By Emeka Uzoatu
The battle for the determination of the winner of the February 25th presidential election has since left the polling booth. What with a president elect already put in place (no pun intended), awaiting swearing in on the 29th day of May. But even now that the battle ground has shifted from soap and ballot boxes to the tribunal bench, it appears as though the battle line has just been drawn.
More than ever, the entire nation awaits its outcome in bated breaths. While the winners (a damn lot, indeed) inhale and exhale sanguine, a few others (unsportsmanlike, sore losers like me) have their respiration tinged with an uncanny dose of foreboding.
And it’s not for nothing. Ask them and they’ll regale you with reasons all the way from the amalgamation in 1914, independence in 1960, and republicanism in 1963. Even up until the expected restructuring of the nation to its independence parameters; long before the military protuberance into our government, sometime in the future.
Hope apart, there can be little or no doubt that Nigeria, the most populous country in the African continent, is a blessed country. Arguably, the nation oughtn’t have had anything to do with adversity but for incipient negative integers.
O yes! After all, hitherto the abundance of natural and human resources in the nascent country had pointed to a better direction. What with our achievement of independence from Britain sans the shedding of a single drop of blood. Indeed, but for a few past heroes having to smell the rod of colonial prison cells intermittently, it was arguably achieved on a platter of gold.
In which regard questions have often been asked regarding the nation’s descent into the Serengeti of failure from those potential Olympian heights.
Like transpired, it appeared as though the artful politicians who seamlessly negotiated our freedom from the colonists lost their mojo when the job changed to managing their own people. As though they replaced the foxes they had chased away.
I was in the number that demurred when the late writer Chinua Achebe had aligned it to the paucity of leadership with which we have been blessed over time. But the indices are not far to fetch. After all, the allegedly gerrymandered pre-independence census and elections only ended up handing power to those who only took the backbench at the independence talks.
This saw the late Tafawa Balewa of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), a middle-school graduate, emerging prime minister. As it turned out, the late Nnamdi Azikiwe of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), the erstwhile pre-independence governor general, ended up a ceremonial president, giving and receiving salutes at state functions.
According to some analysts, what came to pass thenceforth amounts to a show of shame. As if masterminded by shameless carpetbaggers from the red planet. Yes, much like a gang operating from hell farther off, they ended up stumbling from one error to another.
Till a misunderstanding in our fledgling army decided to come to their rescue. And more than their predecessors in agbada, the saviours in khaki could not but plunge us into a thirty-month civil war from 1967-70. Like has turned out, the scars of that war appear to have metastasized into yet another dent on the open wound of our national conscience.
According to Usman Dan Fodio, the late Sultan of Sokoto silenced in that first putsch, such could only be healed by truth. But alas, rather than that incomparable elixir, the passage of time has only served to bequeath us another cut downstream. And for all it’s worth, the new affliction has been adjudged to be way more cancerous than the original benign brush at the head of the stream.
More than anytime else, the nation’s present state has served to reiterate Achebe’s age-old submission. Louder than ever, it calls the calibre of the leaders who have sat on the exalted throne of our nation’s leadership over the prevailing years into question.
Actually, with the military outnumbering the civilian in their number, the onus redoubles when attention shifts to the unique duo that have seen over our affairs in both capacities. Interestingly, the first in the dual mandate roster, Gen Obasanjo (rtrd) is an OND graduate – according to former president of the senate, Chuba Okadigbo.
Avowedly, Obasanjo was candid enough to admit that he became military Head-of-State against his ‘personal wish and desire’. That was in 1976 when his principal Gen Muritala Mohammed was assassinated in an abortive coup d’etat.
And that was how we could not behold another republic until the year 1979.
And to think that back then power once again ended up in the hands of a middle-school teacher turned politician. A paucity of credential conspicously accentuated by his vice being the holder of an American doctorate.
Also, as is within easy recall, Buhari, the other dual-mandate holder, first grabbed power in the military putsch that toppled our Second Republic. It stands to reason that up until now, all successful coups in the country to date have happened between military interegnia. Thus, to date Buhari stands out as the only soldier to have achieved that unique diadem.
Like many analysts opine, the Second Republic only came about because Obasanjo could not but actualise a long-pending transition programme in line with his ascension route. According to the rather curious analysis, it was that move that eased his return in agbada as the 1999 military to civilian transition came knocking yet again.
Anyway, it was a big jolt to the nation back then when the Second Republic like its primal alter ego was toppled by our brothers in khaki after a mere electoral cycle. Unlike the abortive first effort, this one was almost as bloodless as our independence effort. As it came to pass, the supposed protectors of our territorial integrity took over and exchanged our leadership at will.
Till it got to the late Sanni Abacha’s turn. That time around, the only hiatus there could ever have been came from heaven. Like the famed Onitsha-based market leader Chief G. U. Okeke put it in Karl Meier’s This House Has Fallen. According to the grey-haired transporter, the death of our maximum leader at the time, was ‘a coup made in heaven ‘.
Yet, unlike heavenly interventions are wont, it heralded in our ever-nascent democratic experimentation that appears to have come a full circle now. Like transpired, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) the earlier party in power was able to foist undiluted civilians on us in the persons of the late Musa Yar’ardua/Goodluck Jonathan after Obasanjo.
The table was however to turn in 2015 when the incumbent, Jonathan, rather than let shed a drop of a citizen’s blood to retain power, virtually threw in the towel to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). And under them another election cycle has come and it seems that the party in power is unmindful of the shedding of blood to retain power.
People have voted, some with the last pint of their blood, but the results announced appear to be at a variance with the votes cast. Those who complained were asked to go to court. This they have done and as it stands, the presidential election tribunal appears their only hope. Lest the labours of our heroes past is thrown into the vanity of desuetude.