By Adewale Kupoluyi
THE open letter written by Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, Nigeria’s former Minister of External Affairs and Deputy Chairman, 2014 National Conference, to the two major contestants in this year’s presidential election; President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) will continue to generate mixed reactions in the polity because it touched on salient points that bordered on our corporate existence as a nation.
Akinyemi, a Professor of Political Science, had made the following observations in the letter: Firstly, that shortly after the appointment of the late National Security Adviser to the President, General Owoye Azazi, at his own request, he met with him (NSA) to discuss the state of the nation on the eve of the 2011 general elections. At the said meeting, he allegedly told the General that he was neither worried about the conduct of the elections nor its outcome, which he expected President Jonathan to win. Rather, what really worried him was the management of the purported violence that would ensue after the elections, which he said would be massive. Secondly, he disclosed that he suggested to Azazi the ways, in which the violence likely to be ensued, could be contained but that his advice was not acted upon and at the end, elections took place, Jonathan won and “all hell broke loose” because the conflict-controlled measures offered to Azazi were not adopted.
Thirdly, Akinyemi averred that now that the nation was “back at the same crossroads again” and this time, it was likely to be more precarious, dangerous and severe than the 2011 experience due to the “very notorious prediction from the United States of America’s semi-official sources that the world is expecting a cataclysmic meltdown of the Nigerian nation come 2015″ and even though most Nigerians had shown disapproval and disdain at this prediction while many are, however, indifferent to what could be the possible outcome of the prediction and the devastation in terms of the plight of the vulnerable – youths, women and children – who would be victims of such a calamity, if it occurs.
Fourthly, he warned of the envisaged post-election violence, which he stated could be higher and more severe than what was obtainable in 2011 because if “President Jonathan wins, the North would erupt into violence as it did in 2011. If Buhari wins, the Niger Delta will erupt into violence”. Akinyemi further expressed his worries that, should this happen – even though he does not “believe that we need rocket science to make this prediction” – it would be disastrous. Preparatory to the predicted mayhem, he alleged that there were allegations of illegal and massive importation of weapons into the country, which he noted, had reached alarming proportions by militias forces with the intention of battling the nation’s official armed forces, going by the reported cases of armed importation into the country lately and the sympathy garnered from some African and non-African collaborators that may wish to dissolve Nigeria “into a theatre of bloodshed, gore and instability”.
Akinyemi concluded his letter by offering two ways out of the gloomy situation. Number one, he suggested that both presidential candidates (Jonathan and Buhari) should meet and sign a Memorandum of Undertaking (MoU) that would commit them to civil and peaceful campaigns devoid of threats by preaching the imperative of peaceful elections, taming of party supporters, preventing violent protests and holding of a pre-election meeting between the candidates and the assemblage of 10 “council of wisemen” that would assist in managing the envisaged post-election conflicts.
While it will not be feasible to ascertain what actually transpired between the Professor and the deceased, what remains incontrovertible about the fears nursed by Akinyemi, as an elder statesman and patriotic citizen, is that the upcoming elections would be a critical factor in what becomes of Nigeria in 2015 and beyond, as predicted in the United States’ “semi-official sources”. Also, the build-up to the elections has been characterised by high level of politicking, provocative statements and bickering by gladiators. The nation’s declining security situation, unemployment situation and socio-economic downturn have promoted the loud call for a change of government, to offer the people an alternative in their quest for good governance. It is this power tussle between the ruling party and the opposition that may brew the tension and the do-or-die politicking that has become a regular feature of African politics.
Despite the stark reality that all is not well with us as a nation, the options propounded by Prof. Akinyemi may, however, not be too helpful in finding solutions to identified problems. Aside, we should ask; to what extent are the presidential aspirants truly liable for the conduct of their supporters? We should realise that under the existing laws, adults above the voting age of 18 years are solely accountable for their acts. Therefore, on no grounds should the aspirants be made to suffer for the actions of others. Secondly, the predicted North vs South violence is a product of social-political problems befalling the nation.
The real solution to the nation’s problems include the practice of true federalism, good governance, promotion of the rule of law, conduction of free and credible elections and the smooth functioning of our public institutions.
*Mr. Kupoluyi, wrote from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State.