By Ochereome Nnanna
LET’S start by congratulating the two major political parties – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), especially the latter, in the matured and nationalistic way they absorbed the shift of election date from February 14th/28th to March 28th/April 11th 2015. It would have complicated matters if the APC had made good the threat by Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, to “take to the streets”. It would have served no useful purpose.
The question on the lips of many was: why was the Federal government and its supporters so eager to have the polls shifted? Some opined that it was to enable the ruling party “perfect its rigging plans”. But a reverse question was also on some lips: why was the APC so eager to have the elections held on 14th/28th February in spite of obvious signs that the nation was not ready?
Could it be true that its own alleged plans to “rig” the elections had already been “perfected”? This is hardly the time for the kettle to call the pot “black” since both are regular visitors to the stove. For me, all that matters is that the nation has accepted, even with misgivings in some quarters, the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) shift of dates for the polls. We will return to this shortly.
What riles me, and should anger any well-meaning Nigerian, is the frequent butting-in of the United States with its unsolicited opinions on the unfolding political transition in Nigeria. I call it “unsolicited” for a cogent reason. Prior to the past year or so, America was Nigeria’s most valued Western partner, on both the economic and strategic fronts. She was our biggest crude oil customer. But as soon as she made a break-through in her oil independence experiments, Nigeria was the first country she stopped buying oil from. That act could have collapsed the economy if not for the fact that we have new customers from elsewhere, and our economic planners have started gradually diversifying the economy.
On the strategic front, Nigeria has always sided with America in its policing of the world, especially since the establishment of its African Command (AFRICOM) on October 1, 2007. The US depends on Nigeria to take up the bulk of the responsibility to ensure the stability of the West African sub-region. But when the Al Qaeda terror network established a foothold in the Nigerian North East, and we needed expertise and equipment to confront the new asymmetrical war challenge, America promised to help but backed out when it came to concrete action. America’s Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, claimed ignorance of the true identity of Abubakar Shekau’s Boko Haram, saying America does not want its weapons to be used to “violate human rights”.
And yet, this is an Islamist insurgency group that has destroyed over 15,000 Nigerian lives and jeopardised the general elections in four North Eastern States: Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Gombe. America proved not to be a friend in need. Happily, Nigeria has taken delivery of superior weaponry from alternative sources, and the war to reclaim our lost territories is yielding results. The partnership with Niger, Chad and Cameroun is working. Africans are solving these problems without the help of America. Necessity, surely, is the mother of invention.
Why is America suddenly so hostile, especially to the regime of President Goodluck Jonathan? The answer is not far-fetched. Nigeria is one of the countries in Africa that have come out openly and boldly to pass a law incriminating gay unions. Nigeria has officially put a stamp of disapproval to the gay and lesbian lifestyle. Anyone convicted of this odious taboo will risk 14 years in our nasty jails. Since January 7th 2014 when President Jonathan signed the legislation passed by our bicameral National Assembly into law, America and its Western siblings, which threatened a range of sanctions unless the law was immediately repealed, became belligerent towards the administration and the country as a whole.
But unfortunately for America and her Western allies, Nigeria’s abhorrence of gay lifestyle goes beyond President Jonathan and the current ruling party. It is a resolve we, as Nigerians, share in common, based on our culture and religions, and will defend irrespective of who gets sworn into the office of President of Nigeria on May 29th 2015. Should General Muhammadu Buhari assume power after the polls, we may even upgrade the law and make gay-related offences punishable by public executions. And I will support it!
Let America keep its opinions to itself. May be, as the greatest black nation on earth, it is time we started frequently issuing our editorial opinions on the maltreatment and violation of the rights of Blacks and other Minorities in America, and follow it up with threats to America’s interests in Nigeria and sub-region. I am sure they will not like it.
Let us bear in mind that the INEC may be the statutory body empowered by the constitution to hold elections in Nigeria. However, its touted independence is shackled by the fact that if the other stakeholders who have their roles to play in the exercise are not ready, INEC cannot proceed. INEC cannot push its ad hoc staff into any part of Nigeria unless their security is assured. Besides, INEC is not ready for the election because it has not properly trained its staff to handle the card readers. The Permanent Voters Card (PVC) distribution is shoddily handled.
The extension of time will give everybody the opportunity to prepare for a credible election. Prof. Attahiru Jega’s INEC is usually the last to realise it is not prepared for its assignments. In 2011, we were in the middle of the nationwide National Assembly elections when Jega cancelled it.
The shift of the polls will not stop anyone who has decided to vote for any candidate or party from doing so. It will only strengthen resolves and give undecided voters more time.