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Nigeria, a comedy of errors

By Tabia Princewill

It never ceases to amaze me how we continue to play games with our future as a country. Our politics, like a soap opera or a badly written pantomime, is filled with awe- inspiring episodes which leave one both amazed and confused as we await the next instalment.

I was surprised when at a forum organised by Chatham House in London, Sambo Dasuki, the National Security Adviser, made a pronouncement about the possibility of elections being postponed to allow more Nigerians collect their Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs. That statement was not his to make.

After all, with the return of democracy, Nigeria was meant to have done away with the meddling of security agencies in affairs that, quite frankly, do not concern them. Government is a complex machine where each agency has a role to play and the independence and separateness of each arm of government is sacrosanct. INEC is “independent”, is it not?

So, why should security agencies, under the executives’ responsibility be allowed to comment on its operations? The path our Constitution clearly outlines, in terms of delivery of governments’ responsibilities, does not allow the executive to put pressure on any body whose independence is written into law to guaranty impartiality, in the interest of all Nigerians.

Why compromise this, if not because there is something sinister at play? This does not speak well of our interpretation of our Constitution or of our understanding of the workings of government. I’m afraid for Nigeria. Foreigners wonder how, yet again, our civil society has allowed its rights and wishes to be flouted with such daring. Can one imagine this whole scenario happening in the United States or the United Kingdom? So why are these things still possible in Nigeria?

Agency’s performance

Artists representing Nigeria perform during the opening ceremony of the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013, held before the Group A football match between Brazil and Japan, at the National Stadium in Brasilia on June 15, 2013.  AFP PHOTO /
FILE PHOTO: Artists representing Nigeria perform during the opening ceremony of the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013, . AFP PHOTO

INEC had always assured Nigerians of its readiness and we chose to trust its chairman, Attahiru Jega’s statements as he (and no one else) would be best able to judge his agency’s performance. But in Nigeria, the “jack of all trades” syndrome has infiltrated even the highest levels of government, so one finds, very curiously, that one can be the head of one agency but freely speak for another; therefore, rumour, mystery and contradicting statements abound, turning our politics into entertainment for social media commentators and leaving our leaders to become figures of fun internationally.

Then we heard that the military chiefs had written to Jega to inform him of their inability to secure polling booths across the country, while simultaneously fighting Boko Haram. There is another issue here: Should security chiefs be writing to the Chairman of INEC at all?

In a democracy, there are protocols to be respected; that is a way of doing things which guarantees that no institution puts undue pressure on another and to ensure institutions are not politicised. Reports say the service chiefs “demanded” elections be postponed. Service chiefs cannot “demand” anything of INEC, a would be independent body. In fact, it is the duty of the police and not the army to provide security for civilians during an election. One would hardly see soldiers swarm the streets and polling booths during elections in the UK or the US. In fact, it is a rarity in most democratic countries to see the army out on the streets at all, as the police are sufficiently empowered to ensure citizens’ safety. So what has indeed happened to the Nigeria police? Are they not capable of ensuring our safety during these elections? Or is security just an excuse to shift the polls? Something doesn’t sound right here.

Nigeria is being noticed in the world but for all the wrong reasons: our credibility as a nation has, yet again, been dealt a serious blow. Why must Nigeria always be an exception to every rule known to man? Afghanistan was at war and still managed to conduct elections. Are we lesser men? Of course not. Simply put, we continue to lack the will to do what is right or to live up to our promises and Nigerians are left with the bitter impression that things are done without their consent or approval.

This could be yet another strategic, public relations faux pas for the Jonathan administration whose image has been severely tainted. Generally, our public officials are poor communicators. Perhaps this is a testimony to either a lack of regard for Nigerians or remnants of the military era ways where decrees rather than consultations were the order of the day. I, for one, would just like someone to bring back Nigeria, a country full of patriots, devoid of ethnic sentimentalism, a country that rewards discipline and hard work, where leaders inspire confidence, positive thoughts and actions. Nigeria must be rescued, her shackles removed.

Do we not see the danger of politicising our institutions? The lack of neutrality in most government quarters today is astonishing, the levels of sycophancy bewildering, the rumours flying about are disturbing. Nigeria and Nigerians deserve better. It has become obvious that a divided, unsafe Nigeria benefits some people in this country and there is almost no doubting that. \

Attahiru Jega remains a hero; not many in his shoes would have had his steadfastness and courage. It is simply sad to see that, yet again, the people’s will has been thwarted. However, Nigerians remain soldiers fighting for our nation and we will not just conquer the forces working against our unity and prosperity but prevail most gloriously.

We have not come this far to give up on our democracy: the patriots who have gone to rest look down on us and instil in us their courage, they feed us with their resolve and remind us of our values. What does it mean to be a Nigerian? Today, it might mean temporary embarrassment and disappointment at the sad state of affairs. Tomorrow, it will mean triumph.

I continue to believe in goodness and goodwill. All it ever takes for change is for a few good men to decide they have had enough. We are close, so very close and it is apparent even to those sowing the seeds of disunity and discord. To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be won.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.