JOSTLINGS for elective political offices in the lives of countries start immediately after the last round of general elections. That is the way of politicians and there is little or nothing that the rest of us can do about it. In Nigeria, the campaigns and forming of alliances for who succeeds, for instance, President Muhammadu Buhari started after the February 2019 presidential election. Indeed, in the case of Buhari, the race to succeed him started for at least two personages, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, even before the reelected President took his oath of office in May 2019.
These two people are peculiar and unique in the extant political space of Nigeria. Atiku was the opposition presidential candidate, the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] in that 2019 election while Tinubu was widely credited with being instrumental to the emergence of Buhari as the candidate of the then main opposition political party, the All Progressives Congress [APC] and later as president first in 2015 and in 2019. Atiku who was Vice President during the dispensation of Olusegun Obasanjo as president has been a serial presidential candidate, hopping from one political party to the other, and back, in the quest to realize his ambition.
In this regard he is not different from Buhari. For Tinubu the story about town has been that he threw his lot with Buhari after extracting an understanding that Buhari and his supporters who are mostly from the North of the country will back his [Tinubu’s] presidential quest when the time comes. Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state [1999- 2007] and his loyalists believe that the time is now, ahead of the 2023 elections.
Overtime, some people have argued that the label of a king maker on Tinubu with regards to the attainment of the presidency by Buhari is exaggerated. But I am persuaded that Tinubu has a bonafide claim to that bragging right. Buhari had failed woefully, and rightly so, in three previous attempts to become a democratically elected president of Nigeria. In those previous attempts in 2003, 2007 and 2011, Buhari’s appeal was severely limited to the core North. But for his membership of the Armed Forces, Buhari has never been associated with any pan-Nigeria association or movement or discourse or idea. And that speaks to the parochialism of the man and his constricted scope of friendship. And how that is writ large in Nigeria under him. So, yes, Tinubu made Buhari electable.
However, the feat could not have been achieved if the then ruling PDP had not been fractionalized, the then President Goodluck Jonathan had not been bungling and pandering and the Northern remnants in the PDP had not been sabotaging their president and their party in aid of the opposition candidate who is their tribesman. The events of 2015 and 2019 which threw up Buhari as Nigeria’s president and which have led us to this sorry pass as a country and as a people are still unfolding. The latest of the unravellings are contained in the disputed and virtually discredited ‘My Paticipations’, the author biography of Chief Bisi Akande who was an interim chairman of the APC. Understandably, many Nigerians regard 2023 as the consequential year for the country probably because the next round of the usually contentious general elections are scheduled for that year. But I think otherwise. Two thousand and twenty two which will be ushered in in about one week will be Nigeria’s watershed year, our consequential year. Now I will try to explain why 2022 matters more than 2023.
The first thing that stares us in the face today is crippling nationwide insecurity. It will be foolhardy to be planning for peaceful, credible and free and fair elections in 2023 when you cannot guarantee the wellbeing of the country in 2022. The other day in Maiduguri, Borno state, President Buhari claimed that bandits and terrorists were gasping for breath and are about to be crushed. But I invite you to cast your mind back just a little. In 2016 Buhari and his choristers told us that the sectarian terrorist group Boko Haram had been defeated and that they were on the run. But minutes before Buhari arrived Maiduguri last week, the same sectarian terrorists launched deadly mortar attacks on the airport where the president was scheduled to land. If after six years the president has failed to defeat terrorists, What is the guarantee that he would do so within the next 12 months.
In the face of worsening insecurity which may not abate in 2022, it will be safe to conclude that the general elections in 2023 will fail even before the first ballot is cast. It will be like in 2019 when the governor of Yobe state could not vote in spite of the top notch security guards around him but the state returned a dizzying voter turnout in the same polls. How do you ascribe credibility to such an exercise? A similar thing happened ahead of the general elections in 2015. Many local government areas in Borno state were then occupied by the terrorist Boko Haram. But somehow almost 90 percent of eligible voters managed to collect their permanent voters cards for the election. In some parts of this country, lie has no lifespan. Another reason why 2022 is consequential for the country is that it is the year scheduled for our usually contentious and controversial national census. History has it that Nigeria’s head counts even from the era of colonialism had been riddled with fraud and manipulations. There is no reason to believe that that of next year will be different.
The signs of a potentially compromised census were on display when the exceptionally brilliant but loquacious or outspoken- depending on where you stand-Eze Festus Odimegwu was removed from the chair of the National Population Commission for daring to suggest that proxy counting would be unacceptable. He reportedly said that the practice of a man telling census enumerators how many wives are in his harem and the number of children they bore for him, and for them to be so registered, would not be countenanced.
To pacify those who felt insulted by the temerity of Odimegwu, then President Jonathan in the mistaken belief that it would earn him support in his quest for a second term in 2015, sacked Odimegwu. And he was promptly replaced by a northerner. I am minded, however, to believe that the census may not really hold next year.
The stakes are too high to schedule a head count on the eve of an election. The potential negative fallout from the census will adversely impact the election. But if the census holds, we no longer have any guarantees that it will not be business as usual and that enumeration by proxy would not be the order of the day. That alone would be sufficient to stir up a storm. A strongly disputed census in 2022 spilling into our violence- prone elections in 2023 would be a recipe for disaster for a country that is already tottering on the edge of failure. I wish you happy new year even as we commit to return to a variant of this subject next week.
AUTHOR: UGO ONUOHA
Articles published in our Graffiti section are strictly the opinion of the writers and do not represent the views of Ripples Nigeria or its editorial stand.
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