Gen. Mohammadu Buhari (rtd), should heave a sigh of relief and clink champing glasses with his backers in the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In the All Progressives Congress (APC) there may have been a momentary grave yard silence. Gen. Mohammadu Buhari (rtd), tipped he win the polls, may have lapsed into a swoon. To start with, the PDP has enough money to foot another round of campaigns over 40 days which the APC cannot afford. For the first campaigns, PDP raised about N25 billion from only about four of its members. Gen. Buhari depended largely on the N100 personal donations through cell phone recharge cards. The winning joter of the President was the statement credited to the Army that, because it was fighting insurgents in 10 local governments areas in the north, it couldn’t provide adequate security cover for the polls. The police, too, followed in tow. It was a warming to INEC and the country that going ahead with the polls on Saturday could be calamitous, and Prof. Jega, defiant and independent as he may have wished to be, should know a bait had been set for him. And, simultaneously, the PDP began to assail his person as they did Gen. Buharis. The assaults were led by Chief Edwin Clark, a respected South-South region of Nigeria leader who sees nothing wrong with the Jonathan Administration and has become its number one spokesman and apologist. If Prof Jega stuck to his guns, the PDP would, very likely, boycott the elections, plunging Nigeria 51 years back to the 1964 general elections which was boycotted by UPGA, (United Progressive Grand Alliance), a political coalition of the Eastern and Western regions of Nigeria. That boycott discredited the election under which Alhaji Tafawa Balewa became Prime Minister of Nigeria, fermented killings and arson in the Western region and led to Nigeria’s first military coup and the Biafran civil war.
Even with Prof. Jega refraining from taking a plunge from the cliff to wherever the leap would lead, the government saw the postponement of the polls as dangerous enough to cause trouble that it deployed troops around Lagos and some important cities ahead of the announcement. That was intriguing. For this was the same Army credited with saying it had no potential to provide cover for peaceful elections deploying troops to combat protests. The Army left at least three questions unanswered in a security report of its preparedness for its professional duties to Nigeria it was said to have given the government.
•If the Army should, but cannot provide cover for a purely civil event, what would happen if the Cameroun or Cod’voire or Niger or Chad were to invade Nigeria in search of territory? Many people know the Nigerian Army would not tolerate that, that it is robust, that it is one of the worlds best Armies, that Boko haram get as e bi, as we say when, the more we look, the more we look at something, the less of it we see. If the Army statement is a political statement, as many people suspect, it would be an unfortunate event that could politicise the Army. We cannot blame President Jonathan for starting this in a civil society in which the army would appeared to be giving instruction to a civil government instead of taking orders from it, or supporting and defending the public will. President Olusegun Obasanjo, whose creation is the Jonathan Administration, deployed troops to win elections he couldn’t win. Now helpless, he must be sad watching whirlwinds and morsoon winds growing out of the winds he unleashed while in office.
2) Much as I am a novice in military matters, I believe it is reasonable to assume that soldiers are trained to kill and destroy, when necessary, and that, in civil matters in civilised society, it is to the police that the primary duty of maintaining law and order is assigned. Why do we think there would be such crisis on Election Day that requires the Army’s attention to quelled if we do not believe the elections would be rigged and the voters would protest it. Such indicators are prouded by the President himself in a statement during the last Osun State governorship election when he said the election was a do or die affair”.
•If the Army cannot overrun Boko-Haram in 40 days, what, again, happens to the elections. Will they be shifted again, If they are, with Prof Jega’s appointment be renewed? If the President brings someone else, will the election not be flawed before it has taken place? If the Army is not ready before the President’s tenure lapses, will Nigeria head for an Interim National Government? Is the ING idea the plan of the Establishment to save itself from a probing Buhari Administration? In other words, is it a way of defusing a political bomb inimical to Establishment interests? Will it fit into the theory of the Establishment employing such tactics to save itself politically and economically?
If we fear the Army is being politicized, the church has long fallen prey to mammon. The churches now appear to be competing for the President’s attention and should get plenty of it in the coming 40 days. In which major Pentecostal church has the President not gone to campaign for re-election in a manner which may pitch Christians against Moslems and disturb our Nigeria’s fragile religious peace? Redeemed Christian Church of God? Winners Chapel? Chosen? Each visit has been followed by poisonous propaganda by the President’s men. After the Redeemed visit, it was that he couldn’t anoint two men for the same office. This was a veiled reference to his support for President Jonathan in 2011 and inability, therefore, to swing for Prof. Osinbajo, a Vice Presidential candidate of APC and a senior Pastor of Redeemed. In other words, say the propagandists, President Jonathan has the nod for 2015.
A worse propaganda broke out after the Winners’ visit the General Overseer, Oyedepo, was said to have threatened to open the gates of hell for any member who voted against President Jonathan. Oyedepo was wise. He taped the proceedings. And according to people who claimed to have watched it, no such thing was said. To have said so would have been calamitous for this gentleman. For hell is not in paradise, and only a resident of hell can open the gates of hell for the inmates. I do not subscribe to the speculations that, like the tail of Halley’s Comet or other comets, made up of gas and dust, hard currency constitutes the tails of these Presidential visits. Over which the churches, excepts perhaps the Catholic Church, are falling over themselves. But I believe the visits, if successful, may set Christians up against Moslems in the South-West region which would appear to be vehemently opposed to a second term for the President. To counter this offensive, the APC would have to keep up the tempo of any damage to the economy by the Jonathan Administration. The APC would appear not to have roasted this meat well enough. Former Central Bank Governor Charles Soludo may not be its card – carrying member, but he has shown the way economic issues can be focused in a campaign focusing on the economy.
In only two well – researched articles he has shown about #30 trillion from crude oil sales could be in privates pockets! In whose pockets is the money nestling, we are yet to know. APC Vice Presidential candidate Osinbajo is a professor of law. In the next 40 days, can he give us a professional dissertation on the damage to the rule of law which the President swore on the Bible to uphold but damaged? I remember the case of Mr. Justice Salami of the Federal Court of Appeal Vs the Supreme Court Justices. I remember, also the Judge in Ekiti State who was beaten up in the Court room and who had to flee through the window. A President who swore on the sacred Bible to uphold the Rule of Law would have fished out the Judges attackers and brought them to book. But what happened?
In a time such as this, Nigerians who genuinely what their country to run well and beautifully cannot forget Pa Alfred Rewani, a state murder victim during the regime of Gen. Sanni Abacha. He characteristically, this prolific writer would have linked us to the past at this time, to enable us know where we are coming from, so we can take only sure steps into the future. When Prof Jega stood his ground against the President and the National Cainal of state did likewise, I wrote the following test, based on my memory of the past about which Pa Rewane would have connected us. The unfolding political event which led to this commentary has been overtaken. But I have decided to live it as intact as I wrote it. I cannot do it as well as he would have…
CONGRATULATIONS, NIGERIA. By averting a postponement of Saturday’s Presidential election, Nigeria may have averted a dangerous political crisis. An election crisis brought the military to power in 1966, led to the 1967-70 Biafran civil war, led to the overthrow of Gen. Yakubu Gowon’s military government, Saw Gen. Ibrahim Babangida out of power, paved the way for gen. Sanni Abacha to take power and later destroyed him, brought Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) back to power, and, under President Ebere Jonathan, may have led to a crisis of yet unknown dimensions. When it comes to protecting personal or party interests, politicians never appear to have a sense of history. Already, the country appears politically divided along the physical shape of the Biafran war years… the eastern region of Nigeria on one side, and the rest of Nigeria on the other. And all it would take to cause commotion could be a careless and unjustifiable political manoeuvre or statements.
If political campaigns have no other value, that is if election results had been predetermined and polls are mere formalities, they are at least handwriting’s on the wall. We all interpret political campaign handwriting’s differently, depending on our education about political behaviour and our emotions. But when you notice panic in a political camp, that’s another handwriting on the wall super-imposed on those of the political campaigns. There is no doubt that President Jonathan had a bad product to sell to the electorate. That bad product was what his government has made of the economy of Nigeria in the last four years. On the eve of the campaigns, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the President’s party, sought to present the economic mess as Nigerian feature of a global economic crisis triggered by the collapse of crude oil price in the world market. But the government could not explain why Nigerian pump price fell by only 10 percent against 60 percent in even some non-oil producing countries, and why Value Added Tax (VAT) simultaneously leapt from five to 10 percent.
To worsen matters on an Election Eve, Nigeria’s currency, the Naira, was devalued from about N165 to the United States Dollar to about N205 today. That means inflation. Many state governments and the Federal Government owed workers salaries for about five months. Meanwhile, the President and some of his ministers lived in opulence. The President had 12 jets in his Presidential fleet against only two jets left behind a few years ago by President Olusegun Obasanjo who left behind a tidy foreign reserve and even sovereign reserve. Both reserves were squandered, and President Jonathan was in the process of adding a 13th jet to the fleet before the campaigns. Even the Minister of Petroleum had an official private jet. It would appear this jet was not in the budget approved for the President by the National Assembly. And this bears testimony to claims by the opposition that the government spends more money out of the Budget than in the Budget. Public finance watchers believe the free petro dollar comes from oil sales not accounted for. In the recent public exchanges between Professor Charles Solido, Former Governor of the Central Bank, and incumbent Finance Minister Mrs. Okonjo Iweala, Professor Solido has used her own data of oil revenue outside the books, which are conservative figures, to show that this free cash circulating in the corridors of power has amounted to N30 trillion!
I believe the mistake of President Jonathan is his assumption that the presidency is a tea party. He probably didn’t realise early enough that the President is the driver of the craft, the chief servant of the public. He took a back seat, far away from the rigour of work, and handed the work to other people. These other people were no fools. They stormed the treasury, and helped themselves to free cash. The government became loose and he did not have firm control over anything. And, so, when the report card hard to be written four years after in an election, there was nothing substantial to write home about the economy. Corruption had so eaten deep into the government and society that even Gen. Ibrahim Babangida whose regime was before now widely acclaim to aggravate corruption in Nigeria, would now publicly say that, compared with President Jonathan’s, he was a saint! And, to worsen matters, President Jonathan went about making light jokes about corruption. One of his famous comments on corruption was that “stealing is not corruption”. At campaign rallies, he said he couldn’t send corrupt people to jail because the prisons would not take them all. At another forum, he said he couldn’t jail his friends simply because they were corrupt.
And, so, quite naturally, the entry of Gen. Mohamadu Buhari (rtd) as a major challenger for the presidency would cause a stir, if not a scare in the PDP. He immediately lay his person bare: he has only two houses in the whole wide world, and less than one million in his bank account. This was a challenge to President Jonathan to publicly declare his assets. The President would not. Even in 2007 when he was Vice-president to President Yar A’dua, who publicly declared his asset of about N960 million, Vice-president Jonathan made no such declaration. In contrast, Gen. Buhari says his ministers would publicly declare assets and he would empower the now moribund Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to do its job independent of the government.
The PDP tried to move the campaign away from corruption and the economy. Thus, the person of Buhari became its punch bag. He was hit left and right and all over about his age, health, education, family life and his life span. But it always turned out information about Buhari’s person was false and the lies against his person won him pity and support. There ploys having failed to subsume the challenger, two king jokers were wheeled out of the armoury. One was to trick him into a public debate with President Jonathan who himself avoided a public debate in 2011. Gen. Buhari is not a man of many words. And he may easily get angry. Besides, he could easily make the mistake of a Chief Obafemi Awolowo or a Chief Moshood Abiola. In Aba, heart of igboland, Chief Awolowo said he would ban the importation of stockfish and second hand clothes. Stock-fish was, and still is, a culinary delicacy in Eastern Nigeria. Chief Awolowo said life had been drained away from it with the extraction of Cod Liver oil and that it was the sun-dried chaff Norway was selling to Nigeria. For second-hand clothes why should any-one dehumanize himself or herself by wearing clothes, shoes, brassairs and undies someone else had won life out off and discarded? Why should we make ourselves “second-hand” human beings? Unfortunately, these are what a majority of Nigerians have become, unable to break free of the spiritual yoke, which makes them substandard to other human beings, given the huge business in second-hand “everything imaginable” in Nigeria today.