• Monday, June 17, 2024
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2015: Matters arising

2015: Matters arising

To gloat is to be offensive. Yet, I cannot resist this impulse as I reflect on the rather intriguing decision to postpone the 2015 general elections. On this note, readers may wish to recall that the opening clause in this column last week was: “Barring any spanner in the works, Nigerians will go to the polls on February 14.”

Well, there you are. Before one could say Jega, the spanner had indeed been thrown in. At the risk of sounding egocentric, the postponement turned out to be an event foretold. It is worthy to mention here that the first inkling of the postponement was given by the national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, in faraway Chatham House, London. According to him, this was in light of the poor logistics that have attended the distribution of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs). It was clear then that something was in the offing. However, it is possible to join issues with the choice of platform.

As I watched Dasuki on the tube, I engaged myself in a mental counter-factual. Suppose an election was due in Britain, will Dasuki’s counterpart in London come over to Abuja to make that kind of announcement? As irrelevant as this observation may sound, Dasuki’s choice of platform for making that seminal announcement says a lot about us. After over five decades of independence, we continue to be defined and undefined by those social forces out there. It was probably in the same spirit that a John Kerry came here to talk down on our leaders. Evidently, if we continue to serve as satellites of other social formations, then development will continue to elude us. I refer particularly here to mental development.

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As regards the postponement itself, my feelings are rather mixed. On one hand, I am inclined to sympathize with Attahiru Jega, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). On the other hand, it may well be possible to blame him for not getting himself and his organization ready for this important exercise.

On the former, the issue appears to be beyond him. Since security reasons have been cited in view of the ongoing insurgency in the North-East, there was really nothing he could have done other than to postpone. Indeed, if he had gone forward, chances are that he would have been wrong-footed!

Beyond our understanding of Jega’s predicament, however, is that he must also take some of the flak for this evolving issue. For instance, why is it that the PVCs have not been comprehensively distributed? Clearly, something has gone wrong somewhere. And as the last man in the defence, he has to carry the can.

Much more ominous are revelations which indicate a lopsided distribution of voter cards. According to the specifics deposed by a columnist in another newspaper, there is an alarming imbalance between the distributed PVCs in the northern and southern parts of the country. What this translates into is that one of the political parties was heading for a landslide victory if the elections had held on February 14. As things stand, that momentum appears to have been stemmed or stopped.

The immediate foregoing brings me to what can be called the subtext of this unfolding drama. On this note, the two major political parties have pitched their respective positions along the line of support and opposition to the postponed elections. Those in the former category happen to be members of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Such indeed is the media image out there that it does not take much to appreciate that the party was headed for a rout. So then, could the party have been in cahoots with the security forces as regards what some would call this latest gambit? As for the All Progressives Congress (APC), it is understandably crestfallen. Some of its members have gone as far as to describe the shift in the polls as “proactive annulment”.

Either way, what is clearly much more alarming is the way in which the name of the military is being bandied about on this issue. In view of our history, this raises fears about what can be called the unintended consequences of intended action. Again, if history is our guide, it is dangerous to involve the military in these political processes – or else…!

And this is why, even at this point in time, the major political forces should pause and ponder. Sure, the stakes are high. But then due considerations should also be given to the long term. I refer here specifically to the fate of our dear country. And on this note, a comparison is necessary. Next door, Ghana appears to have perfected the game of a national consensus via the emergence of a coherent political class. The upshot of this interesting situation is that, since the inception of democracy in the post-military era in that country, power has changed hands peacefully via the ballot box between and among members of the political class. It is this seemingly simple procedure that I wish to recommend to our own politicians here. The status-quo today becomes the counterforce tomorrow, and vice-versa – in an endless process. I will like to hope that there are enough statesmen and (women!) on both sides of the political divide to appreciate this sensitive and crucial point.

Kayode Soremekun