Electoral violence

By Dele Sobowale

 “Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, in the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side” – James Russell Lowell, 1819-1891 (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, P 254).

Nigerians voters, especially the educated and more enlightened, have never been placed in such dilemmas as we are now experiencing since the elections in the 1950s. Today, we are faced with a bewildering array of issues to consider before we vote on Election Day 2023. One reader, representing others, sent me a message; which summarizes most of the problems facing us in our attempt to choose a President. Left to the candidates and party members, the matter is straight forward – vote for us. For the rest of us, it is not so simple.

The reader wrote: “LAST SUNDAY YOU WROTE THAT YOU KNOW WHO WILL WIN THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. CAN TINUBU WIN WITH A MUSLIM-MUSLIM TICKET? WILL THE SOUTH VOTE FOR ATIKU FROM THE NORTH? OKOWA WHO CHAMPIONED SOUTHERN PRESIDENCY BETRAYED. I LEFT PDP FOR APC IN 2014 BECAUSE I THOUGHT TINUBU & BUHARI COULD CHANGE THINGS. BUT WITH THE WOEFUL PERFORMANCE OF BUHARI, THE GROUP I BELONG TO IN APC IS CONFUSED. WE NEED YOUR ADVICE”. Name and number withheld by me.

My reply to the reader was: “Wait until next Sunday for a reply.” This was a once in a lifetime challenge; to be discharged with all sense of responsibility, courage and fairness to all stakeholders. It will be addressed the way I tackle matters of great importance – calling for honesty; as close as any human can be. No winner will be named yet; until well after all legal proceedings.

FIRST A NECESSARY DIVERSION

“You cannot adopt politics as a profession and remain honest” – Louis M Howe, 1871-1936, VBQ p 192.

The reader, like most Nigerians I spoke with, since the conventions were concluded, expressed the same feeling of betrayal. I share their feelings. I have been canvassing for Igbo presidency since the late Dr Alex Ekwueme came close to clinching the PDP ticket in 1998. Few people can imagine how I felt as Igbo delegates collected money and voted against their own brothers in 2022. Unlike others, I was well prepared for such conduct from politicians. I was old enough to remember how several Action Group members turned their backs on Awolowo in 1963. One of them was in our house at Inalende Street, Ibadan at a meeting with the late Honourable Lanlehin. He swore not to side with the late Premier. He was the fourth member to be called the next day. He voted for Akintola. Betrayal in politics is as common as pounded yam in Ilesha or Ekiti. In case you miss the point; then let me be clear. Don’t ever expect honesty from a politician; just like you might as well expect to meet a virgin prostitute. This is important as we proceed in this discussion when we have to examine the characters of the candidates. You might still need to rank them on the scale of 1 to 10 for honesty.

ATTEMPTS AT OBJECTIVE ASSESSMENT

“Complete objectivity is a rare phenomenon; unless the issues are of little consequence to the individual” – Prof. Douglas McGregor, 1906-1964, VBQ p174.

McGregor must be familiar to anybody who read Management for his theory – which should not delay us here. But, among his works at MIT, USA, he left several guidelines for assessing managers and staff alike. I got a taste of that “objective” assessment when I applied for a job as an Insurance Salesman with Prudential Insurance Company in Boston in 1969. Part of the selection process involved a personality test. Applicants were asked to choose between two characteristics e.g. being honest and poor versus being rich but not totally honest; being powerful but hated versus being loved but weak; being popular versus being right etc.

Later, those of us employed were told that, since nobody is perfect, we must choose between human characteristics and issues which we prefer among people and what they represent. We are sometimes caught in a dilemma – like now in Nigeria, with regard to how to vote. Permit me to sketch them out for us.

HAS THE GOVERNMENT IN POWER PERFORMED WELL?

“Are you better off today than in 2015?”

That is the question we must all answer. On June 12, 2022, President Buhari announced to the entire world that his government has made significant progress on all fronts – including insecurity. Whether you believe him or not should depend on how you view these objective reports; none of which has been disputed by the FG. Even Lai Mohammed, who adopted Donald Trump’s style of labeling any unfavourable report as “fake news”, has not refuted them. Here are some recent reports to remind you of where we stand today with insecurity.

•Under Buhari, over 3,478 killed, 2,256 abducted in seven months – Reports (June 21, 2022).

•913 killed, 265 abducted in May [2022] (Report, June 14, 2022).

•Bandits abduct 55 Zamfara cellphone sellers (Report, June 13, 2022).

•Gunmen abduct 66 persons in Sokoto, Abia, Ondo (Report, June 13, 2022).

•Suspected herdsmen kill 15, raze houses in Benue (Report, June 13, 2022).

•Bandits kill 32, abduct 80 in Kaduna, Katsina (Report, June 13, 2022).

I deliberately listed the reports for June 13 last to make a point. June 12, 2022 when Buhari was addressing the entire world was one of the worst days in our history. The war in Ukraine did not claim 900 innocent lives in May. Nigeria, under Buhari lost more than that.

Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, is another parameter to use to judge the All Progressives Congress, APC, government under Buhari. Again, I will let the objective reports speak for themselves. Here, they are:

•Local, foreign companies withdraw 69% of investment projects (Report, June 2, 2022).

•FDI crashes by 78% in three months (Report, June 7, 2022).

•Kaduna, Rivers, 30 others [states] attract zero investments in Q1 (Report, June 13, 2022).

Again, I have provided last the news report, which was being prepared for publication on June 13 – the day after Buhari was telling Nigerians fairy tales; called Democracy Day Address. Kindly be reminded that without investments, there will be no jobs created. Poverty will escalate. Should I open the file for you on Power supply? Inflation? Exchange rate? Poverty? But, why make you cry for Nigeria under Buhari. But, I wept for my country while watching a man who came into office with presumed great integrity reduced to the pathetic figure dissembling on matters which are well-documented; and the facts refute his claims. Buhari apparently has not heard that “to murder one’s reputation is a kind of suicide…” (Henry Fielding, 1707-1754, VBQ p 213). So, the place to start for anybody wishing Nigeria well is to decide for yourself whether the APC should continue in government or not. Forget, for now, the present flag-bearers.

NORTH VERSUS SOUTH

“In the human species, language, as a rule, forms the sharpest barrier between populations, and that is why the line of language forms the national boundary; and why with rare exceptions, political boundaries encircling many language groups, tend to encircle trouble.” (Robert Ardrey, in SOCIAL CONRACT).

Nigeria is a perfect example of a political boundary encircling many language groups and perpetual trouble. Every time one of our leaders declare that the “unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable”, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Laugh at the ignorance; or cry at the stupidity. It has never occurred to them that the “unity” was enforced; first in 1914 and later in 1967-1970. Even now, there are language groups wanting to secede.

When it suits us, we pretend that we are one nation. At other times, we announce that we are not united. The argument about rotation is nothing but our individual and collective acceptance that we are several nations under one flag; and each resents domination by others. Even within the artificial North/South division, we observe the lies we continue to tell ourselves. If I might ask: North or South of what? If it is the Niger and Benue rivers, then Kwara, parts of Kogi and a lot of Benue are South of the two Rivers. Why are they called North? Power rotation is an abiding issue because we are different nations cobbled together by the British. And, there will never be peace until we settle the matter of rotation satisfactorily. The educated elite denouncing rotation, in favour of merit, have never been able to provide a definition of “merit” which is nationally acceptable. They want to replace ethnic affinity, which is clear, with a nebulous concept – which is subjective. Those arguing for rotation can point clearly to what they have in mind. The apostles of “merit”, despite “big grammar”, cannot. At any rate, group interests are not discussed like seminars.

Quite clearly, if rotation is of utmost importance to you, then you should vote for Tinubu or Obi– who now embody power rotation. Obi, in fact, offers two reasons for claim on the votes of those agitating for power rotation – he is a southerner and an Igbo candidate. …

To be continued..

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