By Casmir Igbokwe
Rev. Father Ejike Mbaka’s new lyrics depict the mood in the camp of President Muhammadu Buhari. In an audio clip circulating on the social media, the spiritual director of the Adoration Ministry Enugu, Nigeria, derided Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi. To him, the presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), respectively, desecrated the altar of God. The man said he had challenged God, saying, “God, if you are truly the owner of this altar, Atiku and Obi must lose the election.”
Happy that they eventually lost, Mbaka gloated, “During Elijah’s time, you cannot insult the altar of God and go free. This is another Elijah time.”
Peter Obi’s crime was that he didn’t join other politicians to make an open donation during the harvest of Mbaka’s Adoration Ministry late last year. He stood his ground against the priest’s several attempts to force him to make his donation public. Mbaka became livid and said Obi and Atiku would fail the election, if they continued that way. He later met behind closed doors with President Buhari in Aso Rock.
This clergyman must have been beating his chest that his prayers did the magic for Buhari. But he is not God and can never be God. He should stop deceiving his gullible followers by taking credit for this questionable victory. If the votes were allowed to count, and his candidate won, then the victory dance would have made sense.
Unfortunately, the votes didn’t count in this election. There were serious irregularities here and there. In some states, at least, 30 citizens paid with their lives. In some locations, especially in Lagos, thugs destroyed ballot boxes and stopped people from exercising their franchise. This happened in many areas perceived to be Igbo and PDP strongholds. The assumption is that Igbo would vote for the opposition PDP. In different parts of the North, there were allegations of vote padding, illegal thumb-printing of ballot papers and all that. It is left for the PDP and its candidates to prove their case in court when the time comes.
For now, Buhari is back for a second term. And his supporters are boastfully celebrating. The All Progressives Congress (APC) chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, for instance, has told whoever cared to listen that Atiku was not destined to be President. He and some of his party members have also taunted the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, for losing his re-election bid.
Last week, the display of arrogance and power play continued, especially in Lagos. A civil society group known as Orange Movement wanted to hold a rally against the national leader of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, at the Airport Hotel, Lagos. The group was reportedly inspired by a similar action in Kwara State, which led to the defeat of Saraki in the National Assembly election two Saturdays ago.
But the police emerged in their numbers and mounted strategic positions around the hotel even before the arrival of members of the group. They succeeded in stopping the planned rally. This is akin to beating a child and warning him not to cry.
It is worthy to note that a few of my APC readers have accused me of being anti-Buhari and anti-APC. Far from it! I have never met Atiku Abubakar. I also have never met President Buhari. I know them by reputation as former Vice-President and current President, respectively. I have not benefitted in any way from any one of them. Some friends had wanted to bring me into the Buhari campaign structure. I politely declined because I did not and still do not fancy his leadership style. My duty as a journalist is not to say hurray to the perfidy of those in power but to point out where they are not doing well so that they will make amends.
The problem is that truth is a scarce commodity in Nigeria. Many people, especially politicians, twist facts to achieve their selfish interests. I will never be part of that bandwagon.
As we prepare to go the polls again on Saturday, March 9, what is the guarantee that the shenanigans that happened in the presidential election will not recur? Will the security agencies do their duties without bias? Will the electorate, especially in the crisis-prone areas, turn up for the election considering what happened on February 23?
Many questions, few answers! I pity some governorship candidates. They have spent a lot of money on campaign activities. Some have wooed voters and promised to liberate them from certain abnormalities. But my fear is that a lot of people may not turn up for this Saturday’s election for security reasons.
Prior to the general election, people proudly flaunted their permanent voter cards (PVCs). The campaign to go collect the PVCs was so intense in churches, mosques and many other organisations that, if you had not collected it, you would feel like a fish out of water. With what happened in the February 23 presidential/National Assembly elections, voter apathy may set in again.
Besides, politicians have mastered the art of exploiting our fault lines and knocking heads together to garner political advantage. For instance, after the presidential election, the impression was created that the Igbo and the Yoruba were fighting one another. Thugs were reportedly mobilised to attack some Igbo interests in Lagos. Ethnic champions started dishing out hate speech on the social media and elsewhere. Surprisingly, even some supposedly enlightened people joined the fray either out of mischief or for some pecuniary gains. Some say Igbo cannot come to Yorubaland and dictate what happens there; that Lagos is for APC and that the Igbo cannot vote for the PDP in Lagos.
Pray, are Ondo and Oyo states where the PDP won in the February 23 presidential election not part of Yorubaland? Is Afenifere that endorsed Atiku not a Yoruba socio-cultural organisation? Are Atiku and Buhari no more Fulani? Is Jimi Agbaje, the PDP governorship candidate in Lagos, an Igbo man? And when did the interest of one or two people become the general interest of the Yoruba race?
I pity the Igbo in all this. Some of them gave their support for the APC with the hope that, in 2023, it would be the turn of the Igbo to produce the President. Such people should begin to practise shock-absorbing techniques now. From what I have seen so far, having an Igbo man at Aso Rock in 2023 may be a mirage. I wish I am proved wrong eventually.
The power-mongers sowing the seed of discord and holding us to ransom must remember that power is transient. Even life itself is ephemeral. Where is Idi Amin Dada today? Where are the Mobutu Sese Sekos of this world; the Papa Doc Duvalier of Haiti, Alberto Fujimori of Peru, Sani Abacha of Nigeria and many other dictators?
One big lesson to learn in all this is that, for most human beings, self-preservation is the number one law of nature. What happens to your neighbour is immaterial as long as your own interests are not hindered. That is why politicians keep jumping from one party to the other looking for who will butter their bread better. I will not be surprised if many of those who defected to the PDP prior to the elections jump back to the APC, if the party eventually sustains the victory of February 23 at the courts.
Even in international politics, it is the same scenario that plays out. There is no permanent friend, no permanent enemy. The moment China and Russia congratulated Buhari on his victory at the polls, I knew the Western powers would do the same. So, I was not surprised when the United Kingdom, United States, France and some others sent congratulatory messages to the President for winning the election. Nigeria is important to them and they cannot afford to lose her.
By and large, to restore hope in Nigeria’s elections, the government must initiate reform of the electoral system. President Buhari should look beyond his immediate electoral gains and sign the amended Electoral Act. That should be the starting point.
In the interim, government agencies like the National Orientation Agency and civil society groups should begin to enlighten people again to come out and vote this Saturday. Voters should not succumb to the threats of some party thugs. We must all come out and exercise our franchise. That is our legitimate right.
After the elections, Buhari, as a man of integrity, should begin to deal with corruption in all its ramifications. He should ask those who reportedly brought bullion vans to their houses whether they run commercial banks in their compounds. He should ask the military to account for every person killed in Rivers State and elsewhere on account of this election. Realising that rigging is a form of corruption, the President should order the prosecution of those who snatched ballot boxes and engaged in all forms of electoral malfeasance.
First published in The Sun of Monday, March 4, 2019