From the phrasebook of the past: Postponing Nigeria

February 19, 2019 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , POLITICS

Reuters photo



Prince Charles Dickson



Fawa biu tana bata hankali’n kuda…rana bata karya sai dai uwar diya ta ji kunya… (Two pieces of meat confuse the mind of the fly…once a date has been set for an event, it will arrive, and time does not lie…) – Hausa Proverb



The date was 16th February 2015, and the New York Times did an opinion piece titled Nigeria’s Miserable Choices. Again I am saddened by the quality of the typical Nigerian reasoning, our almost near collective lack of critical thinking, our one-way interpretation of events for our self-serving purposes. So again with only a few hours to the 2019 elections, a post Valentine election, poor ordinary Nigerians and their Zobo and Kunu of little hundreds and thousands all wasted, no one to refund transport, and then stock merchants, airlines, bankers can count in millions, and billions wasted, we follow the same script!


Kindly indulge me; let’s go through the NYT piece…


The Nigerian government was supposed to hold presidential elections this past weekend, which presented voters with the dispiriting choice of keeping a lousy incumbent or returning to power a former autocratic leader. Now they will have to wait at least six weeks to cast votes.


Maybe this time it wasn’t a six week push, but looking at the choices, the only winner seems to be the fact that the elections will hold, must hold, and one of the two not exactly best choices will emerge…Time never lies, despite being confused by the same two pieces of meat.


The Nigerian election commission said earlier this month that it had pushed back the vote until at least March 28, after the country’s security chiefs warned that they could not guarantee the safety of voters in northeastern areas of the country where Boko Haram, the extremist militant group, captured international attention last spring when it abducted hundreds of schoolgirls. On Friday, Boko Haram fighters attacked a village in neighboring Chad for the first time, an alarming sign of the group’s expanding strength in a region that also includes areas of Cameroon and Niger.


This time around, the security situation may not (and the operational word is MAY) be as bad as almost four years ago, but the truth is that it has not significantly improved. And come next week Saturday we will be casting votes TECHNICALLY to be secured in one form or the other by either a government that has performed badly on it, or one that is waving a magic wand. The fact is that our democratic culture is growing, albeit haphazardly. We will get there, one day, just one day we will pick the right meat, it is a question of time and it does not lie.


Any argument to delay the vote might be more credible if President Goodluck Jonathan’s government had not spent much of the past year playing down the threat posed by the militants and if there were a reasonable expectation that the country’s weak military has the ability to improve security in a matter of weeks.


It appears more likely Mr. Jonathan grew alarmed by the surging appeal of Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler who has vowed to crack down on Boko Haram. By dragging out the race, Mr. Jonathan stands to deplete his rival’s campaign coffers, while he continues to use state funds and institutions to bankroll his own.


What it appears like this time is left to the fly and the two pieces of meat, whether we hesitate, postpone or not, the elections would have held in shaa Allah by the time I next write. The fact is that there is/has been a growing appeal for the ‘alleged stealing’ former Vice President, and whether the postponement will check the steam of his train, or embolden the Buharists, time never lies, we will know who is President by the end of February 2019.


That Mr. Buhari, who helped launch a coup against a democratically elected government in 1983 and ruled until late 1985, has emerged, as potential winner is more of an indictment of Mr. Jonathan’s dismal rule than recognition of the former military chief’s appeal.


Nigerian voters have grown increasingly worried about the stunning rise of Boko Haram, which has committed terrorist atrocities including bombings.


The abductions and attacks by the group have exposed the weaknesses of Nigeria’s armed forces and the dysfunction of the government. Although Mr. Jonathan’s government has in the past been less than enthusiastic, and at times obstructive, in response to offers of American and European aid, he appears to be growing increasingly worried. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last week, he said he would welcome American troops to fight the insurgency.


That Atiku is even pulling weight is indicative of how disillusioned Nigerians are today as against when the rollercoaster change mantra came on board. Nigerians, despite all the questionable statistics and indices, are actually HUNGRY, FED UP, and in the quick fix manner may (and here again MAY) be favorable disposed to bringing in Mr. Let’s Make Nigeria Work Again.


Beyond security matters, entrenched corruption and the government’s inability to diversify its economy as the price of oil, the country’s financial bedrock, has fallen have also caused Nigerians to look for new leadership. Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa, and a relatively young democracy, cannot afford an electoral crisis. That would only set back the faltering effort to reassert government control in districts where Boko Haram is sowing terror. The security forces may not be able to safeguard many districts on Election Day. But postponement is very likely to make the security threat worse.


The last paragraph above just tells you that in our nation we are continually being offered the worst of the best, or the best of the worst. This time it was logistics, but the fact is that the vast majority of Nigerians want a direction, a direction away from corruption, mass unemployment, a way out of the current insecurity, and trust me when I assert there will be no electoral crisis, it is our way with the fly and the meat. We can postpone everything, we always will get to 11:59, but it rarely hits 12:00. By this time next week, can we postpone Nigeria—Only time will tell.






Prince Charles Dickson

Currently Prince Charles, is based out of Jos, Plateau State, and conducts field research and investigations in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria with an extensive reach out to the entire North and other parts. Prince Charles worked on projects for UN Women, Search for Common Ground, and International Crisis Group, among others. He is an alumnus of the University of Jos and the prestigious Humanitarian Academy at Harvard and Knight Center For Journalism, University of Texas at Austin. A doctoral candidate of Georgetown University

Born in Lagos State (South West Nigeria), Prince Charles is proud of his Nigerian roots. He is a Henry Luce Fellow, Ford Foundation grantee and is proficient in English, French, Yoruba Ibo and Hausa. Married with two boys, and a few dogs and birds.

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