Watching the unfolding events following the announcement of Dr Goodluck Jonathan as the winner of the just conclude presidential election in Nigeria, and the ensuing violent attacks of different targets in Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano and Sokoto States, is, to say the least, disturbing and unfortunate. It paints the picture of yet, another African country at war.
Rampaging youth in northern Nigeria went on the streets in protest against what they perceived as robbery of their votes, having voted en mass to General Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate fielded on the platform of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the main challenger of the ruling party´s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Goodluck Jonathan in the 19th April, 2011 election. Security agents have since been deployed to the affected areas to restore peace and order and both President Jonathan and General Buhari have condemned the act and appealed for peace.
The anger, if not action of the youth, was shared by the majority people of northern extraction and the Muslims in particular. At no point in the history of Nigeria, has the division between the two religions been so glaring than during the September 19th election. While the south was jubilating, the north was in a state of mourning and the whole world was watching. Inflammatory comments and statements were posted on many a Facebook wall, BBC Hausa service Facebook wall and online reactions of news items and comments published, particularly by the New York based Sahara Reporters. Most of the comments from the south were in praise of Goodluck Jonathan mixed with Christian and `southern` Nigeria sentiments. The south laughs at the failure of Buhari at the polls and depicts Jonathan in boxing kit as a true Christian champion, who defeated the Muslim north. The northerners on their part, feel cheated, having been outsmarted in the PDP internal arrangement of power rotation based upon which the next presidential candidate of that party was supposed to come from the north.
On the other hand, comments emanating from the north were in condemnation of the results, insulting against the electoral commission, the ruling party PDP with invocation of Allah´s wrath on election riggers, while some were downright irrational. Both sides may have been justified but both appear to be thinking within the prism of their narrow prejudices of religion or region. Both sides are grossly mistaken and missed the point about what it requires to build a nation.
These comments have become so much that they must be addressed. It is worrying because they are coming from, particularly the younger people who, one day, will be the true leaders of this country. Considering the power of the social network, it is criminal to sit down and watch while my students, from both sides of River Niger exchange hate words.
The simple truth is, there was an election and Goodluck Jonathan has been declared winner by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). If anybody has anything against this, there are appropriate channels to go about protesting. This however is neither an endorsement of the election nor a negation of the fact that the election was rigged, particularly in southern Nigeria as evidenced by the incredible and `magic numbers from the south` as reported by the media. The sad reality is however, right from time, elections have been rigged in this country; and this was reported to be the least rigged.
In addressing most of the unsavory and inciting statements coming from the south, it is important to state that whoever emerges the president of this country, whether through rigging or not, provided he/she is declared by constituted authority as such, that person automatically becomes the president of Nigerians; Christians or Muslims. There is no point personalizing issues since we are living in the same country. If any section of this country wants to secede from the Nigeria project (as continuously agitated by one commentator in Sahara Reporters), there are constitutional ways of doing that. It does not matter if, after reading this piece, you dismiss it as another piece of ´rubbish` from `parasitic` ´malam´ who is probably a beneficiary of quota system or a lazy and uneducated and backward subject of some imaginary northern oligarchy. This will not change the fact that we have the same needs for basic amenities, food, shelter, security education and of freedom of expression of our humanities in the form of culture, tradition and religion. My friends from the south do not understand the anger of the young people from the north.
What happened was the result of accumulated years of continuous neglect and oppression of the poor people of the north, not necessarily by the south but indeed by leaders from the north. That explains the burning of houses of prominent northern political leaders. Unfortunately, the volatile situation escalated -as it often does, taking religious and tribal dimension. This is highly reprehensible and must be condemned by all.
The south voted heavily for President Jonathan and for whatever reason that is, it is to be believed as having been done in good faith. While rigging is unacceptable, it is the hope of poor Nigerian like yours truly, that this is the beginning of a new era in Nigeria. By the same token, the north voted massively for the opposition party (CPC), also for its own reason, but having done so in good faith. The rest as they say is history now.
The big question is what happens next? Will the president carry people along? Will he keep the old tradition of corruption and indiscipline of PDP, which the north actually tried to sack? Has he heard the voices from the north and south? The world now knows what malam really wants. The next few months will remain in history as some of the most defining moments of Nigeria.
As a young man from the north, who is tired of the injustices of the leaders we have had in the past, this writer believes greater days are still ahead despite and especially because of what happened. A country of over 150 million people is a formidable force anywhere and can only emerge to be great after passing through turbulent and difficult times like these ones. And as is the law in evolution, critical transitions from one stage to another, are often marked by unprecedented events.
The responsibility now is for all Nigerians to stand up and moblize the younger generation in the pursuit of justice and fairness through good conduct and inspiring words. There is no reason whatsoever for anybody to be emotional. The next election is coming. Let us vote for the right people and keep trying and never give up being with the truth for God, whether Christian or Muslim, is with the truthful. If you have a good governor, chairman or councilor, really it wouldn’t make much difference who the president is or where he comes from. Sadly, in Nigeria, issues are hardly pursued and leaders do not account for what they do. Indeed most of the elected officers have not the slighted idea of the responsibly vested in them and its moral implication. We have been living in perpetual self deceit and hypocrisy of, `as long as he is from my region or religion, he can do no wrong`. That is why we have had governors and chairmen who can steal even the last kobo meant for us to build themselves houses and mansions, launder money with wanton impunity, incite us against each other, purchase traditional titles and presidential tickets, drive around with their ridiculous siren while we still court and praise and even promote them like the fools that we are. Provided they are from our part of the country, they are acceptable and respected members of the society. We have not had good governors and councilors in the north or in Nigeria for that matter, for a very long time. This election will certainly change that.
In Buhari, the common man from the north sees his last hope to free himself from the bondage of over fifty years. For many in the north, and indeed in the south, Buhari represents discipline, hard work, accountability, honesty and integrity. This is in spite of what has been done, over the years, starting from Thisday Newspaper´s misrepresentation, and is still being done, to depict the man as some religious bigot. Everyone knows that none of the candidates was as honest and truthful and upright as Buhari. But then in politics, sometimes the honest people get to be the losers albeit temporarily for the truth shall always prevail against falsehood.
As for the downtrodden, whether from the south or north, let us pursue our cases though non violent means. Let us unite and plan and educate and inspire. These times are harder especially for the us, who seem to be lost in search of good leaders from the North. We are lost with no purpose and no power and no future. We look up to Buhari and the few principled and honest people remaining and hope for a brighter future; where all of us can go to school, or at least have some honest means of livelihood. We have hope for a brighter future where we shall all have food to eat so that we do not have go begging through almajirici and end up being killed in some senseless mayhem. We hope for a better and free Nigeria where we can move freely without having to suffer the shame and blame of all the real and imaginary acts perpetrated against Nigeria by the past leaders of northern extraction, even if we have never set our eyes on them and our fathers merely saw them in their big cars. We are full of hope that there still are some people, from the north and from the south, who are as good as Buhari.
We see this election and its outcome, not as failure but indeed as victory for the north and for the south. We do hope that one day, we shall all look back and smile.
For now however, we have the daunting task of educating ourselves and searching and voting for the right leaders. It will be tough and some of us may not be there, but our glorious days are coming. Let us continue to struggle through legitimate means and in obedience to the laws of the land. Let us teach our younger ones what is the truth and how to pursue it and stay with it at all cost. Let us imbibe the culture of peace and honesty and hard work and treating all with fairness and justice. Let us shun greed and oppression. These are the principles upon which Buhari has come to command such enormous respect and admiration from us and we shall do well to excel in them.
Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Brasilia, Brazil