Let us quickly dispose of some current developments, though dramatic but not tangential to the 2019 elections, before proceeding to the matter at hand. One of them is the appointment of Mrs Amina Zakari, a popular INEC commissioner, as the Chairman of the Committee on the National Collation Centre for the presidential election. In this position, the various opposition parties led by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP had reached the conclusion that this woman cannot be trusted because of her relationship (whichever way it’s defined) with President Muhammadu Buhari, one of the principal contenders in the presidential election.
Because of this relationship she cannot be trusted to be fair and neutral enough while collating the figures and tallying them for declaration. Meaning she would be partial to President Buhari and make him the winner. The Independent National Electoral Commission has put up a strong defence for its action. The duty of supervising the technical aspect of the collation of results and declaring the winner, said INEC, is that of the Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, and he is not sharing that responsibility with anybody.
He alone, he said, should be held responsible. My understanding of Zakari’s position, from INEC’s job description, is simple. Amina Zakari is not any more than a glorified manager at the INEC event centre, making sure all the logistics are in place and in working condition. She cannot declare anybody winner or loser. And PDP, in my view, should not press the matter further so the party does not begin to sound like Donald Trump when he was running for office of the President of the United States of America and was screaming and shouting that the whole system had been rigged against him, that he had no way of winning and the public should hold the system responsible. He vowed to reject any result declared by the rigged system. But when he won and he was declared winner, he did not reject the result. He was simply shocked to the marrow because he never for a moment believed that he would win.
There were more salacious social media sensations during the week. Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation and the director-general of President Buhari’s Campaign Organisation, was reported to have expressed doubt about the possibility of the country making any progress under the leadership of his principal.
The audio tape went viral and spin doctors quickly went to work to douse the fire; some to rationalise the content to mean that it was the frugality of Buhari’s economic management style that was responsible for the suffering alluded to in the tape. Others found it totally unbelievable even when the man in the centre of the storm had made no attempt at the time of writing to deny it.
The opposition parties were poised to make a minced meat of the sweat sensation when suddenly they had something almost more salacious coming. The president, seeking re-election and who, traditionally should be in the fore-front of his campaign, flying all over the country to cajole, to beg and to make sweet promises to get votes, suddenly announced that he had ceded this all-important responsibility to the co-chairman of the campaign council, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to handle. He wants to devote more time to governance, he said.
And if you ask me, I would say this makes a lot of sense. One, considering the grounds the Buhari administration has covered in the last three and half years, there is nothing to tell the voters unless those of them who are too blind to see or too deaf to hear the achievements of the administration and two, in view of a clear and present danger to the coming elections posed by those who wield their AK47 instead of their PVC to truncate the peaceful polls, it is appropriate for Buhari, as the commander-in-chief, to sit back and take charge of security.
In a manner of shaving a man’s head in his absence, there is nobody more capable than the Jagaban of Borgu, the undisputed master of the political game, who has held his territory in one peace and tranquillity while others have lost theirs to the deadly combination of Boko Haram, cattle herdsmen and other unidentified but dangerously armed bandits.
Precisely that is one reason why Buhari’s decision makes sense. Perish other thoughts and lazy and infantile conjectures like his lack of vigour or lack of conviction and the capacity to move crowd as he did in 2015. Clearly, it is more important today to deal with the pandemic violence across the North, especially in Zamfara and his home state of Katsina, to say nothing about the existential insurgency that promises to cripple the North East and what remains of its economy.
Concern over insecurity is as widespread as the ceaseless spread of insecurity itself. The Guardian last week reported the Northern Traditional Rulers Council Assembly as warning that kidnapping, banditry, insurgency, farmers-herders clashes and other forms of crimes might hamper the peaceful conduct of the general elections. In tandem with this warning, Governor Bello Masari of Katsina State confirmed that violence had escalated in his state.
“I am crying out now,” he said, “because nobody is safe, not even me the governor.” Speaking at an extraordinary security meeting in the state capital, the governor said that kidnapping, armed robbery, and banditry had moved to the next level in the state. His Borno State counterpart, the war weary Kashim Shettima has shouted himself hoarse over the escalation of attacks on soldiers and civilians by Boko Haram. But apparently not to be outdone and overshadowed, Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, not known to be one of the wailing wailers crying like a nuisance, has described the state of insecurity in his state as hopeless and nothing except a state of emergency could stem the tide. On New Year day, not less than 18 persons were killed in two communities in the state.
These latest figures of death may not have been captured in Vanguard’s blood-chilling statistics of death through violence in 2018 alone. Leading the pack is the North East, the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency; 2,408, followed by North Central Zone with 1,835 and North West: 1,075. The most peaceful zones are the three in the south: South East: 112, South West: 224 and South-south: 462. Leading in the league of death is Borno State with 1,582 followed in this order: Plateau 684, Benue 640, Kaduna 458, Taraba 315 and Nasarawa 223.
Perhaps advocates of federal character including quota-centric Nigerians, especially those of us from the North should ponder over these lopsided figures. How do we rationalise the uneven distribution of these figures of innocent lives wasted on the altar of ethnic bigotry and religious intolerance coupled with ignorance and laziness except to conclude, as I have done many times in my previous interventions, that the North is its own worst enemy?
Buhari is right to concentrate on governance. But he has to do more than that. He must ensure that those who have piled up their AK 47 for election should be denied the use of these lethal instruments and go for their PVC instead. He has promised to give the opposition parties the opportunities that he never got in his previous attempts. That is statesmanlike. But how does he ensure governors who have armed their followers to the teeth conform to this noble stance?