Election postponement in Nigeria did not start on Saturday, 16 February, and it won’t end with that experience. Abortion of values and dreams is routine here. When fetus eaters are embedded in clinics as midwives, do not expect any safe delivery. I am still amused (or amazed) that smart people around me were shocked by what happened on Saturday to our elections. Nigeria has taught me to expect things collective to go wrong all the time. Postponement and, even, cancellation (and rerun) of elections happened in the past and nothing happened. They will happen again and again and no one will be sorry for them. So, please, do not rupture vital tendons and kill yourself with high blood pressure if the next date is aborted too. Just know that nothing will successfully hold voluntarily here unless the powerful is sure of positive returns from the exercise.
When plots fail, no one owns them. Nobody has taken responsibility for the broken chinaware of last Saturday. President Muhammadu Buhari blamed INEC for the disaster. His party did same and even accused the opposition PDP of infiltrating the electoral commission. The opposition PDP accused the ruling APC of complicity in the circumstances that birthed the problem. It accused the APC of fearing the consequences of a simultaneous, nationally held presidential election, hence the contrived non-arrival of ballot papers and result sheets in some states. Then the electoral commission heaped the blame on logistics. So, here, who do we hold to account for this hideous threat to peace and stability and to the dignity of Nigeria as a nation? Did some politicians truly plot to benefit from an election held piecemeal (bit by bit) and so sabotaged the transportation of ballot papers and result sheets to carefully selected states and constituencies? Is it true the Nigeria Air Force and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) were the real culprits who failed the electoral commission? How did they get so overwhelmed that fractions of ballot papers and result sheets were delivered in some states? While we interrogate the failure of these agencies we should also ask INEC this question: Who loaded the planes and vans with incomplete election materials and to achieve what?
Until we ask hard questions and insist on direct answers and punish culprits, there will always be a pitch-black night in every morning of our country’s aspirations. So, please, let us look forward to next Saturday and watch everything- especially the timely delivery of adequate materials, how the votes are counted, recorded and announced. Maybe, nothing will go wrong and we will be fine this time.
Beyond logistical headaches, there are also conspiracy theories about what really happened. There were (are) also several other things going on everywhere. Small conspiracies birthing great effects. In Kaduna, as the nation was about counting its losses in a presidential election that would end in a fiasco, Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai on Friday came on air to announce the discovery of 66 bodies of people put in his care as governor. Was that announcement intended to stop elections in certain areas in that state? On Friday, the governor said 66 Fulani people had been killed in Kajuru, Kaduna State. And we all froze. The killings were unfortunate, horrendous and condemnable. But equally objectionable was the fact that the governor announced the ethnic identity of the slain. He also told the world that 22 of the dead were children. He added, for effects, that 12 of the slain were women. Why did a state’s chief security officer have to go public with the chilling demographics of the murdered? And by telling us that those who were murdered were Fulani, was the governor passing a message to some people? Or to their supposed killers to expect a return match? Or to all of us who would howl by the time the long-suffering Fulani start devouring the flies that today mindlessly eat their painful sores? And what was supposed to be the overall effect of the indiscretion of the announcement of the killings on the holding of election the next day, in that state?
But the very fact of the mass killing has been challenged by equally brilliant Professor Chidi Odinkalu, formerly of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission. He insisted that there was no such mass murder in Kajuru. Odunkalu was on television describing el-Rufai as a liar who made an incendiary claim of mass killings on the eve of a very important election: “I spent all of last night trying to verify from all the sources in Kajuru and nobody can verify or substantiate that there has been a killing of 66 people in Kajuru over the past few days. And INEC has got to deal with this kind of reality. It is not just logistics, it is politicians with all manner of designs. And I think it is important, as we deal with this question of postponement, to begin to call politicians to order. You cannot, on the eve of a very difficult election, as a state governor, stand by yourself with your publicist and be talking about the killing of 66 people of one ethnic group and be talking about it with a celebratory air. That is beyond irresponsible. And I think people across all political divides must call out the Kaduna State governor – and any other governor in this country who tries this kind of thing on the eve of this kind of event in the country must be called out…Let us all go there because this is too serious for anybody to make. I say this as a Nigerian who believes in this country, who believes every life matters, this is too serious for any governor to say and get away with at this election. We must never allow that story to get away. Sixty-six Nigerians killed, that is 66 too many. If anybody claims that 66 people were killed in Kajuru this week, including the governor of Kaduna State, let us all go and verify it. I am not willing to let that story go away. It is not true.” Who is playing politics with human lives here? Odinkalu or his friend, Nasir el-Rufai?
But it is interesting that el-Rufai hasn’t, on record, responded directly to Odinkalu. Instead he was in Kajuru on Saturday to plead with the bereaved Fulani people not to avenge the killings. There is a feeling of deja vu here. Can you recollect that on July 12, 2012, this tempestuous Fulani nationalist famously sounded a note of warning to whoever contemplated killing any Fulani anywhere? He wrote on Twitter: “We will write this for all to read: Anyone, soldier or not, that kills the Fulani takes a loan, repayable one day, no matter how long it takes.” And while in Kajuru on Saturday, he helped them put additional figures and pathos to their dead. He told them: “I know it is the Fulanis that are most affected in this crisis as over a hundred people have been killed, but as Muslims, we have been advised to forgive, to be patient as God avenges every evil.” But did this governor remember that, given what he taught us in 2012 about the Fulani, he was merely pouring those grains of pleadings into the Fulani’s bottomless basket of forgiveness? Or he was merely being politically correct – especially after his famous threat to body-bag western nationals who “intervene in our elections?” Or he was using the people to shame and tame ferocious Odinkalu who won’t keep quiet forever unless and until he gets to have clear answers to his questions.
And back to the aborted (or abortive) elections, the reported killings in Kaduna, the counter-narrative from Odinkalu, the motive behind the unusual announcement of the ethnic origin of the dead, the no-one-will-unseat-me boast of an almighty incumbent president on the eve of an election and the cynical response of a nation of anything is possible and nothing is impossible. In all these, I see deadly politics trumping all reason. I ask for a thorough interrogation of the ongoing politics of felonious affirmation and declamation of crime. I call for a probe of the allegations of mass murder and the loud denial of the mass murder; and of ethnic profiling of the murderers and the murdered on the eve of a presidential election. I call for a national alert in the face of the desperation to win elections at the expense of people’s lives. I pray that we vote (in peace) on Saturday. And, may the votes be correctly counted, recorded correctly and announced correctly. And, may the real winner emerge as the winner.