Nigeria Grinding to a Halt

By ABBA MAHMOOD — This month, all things being equal (and very few things are actually equal), there will be an election in Nigeria. Meanwhile, the country is slowly grinding to a halt. Law enforcement agents have turned into party thugs. The powers that be get “endorsed” by “religious leaders” established by them and “elders council” created by them. So what happens? They campaign, not by policy or the debate of issues but by unconditional, deliberate hostility. There is no power even in the nation’s capital. There is no spark of light even in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at night. Movement is difficult due to lawless driving and rowdy queues for fuel. They insult and assault other sections of the country and still expect them to vote for them. Native intelligence demands that I ask: if, today, while you are looking for my vote you demonize and dehumanize me, what will you do when eventually you do not need my vote? It is too late in the day, and I don’t know how much is remaining in the treasury to bribe the millions who are expected to vote.
Please share with me the article entitled “D for Desperation” by Wole Olaoye published on page 56 of the Daily Trust of Monday, March 2, 2015:

With the rate at which President Jonathan has been going on Sunday pilgrimages to different churches, with national TV in tow, I am beginning to fear that the prediction of my humourist friend, Tamuno (Mr T), that the president might soon embark on a political pilgrimage to the Daura Central Mosque or the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia could actually come to pass.

Right now, the president is prepared to do anything to win the forthcoming elections. For those Christian denominations yet to be “pilgrimagised” by the president, I’m sorry there are only three more Sundays between now and March 28. The picnic will soon be over.

I had warned in the run-up to the February 14 election that the attempt by the president and his supporters to use religion as a campaign tool would fall flat. In the last four weeks, several versions of a tendentious flyer have been making the rounds, exclusively targeted at Christians. I was particularly miffed by one of the verbal bombs brought to my attention: “This is a desperate and urgent call from the throne of grace that the brethren in Christ are about to make the greatest error of their lives by selling off their kingly heritage for a mess of pottage called ‘change’. Change into what? …The foundation of the planned Islamisation of Nigeria was taken in 1989 in Abuja by OIC… They have painfully now infiltrated one of the biggest denominations in Nigeria and offered one of their best pastors — a professor — a vice-presidential slot… We may be the last Christians in Nigeria if this grave error the brethren are about to commit is not averted…”

The second section of the flyer is devoted to a demonization of the Fulani ethnic group with an incendiary piece entitled “It Is Either the Koran Or The Sword”, attributed to one Aliyu Gwarzo.

I am repeating my call on the security agencies to arrest those fanning the embers of hate now before it is too late. Hitler started his campaign against Jews by characterising them as less than human. Once that is established, it is easy to mentally contemplate the extirpation of the targeted groups without feeling any pangs of conscience.

Although the president has repeatedly said his ambition was not worth the blood of anybody, what his supporters are doing with impunity is very dangerous. For the supporters of an incumbent president to embark on campaigns of hate, as if they have given up on addressing the issues that matter and conceded defeat in their heart but are determined to ensure that they bring the house down, is unprecedented. Supporters of an incumbent ought to be the ones working for peace, but the reverse is the case here.

Bending over backwards, one can almost understand the frustration of the president’s party, the PDP. Having failed to fashion out a professional and comprehensive rebranding of their candidate, they have abandoned concrete social, economic, and infrastructural development issues and placed all their hopes in heaping insults on the opposition candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, with the hope that Nigerians would vote against Buhari even if they don’t want to vote for Jonathan. The PDP has all but conceded the fact that their candidate is not a good product worth selling. Their illogic: taint the alternative and the people would buy the same old product.

It is not working out that way at all. All those who have expressed outrage to me about those hate-flyers are Christians. All! And they are not hoodwinked by the satanic use of Christianity to drive a wedge between Christians and Muslims. And may I ask the president’s strategists if they hope to attract the votes of Muslims and Fulani after this hate-vending? Sharing money with tribal armies has only enriched leaders of OPC, Afenifere, Ohaneze, Massob, Arewa Youths etc. but has further alienated the masses of the Yoruba, Igbo and northern ethnic groups. I hear Kahlil Gibran loud and clear: “Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation”.

The only crime Buhari has committed, it seems, is emerging presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC. The rebranding of Candidate Buhari started about 14 months ago when he was still an aspirant. But the attempted rebranding of Candidate Jonathan started only two weeks ago when it suddenly dawned on PDP that the party was heading for a drubbing. Now Jonathan is jetting from one public event to the other as if wishing he had 99 hours a day. The other day he turned up in Mubi wearing military fatigues. The commander-in-chief has been roused! (Lol!)

How many elections and threats of defeat do we have to conjure to make the president do his job? Will six weeks of photo ops compensate for six years of lethargy and incompetence?

And to spoil things for the ruling party further, Buhari kept his speaking appointment at Chatham House, London, to great aplomb. The speech struck the right chord and the candidate’s carriage was statesmanly. After enunciating his party’s programmes, he confronted the various attempts to cast him in the mould of a despot in a dignified manner: “I have heard and read references to me as a former dictator… Let me say without sounding defensive that dictatorship goes with military rule, though some might be less dictatorial than others. I take responsibility for whatever happened under my watch.

“I cannot change the past. But I can change the present and the future. So before you is a former military ruler and a converted democrat who is ready to operate under democratic norms and is subjecting himself to the rigours of democratic elections for the fourth time.”

Hecklers rented by the PDP to protest against Buhari gave the game away when they disclosed that they were hired; some of them did not even know the purpose!

How to stop Buhari since he still refuses to drop dead and is even attempting to widen the gap nationally and internationally? Ask PDP’s fable factory which has been trying unsuccessfully to sow seeds of discord among APC leaders. Another military security “joker”? Remove Jega and take over INEC? Ditch the permanent voter card (PVC) and the card reader to facilitate ballot rigging? Immobilise Buhari and APC leaders?

Kindergarten teachers will have to revise their notes: “A” for Apple; “B” for Ball; “C” for Cat; and “D” for Desperation.

As long as Nigerians constitute the electorate here, perhaps the president will have to dissolve the people and elect another.

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