“The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilt by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they can become the momentary masters of a fraction of dot…”
I do not know the maker of the viral video from which I picked the words above, but I found it to be in agreement with my thoughts as I looked at what we do with ourselves voting in elections. It speaks to humanity’s eagerness to kill one another for empty, fleeting power. It speaks to man’s fervent love in hatred and his delusional self-importance in a world that will soon spin out of his control. It speaks to the powerlessness of the strongman.
After watching videos of the Kogi and Bayelsa wars of last Saturday, I asked myself why we had to go through those harrowing moments to choose governors who will soon become wicked gods of thunder – hideous fire in their mouths, hateful fury from their nostrils. Why not just ask our president to choose for us his governors as he did in 1984? When General Muhammadu Buhari decided who would be state governors in 1984, he quietly did it without bloodshed. He carefully selected those he could work with, swore them in in his office and dispatched them to the states to do as he commanded. There was no spending N10 billion to buy the votes and corrupt the land; there were no gunshots harrying cities and villages into orgies of fear and violence. There were no monkeys and baboons swimming in blood because of votes and voting. Buhari can start doing exactly what he did in 1984 from now on since he is the super elector whose choice must be the people’s choice. Let him start doing it. It is bloodless, painless, cashless and deathless.
The results won’t be different; so, why kill and maim? Whatever we do, we are certain to get the same outcome that our genial general gave us in 1984; so, let him pick for us as he did then…
We will reap bountifully from this Option Buhari. There will be no need for foreign observers who would sink daggers in our backs after we have graciously permitted them to enter our country. There will be no insults from foreigners who always think we do not know how to rule ourselves. If the choice is for the president to make, governors of faith will no longer suffer the humiliation of kneeling before pagans to beg for votes. Wives of powerful people won’t kneel again in appeasement of ungrateful people who would scorn them at the polling booth. There will be fewer insults from persons whose lot it is to lose elections to the president’s party. Above all, mothers of youth corps members won’t have to bury their precious sons and daughters after every election. Electoral officers won’t get missing or found killed again in the line of duty. The nation will be at peace with its choices.
When I said mothers would stop burying their children because of elections, I did not make it up. You remember three corps members were murdered in Jos, Plateau State, in November 2008 because of local government elections? Yes, local government elections! If you don’t believe me, let me refresh your memory with a slain corps member’s family’s horrible experience as reported by a newspaper. His father spoke: “Ibukun had reported for the NYSC on August 26, 2008. We were in constant touch with him because mine is a very closely-knit family. He would have actually returned to Lagos on Thursday but could not because it was rather late. So, I called him around 6.20 a.m. on Friday morning and he said he was on his way to the park. Then later, he called that he was going back to his uncle’s home because the riot going on in Jos was quite heated. I said it was a good decision. So, he ran back into the house and we remained in touch.
“From that time, there were several calls and it was as if he was giving us situation reports. Then, his elder brother took over from me and kept monitoring his brother. He started asking for prayers. ‘Please start praying for us,’ he had begged. ‘They are moving towards our side of the town. In fact, they seem to be getting close to our gate. Please, pray. They are outside our house now. I don’t know why they came to us, but they are here.’”
His brother took over, giving reporters a narration of what then became of the NYSC member: ‘Now, our gates are down,’ were the last direct words the young man could say to me. Then I started hearing him beg them. Later, there seemed to be some struggles but my younger brother was still pleading. Then, I heard cries and I was afraid while at the same time shouting his name. I heard the voices of women screaming and praying to God for help. For some time, everything seemed to get silent but by this time, I was almost running crazy when my colleagues in the office grabbed my phone from me to calm me down. A few minutes later, after I had regained my composure, I picked my phone to call my younger brother. But it was a Hausa man that replied me. And he said in Hausa tone and seemed to be mocking us at the same time: ‘Ya broda, Im don die, Im don die…Ha ha; now, Im don die’. And at that point, the phone went dead. And that was when I blacked out too.”
That was in 2008. In 2011, it happened to another set of corps members in Bauchi. Six of them died because someone lost a presidential election. Nobody was prosecuted for these cases.
You wonder how many more families have had to go through such horrific tragedies. How many more wept yesterday and are in mourning in Kogi and Bayelsa because the law says there must be elections? Did you not hear agonising cries of mothers drowned in gunshots in the videos trending online since Saturday, November 16? All because of elections! We are not well. Let no one inflict further elections on me. Let the president vote in whoever he likes in his party and let us be at peace with his choice.
There is a shortcut to the truth of what we have today: Let the president choose the governors and the lawmakers exactly the way he chose the head of our courts and the head of our Customs without looking at what the law says. And it is working for him.
The Kogi and Bayelsa elections of blood and death were unnecessary distractions from more important matters. The most demanding issues of the moment are rice and border closures. Did you not see the disciplinary measures we are meting out to smugglers in the West of the country? Have you watched videos of miserable Yoruba women using their bras and wigs and earrings to smuggle rice into Nigeria? Now, what can you really do if the Customs decides to storm your kitchens and pots in search of illicit rice? You would say it is illegal? We are almost there. In 1984, it was the Head of State who ordered the land borders closed and threw the keys into one of the canals inside Dodan Barracks. This time, because of civilization, it is the head of Customs who did it. The border keys have been dissolved in acid – exactly like Ken Saro Wiwa’s corpse. While the Head of State banned petrol 10 kilometres radius of the borders in 1984, the head of Customs in 2019 made it 20 kilometres radius. That is an improvement. Twenty years from today, the radius will cover the whole of Lagos and all other complicit empires.
And do not say the border closure directly self-indicts the Customs CG whose duty it is to keep smugglers away. When a gateman permanently locks the gate and swallows the key, why do you need him to man the gate again? You really think that with all the unpunished infractions in our elections, in our complicit courts and extending to our borders, the law is dead here?
You remember rich, loud, Yoruba lawyers who asked the president to suspend the rule of law four years ago? Why are they complaining now that the hearer of prayers is answering them? We do not really need the law or lawmakers or the courts to rule well. There was nothing like the Senate or the House of Representatives when Buhari ruled in 1984. Even the courts had their powers ousted by decrees and they trembled. Buhari was the lawmaker in his 20-month rule and he did it so well that we brought him back into our lives 30 years after. So, what are we saying? We don’t need laws to be effective; and that should tell you why the Customs will not have to cite any law to back whatever it is doing. If your neighbour’s wife was frisked head to toe in search of hidden grains of rice and you think the Customs is being rude or crude the way it is carrying out its mandate, go and read history. The Customs was crude and rude even to the Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello.
In a January 7, 1963 letter to his friend, the finance minister, Chief Festus Sam Okotie-Eboh, the Sadauna complained about the lack of courtesy to him by the Customs service: “I need hardly point out to you that whatever I import into this country is not for sale but for my own personal use or to give to my friends or colleagues…While I appreciate that it is right and proper for the Customs officials to do their duty according to law, I cannot understand why in cases that concern me, they behave in such a discourteous and disrespectful manner…”
So, you can see it is not today that the rains started beating Nigeria. Even the leader who made our president what he is today was also a victim. Let us, therefore, cooperate with the Senate and the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court as they empower the president with their own powers. The way to go is to stop the law from breathing. We need it.
Published in the Nigerian Tribune on Monday 18 November, 2019).