...Redifining Journalism for Development

2019 Election Timetable, TY Danjuma and Other Matters by Hassan Gimba


The Arbiter

Nigeria finds itself in its current sorry pass because truth and sincerity have been thrown to the dogs. People you expect to be calm and view things dispassionately are busy blowing the embers of confusion and disunity. Just like our governments, we have turned away from truth, justice and fairness.
Historically, the second, third and fourth republics were born through elections from bottom to top. In 1979, for instance, National Assembly elections were held on July 7 for the House of Representatives and July 14 for the Senate.  Presidential election was held on August 11 – a full month after the National Assembly elections.
In 1983, the election schedule was reversed when the government of the day became jittery over the possibility of losing the elections. It relied on Shehu Shagari to pull it through. The National Party of Nigeria (NPN) surmised that Shagari’s victory would create a ‘bandwagon’ effect. And that was what happened. The strive for self survival caused the reversal of the election timetable.
Even though he had his personal reasons, President Ibrahim Babangida started his long winded elections from the bottom. Presidential election was left for last. That was General Sani Abacha’s course too.
The 1999 elections, largely adjudged to be free and fair, also started from local government level and terminated at the presidential poll. This natural sequence was again altered by the incumbent in 2003 again due to the incumbent’s fear of losing. President Olusegun Obasanjo was afraid that northern governors and legislators may abandon him once they were elected, and for this reason he reversed election sequence that brought him to power in 1999. Every one of his party’s candidates was ‘forced’ to work for his victory or risk being swept off by the party that removes him.
Therefore the hullabaloo over the so-called reversal of the 2019 election schedule by the National Assembly should really not have engaged our national discourse the way it is doing now because based on historical antecedents, and the natural order of proceeding from the lowest to the highest, one cannot fault the lawmakers, even if their actions are dictated by survival instincts.
In any case, if their reason is solely dictated by the fear of being abandoned by a victorious Buhari in 2019, and knowing that what’s sauce for the goose should be good enough sauce for the gander, then shall we take it that the presidency too, and its minders, are afraid of being ditched by a legion of victorious legislators and governors after being elected in 2019, hence the insistence on the survivalist sequence contrived and instituted by Obasanjo?
If not, why then the fight over returning the timetable to the original flow, and which is better? When elections are conducted in ascending order, the enthusiasm of voters rise before peaking, unlike a situation where voter lethargy sets in once the president emerges.
Let us learn to be fair and just to ourselves even if we don’t want to be fair and just to others. We should also know that it is high time Nigeria had a consistent election timetable, come what may, not any dictated by selfish interests.
What should concern us most is the security of our land. People live in fear for their lives and those of their loved ones. A lot of Nigerians do not sleep with both eyes closed, just as traveling by road has become very risky because of the fear of abductors who now operate on the highways and in towns and grab people at random.
While the military is escalating the fight against the terrorists and decimating them, efforts must be increased to check the intransigence of budding terrorists in the garb of herdsmen and local militia in the middle belt and kidnappers and cattle rustlers in the North West. There is not much fear regarding Southern Nigeria, particular South West and South South, concerning potential terrorist outfits as their leaders can control them.
We will rue the day they will get organised and start kidnapping soft targets enmasse for ransom because they see how their criminal soul mates in the North East are making easy money out of the venture.
Nigeria must rise up and reclaim its peace from being buffeted left, right and centre through the brigandage.
This brings me to General T.Y. Danjuma and his call on people to defend themselves. Unfortunate as it is, especially coming from a personality no less than him, we should look deeply and dispassionately at the comments and situate them within the context of Nigeria’s current state.
We also, side by side, have to keep in mind that it was Danjuma, once described by President Muhammadu Buhari as the soldier’s soldier, who, at the risk of his life or career, or both, led a Northern revolt against General Aguyi Ironsi when the North believed, rightly or wrongly, that he was complicit in the killing of its leaders in the January 1966 coup. But then, the North had not been balkanised by its leaders into Muslim, Christian, Hausa-Fulani and the rest as it has now been by this crop of opportunistic, parasitic, self-serving, thieving and greedy so-called leaders.
He fought to keep Nigeria one. He and the late General Shehu Musa Yar’adua were also there breathing down Obasanjo’s neck to keep faith with the 1979 return to democratic governance. And it was to a Northern Fulani Muslim the baton of governance was handed.
In both of these major situations, Danjuma played pivotal roles for the North. He could have scuttled the 1979 hand over but he didn’t. In all these cases he saw himself as a Nigerian and a Northerner. He is also believed to be one of Buhari’s staunchest financial and moral supporters throughout his various presidential candidacies when latter-day Buharists, who see nothing wrong in him now, were political foot soldiers elsewhere.
Danjuma contributed at least $10m in 2014 for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Boko Haram-ravaged North East and is still contributing hugely to that cause through the Presidential Committee on the North East Initiative (PCNI) while those now desperate to label him ‘barawo’ and their paymasters cannot be counted among those who have helped their suffering brothers in the North East in any material way.
Yet, his comment is akin to giving up so late in his life of service to fatherland. So, what has happened to Nigeria now to warrant him losing faith in it just like that? The Nigeria he fought for and served for almost all his life? This is what we must ask ourselves and answer dispassionately.
Since the arrival of Boko Haram in the North East some ten years ago, I ask if there is anyone that, even if once, in the deepest recesses of his mind, has not thought of taking measures for self defence? Why did we not fault Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi of Kano when he made the call on people to defend themselves? Was there no time that (some) Northern Muslim elders accused President Goodluck Jonathan of ‘collaborating’ with the army to kill Northerners and ‘reduce’ their voting population?
Right now across our country, are people not feeling a heightened need to arm themselves for self defence against armed robbers, kidnappers and bandits? That people had not done so was because they knew it was against the laws of the land but not because they believed they were secure enough. But people are frustrated and many would not care to voice their frustrations publicly. The Emir of Anka, in Zamfara State, Alhaji Attahiru Muhammad Ahmad, in tears, just called on the United Nations and the African Union to come to the aid of his people who are being killed like chickens almost on a daily basis. Yet Nigeria is a sovereign state.
Let there be rule of law and respect for human life. Government and its officials must abide by its laws. No one should be allowed to be above the law. Government should not be seen to be vindictive and vengeful or regarding courts and their judgments with disdain. People become law abiding when they see their government and its agents abiding by the laws of the land.
A lot of wrongs have been done. A lot are being done, yet there is no justice for victims, neither are culprits seen to be punished as the law stipulates. A lot of extra judicial killings and plain murders have not been addressed. We always move on as if we are a country of people with short memories.
Irrespective of the controversies surrounding the case of Senator Dino Melaye and the escape of his accusers, the swift action of the Inspector General of Police is commendable. Some cases do not need to wait for committees to ‘unravel causes’. Negligence of duty by security officers should not be condoned. People must be wondering why no head has rolled over the abduction of the Dapchi girls.
Let there be justice in the land. Let a criminal know he can’t kill, maim and abduct and go scot free. Let those who should secure the citizens and those who should dispense justice know that they can’t be lax or collude with undesirable elements and go free or remain in their duty posts. Let a victim know that the state will always give him justice fast and in full measure.
When the above is obtainable in the society, definitely people like Citizen Danjuma won’t be making such comments. And if he does, no one will take him seriously.

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