A typically passionate Nigerian who wakes up this morning—or more likely stayed awake last night—to the news that the much anticipated February 14 elections have been postponed would likely get into a righteous kind of mad.
This isn’t just about what party this individual supports or what candidate the individual desires to vote for; the theft of the people’s legitimate expectations goes beyond party politics.
February 14 is not a sacrosanct political date. But still, a negative emotional reaction is not unreasonable in the circumstances. Expectations have been high, plans have been made. A number of people have drawn up their actions and decisions around the date of the elections. Meetings have been scheduled, deals have been postponed, work leaves have been taken, tickets have been booked, monies have been expended. If this was a private affair between individuals, the postponement is a valid cause of action in contract or in tort.
So, yes, the average Nigerian has the right to get mad about this. But, just maybe, this is exactly what the orchestrators of the postponement are counting on.
They probably want us Nigerians to get angry. Or they want the opposition to get angry. Angry enough, maybe, to gather a few compatriots and march on the streets in protest, march in anger and march into the waiting arms of the armed forces—already deployed across the country in expectation of this reaction. The next scenario is imaginable: a few stones are thrown; a few shots are fired. Someone falls down, dies and there is mass pandemonium. President Jonathan, never slow to make the worst of a bad situation, declares a curfew and even more parts of the country are put under a state of emergency.
Won’t some people in the Federal Government of Nigeria like that very much?
Or maybe, just maybe the anger won’t be spontaneous, maybe it would build up in the course of the week and manifest as a peaceful rally—a demonstration by activists—to protest the monopolization of the electoral process by this bully of a government. The protesters may mean no harm, they may just want some demonstration against a government that is being too clever by half. A few placards to be carried to the State House. But, maybe, the government is eager for this too: the protest is easily infiltrated by sponsored saboteurs. In the course of this imagined protest, some unknown persons get violent and the police dispense some teargas. The demonstrators are dispersed and dear Goodluck Jonathan imposes a curfew. A state of emergency is declared for additional flavour.
Some folks in Aso Rock would be overjoyed.
Do these scenarios sound far-fetched? Do you, honestly, think Nigerian politicians are not that confounding in their scheming?
Two answers if you are more optimistic than I am: One, listen to the so-called Ekitigate audio recording and hear the malevolent passion, the hyperventilation, arising over a mere state election, then imagine what the strategy meetings would be like for the federal election; Two, just don’t underestimate the illogical desperation of your average Nigerian politician. Oath-swearing, back-stabbing, carpet-crossing—these things come naturally to people whose livelihood is derived from the public slush fund. These folks will do almost anything to cling to power, either directly or by proxy.
You see, the current federal administration of Nigeria is clueless, probably, only when it comes to the formulation and execution of well-rounded developmental policies. For every other activity, the folks in Aso Rock are top-of-the-line thinkers. Like even the most primitive of organisms, this administration’s instinct for self-preservation is highly developed.
But why this desperation? You may wonder. Why can’t they take their chances at the polls or just go away in peace? Sadly for GEJ’s people, the current political circumstances are too risky: they face an opposition candidate with a historical penchant for being “unreasonable”, and worse, he is presently surrounded and supported by an array of ambitious politicians who hold personal and general grudges against major characters in this administration.
Politicians survive by cutting deals. But for GEJ, there are no more deals to be made with the other side, right now. The folks currently in Aso Rock understand their dead-end, and they need a way out of the mess they have created for themselves through six years of maladministration.
But no, they don’t want to stay in power forever, they simply want to stay in power for as long as they are able to destabilise the system, destabilise it just enough to handicap it from coming after them if they have to leave office.
Ironically, their brilliant solution to their own mess is to make things even messier. But, in a country like Nigeria, irony can work out quite well.
Let the main opposition party be honest here, let Nigerians who want Jonathan out of office also consider this: the major opposition party isn’t going to make the transition period a piece of cake if they come into power. A lot of aggrieved people currently in the opposition are gearing up to make life miserable for a lot of folks in the current government. It is an opposition party of revenge-seekers. Oh no, an Amaechi isn’t going to kiss and make up with a Patience Jonathan when positions are changed. The interests of individuals in both major parties have become irreconcilably opposed.
And so, this election is literally a matter of life and death for some folks in the current administration: there are people in this government who face the possibility of long prison terms should their opposition come into power. But no matter how clueless he may seem to you, GEJ isn’t just going to hand over the keys to his own jail cell to Buhari.
Do not underestimate the desperation of these jokers in government; a lot of them would rather see the country burn than risk their own skins. And so they are working hard, very hard to ensure that 2015 doesn’t materialise the way we have contemplated it. The first stage of their plan is the postponement of the election—just to turn up the tension a tad—using the Boko Haram War as an excuse. They don’t give a damn about safeguarding the country—they are merely using their own incompetence to justify even more treachery. If Boko Haram wasn’t an option, they would have found another: the uncollected voters’ cards, allegations of a corrupted electoral commission, court orders against the election, even the second coming of Jesus Christ. Attahiru Jega, sadly, will be the villain of this drama. But the script had been written long before Jega started printing his beloved PVCs.
When the postponement period elapses, then they plan to declare elections totally impracticable by invoking s.135(3) of the Constitution to extend their tenure, and then finally deciding to voluntarily stepping down for a coalition interim government when the country is fully tensed.
You see, again, while most of you were collecting your PVCs, these politicians were collecting visas for their families. They expect us to fight, but we won’t. Their ultimate plan is to cut deals when things go bad, to get some immunity under the table. They don’t want to be voted out, they want to leave the stage voluntarily. That is their escape plan—their prison break—and its success or otherwise depends on how we much we allow ourselves to get tensed up.
Fortunately for us, a lot of Nigerians are level-headed. Some of us even understand the full agenda of this desperate government, and we’ve foreseen these moves even before they were fully conceived.
But there’s a lesson here for the major opposition party: don’t underestimate your opponents, a lesson here for all Nigerians: don’t underestimate the illogical desperation of these politicians.
Nevertheless, the time to protest the postponement is not now, but it will come later.
So yes, let them postpone the elections, they have the legal powers to do that. However, this is not the time to tense up and ready ourselves for a fight. Ignore calls to take to the streets—they will likely be government-sponsored agendas. It may sound counter-intuitive but, no, don’t protest this—yet. Now is the time to relax and enjoy Valentine’s Day in the usual fashion. In March, we will reconvene to vote.
And the heavens help the conspirators in this administration if the opposition party wins.
For the effective protest will come after a new administration has come into federal power. We would not forget this injustice. We would probe into the election files. We will request to know what conversations, what facts, justified this postponement. And if we find complicit conspiracy, we would demand the prosecution and sentencing of those bastards who scripted and deliberately acted out this villainous decision.
Ayo Sogunro is the author of Everything in Nigeria is Going to Kill You. A lawyer by profession, he also indulges in socio-legal philosophy on this blog. Interact with him on Twitter via @ayosogunro.
Meanwhile, follow @funmilola on twitter and the #NigeriansAsk #Qs4GEJ and #Qs4GMB tags on social media for the serious issues in this election. Visit the NigeriansAsk website for more information.