By Owei Lakemfa
I woke up at the weekend to a letter by Professor Ibrahim Adamu Yakasai of the Bayero University, Kano. He had on February 25, 2023 performed a civic duty as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Returning Officer for the Tudun Wada/Doguwa House of Representative elections.
He had announced with his professorial authority that Ado Doguwa of the All Progressives Congress, APC, polled 39,732 votes to defeat his closest rival, Yushau Salisu Abdullahi, of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, who polled 34,798 votes. Now, in his letter, he makes a different declaration: that the previous verdict he declared was false, but that he had to do so because his life and those of other electoral staff were endangered. He said the collation area was under siege and he was “completely traumatised, hopeless and confused.”
Yakasai’s story is not an isolated one. Elections in Nigeria amount to a war in which no prisoners are taken. In the 2023 elections, the Presidential candidates had to sign peace accords twice.
Yakasai’s case is not half as dramatic as that of his fellow Professor, Ibeabuchi Izuchukwu Innocent of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, FUTO, who in the 2019 Imo West (Orlu) Senatorial Zone was detained by thugs for days until he was sober enough to declare out-going Governor Rochas Okorocha elected a distinguished senator.
In declaring the contentious results live in the presence of security agencies and the mass media, Professor Innocent declared his innocence in the unfolding drama as he told the world: “I have been held hostage here for days; so I’m trying to ease off and take my life home, back to my children; and for the sake of that, I am calling these results under duress.”
The announcement of his alleged victory was all Okorocha needed to move on and complete the process of his coronation as a senator. So, as it was in the 2007, 2015 and 2019 elections, so is it in 2023; so may it be in the 2027 elections unless we drastically change the system, including the electoral contraption that is designed to fail, a reign of executive and legislative impunity and lawlessness, and, a return to federalism, constitutionalism and the sovereignty of the people over all powers.
In our elections, people are killed and maimed, not that the process demands human sacrifice or human blood, but because being in power is the best business investment with huge returns. For many in power, it is the time to reap bountiful harvests with no thought for the people they govern. That is why there is so much desperation to marry and cling to power until death do them part; that is why a man after spending eight years as governor, would desperately want to become a senator, and then a Minister, and would not mind ending up as a member of a State House of Assembly. Even with that, since he does not want to appear to be too greedy, he also may have his wife, children, concubines and relatives placed in high appointed or elected offices.
This reminds me of the case in a trade union two decades ago. The internal auditor discovered a misappropriation of funds by the three principal officers. They were removed at an organ meeting. The internal auditor who is an officer way down the line of constitutional succession felt at the meeting that since he uncovered the conspiracy, he deserved to be upgraded to the post of acting president. The other officers acquiesced and a motion was passed. The deputy president of the union who constitutionally should have become the acting president, did not protest. Rather, he requested to be appointed the acting treasurer so he can participate in signing the union’s cheques. He was so obliged. Like the many politicians in the country, he did not mind to be side-stepped and the union constitution violated; in fact he lobbied to be downgraded from substantive deputy president to acting treasurer just in order to sign the cheques and partake in the renewed looting of the union’s funds. The then President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole stepped in and appointed me the Secretary of the NLC Committee to restore order and sanity into the union by getting the union’s National Executive Committee, NEC, to reverse itself and return the union to normalcy and constitutionalism.
Many Nigerian politicians are not contented with just eating the snail; they also crush and swallow the shell. For the dividends of democracy, many politicians introduce cosmetic changes and live by it “for their lies have led them astray”. The handful of politicians who introduce or want to positively change things have to swim against the tides, be removed, bruised or ostracised.
Nigerians are today in a state of penury and economic suffocation primarily because the Buhari regime is an albatross round our necks. Even after two separate Supreme Court orders that it loosens the noose round our neck by allowing the old N1,000 and N500 notes to circulate side by side with the largely unavailable new currency notes, it arrogantly, contemptuously and mindlessly ignores both the courts and the cries of the people. The impression it gives is that there is a hidden agenda to force Nigerians to revolt.
To check the regime’s reckless drive towards an avoidable catastrophic crash like the Lagos driver who last week consciously drove a fully loaded bus on the path of an oncoming train, many Nigerians, including governors, bankers and the conscientious, are rallying. Bankers, perhaps the most conservative professionals, in the absence of either a regime or Central Bank directive, went last week to put the old notes back in circulation by dispensing them. Already, some state governments like those of Ekiti, Bayelsa, Abia, Kaduna and Kano have announced that the old currency notes remain legal tender and should be accepted by the populace and the banks. So what we are witnessing is not only a revolt by some governors and bankers, but the actual establishment of a parallel economy. Once the populace can break the strangle grip of the Buhari regime, we would be able to survive him and his gang.
As the politicians squabble over who was elected and who was not; who is to be elected and who should not, the populace is gasping for breath. In all these, I am reminded of the Lord’s vow that for three transgressions of unrepentant leaders, he would not “revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes – they that trample the heads of the poor into the dust of the earth, and turn aside the way of the afflicted…” Amos 2:6-7.
Owei Lakemfa, a former secretary general of Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), is a human rights activist, journalist, and author.