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Political power in Nigeria (6)

By Sylvester Odion Akhaine
08 February 2023   |   3:11 am
I begin by asking the question: will the 2023 general elections hold? The answer is affirmative and negative. I shall advance here reasons that can lead to “no-show” and ‘show’; both concrete and circumstantial.

Atiku in Benue State. A meeting of Northern elders has been summoned to persuade Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso of the NNPP to join forces with Atiku to ensure his victory in the presidential elections.

I begin by asking the question: will the 2023 general elections hold? The answer is affirmative and negative. I shall advance here reasons that can lead to “no-show” and ‘show’; both concrete and circumstantial. These include the reluctance of the inheritance elite to hand over power; the extant nation-wide insecurity; the attacks on INEC facilities in some parts of the country; the call for restructuring before the election; state-engendered strictures; and a force majeure.

In the previous series, I argued that the ‘inheritance elite’ are reluctant to allow the transfer of power to the South and that a second front had been in the PDP to ensure hegemonic continuity. Moves are being made to ensure that power remains in the North. Beyond the call by the Emir of Daura that northerners should vote for a northern candidate, a meeting of Northern elders has been summoned to persuade Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso of the NNPP to join forces with Atiku to ensure his victory in the presidential elections. Senator Attahiru Bafarawa, former Governor of Sokoto State is in the loop ( Also, some governors of the ruling APC are alleged to be supporting the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar while other social forces are being mobilised in the South-South to support Atiku/Okowa ticket that climaxed in the search for a royal blessing from the Extra-Ordinary Assembly of South-South Monarchs and South-East who attended in solidarity with their South-South counterpart.

Against a fixation that power should go south; these dynamics could result in a backlash that could threaten the electoral process and outcome.

Insecurity is widespread in Nigeria, and indeed, the country has been under siege by Boko Haram insurgents, in the North-East, bandits in the Northwest, and Fulani herdsmen in the Middle–Belt and southern half of the country that is complemented by the activities of ‘unknown gunmen’. The bloodlettings, and economic cost, are nightmarish. The combined effect of the activities of these new militarists earned Nigeria the status of the sixth most terrorized country in the world in a recent Global Terrorist Index. The ratcheting up of the activities by these anti-social forces could result in a force majeure.

To be sure, the country was already headed in that direction, save for the alarm raised by the US embassy in Nigeria that gingered the security forces to move into action. On October 23, 2022, the US Embassy in Nigeria released an advisory to alert US nationals in the country of possible terrorist attacks in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory. According to its Press Release, “There is an elevated risk of terror attacks in Nigeria, specifically in Abuja. Targets may include, but are not limited to, government buildings, places of worship, schools, markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, athletic gatherings, transport terminals, law enforcement facilities, and international organizations”( This sent jitters into the public space. The alert seemed to confirm the projection of Senator Shehu Sani that there might be no vacancy in Aso Rock.

In an interview granted the Daily Times, Sani noted: “I once posted it here, that this government is going to hand over to Boko Haram and ISWAP. The Islamisation agenda has finally been activated…Terrorists have been fully armed with billions of Naira acquired through ransom paid to them by Aso Rock and by innocent individuals whom they have extorted. They are getting bolder and attacking here and there in Abuja with the military watching them and pretending to be helpless. Very soon they will take over Aso Rock and hoist their flag…It will look like a military coup, but it will become obvious soon that this is not the kind of military coup Nigerians are known to when they start issuing Islamic martial laws” ( Sani is not alone. Retired Lt-General Theophilus Danjuma, a former Army Chief and Minister of Defence, had warned about this situation, exhorting Nigerians to defend themselves because the security forces were hand in gloves with the bandits.

The above is complemented by election-related violence. The INEC offices across the country have been targets of vandalism. Even voters card are being hoarded and dumped thereby disenfranchising voters. For example, in Ogun state where voters’ cards were dumped in the bush. On February 1, 2023, unknown gunmen attacked the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, office with IEDs, petrol bombs, and other explosives in Ojoto, Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State. In the same South-East, two former governors, Orji Kalu, and Ikedi Ohakim, narrowly missed the bullets of the Unknown gunmen operating in the region.

Above all, even party stalwarts are being murdered, particularly the Labour Party partisans in the north. For example, around November 28, 2022, Mrs. Victoria Chintex, the women leader of the Labour Party (LP) in Kaura Local Government Area of Kaduna State, was murdered by yet-to-be-identified assailants. Again on Friday, February 3, 2023, Suleiman Tambaya, the LP candidate for the House of Representatives, Lere Federal Constituency of Kaduna State escaped assassination while two others were killed in the incident. The worst-case scenario is country-wide violence on Election Day. If it does happen, the polls will be jeopardized. 

A significant point to note is the perception of the election as the equivalence of putting the cart before the horse given the deepening crisis of state, that not a few believed can be resolved through restructuring of the polity. This matter is at the heart of the botched constitutional conference held so far in the prevailing Fourth Republic.

Chief Afe Babalola, Pa Ayo Adebanjo-led Afenifere group, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), and the MiddleBelt Forum have called for prioritization of the restructuring before the elections. While scant regard is paid to the Senator Omo-Agege Constitutional Amendment Committee that has essayed at amending aspects of the 1999 Constitution as amended, the overarching argument is that it is better to resolve the foundational problems besetting the country than prolong the birth pang of a new Nigeria based on justice and ‘equitocracy’.

Currently, there is the situation of state-orchestrated energy and currency redesign crises. The crises have engendered public protests across the country, and if they persist, they will affect logistics for the general elections. It is significant to be classified by the military as a threat to national security. General Lucky Irabor, the Chief of Defence Staff, underlined the point being made. The Defence Chief averred that: “Within the matrix of threat mapping, the challenge of availability of fuel across the country has risen to the proportion that it has become a matter of concern for the defence and security of our country…I need to also indicate that there are alternatives. I need to also indicate that there is nobody who is indispensable and so I have the mandate of Mr. President to come to say that it is a crisis of internal nature which of course, the police and other security agencies should lead” ( Comrade Wale Adeoye has captured this phenomenon as State Insurrection, that is, “when the Government, or a State either elected or military deliberately instigates itself against the people it governs, in the most vicious manner for the perks and benefit of a handful State Officials”.

He noted that one of its features is that “It often emerges in a build-up to major national events like a Presidential election in which the top State officials have lost the ability to control and manipulate its outcome with State Insurrection now designed to compel the people to make a different choice often different from the conscience of the people making the choice, also against the candidate of the ruling party itself or any other candidate with a growing, threatening influence across the country”.

In his Capitalism, State Formation and Marxist Theory, Philip Corrigan observed that “The State is an arena of contention and conflict within the ruling class just as much as it is the instrument of the class”. The factors that I have discussed above are a manifestation of the nature of the state. The combined effect could engender a force majeure—no show; if well managed, elections will hold. There is already a subtle hint that INEC could shift the election dates despite reiteration of readiness to conduct the elections ( The next installment shall address the interim government and government of national unity options.
Akhaine, Ph.D. (London), former general secretary of the Campaign for Democracy in Nigeria, is a Professor of Political Science and visiting member of The Guardian Editorial Board.