Nigerian politicians and leaders, once maneuvered into public office by any means necessary, have a tendency to make three bogus claims:
1) Power belongs to God (read: “I won because God made me the winner; my power and authority over you comes, therefore, from God and must be accepted.”)
2) I have the people’s mandate (read: “I received a majority of the votes cast in the election”—never mind that most elections are openly rigged.)
3) The unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable (read: “since peoples living in Nigeria participated in the elections or process, they must be wanting to keep Nigeria one.”)
Of course, none of the above claims and beliefs is true. One can hardly find the hand of any God in the shenanigans and nefarious actions of those seeking office in Nigeria for whom it is usually a do-or-die affair: and many—not necessarily the office-seekers—in fact do die gratuitously in such what has become selfish ambitious pursuits. Nor have any voters actually given any “mandate” to any “elected” officers; usually the voters who otherwise are disenfranchised and comatose are bribed, intimidated or hired to vote, usually along ethnic and or religious lines; the election is usually rigged massively—more or less; officers can be and are actually substituted even after the votes are in, and these officials have no serious ideology except to “win” elections at all costs and in any way—in spite of, regardless of, the people. Where, then, could the mandate be?
As for what these officials like to rattle off their tongues after elections something like “the indivisibility of Nigeria,” or “the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable,” just what exactly does it seriously mean when in fact every election in Nigeria shows the same pattern (beyond the obligatory rigging and the fraud): the “country” is actually divided. People die during (before, at, and after) Nigerian elections precisely because of their ethnicity and or religion, or their classification as non-indigenes where they live. People vote along ethnic and religious lines, and also in regional patterns only when region is a proxy for ethnicity and or religious preference. So, where do these officials draw their claims and utterances from in the matter of the already divided “nation” called Nigeria?
The sad aspect of this is that the peoples living in Nigeria do not challenge these claims, emboldening the officials to think that their pretenses, hypocrisies and arrogance are in fact well-accepted and acceptable, creating a permissive environment for them to continue to deceive the people, if not deceive themselves. But the fact is that the majority of the peoples has been beaten down by the System-Nigeria and is too afraid and too tired to care.
April 2011 elections in Nigeria are no different. But the relatively inordinate effort spent in analyzing the available electoral results as well as the election consequences in order to convince the pundits and official that they are once again wrong in their glib claims is telling. Northern Nigeria is burning, lit up by Buhari’s CPC Muslim supporters (don’t think that it is only Northerners that are victimized—the majority of the victims are Southerners and Christians residing up there), just because Jonathan, a Southerner, won the presidency. In spite of that, the pundits still claim that the elections were “peaceful”; that the results show that Nigerians are not voting along ethnic and religious lines, and therefore, that Nigeria has, in their peculiar reckoning, shaken off the shackles of ethnocentric and religion-centric voting; so, bravo! one-Nigeria. Imagine that! What kind of “peaceful” is that, considering the ongoing carnage in the streets of Northern cities and the threats of retaliation in the South?
Analysis of the votes will show that in fact, a large majority of the Muslim voted for the Muslim candidate, General Buhari; likewise, most of the Christians voted for the Christian candidate, Jonathan. Any emerging regional or sub-regional pattern or lack thereof merely reflects religion and or ethnicity.
The only reason why Jonathan seemed to have encroached on Buhari’s Muslim Northern enclave by either winning or coming close enough to obtain at least 25% of the votes therein is because of the Christians and or Southerners dwelling and voting in the North. Otherwise, if the votes are adjusted by ethnicity or religion or state of origin, typical results will show an almost all-or-nothing pattern in each State: Muslim dominated states will give over 90% of their votes to Buhari, and Christian dominated states will give over 90% of their votes to Jonathan. Analyzed by ethnicity, a similar pattern would emerge: entire ethnic groups voting overwhelmingly for one candidate or the other.
For example, consider that only (a little over) 7 million persons were registered as voters in the so-called Southeast zone—the Igbo / Biafra enclave. Using that number alone, the Igbo had become the minority ethnic nation in Nigeria, because it had the lowest registrants among all the six zones. This is perturbing; for sure, from experience, this would not be the first time the Igbo have been cheated by any enumeration schema in Nigeria; and in all likelihood, they were being cheated now. But worst of all, the Igbo find it quite convenient to act too weak to raise any meaningful challenge or objection. Further analysis would however show that this number only reflects the Igbo registered voters residing just in Igboland—not elsewhere all over Nigeria (and abroad). Traditionally, Igbo leave homeland and populate other lands; it is almost certain that, statistically, at least two to three Igbo persons live outside Igboland for every Igbo that resides at home in Igboland. Therefore, 7 million Igbo registered voters sitting in Igboland translates to an additional over 10 million Igbo voters all over Nigeria. Moreover, the pattern of dispersal is such that the Igbo are always the largest non-indigenous ethnic group in every state in Nigeria. On the day that the Igbo finally decided to vote as an ethnic group in favor of a brother in the name of Jonathan, the election outcome was sealed: that move alone guaranteed that Jonathan would always get at least a fair share of votes in every part of Nigeria, including but especially the North. These votes made the difference between winning a state outrightly or otherwise counting towards the 25% support needed in at least 24 different states as required by the electoral rules, and losing it entirely. This favored Jonathan.
So, what does it all mean? Jonathan getting significant votes from all over Nigeria does not mean that he is “loved”—preferred by a wide range of Nigerians who had to have voted across ethnic lines to elect him. No: in fact, it was ethnic voting by a more dispersed ethnic group that produced this picture. It does not mean that, based on the overall voting patterns, Nigerians are now “de-tribalized” and are united as one nation—hardly. Could Jonathan now claim a mandate? Show us: none is evident.
By the Igbo voting en bloc for Jonathan, what mandate did they hand to Jonathan? It couldn’t be for Jonathan to hand over the presidency to an Igbo in 2015 or 2019; in fact such a futile, shortsighted and under-reaching fixation by some misguided Igbo almost lost Jonathan Igbo support. In actuality, there is really no Igbo mandate for Jonathan. For that matter, what mandate did the Niger Delta imply by voting en masse for Jonathan? Tell if you know of any. And the Southwest mandate to Jonathan? None. By the same token, if Buhari had won (heavens forbid!) what mandate was the North or the Muslim giving him?
The reality on the ground after the current Nigeria’s elections is the same reality there has always been in Nigeria. Nigeria is divided, definitely along ethnic lines, reinforced by religion. And, Nigeria is still singing and still doing the “burn, baby, burn” act during elections this time as in previous occasions. The elections have produced no new patterns other than what has always prevailed—disunity, deep divisions along ethnic and religious lines, along with the psychological denial of such by Nigeria. These recent election results in Nigeria do not give the elected any new mandates—if ever there had been previous electoral mandates in Nigeria.
Therefore, the politicians and the peoples suffering in Nigeria should stop pretending that the ethnic differences and divisions are not there, have been smoothened over, or do not matter. They do matter: in fact, they are all that matter in Nigeria. Continuing to refuse to face this reality results in what is happening in the North now—which is only one of many spikes along an unbroken base of continuous violence in one form or another. Worst of all, to state or believe that the election results show that somehow, Nigeria is now making any kind of progress, especially in the area of bridging ethnic and religion-based chasms, has got to be the worst kind of joke and disservice to the peoples suffering and dying in Nigeria today and in the future.
It is time for a conference of the different sovereign ethnic nations in the Nigeria geospace to decide on how to relate to one another across these chasms. The operative principle is Self Determination which supports the use of Referendums. Each Ethnic nation can reclaim and exercise her own original sovereignty and independence, with which to enter into consenting, equitable and durable inter-national relationships of mutual benefit and interest to both parties.
It is now up to the peoples, having failed to deliver an electoral mandate to President Jonathan and the other winners ab initio, to press home the implementation of Self Determination in Nigeria in this dispensation. A conference of ethnic nations is one way to start the process. Continuing in the false pretense of one-Nigeria is a recipe for ongoing violence and all that it portends. That’s no way to live, although the peoples suffering in Nigeria have not lived at all in over half-a-century. We can end this now and begin the process of healing by applying Self Determination.
Oguchi Nkwocha, MD
A Biafran Citizen