•By Rev. Fr. Evaristus Bassey•
My attention has been drawn to the resurfacing on several online media channels, an article I wrote in my personal capacity which was first published nearly two months ago but which is currently being distributed as if it were a fresh publication.
I wrote the article before the Jos massacres, before the Catholic Bishops statement, before the break up of APC, before Ortom’s defection and before the siege on the Senate leadership.
In the said article, I was drawing attention to the possibility that Buhari could win the 2019 elections if he could tackle the herdsmen terrorism with the seriousness he tackles Boko Haram.
The optimistic projection was based first on the fact that he had reconciled with Bola Tinubu, the henchman of South Western politics, and secondly because Buhari was still in good standing in the North East and North West where he comes from, and thirdly as at that time Ortom’s promise to deliver Benue to Buhari still stood good, added to the fact that Lalong of Plateau State is a strong Buhari ally. At that time the article was a correct reading of the political environment.
The resurfacing of the article at this time puts me in a difficult position, as if I were standing against the position of my bosses the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria – even though fundamentally the thesis of the write up does not contradict the Bishops’ stand, since the projected victory was conditioned on Buhari overcoming the hurdle of the herdsmen terrorism, which actually became worse since the article was written.
As a catholic priest, I remain nonpartisan and will continue to tell the truth without sentiments. For instance even though we had more than 300 observers in Ekiti, along with other civil society groups and international observers, many people who were not there at all and who only relied on hearsay were disappointed that we commended INEC over their performance in Ekiti.
The truth is that INEC’s performance was commendable, as testified to by all neutral observers. There can be an improvement in Nigeria after all ! As we remarked, it was the two major parties that were culprits especially in vote buying. Indeed the unfortunately increasing phenomenon of vote buying is because INEC has made the vote ‘worth buying’.
Politicians are realising that the era of giving humungous amounts to INEC officials for results to be cooked is gradually fading and are now forced to cultivate the electorate, although in a negative way. It falls on us in civil society to educate the masses on the evil of selling their consciences.
Nevertheless we still have a few concerns: 1. In a general election where access to remote areas would be near impossible, and where there is no adequate monitoring by party agents, the possibility of cooking up results in those polling units and in the many existing mysterious polling units, and transmitting them, is a grim possibility.
The neutrality of the security forces is fast fading and giving the general public the impression that they now exist to serve the interest of the ruling party especially with a return to Obasanjo strong-arm politics in the current developments in the Benue House of Assembly and the recent siege on the Senate leadership.
As we have warned before, serving and jobless politicians should be mindful of the consequences of their actions, as Nigeria could easily turn into Rwanda or Somalia.
Conclusion: Opposition elements should not take it for granted that they would have an easy ride over Buhari in spite of the current situation. Buhari is not Jonathan who caved in because of pressure and because he did not want a breakdown of law and order.
Buhari is a general and would do all it takes to be returned to power. And may I repeat that, unlike when well meaning Nigerians even from Bayelsa, turned their backs on Jonathan because he was perceived as weak owing to the Boko Haram terrorism, Buhari still enjoys enormous support in the core North, in spite of his weakness towards the herdsmen terrorism.
But for the break up of APC with former close associates turning against Buhari, the sentiment was already brewing that the opposition to Buhari was anti-Muslim. Opposition elements should not also forget that Bola Tinubu still has the ambition of ruling Nigeria and even if he has been side-lined in the past, he is probably seeing his best bet as sticking with Buhari so to pave way for him in 2023, as the presidency is likely to return to the West than the South East; and with the current phenomenon of vote buying, the richer parties could carry the day.
As Stalin said, it is not those who vote that matter but those who count the votes; opposition elements if they really want to wrestle power, must be able to monitor every polling unit where votes would be counted.
INEC on its part must continue to improve to ensure that number of votes cast does not exceed number of accredited voters in any polling unit.
Finally we urge all well-meaning Nigerians to pray for the forth-coming elections for God’s merciful intervention.