In his article NIGERIAN NATION AGAINST BUHARI Professor Wole Soyinka wrote “History matters. Records are not kept simply to assist weakness of memory, but to guide the future.” There appear to be major similarities between the build up to the March 28, 2015 elections and the June 12, 1993 elections. I say this because the signs as we approach the elections are ominous if you ask me. At least going by some landmark event in our history, one has a reason to worry.
On the 16th of June, 1993 a group known as the Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) then led by Arthur Nzeribe approached the courts to stop Professor Humphrey Nwosu then National Electoral Commission (NEC) Chairman from further announcing the Presidential election results. As of the time the elections were nullified, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate, Chief MKO Abiola was already in clear lead against his National Republican Convention (NRC) counterpart, Alhaji Bashir Tofa. This is against the backdrop of the fact that the election was originally scheduled for 1989, but was shifted at least once leaving the military government in a difficult position and a big loophole for dubious groups to explore for political reasons.
The 1993 situation may now be unfolding. The election was moved from its original date of February 14 to March 28 with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) citing security reasons a justifications for its action. This may equally have put INEC in more difficult situation if the election leads to a run-off thus prompting into major constitutional crises.
The strangest sign confirming my worst fear came recently. A group, the Young Democratic Party got registered as a political party via a court injunction recently. This group has insisted on its right to participate in the March 28 elections. Some days ago it had told INEC to put the elections on hold as it will have to hold its convention on the 26 of March to select its own candidates and therefore allow it to campaign for votes. So in this case this group has threatened to go to court if its prayers are not heard putting the elections in jeopardy.
My take on this Young Party’s case is simple. First, the fact that the party recently got registered does not give it the right to dictate to INEC on how to alter its own timetable. It is just like a candidate who just registered for an external examination and demanding the examination body to give him time to get prepared like other candidates. I am sure no responsible examination body will grant this request even though it sounds noble.
Secondly, the election time table cannot be altered at the last minute to suit a party or an unprepared candidate. This is only done in the mars where INEC will have to wait for all newly registered parties, who will only boast of only a handful of votes, to be prepared. Doing this will be like waiting for all candidates to say they are prepared before the exam body can say they want to administer the questions!
To me whichever Judge gave the injunction to register a new party at this time must be properly checked. As I write, there are more than 15 cases in court praying for disqualification of the two main presidential candidates. Equally INEC is yet to fully distribute the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) to all eligible voters. As I write, the two main political parties are yet to agree on whether or not the Electronic Card Readers should be used for the election, though INEC has stated its readiness for such.
Also as I write, at least ten cases filed by President Jonathan’s supporters are in court to disqualify General Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressive Congress(APC) presidential candidate. Just recently two of them were struck out while proceedings were adjourned for others till after the elections. My instinct about this is that some people are out to stage a judicial coup in even that the General wins. A lot of people tend to forget that the notorious Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) took advantage of loopholes like these to carry out their notorious objectives. All that came after the then electoral body NEC had started declaring the election results. The rest they say is history!
For me, all these potential landmines can portend real danger to our democracy if not well checked. This is exactly why I wrote earlier that the signs are not so good. I can only pray that we do not have to repeat the 1993 election disaster which almost consumed us as a nation. I only pray for Profound Peace before and after the election.
One thing is sure, whoever way the March 28 Presidential election goes, Nigeria will never remain the same again.
When Soyinka wrote that history not just been there for memory weakness, the Nobel Laureate knew exactly what he was talking about!