Edaghese: For the survival of our nation!
THE entire nation seems to be heading inexorably towards the cliff. Unless there’s an urgent shift in direction we all shall live to retell Chinua Achebe’s There was a Country, a Biafran war story written by the late author immediately before he died.
It’s never a thing of joy to think of one own country rolling down the cliff. But we cannot but talk about these things if only those piloting the ‘ship of state’ would hear and take caution. Remember that in 2011, a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, in his book entitled Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink, predicted that the nation would not survive beyond 2015. Specifically the ambassador had said that Nigeria would disintegrate in 2015. Even last August, John Campbell still stood by his prediction; he reiterated that Nigeria would not exist beyond 2015!
I had cause (in The Guardian Newspaper) most recently, in an article I titled “Buhari, Jonathan and Revolution,” to decry our politicians’ ‘do or die’ attitude to elections. They take elections, I wrote, like war, where the end justifies the means. I specifically noted with concern that: “looking at the combative posturing of the two frontrunners in the coming election, namely, Goodluck Jonathan, the incumbent president, and General Muhammadu Buhari, a former military head of state, the battle looks very portentous, like the epic battle of the mythological titans.” And I wondered if we were “not unwittingly preparing the ground for the fulfilment of the apocalypse year” that John Campbell had predicted.
About two weeks ago, the INEC Chairman, Professor Jega, announced to a bewildered nation that his Commission had shifted the dates of the elections that were scheduled for 14 and 28 of this month to March 28 and April 11. His reasons, couched in double-speak, were most unconvincing. He spoke as one with a gun held to his head. The same way he spoke two days or so earlier at the Council of State meeting where he was invited to state his own side of the matter concerning the forth-coming elections. His lips were unsteady as he spoke. You could see that the man was labouring under a heavy burden. That was certainly not the smooth-talking, self-confident Professor Jega we all knew and admired. Obviously, Jega was in a dilemma. He wanted to tell all the truth he knew about the situations on ground; yes, he wanted the whole world to know that his Commission was more than ready to keep to the scheduled timetable for the elections. But he couldn’t find his voice to speak the whole truth. His tongue was glued to the roof of his mouth. He knew that even though he is the Chairman of INEC, somebody put him there and the same person could remove him if he tried to exercise his ‘Independent.’ Forget about the ‘I’(Independent) that begins the word INEC. The all time truth – he that pays the piper dictates the tune – remains forever valid. So, not to roughen feathers or draw the irk of his benefactor, Jega decided to be a team player and settled for half-truth. That, however, didn’t mean that Jega would be unmindful of his reputation and present a self-damaging report of his Commission! No, no; not Professor Jega, let a hundred guns be held to his scull! He knew his life didn’t begin at INEC and certainly is not going to end there! A smart professor that he is, Jega took a middle-of-the road approach to explain to the world what led to the shifting of the elections. He didn’t blame himself nor the Federal Government for her undue influence over the unfolding episode, which everyone already knew. The PDP, for some time now, had been clamouring for a shift in the election dates, accusing Jega of favouring the main opposition party, APC, in terms of PVCs distributions. The first to moot the idea of shifting the elections was the National Security Adviser, retired Col. Sambo Mohammed Dasuki. Recently while addressing a gathering at Chatham House in London, Dasuki asked INEC to postpone the elections, saying such a shift would allow the electoral body to properly prepare for the election particularly as it related to the distribution of PVCS.
As I said, even though Jega had his facts and figures with him and was sure of his Commission’s readiness to go ahead with the election as scheduled, he spoke from both sides of his mouth as he gave reasons for the postponement. Although that wasn’t good enough for a man of his status, at least he let it be known that INEC was ready to go ahead with the elections but for some issues beyond the Commission’s power! In fact, as icing on the cake, Jega added that the Commission was more ready than she was in 2011 when INEC conducted one of Nigeria’s most celebrated elections which ushered in the Jonathan administration!
Now seeing Jega’s reluctance to support an election shift, Dasuki, like a prosecutor bent on an indictment, stepped in and pulled the rug from under his feet. Along with all the Service Chiefs present at the Council of State meeting, Dasuki let the ‘boasting’ electoral boss realise that there’s a crucial component of the election that the Commission had ignorantly ignored: Security! Yes, security!
Hearing that, Jega was deflated. And as if washing off his hands from whatever Dasuki and co wished to do with the elections, the way Pontius Pilate did over Christ’s crucifixion, Jega turned mournfully to a bewildered Council and said: “Yesterday, for example, we received a letter from the office of the NSA, informing us of recent developments in four of the Northeast States, stating that safety and security cannot be guaranteed during the proposed election period, adducing reasons why this is so, and strongly advising that INEC considers rescheduling the elections by at least six weeks, within the provisions of the electoral legal framework, and within which time span it is hoped to restore sufficient normalcy for elections to hold.
“This is a new development that INEC cannot certainly ignore or take lightly.
I thank you for the opportunity to provide this briefing.”
Two days following , Professor Jega returned to the podium to announce a shift in the election date. Now what do we expect of Jega’s fate in the next couple of weeks? The PDP have said that they didn’t trust him and some have even called either for his sack or for his arrest or both. Jega on his part had said he hasn’t done anything that would warrant his resignation or his sack. Jonathan thinks so too, denying ever nursing any thought to sack Jega. Well, we all have to take the president by his word.
Another question: Now that the main reason for shifting the polls for six weeks is to enable the military to “clean up” the three states in the North-East, namely, Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe, currently under Boko Haram siege, what happens at the end of the day if the “clean up” fails? I pray Jonathan does not have to answer this question.
• Edaghese is based in Lagos.