The days of reckoning are here

[FILES] Election

At long last the days of reckoning are here. We are back to the rituals consistent with the features of a democratic order. The last time we passed this road was 2015. Each season the contest gets keener. The 2015 exercise was on a higher degree of heat than what obtained in 2011. With the heat and pressure, those of us on the observatory will undoubtedly have witnessed the beautiful, the ugly, the noisemaking and the bizarre emanating from the gladiators and perhaps the system. Indeed, the true character of man comes out when he is under pressure. It is different from that for which he has always been known, or that he has striven to let people know about him, filing away his true self, until he is under pressure and the heat of power mongering.

I must confess, I, like so many people, have missed the banters and the punches of irrepressible Dame Patience Jonathan in this dispensation. Since her husband was too cool to pull any punches, she threw her headgear into the ring. Obviously, the Atiku damsels must have held their primaries and Titi Abubakar carried the day. She is on the hustings at ends different from her husband’s. For her it is selling her husband’s programmes and cultivating friendship across the divide that is of use. Aisha Buhari can’t afford to steel her womanliness so that her inner gaze would not be blurred and would continue to see things we don’t see and warn us: Fellow compatriots the cabals are lurking in the shadows; let us beware of them! She cannot afford to stand by combative Adams Oshiomhole jumping up and down, with broom in one hand and clenched fist of the comrade that he is in the other, to hit the unperturbed air. Aisha attempted to organize a milder fray among her women folk, but had to retreat on finding the terrain still rough, not compatible with her delicate nature. As for Dolapo, she can’t but keep reminding herself of whose granddaughter she is. There must be no stain on the illustrious name of her forebears. Where others are losing their heads, she must keep hers. Remi Tinubu prefers debate to mingling in a madding crowd, and that debate must be in an enclosure called the Senate where she can take on Dino Melaye and tackle Bukola Saraki, who unlike Melaye, feels restrained to subject ladies to exertions.

There have been surprises. Some of us his friends are getting to know Festus Keyamo much more closely. And, of course, the loquacious, never nonplused Nasir el-Rufai, the one and only spokesman of President Buhari who knows how the mind of the helmsman is working. A brilliant fellow otherwise, and a delight to listen to. The other day he promised, out of patriotism, that American and European diplomats should be prepared to be sent back to their respective countries in body bags should they interfere in the affairs of our land.

What was their crime? They spoke about the imperative of the government and INEC ensuring peaceful, free, fair and transparently credible elections. They also spoke of the unprecedented and inauspicious timing of the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, fearing that the government decision could affect the credibility of the elections. It is an action many Nigerians themselves have considered suspicious, coming as it does on the eve of our general elections and in view of the likelihood of disputes arising therefrom ending at the tribunals for adjudication. A week before El-Rufai’s pronouncement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had said it had observed bias by Western countries towards the Opposition, a practice that is contrary to international relationship norms. Indeed, The Cable online publication quoted the UN as accusing Buhari of breaking human rights standards by suspending CJN Onnoghen. These came also on the heels of the unrelenting outcry by the Opposition of suspicion of rigging plans by the government. However, President Buhari has consistently given the assurances of his commitment to a free and fair poll.

The response of El-Rufai came on NTA where he said: “Those that are calling for anyone to come and intervene in Nigeria we are waiting for the person that would come and intervene; they would go back in body bags.” He went on to say that Nigeria is an independent entity whose sovereignty would not be compromised in servitude to foreign powers. We are trying to run our country as decently as possible. He said foreign countries have also had their own share of “tough” phases before attaining their current development strides. El-Rufai spoke in the same vein as Shehu Garba who had said earlier that Nigeria would raise its armed forces against foreign elements if they meddled in Nigeria’s internal affairs. His was specifically in response to the statement issued by the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union diplomatic missions on CJN Onnoghen saying the action against him could jeopardise the general elections and their aftermath.
What are the signals that made the international community issue their statements? The missions gather their own intelligence reports on the state of affairs in our land. There are three potential flashpoints which if added to the general insecurity we are familiar with would make the situation in the country combustible waiting for only a cigarette end to set off a conflagration. These are Imo, Zamfara and Ogun States. Hopefully Zamfara is out of the bind now with the pronouncement yesterday of the Court of Appeal that APC could field its candidates for election. Mr. Aziz Yari’s supporters had threatened that if APC would not be allowed to field its candidate there would be no election in the state. Rivers State is traditionally a hotspot since the days of the rivalry between Dr. Odili and Rotimi Amaechi, and later between Amaechi and Wike. Wike is watching from the ringside the game between Amaechi and Senator Abe. We do not know what El-Zakzaky teeming crowd and congregants have up their sleeves.

One begins to wonder if it takes that much to recognize the fragile situation in which the country is and that we are now a global village; what touches one country affects the other. The Western world must, therefore, be an interested party. We ourselves were an interested party in the affairs of The Gambia two years ago when President Yahya Jammah was dragging his feet after losing the national election. He was searching for excuses with lantern in broad daylight to keep himself in the seat of power. Our military had been raised to get ready to dislodge him and were rehearsing; all that was left was the whistle from Buhari, the commander in chief and they would set sail. We were in Liberia when law and order broke down as well as in Sierra Leone later, both in the 1990s. If the western world had passed through this our “tough phase”, is that not the more reason we should learn from their mistakes and imbibe their exertions?

The PDP presidential candidate himself raised an alarm that Buhari made chilling pronouncement in Zamfara when he addressed his rally in his native language, Hausa. Atiku said the pronouncement was tantamount to Buhari preparing his followers for violence. If the smell of violence was not thick in the air, how come there was clamour for a second round of peace accord between Buhari of APC and Atiku of PDP which took place yesterday?

It was this same kind of self-righteous and misguided patriotism of the likes of El-Rufai that plunged Syria into intractable disaster and misery till this day. Should there be an explosion in our land, there would be an influx of thousands of Nigerians naturally into Europe and America, and several heading for Canada. That would be different from IDP camps for which we would be looking for humanitarian organizations to fund and support in kind. As in the case of Syrians this would bring pressure to bear on the infrastructure of the host countries and engender premature wear and tear, lengthen labour queues, and distort their social lives, all resulting in increase in taxes for their citizens, irritability, touchiness and hatred, simply because their own governments were arrogant and irresponsible. These are even refugees who know their way to Europe, Canada and the US. The majority would descend on West African neighboring countries in their millions. In the meantime, those who brought about the chaos and commotion in their quest to rule us, and in power at no costs to them would be hopping from one aircraft to another, from one capital to another on peace summits and to sign truce agreements., their own families safely tucked away into safety. This is what the Western world is worried about.

Crafted in the diplomatic polish and finesse characteristic of diplomatic missions generally, the United States Embassy denied any interference. It said as follows: “The United States Embassy in Nigeria wishes to reiterate, unequivocally, that we are not taking sides in Nigeria’s election. We do not support any party or candidate. We support a level-playing field and democratic process. That is the bedrock principle of our government’s advocacy on democratic elections. In the final run-up to the February 16 vote, fake news and rumours are operating overdrive. But it must be repeated: we are not taking sides. The United States is Nigeria’s long-term enduring friend.”

And here is the rub: “We provide more than $1bn in assistance and help, save more than two million lives of Nigerians each year through our health and humanitarian assistance. This will not change. We are Nigeria’s good partner, and this will continue after this democratic election—no matter who wins. This election is Nigeria’s, but it is also important for Nigeria’s neighbours and for the world.”
“Nigeria has long played a great leadership role in the region and beyond as a force for democratic stability. The credible electoral results of 2015 empowered Nigeria to play that role.… Peace benefits all Nigerians and peace is the responsibility of every citizen as you work together to ensure your elections are free, fair, transparent and credible.”

Nigerians want to live their lives in peace. The pretenders to our throne must be carefully watched.

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