Between now and the election next year, every action and decision by the political class, no matter how inconsequential, is a subject of scrutiny, and commentators, who most often analyse issues along narrow prism of religion, ethnicism and political leanings are having a field day. Self-preservation is the name of the game and the Nigerian narrative gets lost in the mix.
This is the tragedy of the Nigerian story. Right from pre-independence, through to independence, the first coup and the civil war, all accounts of what actually transpired differed and did not point to a nation in search of healing, reconciliation and building of a new Nigeria.
I remember reading Adewale Ademoyega’s account of the first coup— Why We struck, justifying the death and ouster of the first generation of leaders from one part of the country, and another counter book by A. M. Mainasara—Why They Struck—and left with the impression that we have many countries in one.
Almost all books on Nigeria’s political developments have followed the same pattern, thereby validating my first impression—our inability to tell the Nigerian story without emotions or without recourse to primordial sentiments.
We are not yet an embodiment of national values; instead our leaders exploit our diversities to their selfish advantage. Sadly, our lawmakers, themselves chips of the old politicians, are not different from those who took pleasure in twisting issues to their advantage.
The National Assembly’s adoption of reordered sequence of the 2019 elections as presented by their committee on Electoral Act, has got the tongues wagging as the decision has equally been dogged by barrage of criticisms mostly over its propriety.
Even if the idea was borne out of selfpreservation, or because they think they have the power to even re-order our lives, the question is, so what and what is wrong with it? Whether the presidential election comes first or last is immaterial to me as an informed voter. But to the politicians who bear the brunt of swayed electoral current and for the millions of uninformed voters, election sequence matters. The legislators must have been jolted by what happened to some of their colleagues in the past when they were swept off by Buharimania. In 2015, I was on the field, face to face with practical politicking and politricks and saw how many a good candidates of today’s opposition were trounced.
It all started with President Jonathan’s unpopular government, the merger of three political parties to form APC and the emergence of Buhari; who with a cult following, became a metaphor for mass movement and everyone knew that it was only a question of time before he would march to the Villa.
In recognition of what became a Buhari movement and for the fact that presidential election would come first, PDP candidates at the state and national assembly even began to campaign with Buhari’s name and posters. Thus, you would see posters of a PDP candidate and Buhari of APC in pari passu. For these PDP candidates, Buhari was a selling point for their victory.
How wrong they were, because our largely illiterate voters could not decipher the logic of voting for different parties in one election— one for the presidency and another for house or National Assembly.
The then opposition APC quickly latched on the confusion in the political atmosphere and came out with a joint slogan of ‘vote for baba and pikin’, meaning Buhari and whoever the candidate was. Of course, it back-fi red big time and many candidates of the PDP lost out in what is known as band wagon effect.
I’m, therefore, not surprised about the National Assembly’s deft moves to stop any potential movement that has the possibility of sweeping them away even if they merit re-election or have the means to buy their way back. Basically, the National Assembly is seeking to change the order of election to start from the National Assembly, states assembly and governorship and presidential elections in that order as against the previous arrangement of starting with the president.
So, what is the fuss about the amended sequence? The electoral law that put presidential election first was a product of an amendment, so why should this be different?
The card reader became law in 2014 and was used for the 2015 elections. Its validity and legitimacy was tested at the Supreme Court which held that the constitution overrides the Electoral Act. Bearing this in mind, INEC went back to the National Assembly to seek for amendment to use any form of technology as it deems fi t in order to constantly improve on our electoral process. Again the electoral law was amended to that effect.
If all these changes were effected by the National Assembly using the instrumentality of the law, those who think the current arrangement is targeted at President Buhari are actually stoking the fi re of discord among politicians and heating up the polity.
Nigerians should bear in mind that when the changes were made to election sequence in 2010, it was to the advantage of then President Goodluck Jonathan and because the country was not this divided down the line; it did not attract much outrage. Jonathan later became a victim of the law that favoured him when Buhari’s popularity swept him away from office.
That same way, if the lawmakers’ intention is self-serving, in the fullness of time, they too will get their recompense as those who were lucky to ride through the Buhari train to power in 2015 may get their fingers burnt this time around.
Besides, the Buhari phenomenon that prevailed in 2015 has waned drastically, so his supporters may have to look for another magic wand to propel him back to power irrespective of whether his election comes first or not.
The amended election sequence might be good legislation after all, even though it is somehow tainted with vengeance. Hasn’t it been said that the only thing that is constant is change?