Tuesday, 13 December 2022 05:04

[OPINION] 2023: Before The Blowout - Reuben Abati

“Omo, this thing is getting serious oh. E be like say make man begin prepare for war in this our obodo Nigeria”

“Which war? Go and calm down, my friend. It is only children that talk about war. The one they started in Ukraine, the whole world does not know how to end it, you are here saying war is coming. Nobody is looking for war in this country. Those who fought in a war will never ask for it. Those of us who read about it do not want it. The people who are asking for war will be consumed by their own evil thoughts. Nigeria will survive.”

“I saw one video in which some people were saying the 2023 elections would be war, and that nobody would be allowed to vote in their part of the country. Gunshots. Bloodshed. Mayhem.”

“Don’t worry. It is always like that. Every election cycle in this country, there are bound to be local and international experts who will tell you that Nigeria is on the brink of disaster. They will tell you Nigeria will tip over the precipice and when that happens, there will be big crisis in the West African sub-region and Africa. But you know what? All of that is civil society, and international agencies funding talk. Since 1999, when Nigeria returned to civilian rule, it has been the same pattern. Election time is chop time. When there is tension in this country, that is when some people cash out. Many people say talk is cheap, but at times like this, it pays to talk, even if the only material in your head is absolute, refined, sawdust. People make noise. Militants cause problems. Thugs cause mayhem. Some die. The majority survive, but in any case, life goes on. Last, last, people find their level. Whatever is going on now, is no different from what I have seen. I want to assure you that we will be fine. You can’t stop all the rogues from doing their quick business.”

“Quick business. What is that? You call the attack on the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission, quick business? In five INEC offices, in four states within months, INEC offices and facilities were attacked. Set ablaze. Permanent Voters cards were stolen. Ballot boxes were taken away by unknown gunmen and arsonists.”

“Has anybody been arrested? Has there been any lead as to the probable causes of the attacks? Are the attackers known or identifiable?”

“No. They remain unknown. But the Inspector General of Police says a combined team of security agents from the police, the military and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps has been deployed to protect INEC offices and facilities in all the 774 Local Government Council across the country, and that the government is ready to prevent INEC facilities from being sabotaged. The National Security Adviser, acting on the authority of the President’s directive also said exactly the same thing.”

“Good, Mr. Current Affairs. I hear you. And since the NSA and IGP hemmed and hawed, what has happened oh? I beg, what has happened? Please tell me and I will share what I know.”

“There have been more attacks on INEC facilities, the most recent somewhere in the East where some people were heard saying that a sit-at-home has been declared and nobody should expect that any campaign or election would be allowed in the South East.”

“You can be sure those guys are on some people’s payroll.”

“Candidly, I am not sure of anything.”

“And I tell you that all these fifth columnists are on a payroll somewhere. You and I wake up every morning thinking of how to make this country better, but there are many out there whose only assignment is to make Nigeria difficult for everybody as long as they can make bloodily, filthy money.”

“Hmm. Wait a moment. An attack on the state headquarters of INEC in Owerri, Imo was repelled, yesterday. Three of the assailants were gunned down. If the security agencies can check the systemic attacks on INEC offices and facilities, I believe, we would be in a good place. I think we should commend those security agencies that stood up to the enemies of progress in Owerri yesterday.”

“You too like to dey commend? Commend what? Three attacks in Owerri in one month, they managed to kill three men, you dey here dey commend What of the attacks in Ebonyi, Osun and Ogun states? . Dem show you one arrange-ee work, you dey commend. What Nigerians want is a security architecture that is impactful and efficient and that can deliver peaceful and credible elections not a sleep and wake up security architecture. Do you want me to tell you the truth? “

“In this country, nobody knows the truth anymore. I do not even know who to trust.”

“I will tell you something”

“Hun hun”

“You know I told you earlier that there are some people in this country who profit from causing problems in this country. When things are difficult and you and I are groaning, they step in and make profits. When COVID-19 began, do you know how many persons in this country who made a fortune from COVID contracts? Do you know how many side-chicks of the botox and bottom variety and other non-state actors who became rich just by getting COVID contracts from corrupt sugar daddies? Or the various shady deals in government corridors at all levels. I will tell you one more thing.”

“What?”

“I sincerely believe that some fifth columnists do not want the 2023 election to take place. I suspect that they are the ones behind all the attacks and breaches across the country ahead of the elections, and that they are happy to expose the incompetence and helplessness of the Nigerian state”.

“I can relate. I suspect so too. Can you even imagine Permanent Voters Cards escaping from INEC offices only to be found in drainage channels? I can understand the fact that some INEC offices were attacked but in states where there were no reported attacks, how did PVCs end up in wrong locations? I won’t deceive you: this country never ceases to amaze me. We may have had democracy for 23 years but I don’t think the people believe in it.”

“What I genuinely suspect is that some people don’t want the election to take place. They would rather have a zero-sum situation, and then the country would have to re-arrange itself, possibly through an interim government mechanism. Some people don’t want Bola Tinubu, Atiku, Peter Obi, Kwankwaso or anybody else. They prefer to scuttle things.”

“What do you mean either Bola Tinubu or Atiku or…? We have 18 Presidential candidates on the ballot. This is the problem in this country and you are part of it.”

“Leave matter. What I am telling you is that something must be going on somewhere, the way we are going. In fact, I had a dream the other night, and my dreams are always accurate.”

“Can we leave dreams out of this? You know I have been listening to you since. But forget about dreams. The truth is that since this country became independent in 1960, Nigerians have been having nightmares, resulting in headaches. That is our problem. Are you sure you don’t have migraine?”

“To tell you the truth, the more I talk about Nigeria, the more depressed I become. Everybody is giving up. Even INEC says the politicians and other stakeholders do not want the new Electoral Act 2022. They are ignoring salient provisions in the law. They are not interested in the provisions about decorous language, peaceful conduct or internal party democracy. Nigeria’s older politicians of the First, Second, and Third Republics must be turning in their graves.”

“The law is what the law-maker says it is. People are ignoring the electoral framework because the security agencies have failed to enforce it. Simple!”

“Who will they arrest? Who will enforce the law? The biggest lawbreakers in this country are the law makers themselves and the Executive arm of government, and their godfathers and friends.”

“I miss that”

“The law cannot work in a country where the law makers have no respect for the rule of law. Do you want to wait until we start talking about security agencies collecting bribe and looking the other way, or when politicians ignore the rule of law as is standard practice around here? Have you not heard that the National Assembly is kicking against the cashless policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)? They want the CBN Governor to come before them and explain why the Central Bank is insisting on cash limits of N20, 000 per day for individuals, a total of N100, 000 per week, or N500, 000 per week for corporate organizations?”

“Don’t mind those lawmakers, they think they will be allowed to collect money and spend money anyhow in the 2023 elections. The Buhari government is saying that will not be allowed to happen.”

“Don’t get over-excited. That is if the fifth columnists allow the election to take place. There is too much vitriol in the air. The politicians are fighting among themselves. They are fighting others. They are even fighting journalists and civil society. When INEC offices are not being attacked, PVCs are stolen and dumped in drainage channels.”

“Don’t put journalists inside oh. Na our work we dey do. Whoever fights journalists will hear his own story with his own ears. Dem never born dem. For where?”

“Stop sounding like a thug. When they go low, you should go higher.”

“I just dey tell you. Anybody wey wan do werey, we go show dem say plenty plenty plenty werey dey oh. Area! Iyalaya anybody. Gbas gbos”.

“Can we discuss something else then? You know I don’t like any kind of stress.”

“I am not putting you under any stress. It is just that this country must be made to work. President Muhammadu Buhari has said he believes in the integrity of the electoral process, and he wants to defend that. He has an obligation to keep his promise.”

“Stop bothering yourself. President Buhari is in the United States drinking tea with the Americans.”

“He is in the US attending the US-Africa Summit. I don’t have a problem with that. Nigeria must always engage with the rest of the world.”

“But Africa must also learn to take full advantage of the outreach from the rest of the world. Everybody is looking for Africa as if we are back to 1885. There is a new Scramble for Africa from Europe and Asia. Russia, China, Japan, France, the UK want inroads into Africa. Now, the US under Biden has rediscovered Africa, second summit since Obama in 2004. But is Africa ready as the Summit begins today in the US, and President Muhammadu Buhari gives a speech?”

“I like the fact that President Buhari is speaking on the first day. It means the Americans know that nobody can joke with Nigerians. Naija no dey carry last. For where? We must come first.”

“Please can you be serious? The US-Africa Summit is not a population contest. There are serious issues at stake. Nigeria is specially recognized out of the 49 African countries that have been invited in order to encourage the country to remain the leading force for stability in the continent. Some countries were pointedly told that they are not good enough for decent company. Go and check that out: Eritrea, Somaliland, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Conakry and Mali.”

“Are those ones countries, when you mention Nigeria?”

“Under the UN Charter, my friend, every country is equal. Size does not matter under international law.”

“In this animal farm in which we all live?”

“Yes. And you must have seen that at the World Cup. No animal is more equal than the other. You prove yourself. You assert yourself.”

“This year’s World Cup is something else, I agree. Saudi Arabia humiliated Argentina 2-1, until those ones suddenly woke up. Morocco sent out Spain in the quarter finals, and beat Portugal, subsequently to become the first African country to reach the semi-finals in the World Cup. They even topped Group F ahead of Croatia, Belgium and Canada.”

“Very significant. A great moment for Africa. But I don’t like it when people say Morocco is not African but Arab and Middle Eastern”

“Leave that matter. Morocco is African. Don’t let Western media mislead you. I think it is paining them that Africa is in the final stages of the tournament. The same week that President Biden is hosting an African Summit, an African country is also in the news at the World Cup. Africa is the next frontier on all fronts. Our only problem is our leaders.”

“Wait. Wait. What is your prediction today? Argentina v. Croatia. Lionel Messi vs Luka Modric.”

“Argentina. Lionel Messi. The God of Argentina will fight today!”

“You are such an incurable loyalist and optimist because you have a woman with Argentine connection?”

“Where is that coming from?”

“Wait. I just saw something on my phone now”

“What?”

“Dele Alake and Bayo Onanuga attacking ThisDay and AriseNews, Prince Nduka Obaigbena and Reuben Abati in defence of their principal, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”

“Please, what are the two spent men, looking for stomach infrastructure in an unscrupulous manner at old age saying?”

“You should read yourself”

“They must be lying of course and destroying everything they ever worked for in pursuit of a mess of pottage. You see, this is the tragedy with Nigeria. Hunger destroys men. It turns them into slaves, blackmailers and pigs and they begin to talk without thinking.”

“Are you saying that you suspect that Dele Alake and Bayo Onanuga working for Bola Tinubu are slaves and pigs?”

“This whole 2023 process is being turned into a brawl. People who need friends and are making enemies where they need friends need to be told that they do not have a monopoly of anything.”

“So?”

“When I subject their latest silly and amateur political talk to closer interrogation, I should be able to answer your question but your guess is as good as mine.”

“My own is just that everybody should just know that Nigeria is more important than their individual ambitions oh, and that election is not war.”

“Look it is time for you to go to church or mosque… my friend. I have work to do. When idiots blab, they must be called to order.”

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