By Adisa Adeleye
THAT the presidential election did not hold on February 14, 2015 (last Saturday) is a new hard fact. The reliable umpire (INEC) has rescheduled the election to March 28, 2015 to allow for a fair election in a peaceful atmosphere.
Although reactions in various quarters have been mixed as expected, the reality is here with us to prepare well that the date is characterized by free, fair and credible voting. It is a fact that the behaviours of the party supporters have been less edifying and dangerous, and that it calls for strong warning and action by party leaderships.
In the preparation for elections, it seems as if many party supporters are yet to escape from the jungle of the past era. As noted by an election official, Alhaji Amadu Kurfi, ‘the campaigns for the election were characterized in all regions with thuggery, violence, arrests and imprisonments of political opponents by agencies of Regional governments and denial of permits to hold public meetings or procession.
Other negative acts are placement of obstacles against free assembly, expression of free speech and conduct of violence – free election campaigning and canvassing for votes. These difficulties were so pervasive and the political atmosphere so charged that all the leaders of the political parties met in Lagos in October 1964 and signed a ‘Peace Agreement‘.
The political atmosphere in the 1950s and early 1960s could hardly be differentiated from the present situation where the presidential campaign train is constantly being stoned in some parts of the North and in the Rivers State where the opposition is often denied space to campaign freely – the stoning in Katsina (North) and the shooting in Okirika (Rivers) are the barbaric reminders of the ugly late 1950s and early 1960s. The unfortunate display of lack of political tolerance and mutual understanding was one of the causes of the undesirable civil war of 1967 to 1970.
Many observers of the Nigerian complex political scenery since 1960 would point vividly to the stubborn but false attitude towards unity as a basic problem of the country. This is seen in the notion (false or true) that the North would always want to rule Nigeria at all costs.
The interpretation of the present contest between President Jonathan and his challenger, Buhari a retired army major-general, as a battle between the old feudal North and progressive South, are missing the real point. If Buhari represents the Conservative Hausa/Fulani “born to rule” caste, what is Adamu Muazu (Hausa/Fulani) doing in the ruling PDP as its Chairman? Certainly, he is not from Arondiziogu (Imo) or Otu-Oke in Bayelsa. The problem with Nigeria`s politics has to do with one important factor – exercise of power in its safe haven. The control of the Federal Government and all its resources, including Oil is the main factor. Since the discovery of oil and the importance of its revenue, politics has become very lucrative and political unity, elusive.
Since the country‘s political freedom in 1960, the control of the ‘Central Government‘ has been the battle-cry of all political parties, including, of course, the military politicians of the 1960s, 70s, 80s of the 20th century. At present, the prospects of controlling the federal government is more alluring – having more than 52 per cent of the federal resources, including oil, appointing all sorts of positions and in charge (through its agency) of monthly allocations to all states and local government. In spite of Nigeria being regarded as a Federal State, it is run as a unitary one, owing to the long illegal usurpation of power by the ‘military politicians‘.
It has been observed and justifiably so, that Nigeria‘s main problem lies in lack of political unity. The lack of unity has been responsible for the inability for a strong leadership to emerge, especially at the federal level. Religious and ethnic sentiments have confined the lovely and fine exploits of past leaders like Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr. Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo to their immediate serfdoms. The Federal Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa‘s exploits ended in matyrdom of a coupist bullets.
The intervening army rules which were essentially forced ‘national government could not withstand the test of time. Often, coups and counter coups among their ruling classes prevented the rise of a strong national figure. The strong man Abacha distinguished himself as an illegal investor of public funds in banks in foreign countries.
It is the view of many Nigerians that the complexity of the country‘s problems built on a deficient structure and aided by incompetence and corruption could not allow for the rise of a popular leader or the dominance of a strong party over a long period.
It is a fact that the current problems of the country are not created by the present government and that it has tried according to its best to improve the situation.
However, the present situation of the country is general insecurity, leading to warfare in the North-Eastern part of the country, bloody armed robbery of banks and homes, political thuggery, violence, ritual killings and kidnappings (less reported) nowadays.
In a prevailing confused state of the nation, it will be unnecessary for the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to remind people that ‘Interim‘ or Unity Government is not in the 1999 Constitution. It is generally agreed that “Interim Government” is an aberration and unknown to our Constitution.
Fighting of insurgents
Also, one could look in vain into the Constitution the existence of ‘Boko Haram Sect‘ or the existence of foreign troops on our soil to fight our insurgents. Certainly, the presence of military personnel at polling stations may not be found in the 1999 Constitution. The Constitution, as they say, is made for the people of a surviving country, and actions are taken to face the challenges of the moment.
Many patriotic Nigerians feel that the re-scheduled elections would be properly conducted by INEC and that the country‘s gallant security forces will crush the murderous insurgents and the country would return to the path of peace and prosperity.
However, it is instructive to note that whichever party wins would face the prospect of a sick economy threatened by depression (through reduced revenue from oil) and a politically divided and ruptured society.
Perhaps those clamouring fervently for a form of genuine unity government have their strong points. It is not only being aware of Ides of March, but also the prognosis of 2015.