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Electoral Mind Games (A Nation in Ruins)

By Dr Anthony Chuka Konwea, PE
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There comes a time in knockout football (soccer) matches when one team throws everything including the kitchen sink at its opponents. Usually this happens during extra-time, the time added by the referee after the official 90 minutes have elapsed,to account for time lost due to injuries and other stoppages.At this stagein sheer desperation, thelosing team oftentimes theirgoal-keeper inclusive, are permanently camped in the opponents’ half of the field, trying to turn the tides of fortune and stave off imminent defeat.

For the losing team, it is then ‘now or never, all hands to the pumps’. With defeat starring at them in the facetheir calculation is simple.Regardless of the potentiallydisastrousconsequences, there is greater risk in not making adesperate attempt to stop the opponents’ victory thanthere is in adopting a recklesslyaggressive posture.

The Nigerian General Elections may be roughly a month away, but apparently sensing defeat, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is desperatelytryingto corrupt the electoral system by funneling all efforts towards achieving a pre-determined outcome. Throwing President Muhammadu Buhari’s ‘reputation’ as ‘Mr. Integrity’ to the winds, theAPC wants to secure an unlevel playing fieldtilted lopsidedly in their favor even before the match proper commences.

Continuing with the football analogy, the APC have already corrupted the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC),the referee. They have corrupted the two linesmen or assistant referees, respectively the Nigerian Police and the Nigerian Army. They have corrupted the alternate linesmen i.e. the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFC) and the Directorate of State Security (DSS). Unable to corrupt the Match Commissioner, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Justice Walter Onnoghen, they entrapped and now want to replace him without recourse to due-process,so they can appoint a pliable successor to do their biddings.

Now politics in Nigeria has always been a very dirty and murky enterprise. Indeed, Nigerian politics may cynically yet rightfully be described as ‘war by undeclared means’. Not a few Nigerians were surprised therefore when President Muhammadu Buhari entered Nigerian politics and cultically projected himself as Mr. Integrity, the clean one.

Once he assumed office as President, a few critical observers including this writer immediately saw through the sham and alerted the nation that it was a scam. Many people hypnotically remained unconvinced however, giving him the benefit of the doubt. But you cannot conceal an unholy pregnancy forever. At some stage the stomach will bulge, and the truth will emerge. We are now at that moment of truth regarding President Buhari’s alleged integrity.

To be quite honest many past Nigerian leaders, be they military or civilian, have secretly corrupted INEC the electoral referee.Some have in addition secretly corrupted one or two of the linesmen. But none other than our so-called Mr. Integrity has attempted so open, so brazen, and so ‘to-your-face-and-across-the-board,’wholesale political corruption of the referee, the two official linesmen, the two alternate linesmen and the Match Commissioner himself.

If a so-called ‘man of integrity’ can perpetrate wholesale corruption of the entire political ‘umpires and match officials’, what would you expect from so-called taintedpresidential successors moving forwards? We cannot allow President Buhari and his handlers to get away with this illegality. If we do so out of timidity, or out of ignorance or out of stupidity or out of spell-bounded hypnotism, mark these very words:we would have said our final goodbyesto Nigeria as one entity. It will soonbe thereafter ‘to your tents, O Israel.’

One of the cardinal pragmatic principles of team administration is that you do not change, tamper with or tweak a winning team. The opposite corollary is equally true: you do not tolerate, or perpetuate, or prolong the tenure of a losing team. President Buhari came into office as the so-called Mr. Integrity, claiming to be an upgrade to the immediate past President Good luck Jonathan. By all honest accounts he is a veritable downgrade.

Can a fraudulent soccer team collude with, bribe or intimidate the match referee, the match linesmen and the match commissioner and remain ateam with integrity? Can a fraudulent student who colludes with his teachers to receive exam questions in advance;who bribes the exam invigilators (i.e. proctors) to turn the blind eye while he copies prepared answers into the official exam booklet; and who intimidates the external exam assessors into approving his fraud thereby getting the highest grade, be said to be a student with integrity?

It is no excuse to say others before President Buhari have done the same because nobody else but President Buhari has claimed to be Mr. Integrity.If you must come to Equity, you must come with very clean hands.If you knock off President Buhari’s so-called integrity as a scam and his so-called war against corruption as a war against the opposition for the sustenance of his position, then what is left? What is left comes nowhere near the status and achievement of President Jonathan.

Now If President Jonathan was found wanting and voted out of office for arguably poor stewardship, on what basis should we then retain President Buhari who has shown even poorer stewardship coupled with an abject performance in office? What basis is there to retain President Buhari in office other than that he comes from the vocal majority Hausa/Fulani ethnicity while Jonathan comes from the minority Ijaw tribe?

All of which brings to the fore what this writer has repeatedly argued in several past installments of the ‘A Nation in Ruins’ cycle of essays. The first order restructuring Nigeria desperately needs is this. Strip the Nigerian Presidency of the power to appoint the Chief Justice and Justices of the Supreme Court, the Head of INEC, the Inspector-General of Police and the Head of the Directorate of State Security (DSS).

Instead transfer the powers of appointment of the heads of these critical institutions and agencies to an elected ‘Council of Integrity’ to be composed of men and women of uncommon and unquestionable integrity, who owe no allegiance to tribal, ethnic, religious, political, class or economic interests.

Irrespective of the APC’s corrupt onslaught on the match officials, we are evidently in the pre-electoral or ‘mind-games’ stage of the elections match-up. But political mind-games differ from football mind-games in one very crucial respect.

In football everyone can form an individual judgement regarding whether the match-officials are fair or biased, because every action happens in the full glare of the public. Accordingly, individual teams generally try to hype up their opponents. They attempt tolull them into a false sense of security and superiority. Their aim is to put them under tremendous pressure to meet high expectations and deliver the goods on matchday.

The exact opposite happens in electoral match-ups where actual voting and collation are generally done in relative secrecy. In electoral mind games, each party tries to talk up its chances of victory while diminishing their opponents’ prospects. Emphasis is placed on the size of the turn-out at the respective political rallies which in turn provides potential cover-up for eventual vote-rigging.

In football mind games, the purpose is to pressurize the opposing team through high expectations into making mistakes on match-day. Contrarily in electoral mind games the aim is to demoralize the opponent, intimidate their supporters and stampede undecided voters into ‘joining the winning team’ by voting in a preferred manner.

As we countdown to electoral match day in Nigeria, on February 16, 2019. It is safe to assume that the core bases of the ruling APC and their major opponents the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) are cast in concrete and cannot be swayed by electoral mind-games. For instance, those who against mounting evidence to the contrary still consider President Buhari as “Mr. Integrity” may never be swayed from their calcified opinions and ossified mind-set.

The target of electoral mind games therefore is not focused on the electoral bastions of the opponent. It is completely focused on undecided, independent, or pragmatic voters. These are voters who believe that President Buhari has failed and will fail yet again in future but are not at all sure whether his main challenger Vice President Atiku Abubakar will fare any better. To be quite honest, other than God who knows?Therefore, they are undecidedand divided between ‘sticking with the devil they know’on one hand or taking a risk and ‘going with the devil they don’t know’ on the other hand.

To help these voters make up their minds one way or the other, let us indulge in some form of electoral mind games of our own. Take a knife and divide Nigeria longitudinally into two equal halves cutting downwards from north to south. Let us call this imaginary cutting line the East-West Meridian. By sheer happenstance the two main presidential candidates and the two vice-presidential candidates are each from one of the four quadrants formed by the intersecting East-West Meridian and the North-South Parallel which runs laterally from the east to the west and divides Nigeria equally into a northern half and a southern half.

Assume mentally that Nigerians are free to choose on which side of the East-West Meridian they would livefor the next four years, regardless of ethnic origin or other attachments. Further assume that Nigerians who choose to live on either side of the E-W Meridian will enjoy the exact benefits they currently enjoy in whichever sideof the E-W Meridian they currentlylive in.

This implies that if you live on one side and decide to move to another side, you can move with your landed property and belongings provided you do so at the beginning of the four years.But you cannot move back once you have made your choice for the next four years.

Assume also that the half-nation on the western side of the East-West Meridian is handed over to President Muhammadu Buhari and his Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to administer for the next four years. Equally assume that the half-nation on the eastern side of the East-West Meridian is handed over to President Atiku Abubakar and his Vice President Peter Obi to administer for the next four years.

Our electoral mind game challenge is this: on which side of the East-West Meridian would you elect to live in? Would you prefer to live on the western side and be part and parcel of the western half-nation under a Muhammadu Buhari Presidency for the next four years? Or would you prefer to live on the eastern side and be part and parcel of the eastern half-nation under an Atiku Abubakar presidency for the same four years? Make your choice and vote for the person who you would prefer to live under.

In our electoral mind game, a few of the Buhari fanatical base would be permanently rooted in the western half-nation under Buhari come hell or high water. In my estimation however, majority of current Buhari supporters would make a pragmatic decision, borne out of self-interest and move with their current assets into the eastern half-nation administered by Atiku Abubakar.

I go so far as to suggest tongue in cheek of course, thatif unrestrained,even President Muhammadu Buhari himself would hand over the presidential flag of office at any point in time to the person closest to him, pronounce him as President and make a dash for the eastern half nation to live under an Atiku Abubakar presidency. He did‘something similar’in Warri, Delta State last week and he mayyet do it again.

Independent observers who want to be charitable, have taken judicial note that President Muhammadu Buhari has been so pressurized by the ongoing electoral mind games, that he is increasingly out of his mind and beginning to falter in his steps.

The fear of President Muhammadu Buhari conceding defeat prematurely to his main challenger is the real reason why he lost his freedom to perform public duties such as attending a televised, live, presidential debate on Saturday. Effectively he is now a captive and prisoner of his own cabal.

On election day well-meaning Nigerians are obliged to do an act of charity by voting against President Buhari to liberate him and the nation from the captive clutches of a selfish cabal. With their votes Nigerians should setthe captivePresident free to retire to his hometown Daura. They should afford him the opportunityto live out the rest of his life in peace, dignity and liberty:three things which he repeatedly deniedto others.

President Muhammadu Buhari and his handlers want ‘4’ + ‘4’ (four plus another four) years in power. I would say, give them ‘4’ + ‘0’(four plus another zero) years in power.

Anthony Chuka Konwea, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE, MNSE, FNIStructE, MNICE.

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