Elections postponed. Nigeria on the brink – again. – By Richard Dowden

dowden9Suddenly North-East Nigeria has become important to President Goodluck Jonathan’s government. It has provided an excuse to postpone the elections from February 14th to March 28th. But the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not want a postponement – it said that the provision of election materials was going ahead as planned. The Council of State which includes all former presidents and the heads of the judiciary, senate and other state bodies, did not want a postponement. National opinion polls do not appear to exist in Nigeria – maybe because the elites who own and run the country do not care what Nigerians think.

The excuse given was the disruption caused in the north east means that the Nigerian army needs more time to prepare the ground for the vote, but the idea that the Nigerian military, once a formidable force, could “pacify” – to borrow a colonial term – the north east in a couple of weeks is fanciful.

The Nigerian army was once an effective fighting force but there are several reports of officers selling weapons to Boko Haram or stealing the funds and supplying their own men with low grade second hand weapons. What is clear is that the armies of Cameroon and Chad have proved far more effective against Boko Haram than the Nigerian forces.

African presidents are still wary of their armies and many live in fear of a military coup. The latest one took place in Burkina Faso last October. So African governments either starve their armies of funds and support or, like Yoweri Museveni in Uganda, send them into neighbouring countries to keep them busy at the UN’s expense.

Everyone agrees that this could be a close run election. The state governors have more power than they did and although the majority are from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), more than a third are from opposition parties or are independent. If electoral tradition is followed this means that not enough has been spent by the ruling group and more Nigerians need to have their pockets stuffed with Naira and election officers and those in charge of ballot boxes need to be paid off to turn a blind eye while the ballot boxes are stuffed or swapped with other pre-packed ones.

Believe me, I witnessed this at the 2007 elections. In Ekiti ballot boxes were stolen by men who raced off in a car. When I tried to follow it I was stopped by an army patrol. If a western journalist with no particular access behind the scenes could witness this brazen stuff, it must have been on a massive, and officially sanctioned, scale.

If this happens in March – or whenever the Nigerian election is held – great swathes of Nigeria will become disaffected. In the Muslim north people may become more sympathetic to Boko Haram – or at least its aims. On the other hand what if Jonathan loses? Many of his smartly dressed SPADs in Abuja were once rebels in the Delta, speeding around its creeks in fast speed boats brandishing machine guns and kidnapping oil workers. Will they return to their former occupation or pay others to do it and hold Nigeria to ransom by stopping the oil – 70% of government revenue?

Whoever emerges as president after March will be poorer than his predecessors – the fall in the oil price will represent an 18% drop in government revenue. He will also have less power. If the constitution holds, more power and money will be devolved to the 36 states. Does this mean that Nigeria’s states will take different paths and Nigerians will have nothing in common except the flag and the football team? Could it even break up? We will know more after March but it is unlikely to be a smooth passage. And what happens to Africa’s biggest economy with the greatest number of poor people on the continent and a population doubling by 2050 from 178 million today, will affect all our futures.

Richard Dowden is Director of the Royal African Society.

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2 thoughts on “Elections postponed. Nigeria on the brink – again. – By Richard Dowden

  1. Factorization of June 1993

    Actors directors script writers of betrayal of June 1993 and ultimate death of it’s symbol are revealed by the day, every minute of the passing day comes to bare on the historic turning point in annals of Nigerian political standpoint.

    We were told severally how the aspirations and yearnings of millions of Nigerians who queued up to elect their chosen leader was thwarted and rubbished by few, led by the evil genius himself, who was placed by history to be a hero of rebirth of the nation, but as destiny would have it, was not meant for such glory, his destiny was to be condemned to history for allowing or spearheading such unjust conspiracy

    The Yorubas were also fingered in the plot and we cried at an attempt to roll in accomplices to confuse and bamboozle us the more, not realizing the feeler was to prepare us for the main shocker, roles of some purported Yoruba elders, not leaders, have come to fore in the conspiracy and evil accomplices for diabolical accomplishment that led to annulment, cancellation and the death of June 1993 movement

    How would one explain, the Afenifere led by Chief Fasnronti and Ayo Adebanjo in endorsement of Jonathan for yet further infliction of woes and miseries on the people of the West and Nigeria in general, they should point at what could possibly warrant the preference of Jonathan over any other candidate for that matter, which of his promises to the region was fulfilled to justify such action, yet to come to term with such step
    Femi Okunrounmu and most surprisingly, Chief Alex Ekwueme aligned with the shameless Edwin Clerk to ask for postponement of election and the arrest of Prof. Jega for treason and on whatever ground, how is it that, it is elders who are assumed to be wiser being, acting unwise, for what purpose and for what inference for the next generation.

    The rehearsals with pointer to reenactment of June 1993 was all over the place, it was all kind of flyer to get the candidate of main opposition party disqualified on various flimsy reasons, allegations in series, Islamic jingoism or religious fundamentalism rather fanaticism, no education later fake certificate, at another time it was on health ground and when all schemes on personality of Gen. Buhari failed, the NSA came with another flyer in form of advice for postponement based on security concern that borders on the Boko Haram insurgency, a skirmish that predates the current government led by Jonathan, that spanned close to a decade and when the election was moved from February 14th to March, a procrastination of six weeks, what rational?, justifies this perfidy, what guarantees surmountable conditions of the North East problem in such spate of time that was not applied over the years since inception of the unrest, what security nonsense adduces to such claim, more to it than meet the eyes, beginning of anarchy with execution of the rumoured Interim National Government in place of universal suffrage for opportunity for Nigerians, to choose their preferred leader and the final ACT with Scene will be perpetuation of Jonathan through the back door

    This was how June 1993 started, first it was allegation of illegal use or money induced primary that led to emergence of Chief Abiola to their charging, against all odds and expectations, so shocking to the marrows of the then government of the evil genius and his co travelers, they had to take other measures, such as disparing court judgment that culminated in the annulment to put stop to the Nigerian version of Zion movement.

    Where is it written in the law cited by Prof. Jega that, election suspension should and out of necessity be prompted and or prodded by external factors more so when he already addressed the nation of readiness of INEC to conduct election as planned and having assured Nigerians that the election will hold on February 14th as already programmed, lawyers have advanced the argument that, the section quoted to buttressed Jega’s position did not provide for blank postponement but restricted to only sections of the country under the yoke of insurgency and upon what unfounded ground, was the situation in Nigeria as 1% as bad as obtained in countries with similar problems?, did election not hold in Afghanistan and Iraq with daily national bombings, what assurances do we draw from the security incompetents that have not been able to curtail and contained Boko Haram over the years, what will they do in six weeks and with what magic?

    Nemesis is beginning to expose the pretenders behind annulment of election of June 1993 with cancellation of the polls, which led ultimately to the death of the symbol of change in Nigerian political calculus, yet again at another cross road in like manner, with yet another opportunity for change for political destiny of Nigeria, as reenactment of the June scenario playing out over again, not too sure Nigeria might survive it the second time, with all indications pointing in direction of prediction of disintegration of Nigeria. Of course advocates of hope and optimist with proponents of same have advanced historical survival of the country from such situations time over, what they failed to take into consideration is the fact that, elasticity also has breaking point, conditions may not always return same result every time

    Whilst Jonathan offered himself as a cog in the wheel of change, he should be reminded how the last actor in such scene ended, if only he will learn from history and not allowed himself to be tool for ulterior motive of evil mechanics, because, He whom they want to destroy, they first made king.

    The only one that could love Jonathan is Jonathan himself and not hawks who presented themselves as lovers of Jonathan, beware the ideas of March, Femi Falana warned

  2. Elections Postponed in Nigeria

    The Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in Nigeria have now been postponed for at least a month by the Nigerian Electoral Commission due to violence in the north eastern part of Nigeria.

    Understood that ‘Boko Haram’ is an organization dedicated solely to the advancement of violence and destruction. This ‘Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad’—better known by its Hausa name ‘Boko Haram’ meaning ‘Western education is sinful’—is an Islamic jihadist and takfiri militant and terrorist organization governed by the gangsterism ethos without any credence to the serene intellectualism of the Islam Religion advanced by the Prophet Muhammad. Founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2002, the Boko Haram organisation seeks to establish a “pure” Islamic state ruled by sharia law, putting a stop to what it deems ‘westernization sustained by crass colonialism’.

    My question concerning the postponement of the Nigerian election is simple.

    Will this civic electoral delay compromise the ‘absolute’ integrity of this Nigerian Presidential Election and to a lesser degree the election of parliamentarians?

    If so; Why?

    If not so; Why not?

    I look forward to your comments and insights as this issue of civic electoral delay does for me pose an intellectual ontological concern as to ‘pure’ civic electoral process and procedure and whether external conditions can create an environment severe to sustain civic electoral closure I trust without any political public taint which regardless does have the potential to compromise civic electoral integrity.

    There is not an absolute right or absolute wrong response but civic electoral practitioners ought to be cognizant as to the potential negative civic social collateralization of this civic electoral process in Nigeria, a nation now most fragile in civic social cohesion.

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