Sometimes, something happens in the life of a nation that calls to question the collective intelligence of the people to the extent of saying boldly that how they respond to it from thence determines the health, death or near-death of the nation. Speaking electorally or on matters of democratic succession, we had the June 12 1993 annulment, which had the nation reeling for years. Indeed, we still suffer from the effects even today.
At the time, attempts were made by General Ibrahim Babangida and his cohorts to hoodwink the people with silly reasons for this shameful act, but the nation rose to the challenge, called the act by its real name and got Babangida scampering off in tears to the safety of his hilltop mansion in Minna, away from the seat of power! Obviously, the reactionary forces still found a way to first create a stalemate, then established the Interim National Government before returning as a full-blown dictatorship under Abacha after cajoling leaders of some civil society groups into letting down their guards. But, in spite of how it ultimately ended, the world knew from then that Nigerians had some political spine of sort, even if they never completed the job on that occasion.
Today, we have a similar situation, expressed a little differently. The whole nation, since 2007, has been waiting for this election that is supposed to prove that we can get it right, but on what is supposed to be the first day in the first series of votes, Professor Attahiru Jega, the INEC Chairman steps in front of the klieg lights to declare that the National Assembly election that was underway has been cancelled and that it has been rescheduled for Monday, 4th of April, 2011. He now further tells us that due to overwhelming pressure from the political parties, civil society groups and Nigerians generally, it would now be held on Saturday, 9th of April, 2011 with all other elections following in that order of a week delay.
Without too much analysis, I have come to the conclusion that there's more to this than meets the eye and we don’t have to be conspiracy theorists or flies on the wall of wherever discussions to cancel the election or postpone it took place to know this. I mean, if the story Professor Jega and his officials are bandying around about result sheets not arriving on time and all that is the story they want to stand on and what they want us to believe as the real reason for all this, then we must be really worried for the election proper, because that is bound to be worse than a farce! This episode does not only call to question Jega’s competence, it calls to question his credibility. A national election with that much investment and with the nation’s future heavily dependent on it cannot be called off on the same day for such a reason! No matter the questions we ask about the huge amount budgeted and whether or not this money has actually been provided, the process of awarding the contracts to vendors, their reliability, security of giving such a sensitive job to these people and so on, fact is it is inconceivable that common sense would so fail Jega and his crew that they have to wait until the day of the election to call it off, after voting had actually started nationwide! No, they cannot be that daft, even though that is exactly what Jega and those truly behind this will want us to think. They have reasoned that while we crack up in sitting-rooms, beer parlours, classrooms, barber shops, motor-parks and marketplaces all over the nation and abroad over such comical failure, they will use that mirthful cover to wriggle out of the obligation of telling us the real truth behind the act. After all, Nigerians cannot be laughing hard and thinking at the same time!
Well, some of us are still thinking and not laughing at all, because it is no ha-ha matter. What Jega has told the nation is not the real reason and cannot logically be the real reason. Until he comes out to tell Nigerians what really happened and why he truly called it off and the forces behind that cancellation outside his good self, if any, the postponed election, whenever held, no matter the result, would remain tainted. I mean, any idea that there will be a free and fair election is out the window right now with this development, no matter what happens as from the 9th of April, 2011! Jega chose to shoot himself in the foot for reasons he has not told the nation. But while he keeps that truth to himself, such barefaced lies as he’s telling now should not be accepted.
So, please, people should stop praising Jega for some non-existent courage! You don’t need courage to say foolish things and his utterances and reason for calling off the poll are exceedingly foolish - not because we do not need result sheets for the election, but because if indeed the lack of result sheets is the reason for postponing it, we shouldn’t be hearing this on election day proper, followed up with a cancellation. Professor Jega is more intelligent than that. He is lying and Nigerians must demand the real truth from him before the polls. His story simply won’t wash! Indeed, this is something the political parties should have been hammering on now, but it would seem no one wants to be accused of “heating up the system”, whatever that means! Yet, when the deed is done and it’s all over, the supposed losers amongst them would be out talking ancient history!
Anyway, it is in the hands of the people directly. If Nigerians sit down to accept Jega’s lies and on Saturday, 9th of April 2011 troop out to vote, expecting that there would be a free and fair election, they should have themselves to blame for overlooking the obvious. Pressure must be brought on Jega now to speak the truth and on the government to tell us what they know and when they knew it. A week is a long time in politics! People should raise their voices and let Jega and co know that they won’t be condoning any hanky-panky!