The Vultures are gathering in Nigeria

It is only a blind man that will feign ignorance of the gathering storm in Nigeria. Yet even the blind can feel it so strongly that seeing becomes unnecessary. It is less than one month to the April 9 general election in Nigeria, the most populous black nation in the world and uncertainly has laid ambush on the process. There are so many court cases against the holding of the election that ironically the silence of the electoral body on the issue has become so loud as to block the ears. Aspirants who felt aggrieved by the primary elections are calling on INEC to stay action pending the determination of their substantive cases but time is what INEC can hardly afford and so the color of justice here may not be what you think having been so thoroughly affected by the Umpire's lack of proper planning on the one hand as well as the Nigerian factor, an euphemism for so many things wrong with the system ranging from structural to human. The real disagreement a rises in whether the structural brings on the human or the other way round. Here everyone has a loud opinion comforted by the knowledge that no truly knowledgeable umpire exists in these ongoing never ending dialogue of the deaf.

Well look closely at the signs and you will probably come away with a feeling that there is either a hidden agenda by the electoral body or that it has failed in its assignment even before the election proper.It may also be that the new electoral law has finally exposed so soon the shallowness of the exercise so heavily skewed against sustainability by selfish legislators and their backers. Instead of producing a lasting document that would build a nation, they concentrated on the one that would help them retain their constituencies. Would you really blame them? Now put yourself in their shoes, knowing that the structural deficiencies of the 1999 constitution will require more than a cosmetic remedy, they went for the line of less resistance –staying in power .Losing power would amount to fashioning a near ideal electoral law and that was out of the question. Even the key element of freedom like the freedom of information bill has been pushed far away to such a time that its passage as a bill of the National Assembly cannot affect the Assembly and its members in their quest for power.

The above is not an excuse for the dismal performance and the coming more dismal performance of the electoral umpire but it will at least buttress the fact that events have played out exactly as foreseen. It is not of course to paraphrase Prof. Iwu the last INEC Chair or Former President Obasanjo who both warned us in their own ways that even an Angel would be found wanting seating on the seat of INEC chairman. Well you are getting very troubled by this running accusation that you feel does not have enough supporting evidence. Wait until I reel the out below. Look at the registration of voters fiasco. What about the timetable for the elections without anticipating so much time needed in between for eventualities such as litigations? Look at the haphazard monitoring of party primaries; consider also the the election finance fiasco. Now what about the lack of efforts in balancing of media coverage down to the dearth of issue based campaign. What do you have to say about skewed use of campaign grounds as well as increasing electoral violence. All these smack of an umpire less electoral campaign or rather exposes the incompetence of the occupant whether there are extraneous factors hindering his performance or not is not an issue since he accepted to serve and was given resources to do so. If there were hindrances he was expected to raise an alarm but has he?

The other scenario about unfolding confusion in INEC is the conspiracy theory. This man has a hidden agenda and is orchestrating all that is unfolding for self serving goal. We may not know for sure but we can speculate here what it is likely to be. Look at mess known as registration of voters and the deception known as voters register. What a dark way to start to step out towards one man one vote. Did you hear that despite all the computer and care there were double registrations. You mean that some finger prints passed through the eye of the needle? What was the use of the machine? My colleague was as dumbfounded as I was. As we marveled at this Nigerian miracle, someone who overheard us laughed aloud. He was surprised at our naivety. He said it was an open secret that the registration was a sham because while the machine rejected some fingerprints it accepted many objects like soft bamboo shoots, ripe banana, certain leaf wound around the finger amongst others. Each state found a unique way through it. I dismissed this allegation, but he was not deterred. Other places used the toes, the hand of babies, teenagers and children to make up. Make up what? I queried, now more interested. “I don't know, was his reply”. Even though he came and left anonymously, I sensed he was a party man.

With the kind of results declared by INEC without any further ado, the conspiracy theory got a boost. How do you explain it that the South has been depleting its population while the north was growing astronomically? Thanks heaven that there are independent verification of claims. Satellite images have already disproved of these figures released by INEC. Even the projection of population by the United Nations shows that these figures are bogus. We await the Election Day to completely disprove these abracadabra figures. Yet it depends on how the election turns out, I mean the enabling environment. Like I have said in my earlier article “Why PDP wins Elections in Nigeria”, If a climate of fear is created, then that in its self provides a further unbalanced playing field that enables those who summon courage to come to use their bamboos ,children whether shrouded or open to vote as adults. The election observers cannot go everywhere and where they go they give advance notice of their coming because they need 'our' security to do so. They also need to use 'our' internet providers to send out mail, and our telephone perhaps to discuss; these are heavily monitored by 'us' and can be switched off at will.

So tell me how you cannot suspect a grand plan playing out for good or ill. The normal suspicion is that the ruling party has all the power to manipulate things their way but I tell you this may not necessarily be so. I say this because of the complex subterranean power play going on in Nigeria. If any it is those who rigged the registration that has plans to rig the election. The incumbents have every reason to let peace reign, to let the status quo be. This is born out of the confidence that none excepting the ruling Party can afford enough money to put up the necessary structures and political presence needed to win at least 1/3rd of the votes in 2/3rd of the States of the federation as well as simple majority of the votes. All they need do is monitor properly the inflow of funds via the banks and borders. Also they monitor the inflow of arms because only trouble making can reshuffle the polity to the advantage of the opposition as it is. But then this expensive trouble can also keep the incumbents longer in power. Except of course our theorem holds water in which case the army and the powerful Northern political establishment may step in. To get there, the need exists for a spark to be provided by the Independent electoral commission INEC. This spark can only come if the dry wood is gathered, wetted with kerosene or fuel, with a match box ready. It appears that this is what INEC has been doing without anyone seeming to know it. With the registration favoring the opponents of the President and with INEC going to court to challenge the so called extension of tenure of PDP governors while throwing blind eye to numerous court cases restraining it across the nation, it gave away its position perhaps too early in the day. With the much trumpeted meeting of security officers from the North, with the new found economic summit of the North hurriedly fixed to be addressed by the President whether preemptive or not, the stirrings here are indicative of a wider attempt to decide a common position on something that is yet to appear. Look at the turnaround of some opposition leaders who are making demands if they must back the President after they have apparently done so earlier on. Then add it to the rumor of attempts to poison the President by some Northern Leaders some of who were interrogated recently. Finally Put it all together with the renewed threats of MEND to bomb gatherings, as well as security and safety breaches at PDP rallies starting with the Port Harcourt deadly Stampede said to have been caused by a gunshot and horseback riders as well as bombing and stoning. As expected the plan failed to keep the crowd away at Yenagoa when Governor Timipe Sylva flagged off his reelection campaign in Yenagoa despite bombing of Agip oil facility in the State a day earlier. The bombing treat was designed to keep people away from the flag off to sustain the image woven in the press that the PDP was losing grip of the President's home State. Now the plan of the opposition, the collaboration of the unbiased umpire, the so called Northern plot driven in the South by mad ambition and injured vanity of few is either to play out in the full glare of the international community within weeks, or will die out as another bad dream.

Mr. Nworisara aspired to be President of Nigeria under the SDP in 1992.

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Articles by Nwokedi Nworisara