Buhari's INEC, the silent coup plotters and the Gambian precedent
On December 1, 2016, Gambian eligible voters went to the polls to elect their leader thus ending the long reign of their longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh who initially conceded defeat. Barely a week after, Jammeh in a nationwide broadcast announced the annulment of the election citing fraud and irregularities which gave rise to tension not only in The Gambia but in the subregion.
However, the poll winner a former security guard and estate agent, Adama Barrow, was eventually sworn in two days ago in neighboring Senegal after pressure from ECOWAS leaders failed to make Jammeh step down. Although he is reportedly still in the State House amid pressure to hand over to the duly elected president, Adama Barrow the world knows his days are numbered with West African intervention force on standby to dislodge him from the Villa. And happily enough he has just heeded the voice of reason by finally stepping down which none other than a triumph of the peoples' will.
In a similar vein, Nigerians went to the polls about two years ago amid subtle threats against the former president. Prior to the highly controversial federal elections that saw the emergence of Nigeria's current President Muhammadu Buhari uncertainty hung in the air the country was divided along ethnic and religious lines especially in the north which wanted a return of power to the region at all cost. Jonathan's name became ear-biting among the Muslims who had been brainwashed in Mosques that casting vote for him renders them as infidels. Hence the gullible ones amongst them were taken in and voted to effect a change. Thus the desired change was effected heralding the dawn of a new era in Nigeria.
While the governing party, the All Progressives Congress remained in opposition prior to the elections, Nigerians were told that their lives could be much better under an APC-controlled Federal Government with the then presidential aspirant, Muhammadu Buhari, promising to introduce lasting social and economic reforms. 'Lives could be much better?' Pop-eyed, Nigerians asked, which means they would have uninterrupted power supply, the Naira would be made equal in value to the dollar, petrol would sell for less than N87 per litre, a tin of peak milk would sell for less than N40, a bag of rice would sell for less than N8,000, etc. Armed with these weapons, the gullible minds were conquered and they reportedly effected a change.
Buhari did say he would make the Naira, Nigeria's domestic currency equal in value to the US dollar when it exchanged for N150. The price of petrol, he said would cost much less. His former Petroleum Minister, Prof Tam David West told the nation that with Buhari, his former boss at the helm price of petrol will be reduced to N40 per litre. The former Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola did also say Nigeria under an APC-led Federal Government would fix the nation's erratic power problems within three months.
Under an enhanced green revolution, Nigerians were promised there would be food aplenty that would make life superabundant amid bogus promises to create millions of jobs. Thus, the then Federal Government under the former ruling Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) was seen as none other than a plague that needed to be rid of but fortunately or unfortunately Nigerians threw away the baby and the bath water by voting out the party that saw the emergence of an APC-controlled Federal Government with the principal architects seen as tin gods that have indeed come to liberate the people from the bondage of PDP sixteen years' 'misrule'.
Almost two years into the APC-led administration, the change Nigerians reportedly voted for is still miles away if not totally non-existent as everything has crumbled marvelously.
The major reasons being cited for this crying ineptitude and incompetence are looting of the treasury under the immediate past administration, crash in global oil price and militancy in the oil-rich Niger Delta.
Let us examine these in turn. While the looting of the treasury lasted under the former party, Nigerians were still able to feed and there was no indication or visible signs that a tin of peak milk would rise to N200 from N40 at the time. Again, while the looting lasted, there was no visible sign that a litre of petrol would rise astronomically to N147 from N87 per litre. Again and again, while the looting lasted there was no visible sign that the Naira would exchange for N500 as against N150 in less than 2 years. I, for one, would prefer a Nigerian government characterized by looting that would maintain the former status quo all things considered.
Is there any government in Nigeria where there had not be massive looting? Could Nigerians cast their mind back to the legal battle between Vera Ifudu of the Nigerian Television Authority in 1984 and Major General Buhari as a military ruler? What about the melodrama at the airport of Lagos between Buhari and his late second-in-command while Atiku Abubakar headed the Nigerian Customs? Those who were not born then would be better advised to do an in-depth research about what happened between Buhari and that young woman at the period under sad review following the news she reported on NTA where Buhari was one of the dramatis personae. On this score, no government at any time in Nigeria has not been involved in looting the treasury if we need reminding. The embarrassing disappearance of money running into billions when Buhari held sway as PTF chairman and the sudden disappearance of huge sums of money that was later traced to a Midland bank account in London are sad cases in point which are all chronicled in the 'Many Crimes of Buhari'' authored by Nigeria's Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka.
Another reason often cited by this administration is the crash in global oil price. Official figures show that Nigeria produces about 2 million barrels per day which were disrupted by militancy in the Niger Delta. That is to say, the problem here is two-fold. Firstly, contending with cuts in production output and secondly reduction of the oil price. The former Central bank Governor, Prof Charles Soludo in a piece published by the Nigerian Tribune said oil sold for less than $30 dollars when he took charge as the boss of the Nigeria's apex bank - the Central Bank of Nigeria and as of the time he left, Nigeria with the proceeds from oil was able to save up to over $60 billion in her foreign reserves although militancy was unknown at the time. But today a barrel of crude oil sells for over $45 with an average production output of over one million two hundred barrels per day in spite of the militancy in the region. Hence, what's the problem, if one may ask?
As Nigeria now heads towards another elections' year, 2019 to be precise, with frustration staring ominously in faces as a result of failed political and economic policies occasioned by gross ineptitude and incompetence of the ruling party, there is no denying the fact Nigerians are fed with the governing APC overlords that seem to have capitalized on their ignorance, conquered and kept them under what could be best described as permanent subjugation.
Nigerians, I have no doubt, would vote for another change but the question is would their wishes ever count again? Will Nigerians ever be allowed to take control of political future? I have my reservations in this regard because of what I have seen happen in subsequent elections under the APC-led Federal Government.
Certainly, hunger neither sympathizes with religion nor ethnicity and you know as well as I know Nigerians have reached and made a swift volte-face and all yearn under the existing circumstances for a return to when petrol sold for N87 per litre. Nigerians all yearn for the golden era when a tin of peak milk sold for N40, Nigerians all yearn for a return of when a bag of rice sold for N8000, Nigerians and foreign investors alike all yearn for when there was stability of the naira when it exchanged for N150 to the US dollar.
The crux of the matter is, can Nigerians ever be allowed to decided their political future via the ballot box in future elections using the current hardship and frustration as indices of Buhari's success or failure?
Elections have been held recently and which calls the role of INEC in serious question. No sane-minded person, if we all need reminding, would want to remain glued to an unworkable political system as obtains in Nigeria today. Suicide which was previously unknown in Nigeria has taken the center stage with many people dying one their own feet as a result of hardship and attendant frustration. Many young women have become women of easy virtue in order to keep body and soul together with many braving the harsh odds of the fiery Sahara desert to the coast of Africa where they embark on dangerous sea journeys to Europe and many have perished in this adventure.
Now the question is will the Independent National Electoral Commission allow the peoples' will to count with 2019 around the corner? Would there ever be a free and fair election with Buhari's relative as the boss of Nigeria's electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)? Frankly, I have my reservations here considering what happened in Edo State, Ondo state gubernatorial elections and Rivers' legislative rerun elections.
No sane-minded person would like to remain with a system whose trademarks are frustration, hunger, suicide, insecurity of lives and property and utter hopelessness being witnessed under the present APC-led administration. APC, we were told, swept the polls in both Ondo and Edo States - this had better been told to the marines considering what happened prior to the elections in these states geared towards completely eliminating the opposition and their members who are considered enemies of the state - a typical example is former Governor Oshomhole whose deeds and actions are only beastly but marvelously evocative of a misbegotten Homo Sapiens from an extinct barbarian tribe.
There is no denying the fact that he is politically naive, uninformed, crude and uncivilized by being very intolerant of the opposition. A vibrant opposition is one of the essential ingredients needed for any democratic setting to thrive which he seems to have lost sight of.
With Buhari's relative as INEC boss, the wishes of the people in the above-named states where elections were held like an unworkable marriage were eventually annulled and eventually bastardized which is tantamount to a coup d'etat.
There is no denying the fact that this is what will happen again in 2019 because no one in his right frame of mind will like to remain aboard a vessel which is navigating perilously through stormy waters by voting for Buhari or APC either by any act of omission or commission, frankly, I do not think so. Hunger and frustration know not partisanship, ethnicity, and religion, armed with these weapons, Nigerians will not want to return these cast of neophyte actors to power come 2019 except the ugly scenario in Edo, Ondo and Rivers elections is rehearsed and craftily re-enacted by INEC and with connivance of the security agents which is tantamount to a coup d'etat.
Whereby it is glaring that the wishes of the people have again been toyed with by INEC Nigerians may be heading for an open revolt and what is happening in The Gambia today could be replicated in Nigeria to enforce the peoples' will by an intervention force in the subregion. This is why I see what is happening today in that tiny West African nation as a welcome development because the Nigerian military and other security agencies dominated by northern elements have been politicized and the only language they understand are partisanship and ethnic bigotry which is only typical of totalitarian regimes.
*Iyoha John Darlington, a social activist, political analyst and public commentator on national and global issues wrote from Turin, Italy.