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Political power in Nigeria (9)

By Sylvester Odion Akhaine
01 March 2023   |   3:00 am
In the last instalment, I proposed to discuss the present-day arguments for the domiciliation of power in the north as well as the outcome of the February 25 elections.

Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu (left); receiving Ekiti State Presidential results from Prof. Akin Olawale Lasisi and Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof. Ayobami Salami at the National Collation Centre, Abuja… yesterday. PHOTO: LUCY LADIDI ATEKO

In the last instalment, I proposed to discuss the present-day arguments for the domiciliation of power in the north as well as the outcome of the February 25 elections.

As I write the results of the elections are yet to be fully collated and released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Therefore, I shall analyse the electoral outcome as a postscript in what would be the final instalment of this serial next week.

That said, I shall now discuss the arguments of the ‘inheritance elite’ for the continuous claim to Lugardian Architecture. The arguments were spawned by the Southern Governors’ declaration that power should return to the south at the expiration of the tenure of the Buhari Administration.

The arguments merely amount to bottling old wine in an old bottle into another old bottle, as neither is new.

To recap, the old arguments were the foundational lies of the Lugardian architecture, namely, false population and manipulation of elections. These were constantly oiled by the hegemonic tools of religion, an elusive northern interest, and control of the security forces.

The reiteration can be glimpsed from statements credited to Hakeem Baba Ahmed, spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum, Professor Ango Abdullahi, former Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, and Chairman of Northern Elders Forum.

In September 2021, in a keynote address at the maiden Maitama Sule Leadership Lecture Series organised by the students’ wing of Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Baba-Ahmed noted thus: “We will lead Nigeria the way we have led Nigeria before, whether we are President or Vice President, we will lead Nigeria. We have the majority of the votes and the democracy says vote whom you want” (https://dailytrust.com/hakeem-baba-ahmed-heaven-wont-fall-if-another-northerner-is-elected-president/).

his position was re-echoed by Professor Abdullahi at a recent Northern Elder Forum General Assembly. He stressed that the north has contributed more than any area of the country to Nigeria and that the north remains the base of Nigerian politics. As he puts it, “Without the northern base, Nigeria will not have a foundation”. As though Nigeria’s history began in 1999, he further noted that “Even when you are talking about years in power, from 1999 to-date, Obasanjo 8 years, Jonathan 6, (14) Umaru, 2, now Buhari, 8, (10).

So we are being owed even on the pure number of years, 4 years even on those terms. But the issue should not have been that we are not qualified to contest, we have no rights to contest. Certainly, this is the reason that we are saying now that the issue in Nigeria’s political environment must be based on democratic tenets only.

There will be no issue with reserving anything for anybody. If you win an election, and you win on the basis of this thumbprint, we accept, but if we win, there is no way you can deny us victory. No way.

We will not accept that at all, we will be ready”(see https://dailytrust.com/no-northerner-should-be-stopped-from-becoming-president-nef/). This logic denies the contradictions of the Nigerian state over which there is no elite consensus that should be the basis of power relations among the component peoples of Nigeria.

Elite consensus built around a minimum programme of national development should form the basis of the country’s democratic structures.

An important point is a brazen assault on Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution as amended by the northern elite using sharia in 1999. The arrowhead was Alhaji Ahmed Sani Yerima, the then-governor of Zamfara State.

The Constitution underlined the secularity of the Nigeria state and states that “The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion” (for detailed analysis of the sharia question, see Akhaine, S.O., A Political Tremor, Tell, March 13, 2000, p. 50).

It was intended to create northern exceptionalism, and undermine the Obasanjo administration which would create a basis for the re-enactment of the 1804 Jihad.

As a continuation, President Buhari, the last Mahdi, essayed at overrunning the rest of the country through the influx of Fulani from Africa and the swamping of the Middle Belt and the South with them and other elements from the North. More than anything, it roused the resistance of the indigenous Hausa of northern Nigeria.

It ought to be clear given the multi-ethnic nature of the country that such a mission would be impossible and that people are bound to defend their cultural geographies. Such attempts would always be a recipe for a civil war that does no one well. I now address some issues in the ongoing electoral process in what follows.

I was billed to speak on “Impacts of Naira Redesign on the General Election” on Friday, February 24, 2023, on Twitter Spaces organised by The Guardian. Although I joined, due to technical glitches I could not speak to the audience. Here are my thoughts on the topic.

First, it is to be noted that an election is a procedure for elite recruitment at the level of governance in ways that are authoritative due to the transfer of consent by the electorate. It is the reason scholars have agreed that election serves sundry purposes such as selection, information socialisation, and legitimation.

These are explicit in the above definition of an election. Beyond the monetary aggregates, the latent function of naira redesign in the context of the general election is to subvert the ability of the political players to corrupt the choices of the electorate through vote-buying, a salient phenomenon in Nigeria’s fourth republic.

Coming from the administration of the ruling party, APC, it was aimed at undermining the electoral fortune of its flag-bearer, Bola Tinubu, stupendously rich and could buy his way to victory. The fact that he is not favoured by President Buhari is the talk of the town.

Truly, the naira redesign has caused a lot of hardship for Nigerians who are consequently disenchanted with the incumbent administration.

The several policy somersaults of the latter, its anti-politics, and general failure are baggage that the party carries and are bound to affect its electoral fortune in the general elections. Though the shortage of money in circulation is bound to affect a seamless exchange of money to compromise the electoral process, it has the binary effect of making people who could not assess cash more vulnerable to being compromised, and perhaps lessen the financial outlay of contestants.

As Isaiah Berlin puts it in his essay on liberty, “It is true that to offer political rights, or safeguards against intervention by the State, to men who are half-naked, illiterate, underfed and diseased is to mock their condition; they need medical help or education before they can understand, or make use of, an increase in their freedom.

What is freedom to those who cannot make use of it? Without adequate conditions for the use of freedom, what is the value of freedom?”(See his Four Essays on Liberty, Oxford University Press, 1969, p. 124). Also, the naira redesign policy has engendered somewhat voter apathy.

To my knowledge, some eligible voters could not travel to their respective places of registration to exercise their political franchise. Now that the presidential and national assembly elections have been held, the validity of my arguments can easily be scrutinised.

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.

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