Election 2015: Our Biggest Fears

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The elections are already here, and yet again nothing has been done to mitigate our fear of the outcomes. The apparition of the post-election violence, as witnessed four years ago, is here again.

Our fears aren’t mitigated and it is not because of the people’s lack of faith in the security agencies now combing major towns and cities across the country in armoured tanks and vans full of men that seem like the cast of a Rambo movie, threatening and harassing motorists. Our biggest fear is the fear of ourselves, of that politically charged neighbour who practises a different religion, of that loudly partisan citizen from a different region or of that political campaigner whose idea of change is the victory of members of his ethnic group, all indoctrinated in different measures by their political affiliations. Our fault-lines aren’t blurred as assumed, especially by the most optimistic analysts of the 2015 election; they only await manipulation of ethnic, religious, regional and political events to be visible and activated.

As I write this, a lot of potential voters have already been disenfranchised by this fear of ourselves; the Igbo, threatened by the apparitions already lurking around their houses and shops have been moving to “safe zones”, the East, packed in Chisco and ABC buses; members and supporters of a party unpopular in their communities have been sending their families to “safe zones”, with some even going as far as London and New York. And, thus, it’s ironic that a people previously more interested in “change” have realised that “safety” is the basic necessity of our existence in this polarised space.

We’ve built a dangerous country! Why would any party’s stalwart or supporter send his/her family to “safe zones” for fear of being assaulted or killed by a band of political zealots who won’t accept a defeat in an election that doesn’t assure any contender of a victory? While the key actors in the presidential elections, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari, meet in posh hotels to sign a Peace Accord, fanatical defence of their ambitions by citizens who can’t even spell “Accord” threatens us all.

This is a democracy, and a Danladi in Daura and an Oscar in Otuoke are just as enfranchised as us to oppose Buhari and Jonathan, respectively, refusing to subscribe to geographic solidarity or sentiments.

No northerner should be harassed for supporting Jonathan, the same way no southerner should be for supporting Buhari. Democracy is a game of interest and convictions, personal or popular, objective or mischievous, and whoever chooses to go against us commits no crime at all. Our vote is our only tool against perceived political dysfunction or oppression. Violence solves nothing; it only destroys a democracy!

And while we tweet about “change” on our social media platforms, analysing the manifestos in grand halls, becoming estranged over expressed political differences, I’ve another fear about the elections. It’s something we all don’t want to hear or, in the case of the politically zealous among us, haven’t really paused to ponder. This fear is the vulnerability of the rural electorate, in forgotten villages. I remember my aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces, whose PVC is up for the highest bidder, amused in villages with no motorable roads. I remember my friends in the cities, who were “too busy” for voter’s registration or PVC collection. Memories of these deliberate and circumstantial disenfranchisements aggravate my fears of the hours before, and the days after, March 28. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

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Who Will Save us from Mrs. Malaprop?

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As if the campaign trails that have had the handlers of the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan furiously against the emergence of retired General Muhammadu Buhari as the leading opposition candidate were not exciting enough as comedy shows, we’re being introduced to more hilarious campaign as the wives of the two leading presidential candidates go round the country rallying support for their husbands.

While Mrs. Buhari’s style of identification with the masses, like assisting roadside Akara and Puff-puff vendors to fry, considered condescending, was an unoriginal comedy , the lady she’s seeking to succeed is already the winner in the comedy category of their aspiration. Mrs. Goodluck Jonathan is an incomparable clown, only that she’s exhibiting this skill at the wrong and in the wrong way.

During her most recent performance in Port Harcourt, amusing a crowd of women that her husband would marry them if they got pregnant, in her portrayal of the President as gender-sensitive and pro-women welfare, she dismissed Buhari as “expired drug” and the husband “a lion!” But that was nothing compared to her earlier description of the 72 year-old General as “brain-dead”! In Benin, she said, “Everybody is staying there (the Seat of Power) for eight years. Now it’s our turn. We must complete our eight years. It is a constitution of this country. We will complete our two tenure and hand over.” Not done with this absurd logic, she added: “They are looking for fight, they are looking for war… That is why they went and take expired drugs.”

What beats me more is her conviction that, indeed, her husband is an achiever. It’s however ironic for a lady who spent many times at foreign hospitals, with her husband in power, and in the very administration that doctors went on strike for poor welfare, to boldly campaign that “Goodluck has built uncountable hospitals… (and) trained doctors and nurses.” Perhaps it’s only normal to appease the women of Lokoja in what seemed like an apology for her husband’s atrocious administration: “I brought some gift for you, I brought rice, I brought meat, I brought brocade. I brought many things for you.”

Calabar was the venue of Mrs. Jonathan’s most despicable clowning. Just the way her husband’s subdued deputy, Namadi Sambo, fumbled in attempts to polarise the nation, the First Lady seemed to have also dug out her husband’s political grave deeper by saying, “Our people no dey born shildren wey dem no dey fit count. Our men no dey born shildren throway for street. We no dey like the people for that side.” – a spite of the north and its destitute beggars.

Mrs. Jonathan seems to have a certain speech impediment. I’ve realized that and, out of a certain sensitivity, I no longer mock her malapropian outbursts. I know some of us do so merely to escape the horrifying realities mismanaged by her darling husband. What I find disturbing, and which I don’t think should be dismissed as another of her malapropian ways, is the way she continuously contradicts the expectation of a university graduate as literate, learned and supposedly perceptive. Our flawed expectations!

While we all should be ashamed of the educational system that produced Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan at a time our education system wasn’t this chaotic, we need to agree that the nation’s first couple is a reflection of our flaws as a society and a state over the years.

Having this couple as the most important ambassadors of a nation of over 150 million disgruntled people may be ranked the biggest tragedy of this democracy whenever the generation after us sets out to document the miseries of our time.

Like many friends, I’m a reluctant Buharist. But he’s our alternative right now, and thus it’s natural to ignore Mrs. Jonathan’s order that “Anybody that comes and tells you change, stone that person.”

The joke that Her Excellency wants us stoned for demanding replacement of her husband, over which a number of us are laughing, overlooking it as another of her comedy shows that’s approaching the end, wasn’t taken so by the International Criminal Court. This administration has dragged us so low that the ICC, also recognizing that “America will know” when it’s uneasy here, has grumbled to rouse fear in our misbehaving politicians. Something needs to save us from Mrs. Malaprop, and ICC, despite it all seeming like a confirmation that ours isn’t a sovereign state anymore. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda.

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

To My Friends in the Dining Hall of APC

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Let me start with a reference to the political brotherhood that binds us, and for which we struggle, day in, day out, these past days, to defeat a marked monster. We’ve no disagreement, whatsoever, in our understanding of the Jonathan-led government as a tragically failed one. This realisation is what has instigated our agitations for its replacement. I loved the passion exuded in doing so, it’s motivating, despite the frightening chaos.

I, also, understand that a thinking head is necessary to have a sound body. This is the basis of our alliance, a quest for another head, and this, for me, isn’t because it’s Buhari. Any other morally advantaged aspirant presented on a structurally, yes not ideologically, defined platform would’ve earned my solidarity. But, my friends, many things escaped our critical eyes in these five years of maladministration, in our obsession with the head alone.

We practice a version of federalism for a reason, and in this arrangement it’s not possible to blame the head for the failures of the component units, the federating units, the state governments, which also have measures of fiscal autonomy, to at least play their roles highlighted in the residual list and, to a certain extent, the concurrent list elaborated in the constitution. I’ve seen some outstanding Governors who, even while in PDP and under a non-performing President, built impressive public service records. Kano’s Governor Kwankwaso was one!

This awareness is the reason I dissent with you, my friends, who advocate voting only candidates on APC platforms. Constitutionally, there are limits to a President Buhari’s interference with the administration of a state, except he’s expected to organise another constitutional reforms jamboree to have our administrative system reverted to a perfect unitary arrangement. Absurd as this is, it’s the logic of many of you, dear friends, in the dining hall of the opposition party.

A recent encounter with a friend of Kebbi State descent further justified my stance that this country needs strong and morally advantaged leaders, and while APC’s existence is to offer us a diversity of options, we should be wary of frauds perpetrated in the name of opposing the ruling party. As pointed out in an earlier piece, the only virtue some APC aspirants have is having the image of Buhari on their campaign posters.

With an untypical quietism, my friend informed me that APC’s governorship candidate in Kebbi State is the infamous Abubakar Atiku Bagudu. If you don’t know this billion dollar criminal, who may easily go down in history as one of Nigeria’s luckiest tools of corruption, one proud of his achievements in the looting of this country, then a return to history book or a review of the Oputa Panel to understand his role in Abacha’s government shouldn’t be a tough task. Having worked at global financial institutions, Bagudu mastered the art of money-laundering and was thus the palm oil with which Nigeria’s yams were eaten – apology to the late novelist Chinua Achebe, for his proverb and President Goodluck Jonathan, for a shared logic. That Bagudu even made it to the Nigerian chamber, to the upper legislative chamber, highlights the depth of gullibility that possesses the Nigerian electorate!

Yet you say that change is voting every clown fielded by the APC? At all levels of government? Across the 36 states of the federation? Regardless of their antecedents and personalities? Well, I’ve no trouble with this exhibition of parochial viewpoints and dangerous partisanship, knowing that, one, you won’t be with me at the polling unit and, two, you’re not capable of bullying me to lend my voice to any cause I consider deficient. We’re desperate, but not every aspirant on APC platform is Buhari, and neither should APC, to which most of us are sympathetic, be embraced with our critical minds deactivated!

One factor that also brings to fore your hypocrisy, my friends, is in your defence of former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. The same people who once castigated Nuhu Ribadu’s alliance with Bola Tinubu, including an important friend of mine, are the hypocrite now loudly defending Muhammadu Buhari’s romance with that most influential political entrepreneur in the southwest.
I do not fault such alliances, knowing quite well that our version of third-world democracy isn’t being levered on defined ideology. What I do fault, however, is our overblown sense of selective patriotism—our projection that a man is a criminal only when he’s not in our team. Such crèche partisanship is disturbing and, of course, petty!

I respect people’s choices as much as I never apologize for holding on to mine, even when confronted by combative dissenters. All I’m saying is, it doesn’t cost a lot to be reasonably and intelligently coherent in our participations in public discourse. This week, I “excavated” a ton of anti-Tinubu op-eds written by a social critic friend who now promotes Tinubu as the best political phenomenon in Nigeria since the independence! A supposed public intellectual shouldn’t be seen promoting facile causes just to appeal to the sentiments of the “vast majority!”

We shouldn’t write to appeal to the sentiments of anyone or a group, but to exhibit and highlight our differences and perceptions in this market of ideas. Be sure you’re doing the wrong thing if the world always endorses your viewpoints, patronizing even your most obnoxious outbursts. And while I’m unabashedly sympathetic to the APC, I’ll remain on the porch, critical of its deficiencies. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

Nigeria’s Present Rectangle of Tragedy

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Since the past six years, no people have been so cruelly, and almost unanimously, ridiculed like members of the Nigerian armed forces. They’ve become the butt of our jokes, and scapegoat of every security lapse, and our anger, though understandable, is often misplaced, directed at the wrong party.

Ever since I learnt, or trained my mind to see, the difference between the Defence Headquarters and the Nigerian troops, I developed a certain compassion for the latter; the former, however, is only there for management of the defence organizations’ public relations, and the “small guys” in the terrorist infested fields don’t even know what those millionaire bureaucrats and rubber-stamp combatants say of their failings and victories, and how they’re being employed for political advantages by both the ruling and the opposition parties.

We’re presently entangled in a rectangle of tragedy: the paranoia of the armed forces, unaccountability of the executive, the conspiracies promoted by the opposition party and, the offshoot of the three, suspicions of the paranoid military and the unaccountable executive and, to an extent, even the opposition figures by private citizens.

Even a flippant observer must’ve already noticed how this rectangle brewed an atmosphere of distrust, which has intensified in this election period, especially with the renewed energy to fight insurgency as declared by the government itself. The unofficial excuse for the escalation of terrorism in the northeast, as cited by the foreign media, aside from the inherent corruption in our government, are the abuse of human rights by our counterterrorism forces and the infiltration of our military intelligence by agents of the insurgents, which resulted in termination of arms deals between Nigeria and the United States. This, also, is cited as the reason our government patronises international black markets for its arms.

While the President’s widely reported statements that “Boko Haram has infiltrated my government”, which, about two years later, he tried unsuccessfully to deny, validated the theory of our compromised security arrangements, his shadowy deals in the black markets, like the arrest of a a Nigerian-owned private jet in South Africa with about $10 million meant for arms purchase, added more stories to our books of conspiracy. This was also because the plane belonged to a pastor and loyal friend of the President, known for bigoted and polarising remarks on the state of our union.

Whichever excuse the government and its loyal Defence Headquarters officially provided as reason for the recent victories recorded in its counterterrorism, ours is to celebrate the outcomes, and even if we must attack, the Nigerian troops should be seen as different from the Defence Headquarters.

Tragic, though, how some of us rush to report and celebrate the “triumphs” of Chadian and Cameroonian forces but ridicule any attributed to Nigerian Troops. We must be up to cheer the Nigerian troops, whose efforts and realities are often misrepresented by badly-scripted propagandas from the Defence Headquarters, for these recent outcomes of their intensified counterterrorism. We must stand in solidarity with, and in prayers for, those martyrs like Private Kadiri, Corporal John and Captain Olusola giving up their all and lives to keep this nation whole and safe, away from the coverage of televisions.

Perhaps a little perception of theirs, not even solidarity, is all they want from us. At least for losing friends and brothers, without the media to convey their miseries to us. Or you think a soldier would just stand like a statue and let an insurgent shoot him? Let’s redirect our disappointment in our counterterrorism to the appropriate profiteers whose decision is the reason the welfare of the Nigerian troops is a cause for laments.

Thankfully some of us don’t need a photograph, only communication with the actual victims of terrorism up north, to confirm that some towns have truly been recaptured, with the insurgents crushed and fleeing, in northeast Nigeria.

If our President had been half as conscious as that khaki-decked Commander-in-Chief I saw, in photographs, combing northeast Nigeria, there wouldn’t have been these many conspiracy theories and and this much distrust. Sadly, President Jonathan preferred to keep the nation speculating, that he’s complicit in the escalation of this terror that consumes us. My own inference is, Mr. President deliberately refused to be a unifying figure, as he’s seen jumping from one church to another, even making obvious policy statements there, in expectation of a repeat of 2011- a period of polarized electorate. Now that he’s seen it bold and underlined, that Nigerians are better informed this time, his rush to be a responsible President only elicits pity. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakaknda on Twitter