Nigeria Preparing for War?

In a warning message to Nigerian “bigmen” titled, ‘Intervene now, clouds of war gathering over Nigeria’, credited to Bashir Othman Tofa, a former National Republican Convention (NRC) candidate in the June 12, 1993 presidential election, the Kano-born politician said that Nigeria was “fast ascending to the very path that Freetown took; the path that ruined Congo and Libya; the expressway to Rwanda.”

According to Tofa, “…It’s either history is unfair to us or our leaders are blind to it. Indeed, the death meant to kill a dog does not allow her to smell faeces. And, like the saying goes, those who do not understand history are bound to repeat it.”

Tofa said: “Ask Samuel Doe, when Rwanda arrived at Morovia, he hit the streets from the presidential palace in search of food after slaughtering his lions for meal. That was how he was captured and slaughtered. Rwanda does not respect big men and big office holders; as there are no big men in Libya today, but war lords that are selling the children of even the rich into slavery.

“When Rwanda arrives, there will be no strong man, no community leader, big men or small men. In Rwanda, there were not even religious leaders. Everyone will be to himself and God to all us. For the bigmen aides will desert them and run to take their families into the bush for safety. Then, the high fences of the local almighties will be climbed, their strong padlocks broken, their properties stolen, their wives and daughters violated before them.”

The vibrations ahead of the Saturday’s elections are as ominous as they are dangerous.

For some months now, many of those who have followed political activities in the country and utterances of political actors speak in tandem that the presidential election is not going to be easily won and lost.

The level of contestation this time around has been so high and apprehension-soaked that all manner of things are being insinuated.

Although the political parties that are on the ballot have signed the two-layer peace accord and pledged to, not only give peace a chance, but also ensure their supporters do not stoke violence, the parties have not behaved in accordance with the letters of that accord.

Moreover, despite the claim by the Federal Government that hate speech had become a criminal offence, the government at the centre is still neck deep into the offensive rhetoric. The narrative has not changed.

Today, even children are shocked at the kind of words coming out of the mouths of highly placed individuals in government, all in the name of politics. All manner of gutter languages are being employed just to score cheap political goal.

The election process has since been militarised. The deployment of huge number of soldiers and policemen to some states raises some fundamental questions.

The threat issued by the President last Monday when he ordered a shoot-on-sight order against anybody suspected to be engaging in ballot snatching or any other form of electoral fraud has raised the apprehension level in the polity. Members of the opposition and observers have since condemned the directive, noting that it is a recipe for anarchy. Some members of the opposition alleged that it was a way the ruling party tried to frame up “key opponents”.

“Don’t be surprised to see security agents whisking some people away from the polling booths on the trumped-up allegation of trying to commit electoral fraud. It is a calculated attempt to clamp down on the opposition and to tell the world that the opposition was frustrating the process. Don’t forget that the Federal Government has alleged that the PDP was working in cahoots with the INEC to rig the election. They may want to create a scenario to justify their allegation,” an analyst, who asked not to be named, said.

The tenor of utterances and body language of the government in power show that the election on Saturday is war, not just a game in which the players can lose or win. The shoot-on-sight order, which the nation’s security agencies have also given indication of obeying, may likely result in voter apathy.

There are indeed dangerous vibes ahead of the election. The ruling APC is being accused a blocking all means of opposition accessing funding for their campaign, whereas the Federal Government is leveraging the public purse to fund the return bid of the President.

The EFCC has since swung into action, hounding real and perceived friends and acquaintances of opposition presidential candidates.

The PDP also alleged that it was frustrated from carrying but elaborate campaign because of intimidation from government.

An observer, who spoke on the low-key campaigns occasioned by poor funding, said: “Ordinarily, it should have been a positive thing that expenditure on campaigns are reduced to the barest minimum because people are saying that Nigerian politics is becoming very expensive; but if that was to be a policy to check and restrict all the parties, it would have been okay. But in a situation where you are blocking the source or sources of funds against the opposition and you are spending excessively and lavishly on your own campaign; that is not good enough; it is immoral, and it questions the integrity of those in government.”

The polity is so tense ahead of the election that fear of violence and of inconclusive election has become so widespread that the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) declared six-day prayers for Nigeria, urging all Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora to pray.

Samson Ayokunle, a reverend and president of CAN, explained that the prayers became necessary following some dangerous developments in the polity.

“The excuse INEC gave for the postponement of the elections does not go down well with all stakeholders,” he said.

According to him, “The unfolding scenario on the political scene is not ordinary and there is the need for the Church to intercede for Nigeria.

“If it is about the things we see in the spirit, I am not sure that elections will hold at all. We should rise up and ask for transparent, free, fair and credible election that will even be better than those of 2015.”

Ayokunle further said: “About the elections, we will pray that they will not result in war, bring hardship and suffering unto the populace.”

However, a former Chairman of a defunct national newspaper told BusinessDay that the country had in the past inched closer to war than where it is now, but it never happened.

“The divine aura over Nigeria, in spite of everything, has seen her through every single problem, no matter how threatening. This will not be an exception,” he said.

Zebulon Agomuo

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