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A time of tension

Do you feel that there is a lot of tension building up around the environment? Of course, that is to be expected in some measure at a period immediately preceding general elections in any country.

However, the historical antecedents of the forthcoming elections mark out the exercise as a special one.

Nigeria has experienced incidents of violence in connection with elections in the past, but not of the same complexion and sophistication. Bombs during a season of elections were strictly out of reckoning.

However, it is heartening that the security agencies have made rapid progress on the trail of those who are alleged to be responsible.

But, as if the frightening introduction of this type of political intervention was not awful enough, the populace then had to face the bewildering equations around it. Who is afraid of, or against the idea of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan realizing his heartfelt desire of becoming the president of this nation?

The answer would be definitely not the people of the South-South. The welfare and progress of this area are supposed to be championed by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, called MEND from its acronym, whose cause has had a fillip from the rising profile of one of their own, President Jonathan, in recent times.

His continuous success in politics, specifically as the president, would suggest itself as being very dear to the heart of MEND and, indeed, the hearts of all the people of the South-South and their well-wishers How then could a group that would ordinarily be expected to support Jonathan, commit an act that puts Jonathan’s country to shame on the day of its glory before the rest of the world?

But that was what was supposed to have happened, going by the claim for the responsibility of the event made by MEND. It just didn’t add up, and little wonder that President Jonathan quickly dissociated MEND from the attack despite the fact that the organization had owned up as the perpetrators.

The sequel to this has been the arrest and immediate arraignment of a chieftain of MEND, Henry Okah, who is part of an enigma named Jomo Gbomo. Apart from associating the name with Okah, no one really knows whose pen-name it is, since it is used as an e-mail address in some circumstances that would seem to absolve the direct participation of Okah.

And so, the identity of Jomo Gbomo adds another grey area to a fairly beclouded situation. Is he one person, or is the name also borne by other people – a common “nom de plume”, as it were? And yet, threats to bomb Abuja are still being issued.

In the meantime, President Goodluck continues to flaunt the advantages of incumbency in the hustings arena. He has intensified the pace of his tours to various states amidst lavish receptions and acclamations. It is all at the expense of his office, and it is his entitlement.

It has always been so, and it does not deter other candidates from engaging on their own visits, which some of them have been doing.

Years ago, as I recall, it was on such campaign tours that Shehu Shagari, the incumbent president, ran across Obafemi Awolowo, his hottest rival, when they both flew into Kano.

Shagari was travelling in the Presidential jet, while Awolowo was with his traditional helicopter. The president then went on to offer Awo a seat in the much faster jet, which was accepted.

And so the two politicians and long-time rivals enjoyed a convivial flight back to Lagos. The incident was published in the more respectable newspapers of the day. It dowsed any incipient heat in the polity immediately.

While the campaigns were no less spirited that they are these days,  they had a stamp of courtesy and friendliness. It is also on record that the first Nigerian ever to be accorded the highest honour of the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) without being or having been a President, Prime Minister or Head of State, was Chief Obafemi Awolowo. And who did him that honour? Alhaji Shehu Shagari.

The age of “a matter of life and death” was still far ahead of us then. But look around these days?

We are now at the mercy of  acrimony and ill feeling. We now have a collection of assorted political parties ganging up against one particular political party to bring it down at the polls – not because of an obnoxious policy or organizational demerit, but for the resentment against its size.

There is even an “uprising” so intense against a particular candidacy which has led to the ugly sight of a public campaign of ill-will that has no other mission than to destroy the chances it might have. The only decent way to campaign against an aspirant to a political position would be to offer a better or more suitable candidate.

But these misgufided elements have no idea of raising anyone – except the to  nurture the negative purpose of casting others down.  They contribute a shameful portion to the tension under which we are hoping for an election that is free and fair to ALL.

Anyway, my sympathies are with Professor Attahiru Jega. He seems to be the victim of a public tirade by the powers-that-be who, individually, may not be in a position to even hold a candle to him. Now they say he talks too much. We have indeed come to a happy pass where they can complain about that in some other people.

To gag him would portend an ominous development for the future, because it will be very tragic if the head of INEC is no longer independent enough to even grunt aloud about his difficulties. But he must, to let   us know what the situation is in the march towards the supreme civic duty of choosing our leaders.

To castigate him openly for saying  and what he should say would be a sure-fire way of raising the tension further when failure begins to stare off in the face. Let Jega talk, for goodness sake, he is facing enough difficulties already.

Will Engineer Aregbesola still have the last laugh? It might even then be too little and rather late. That is he result of the mess Professor Maurice Iwu desbribed as the greatest election  ever held.

The final verdict, whichever way it goes, might just avoid the inauguration of then next Governor of Oshun State.

When it is all over, congratulations are naturally poured on the man who wins. Very little attention is directed at the man, or men, whose contributions are usually invaluable, that is, the legal team who saw it through.

In the case of the protracted episode in Ekiti State, Niyi Akintola, SAN, deserves to be congratulated. It was a long and arduous journey that must have been supported not only by legal knowledge, but also by a sterling character and great faith in the system.

Time out


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