Last week the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released what looked like the periodic table which we used in the O-level Chemistry class to determine the valency of metallic elements, announcing the dates of elections in Nigeria up to 2043 or so. Some people saw this as a strategic and audacious move of projecting the future. Indeed INEC said they did this to bring some certainty to election dates in Nigeria. Many other commentators have mocked INEC for ‘forming work’, that is pretending to be working when actually there is no work being done. They think that INEC is leaving the substance and pursuing the shadow. Some think all this was INEC’s response to the “effrontery” of the National Assembly in trying to change the sequence of elections in Nigeria. The executive is decidedly unhappy about this and it looks INEC has gone on overdrive to project the president’s desire. But there is little INEC can do, as it is their lot to implement the laws made by the National Assembly and not to make laws themselves. Some believe that INEC should spend its time and budget in tackling existing problems like a dispassionate and truthful investigation of the widely reported underage voting in parts of the North especially Kano during the 2015 elections and continued registration of the under-aged currently going on in those parts of Nigeria. This could have marred the 2015 elections and caused post election crisis were it not for the single minded determination of Goodluck Jonathan to avoid any bloodshed. In 2019, the combatants may not be as peace- seeking or in the language of Charley boy as “mumu” like Jonathan.
It is further felt that if 2015 elections were expected to test Nigeria’s unity following several prophesies and theories, we do not need any other prophet to tell us that 2019 may be the 2015 that was prophesied. This is because at no time in recent history did we approach an election season with so much anomie in the land. Nigeria is currently so disunited and dysfunctional that anything worse than this will require a new definition of disunity. In 2015, we had some internally displaced persons camps (IDPs) in the North East only but as we approach 2019 we have IDP camps in the North East (courtesy Boko Haram), North West (courtesy Zamfara Bandits), North Central (courtesy Militant Fulani Herdsmen ), South East (courtesy militant Fulani Herdsmen and kidnappers), South West (courtesy militant Fulani herdsmen and Badoo cultists), South South (courtesy militant Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers and militant oil thieves). How will INEC handle this logistics nightmare should occupy INEC instead of acting as Nostradamus- the man who saw the future. There is so much uncertainty regarding 2019 elections that it may not be worth my time thinking of what will happen in 2023, not to talk of 2043.
First, many nationalities in Nigeria have taken positions regarding the future of Nigeria. Many still believe that there is some benefit in Nigeria remaining one big country with many nationalities. But some believe that for that to happen, the country has to be restructured in order to cure it of the chronic instability, corruption, profligacy and dysfunction that has brought it almost to its knees since the military usurped power in 1966 and dislocated the arrangement made by the founders of modern Nigeria for a viable, thriving and mutually beneficial federation. Some other nationalities especially in the core North feel that there is nothing wrong with Nigeria or its structure and will like to see Nigeria wobble from one crisis to another and continue to shed innocent blood daily perhaps to satisfy thirsty deities foistered on this country by the workers of iniquity. And then there are some other nationalities that feel that Nigeria is a lost cause. They look at the contradictions-ethnic bigotry, religious intolerance, manifest injustice, entrenched greed and the ‘we must rule or baboons and monkey be soaked in their blood’ mentality and they conclude that the only lasting solution is to let the nationalities go their separate ways in peace. To this last group belongs Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB and many from his nationality. Today, I hear that many other nationalities especially in south-south and the middle belt share this view point, having tasted a little of what the South East has suffered in the Nigerian federation for years.
So it is clear that we are going into 2019 a fractured country with different nationalities holding different views about the future. While some are willing to have discussions on what to do, first to avoid any cataclysm that may be imminent and second on how to rearrange the relationships to assure future prosperity of all stakeholders in the federation, some have already become impatient that they are already taking it out on the rest of us by different acts of violence and malfeasance. This is evident in the current state of affairs in Nigeria where it is as if we are in a state of war, one new killing field every day and yet some people think all is well.
I think INEC should begin to create scenarios as to what will happen if the election does not hold in 2019. That is a possibility. Some nationalities have insisted that there will be no elections in 2019 if the restructuring of Nigeria does not happen, resulting in a new constitution before elections. They opine that the cosmetic piecemeal amendments of the 1999 Constitution being undertaken by the legislature is only begging the issue and only a brand new constitution written by the true representatives of the federating nationalities will satisfy their demand. The government certainly does not take that kind of threat lightly and would rather prepare the military to undertake an operation ‘Elephant gyration’ to subdue any such nationalities. But my point is that there is so much real work INEC should be doing, instead of just ‘forming’ work.
Over the weekend, I heard that a particular political party was doing ’empowerment’ programs in my town and they were cajoling young men and women to come and collect money to start businesses or help themselves on the condition that they will drop their Permanent Voter’s Cards. Then on the election day, they would use the PVCs to vote for these ’empowered’ young men and women. That is part of their desperation strategy to come to power in 2019. I do not know if INEC knows about this unique winning strategy by this particular political party? There must be other such devious strategies being devised by other political parties to win the elections in 2019. How does INEC prepare to counter these moves? How are they preparing to stay ahead of all the party efforts to bend or break the rules? Now INEC has registered so many new parties and many more are angling for registration. By 2019, we may have 200 parties on the ballot. How will INEC deal with all these new parties including Obasanjo’s coalition for Nigeria? These are serious tasks for INEC and my main point worth repeating is that there is so much work INEC needs to occupy itself with now and should stop amusing us with setting date for 2045 election when there is so much uncertainty about 2019.
Mazi Sam I. Ohuabunwa OFR