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Gideon Orkar: The Man Who Saw Tomorrow

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By Tunde Odesola

Tick-tock, tick-tock, both hands of the clock tiptoed to 12midnight. It was December 31. Hunger and anger waved at the year 1983 which said its goodbyes and trudged towards the calendar door. Economically, 1983 was bad for Nigeria and her naira. The masses had nothing but the skin covering their bones. Stuffed up to the throat with corruption, apathy and impunity, the nation held no hope for the citizenry.

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But the masses were thankful. Thankful for surviving the year and the ‘austerity measures’ imposed by the prodigal Shehu Shagari administration, which swept into power in October 1983 on the wings of a violent election. Like an answer to an anxious prayer, a young Fulani soldier, Muhammadu Buhari, jumped on Dodan Barracks, Lagos, near the stroke of midnight with his band of bumbling, self-righteous soldiers and kicked out Shagari and his focusless National Party of Nigeria. The nation broke into wild jubilation, hugging Buhari’s New Year present.

After just one year and eight months in the saddle, however, Major General Buhari was booted out of office by the man who ran the bloodiest military junta in the history of the country, General Ibrahim Babangida. No regime in Nigeria’s history recorded a higher number of deaths of military personnel and civilian activists than Babangida’s murderous regime.

During the Babangida years, journalist Dele Giwa was shredded by a parcel bomb, over 150 senior Nigerian military officers crashed midair and perished in a Lagos swamp; poet-soldier, Maj.-Gen. Mamman Vatsa, whom Babangida was best man to, wasn’t spared by the little man now marooned on Minna hilltop. Vatsa was tied to a stake and shot to death in 1985 over an alleged coup plot along with many other brilliant soldiers. The gun of Babangida’s misrule dripped with blood.

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FROM THE AUTHOR: Opinion: The Reign Of Abba Kyari

On Sunday, April 22 1990, about five years into Babangida’s bloody rule, a junior soldier, Major Gideon Orkar, led the most audacious coup in the annals of the country by attempting to oust the fiercely-corrupt Babangida from power. The Orkar coup demystified Babangida, who fled, tail between legs, to Abuja, where he relocated the seat of power to from Lagos after escaping being killed through the courage of his ADC, Colonel UK Bello, who spirited him and his family out of Dodan Barracks via the backdoor. Bello later returned to the barracks to face the coup plotters but was killed inside an armoured tank. Subsequently, the coup was foiled and the plotters were arrested. Orkar, a Tiv from Benue State, and 41 other soldiers were shot to death on July 27, 1990.

Babangida abandoned power in 1993 when he couldn’t bear the local and international backlash resulting from his cancellation of the June 12 presidential election won by the late MKO Abiola. Sani Abacha, arguably, the only major general Babangida was taller than, later demolished the sandcastle Babangida foisted on the nation and christened Interim National Government, side-footing the weightless interim President, Ernest Sonekan, out of Aso Rock – after just three months in power. Abacha was nothing but greed. IBB was everything but good. The lucifer of deception embraces the devil of greed.

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The Orkar coup clocked 30 years four days ago. So much water has passed under the Nigerian bridge. During the coup, Nigeria was headless for many hours as senior military officers rallied troops and engaged the revolutionary junior soldiers in a fierce battle to control Lagos. Never in its 53 years of existence had Lagos witnessed the amount of ammunition fired on the day as soldiers fought in the trenches on April 22 through 23, 1990. Lagos went into a cardiac arrest with the heavy artillery bombardment.

After seizing power, Orkar accused the Babangida government of corruption, nepotism and killings. In his nationwide speech, Orkar cut off Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, Borno and Bauchi from the geographical expression called Nigeria. He said, “On behalf of the patriotic and well-meaning peoples of the Middle Belt and southern parts of this country, I, Major Gideon Orkar, wish to inform you of the successful ousting of the dictatorial, corrupt, drug baronish, evil man, deceitful, homosexually-centred, prodigalistic, unpatriotic administration of General Badamosi Babangida.”

FROM THE AUTHOR: Opinion:Soyinka’s Wisdom Cures Buhari’s Impotence

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He continued, “We have equally commenced their trials for unabated corruption, mismanagement of national economy, the murders of Dele Giwa, Major-General Mamman Vasta, with other officers as there was no attempted coup but mere intentions that were yet to materialise, and other human rights violations.

“The National Guard, already in its formative stage, is disbanded with immediate effect. Decrees Number 2 and 46 are hereby abrogated. We wish to emphasise that this is not just another coup but a well-conceived,­­ planned and executed revolution for the marginalised, oppressed and enslaved peoples of the Middle Belt and the South.

“Our history is replete with numerous and uncontrollable instances of callous and insensitive, dominatory, repressive intrigues by those who think it is their birthright to dominate till eternity the political and economic privileges of this great country to the exclusion of the people of the Middle Belt and the South. They have almost succeeded in subjugating the Middle Belt and making them voiceless and now extending (the) same to the South.”

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It’s 30 years since Orkar and his men stormed the Dodan Barracks by 1:40am. It’s 54 years since Majors Chukwuma Nzeogu and Emmanuel Ifeajuna hatched Nigeria’s first coup on January 15 1966, killing 22 people, including the Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa. It’s 56 years since northern officers launched a ‘July Rematch’ countercoup that killed the Head of State, General Aguiyi Ironsi, and many other leaders.

FROM THE AUTHOR: Tope Alabi And Gbajabiamila’s House Of Error

However, not even during the military bloodiness did clannishness dominate governance as Nigeria is currently witnessing under the Muhammadu Buhari presidency. This is the first time in the life of Nigeria when herdsmen will kill Middle Belt and southern Nigerian citizens while the Federal Government does absolutely nothing to check the ethnic cleansing. It’s the first time the Federal Government will openly say herdsmen are right to kill and plunder if Middle Belt people and southerners do not give out their lands to herdsmen for ruga. It’s also the first time that all service chiefs and all paramilitary organisations, except two, are northerners. World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, disclosed in 2017 that Buhari urged the bank to concentrate development in the northern region of Nigeria. The non-appointment of an Igbo into the National Defence Council and the National Security Council is in breach of Section 217(3) of the constitution which says the composition of the Armed Forces must reflect federal character.

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After repeated denials, it recently came to light that northern states have long been benefiting from the Federal Government’s Conditional Cash Transfer programme while states like Lagos and Delta didn’t benefit. Buhari’s state, Katsina, has the highest beneficiaries with 133, 227 indigenes getting cash transfers. Katsina is followed by Zamfara (130,764), Jigawa (99,044), Kano (84,148), Plateau (78,430), Kebbi (76,026), Kogi (62,129) and Benue (58,943). Also, Nasarawa (48,687), Kaduna (35,348), Kwara (32,218), Gombe (26,532), Akwa Ibom (24,929), Yobe (24,814), Bauchi (23,305) are on the list of top beneficiaries. The number of beneficiaries in Osun, Oyo and Cross River states are 15,572, 13,811 and 11,998 respectively while Edo, Bayelsa, Rivers, Abia, Anambra and Imo have 11,368, 9,805, 9,596, 9,347, 8,105 and 7,220 beneficiaries respectively.

READ ALSO: Buhari, Gbajabiamila And The Greedy Bats

Babangida’s administration, which Orkar sought to overthrow, clearly appears to be a saint when compared with the Buhari administration in areas such as fairness in appointments, security and infrastructural development. Without a doubt, Buhari’s place as Nigeria’s most cliquish leader is sealed in infamy and this mortal failing will be the everlasting memoriam of his presidency. Truly, Nigeria deserves Orkar’s pity. Orkar deserves a posthumous national award.

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NB: This column goes on break next week. Will be back in two weeks’ time by His Grace.

Goodbye!

Email: tundeodes2003@yahoo.coml

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Tunde Odesola is a seasoned journalist, a columnist with the Punch newspaper, and a guest writer on this platform.

(PHOTO: File)

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Opinion

2023: Lord, Give Us A Criminal For President [OPINION ]

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Tunde Odesola

To all intents and purposes, Nigeria shouldn’t be compared with Australia. Because there’s nothing to compare. But if a crazed member of Nigeria’s ruling feudal class or any of their serfs feels otherwise, such an unfortunate fellow should be handed an apple and a pebble.

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After sinking his teeth into the apple and carving out the popular logo of the bitten apple on Apple products, the pebble should be thrust within a biting distance for the bad-governance enthusiast to clasp his teeth, and the world would witness an harrowing grimace, tears, blood and incisors clattering to the floor.

That, I think, is the best way to practically compare Nigeria and Australia; you don’t need to close your eyes to capture Australia’s clean streets, magnificent skyscrapers, technology-driven schools, gleamy roads, functional hospitals and effective security in the rich imagination of your mind. Australia flowers. Nigeria withers. It’s not obscure, it’s obvious. The blind can see.

At the wake of the 19th Century, Australia tasted independence on January 1, 1901, making it 121 years old. Nigeria, the luckless giant crippled by prodigal leaders, battled to independence on October 1, 1960, making the idamu adulawo aka blight of Africa, 61 years old.

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Modern-day Australia was a British colony where convicts were dumped in an agricultural camp and convict settlement in Sydney. After independence, the former convicts took up critical roles and built up Australia.

Nigeria was a British colony where law-abiding citizens were handed the reins of power after years of colonialism. After a few years in power, Nigeria’s law-abidng leaders had wreaked enough havoc on the citizenry to make slavery more desirous than independence.

In 1787, British Navy captain, Arthur Phillip, set sail from Portsmouth, England, with 11 ships carrying over 700 initial convicts, and headed to the colony of New South Wales. After a voyage of 252 days that lasted eight months, the Phillip-led ships berthed at Botany Bay in January, 1788 to found Australia.

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Marines and other officers accounted for about 300 armed men that made up the 1,000-population of convicts and officers contingent from England even as 30 deaths were recorded during the odyssey.

FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Ekweremadu On The Cross

In his letter to the Galatians, Apostle Paul thunders, “ O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you not to obey the truth…”
If he was to write a letter to Nigeria, I wonder what the great Apostle Paul would call Nigerian; “O brainless Nigerians?”

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I feel terrible each time I hear Nigerians lament in exasperation, saying, “Who did we offend…?” I know we have offended no one, but only have refused to hold our leaders accountable. If we held our leaders accountable, we wouldn’t have forgotten to ask questions on why a shameless Assistant Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, would still be walking free today after he was seen on video negotiating a drug deal.

The in-your-face impunity with which the retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari regime endorses Kyari and crimes committed by northern elements is legendary.

It doesn’t bother the thoughtless Buhari fascism that the Kyari-gate scandal has become the standard by which Nigeria’s integrity is measured in international circles. Nigeria’s image can be sacrificed for the worthless Kyari, who’s Kanuri like the mother of Buhari.

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To rub salt into the wound, Kyari’s caught-on-tape drug deal came when he was on suspension and had been declared wanted by the FBI, who sought his extradition to the US, over allegations of aiding international fraud and money laundering.

Convicts in Australia were made to do their time in truly correctional facilities called prisons, and they turned out corrected and reformed to contribute their bits to national development. Nigeria, as symbolised by the ineffective Buhari, arguably runs the most inhuman correctional facilities in the world where convicts go in as petty thieves and come out as trained killers.

Since the 2015 misadventure of Buhari in Nigeria’s governance, there have been countless cases of hare-brained impunity against law and order, but space won’t permit me to go over them all.

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So, I decided to use just the Kyari case to speak to the issue of corruption and show Buhari as the leader with the thickest skin for corruption in the history of the country. In the last seven years, impugning the Constitution with impunity is the only defining achievement of the Buhari presidency.

I often wonder what conversation would transpire between Buhari and the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, on the issue of the criminal called Kyari. Disturbing thoughts criss-cross my mind. Would Buhari say, “IGP, I’m interested in Abba Kyari’s case, you know he’s my boy?” And the IGP would respond, “I know, Your Excellency. I’m even planning to make him a DIG.” What would Buhari say? Smile and say, “Kadan-kadan, IG, small, small: that would make Nigerians remember his case with the FBI. I’ll make him IG three days before I leave office.”

I also wonder what the Senior Advocate of Nigeria in the Presidency feels about the criminal silence of the government on the Kyari travesty. Was this part of the Buhari legacy the law professor promised to continue if he became President?

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“The fish begins to stink at the head, not the tail,” goes a Turkish proverb. The institutional rot typified by Usman Baba as the head of the Nigerian Police has percolated through the Osun State Police Command, where the state Commissioner of Police, Wale Olokede, appears to be losing control of his men who have turned the state into a killing field.

On July 27, 2021, Prince Saheed Olabomi, a nephew of the Aragbiji of Iragbiji, Oba Abdulrasheed Olabomi, was accidentally killed in Osogbo by the police. Though the Osun Command, through its Public Relations Officer, Yemisi Opalola, claimed the killer policeman, Adamu Garuba, had been dismissed but the Aragbiji, in an interview with me on Sunday, said that was false, revealing that Garuba, a northerner, never appeared at the Osun State High Court on the seven occasions the court sat on the murder case.

FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Tinubu’s Karma And Osinbajo’s Ingratitude (1)

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Executive Director, World Institute for Peace, Lamina Kamildeen, accused the police of frustrating the trial of Garuba, stressing that the court expressed annoyance at the antics of the police during its last sitting.

Also, a Bauchi-born rig operator, Kabir Babai, was shot dead by the police on December 3, 2021, in the Ota Efun area of Osogbo even as the unnamed trigger-happy policeman, who killed Babai, also shot a driver, Harisu Musa, in the hand. Like the killing of Olabomi, the killer cop that shot Babai has yet to face prosecution.

On April 3, 2022, a resident of Osogbo, Abiola Afolabi, was purportedly shot at midnight while eating dinner with his friends. A coalition of Osun civil society groups, Osun Police Watch, said efforts were on by the police to pin armed robbery on the deceased. Spokesperson for the coalition, Oluwasegun Idowu, who is also a member of the Osun State Judicial Panel on Police Brutality, said police killings had become recurrent.

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Days after, the Osun State Correspondent of The Nation newspaper, Toba Adedeji, was hit by a shrapnel in Osogbo on May 30, 2022, when police fired shots at the scene of a protest staged to condemn Afolabi’s killing.

Adedeji was rushed to the Osun State Teaching Hospital, Osogbo, where he had the shrapnel extracted even as the Chairman, Osun State Correspondents’ Chapel, Sina Abubakar, and the Chairman, Osun State Council of of Journalists, Wasiu Ajadosu, called for the removal of the commissioner of police. Osun State Governor, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, who condemned indiscriminate shooting by the police, called for an investigation.

In April, this year, a suspected 21-year-old internet fraudster, Olufemi Oriyomi, died in Ife police detention, prompting a backlash of protest by Ife youths.

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If Nigeria’s law-abiding leaders can’t rehabilitate the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway since 2013, complete the Shagamu-Benin Expressway, Ibadan-Ilorin Expressway, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, Ilesa-Akure Expressway, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Second Niger Bridge, fix electricity despite spending billions of dollars, and revamp hospitals and schools nationwide, I pray, Good Lord, that, like Australia, Nigeria gets her own patriotic criminals come 2023 and beyond.”

Tunde Odesola is a seasoned journalist, columnist with The PUNCH newspaper and a guest writer at Info Daily.

Email: tundeodes2003@yahoo.com
Facebook: @tunde odesola
Twitter: @tunde_odesola

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OPINION: Ekweremadu On The Cross

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Tunde Odesola

Babatunde Raji Fashola, God bless him. When you watch American presidents, past and present, and hear how inspirational words drip with honey from their mouths, you wonder why inspiration is almost non-existent among Nigerian leaders just as black is non-existent among rainbow’s seven colours.

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In an article, “Fashola’s eureka moment at Lekki toll gate,” I criticised Fashola, the incumbent Minister of Works and Housing, when he miraculously discovered a hid-in camcorder, James Bond-like, at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos, days after the ever inept regime of retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari ordered assassins to kill protesting innocent youths on October 20, 2020.

When in November 2020 Fashola told Nigerians to direct their demand for infrastructural development to state and local governments, and not Buhari, because both governments are closer to the masses, I responded with an article entitled, “Fashola dresses Buhari in borrowed robes.” I also wrote “Fashola and the angels” when Fashola said in November 2019 that Nigerian roads were not as bad as Nigerians portrayed them.

Since 1999 till date, however, no Nigerian politician, living or dead, has uttered a statement as profound as what Fashola said when cornered at the nation’s capitol in Abuja by congressmen who were desperate to set him against his godfather, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, while fielding questions in 2015 during a ministerial nomination screening.

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Asked to comment on his taut relationship with Tinubu at the time, Fashola responded, “May our loyalties never be tested.” He continued, “In the course of my work, there was a family that had a parent who had a kidney malfunction, and (the) diagnosis was that the patient needed a transplant, and needed to go overseas. We had a procedure in government where we help indigent people who apply to get a board review and get overseas treatment.

“When we had paid and they were to go, the question was who was going to be the donor? It turned out that the only matching kidneys were those of her two daughters, and none of them was willing to give a kidney for their mother, but that was their supreme test of loyalty.

“So, I alway pray that my loyalty will not be tested because you do not know, you may have to take a bullet for somebody or even your own child.”

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FROM THE AUTHOR:
OPINION: Tinubu’s Karma And Osinbajo’s Ingratitude (2)

Life is, indeed, a rollercoaster of twists and turns. From an enviable life lived on horses, hailed with trumpets and entertained by cymbals, the tide of life suddenly changed for serving senator and immediate past Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who found himself on the back of a furious tiger in faraway UK last week. In Igbo language, ‘Ike’ means power. Surely, the embattled senator needs all the power to save himself and wife, Beatrice, from ending in the belly of the tiger.

A test came the way of the Enugu-West legislator and his wife when their daughter, Sonia, was diagnosed with renal malfunction last year, triggering a search for a donor.

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Last December, what a relieved father and a happy mother thought was an answer to their prayer appeared in the person of Ukpo Nwamini David, a homeless young lad, who lived on the streets of Lagos, and a UK visa was procured for the prospective kidney donor, en route to Royal Free Hospital in the UK, where the transplantation was scheduled.

The tale ostensibly developed a twist after David landed in London and the medical test performed on him to know if his kidney matches Sonia’s came out negative, thus an onward journey back to Nigeria loomed. When the doctor inquired about his age, David said 15, despite his passport saying he’s 21. This prompted the invitation of the police whom David told he was brought into the UK for organ harvest.
But does the Nigerian David look as young as his teenage Israelite namesake who killed Goliath? I’ll say no.

Ekweremadu means: “Human beings are unreliable.” What a name! Some claims by the two parties – the young boy and the Ekweremadus – appear unreliable for now, hence the police have remanded Beatrice and Ike in prison pending investigation outcome.

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The 60-year-old lawmaker was arrested alongside his wife at the Heathrow Airport on their way to Istanbul, where they were purportedly going to continue their search for another kidney. A cash of $20,000 was allegedly found on Ekweremadu, who has denied the allegations of organ harvesting and exploitation, just like his wife. Both husband and wife were represented by separate British lawyers.

Investigation by yours truly shows that the cost of setting up a kidney dialysis centre in Nigeria is a mere N25m, an amount which isn’t up to the sum being spent by the Ekweremadus to perform kidney transplantation on Sonia.

A Nigeria-based consultant physician and nephrologist, Babajide Gbadegesin, described Nigeria’s healthcare system as primitive, stressing that the system had yet to reach the underdeveloped stage, not to talk of reaching the developing or developed state. He noted that subsequent Nigerian governments had engaged in medical tourism instead of developing the sector.

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Gbadegesin said, “Our healthcare system is so primitive that it has remained at the neophyte stage. Sadly, there’s a global upsurge in diabetes and this has led to a consequent upsurge in the incidence of diabetes-related kidney failures in Nigeria.

“Dialysis and renal transplantation are well known medical treatments for patients with renal failure.The three major types of renal replacement therapy are haemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis and renal transplantation, which is the gold standard.

“To set up a dialysis centre with just one machine will cost about N25m. This will include the cost of the machine which is between N12m and N15m, land, building, a water treatment unit, good water storage system, catheters, and other consumables.”

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Explaining that transplantation was the most preferred option of the three kidney treatments, Gbadegesin said it offered patients good quality of life and is not as time and money consuming as haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis in the long run.

FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Tinubu’s Karma And Osinbajo’s Ingratitude (1)

“Dialysis costs up to N40,000 per session, and you do this thrice a week. That is N120,000 weekly. Some centres take N50,000 or N60,000 per session,” said the physician, warning that there was a strong link between the use of bleaching creams, toning injections, toning pills, consumption of herbal concoctions, herbal aphrodisiacs and renal malfunction.

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Shedding light on the UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 by which the Ekweremadus are being tried, Gbadegesin said, “The UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 frowns on inducement of any form. You can only be in the UK to donate organs to a family member whom you’re genetically related to or to someone you have close personal relationship with. This means that only your siblings, husband, wife, partners, friends can donate organs. And it must be established that there’s no inducement.

“There’s nothing like buying a kidney in the open market in developed countries like the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Germany etc. When a citizen or legal resident needs a kidney transplantation, it’s the government – through the National Health Insurance Scheme – that’ll get a kidney from the national bank for the patient – if the patient demands it or can’t personally get a donor. Many people in those countries donate their organs to the national organ bank at death.”

When coronavirus commenced mass killing of the rich and poor between 2019 and 2021, a sensible leadership would have embarked on overhauling Nigeria’s health sector. Instead, the Buhari leadership embarked on pervasive corruption and N100m presidential nomination forms.

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To go home free, the Ekweremadus must answer these questions without canting: Did they inform the parent(s) or guardian(s) of David before flying him to London? How did David come to agree to donate his kidney without the promise of a reward? What’s the source of the money in David’s account? If the Ekweremadus answered these questions successfully, they would have proved that David was just a Good Samaritan that strayed into Nigeria. If not, the maximum penalty for contravening MSA 2015 is life imprisonment.

May our loyalties never be tested.

Tunde Odesola is a seasoned journalist, columnist with The PUNCH newspaper and a guest writer at Info Daily.

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Email: tundeodes2003@yahoo.com
Facebook: @tunde odesola
Twitter: @tunde_odesola

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OPINION: Nigeria’s Democracy On Life Support

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Suyi Ayodele

In chapter one of their 2018 book, “How Democracies Die”, Steven Levistsky and Daniel Ziblatt, both professors of Political Science, Harvard University, USA, gave an anecdote of how elected leaders can subvert democracy and increase personal power. The book, which is described as “comparative politics”, narrates how people, all over the world, give out their liberties to tyrants, who disguise themselves as democrats and helpers. The tale, which opens the chapter titled, “Fateful Alliances”, is adapted from an Aesop’s Fable tagged: “The Horse, the Stag and the Hunter”. It goes thus: “A quarrel had arisen between the Horse and the Stag, so the Horse came to a Hunter to ask his help to take revenge on the Stag. The Hunter agreed, but said: “If you desire to conquer the Stag, you must permit me to place this piece of iron between your jaws, so that I may guide you with these reins, and allow this saddle to be placed upon your back so that I may keep steady upon you as we follow after the enemy.” The Horse agreed to the conditions, and the Hunter soon saddled and bridled him. Then with the aid of the Hunter the Horse soon overcame the Stag, and said to the Hunter: “Now, get off, and remove those things from my mouth and back.” “Not so fast, friend,” said the Hunter. “I have now got you under bit and spur, and prefer to keep you as you are at present”. This is exactly what Nigerians did in 2015, when they sold the PDP monkey because it had an uncanny penchant for squatting too much and used the proceeds to buy the APC dog, which has turned out to be the greatest squatter of all animals. 2023 is around the corner and we are asking the APC to get its cancers off our already bedraggled body. The response from the ‘ruining’ party is what the Hunter told the Stag.

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When a diviner tells his client what the oracle reveals about his (client’s) future and the predictions come to pass almost immediately, he beats his chest and says : “a iti ko Ifa nile, Ifa nse” (we have not even packed the divination objects and the prophecies are being fulfilled). A week ago on this page, in a piece titled, “The No-Choice Before Nigerians”, an analysis of the two leading presidential candidates for the 2023 general election, I wrote inter alia: “In the long run, whoever becomes the president between the two candidates will be the one who can outspend the other; and not the one who is more competent, patriotic or loves the masses”. Exactly five days after the piece was published (June 14, 2022), Ekiti State had its governorship election. In the history of political perfidy in Nigeria, never has the nation witnessed the brazen display of vote buying that characterised the June 18, 2022 Ekiti guber election. At the end of the charade, the ruling APC candidate in the election was declared winner with 187, 057 votes, beating the new party, SDP, to a distant second position with 82,211 votes and the self-destroyed PDP to an embarrassing third position with 67,457 votes. What played out in Ekiti is not a case of the most popular candidate or party winning the election but a case of the “richest” candidate or party succeeding in buying the voters. The beauty of it all is that no one among the three leading political parties or their candidates and supporters can swear that they did not offer money for votes while the election lasted.

FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Wike, Tambuwal And Lessons For Southern Politicians

What happened in Ekiti is a new dimension in our democratic journey as a nation. The event is therefore not only sad for Ekiti people, who hitherto, were regarded as men and women of honour, but for Nigerians in general. Morning, they say, shows the night. Another round of guber election will happen in Osun State in a few weeks’ time. Nobody needs a seer to reveal what should be expected. And without looking at the crystal ball, one can easily predict, off hand, that the 2023 general election will be worse than anything we have hitherto seen. This trend is more troubling given the fact that the bad behaviour is assuming a monstrous dimension under the APC, a party which Nigerians invested their goodwill on in 2015 with the hope that it would bring about decency and hope as opposed to the political roguery the PDP foisted on the nation while in power. The reality confronting all of us now is that the APC-led government of General Muhammadu Buhari has suffocated the very sick baby we asked it to nurse back to health. How unfortunate! But the APC leadership is not to be blamed, totally, for the very mess we find ourselves in today.

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No, APC did not start the idea of vote buying. As a matter of fact, vote buying is not a native of Nigeria. In yet another seminar book, the American author and lawyer, Mark Joseph Green, in “Losing Our Democracy: How Bush, the Far Right and Big Business Are Betraying Americans” (2006), on page 21 writes: “The evidence that money shouts in politics is mountainous: 94 percent of the time, the bigger-spending congregational candidate wins and 98 percent of House incumbents win. The average price of a House seat rose ten-fold from $87,000 in 1976 to $840,000 in 2000. Spending in the last New York and Pennsylvania gubernatorial elections, for example, tripled within one election cycle. It cost Ken Livingstone 80 cents a vote to win the London mayoralty in 2001, compared with Michael Bloomberg’s $100 a vote in New York City that year”. Green, in this analysis sub-titled: “The Evil of Access: Money and Members”, compared what Democratic and the Republican parties do with voters’ conscience on election days. He posits that “money primarily weeds out good candidates”, and that “as more and more multimillionaires run and win…the pressure to hustle special-interest money becomes even more intense”. In all the postulations by Green and the two earlier quoted authors, the American democratic values diminished a great deal when characters like George Bush and Donald Trump were allowed to access power. Levistsky and Ziblatt, after analysing how coups d’état have accounted for nearly three out of every four democratic breakdowns, submit that “Democracies may die at the hands not of generals but of elected leaders- presidents or prime ministers- who subvert the very process that brought them to power. Some of these leaders dismantle democracies quickly as Hitler did in the wake of the 1933 Reichstag fire in Germany…”.

Could all the three authors have had Buhari’s APC and its corrosive democratic tendencies in mind when they wrote the books above? Which of the vices the PDP was accused of perpetrating before it was shipped out of power has the APC not taken to a more brazen level today? When the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua won the 2007 election, he admitted publicly that the election was marred by many irregularities and immediately began the process of reforming the nation’s electoral process to forestall a repeat of such irregularities. At his passing, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who took over from him, dusted the books and reformed the electoral process such that in 2015, he lost the presidential election to the incumbent General Buhari. Hardly had the opposition APC took over power, it introduced a new lexicon to our political lexicography by declaring, glaringly won elections inconclusive in Kogi, Osun, Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Plateau, and Sokoto states at different times. The shameless attitude is such that anywhere where the APC appears to be losing grounds, the election will be declared inconclusive such that at the isolated elections held to “conclude” the polls, its candidates must win. That perfidy has now been perfected and modified to outright purchase of voters and their ballots. Whatever the PDP thought to be its “winning strategy” has now been taken to the next level by the seemingly redeeming APC and the people are worse for it.

For the first time in my life, I felt ashamed to be an Ekiti man after the last Saturday election. I have since made countless calls to relations, friends and some community leaders to find out what happened and how the honour we used to treasure in Ekiti took sudden flight on Saturday. Of all the responses, the one that keeps ringing in my ears is the folksong by an elderly fellow. In response to my question on how our people did not consider the future of their children before collecting money to vote, the elderly fellow sang: “E si umole bi ebi, ebi yoo paniyan ku o” (meaning: there is no deity like hunger, hunger kills a person). In summary, when people are hungry, they do despicable things. If indeed Ekiti people are that hungry such that they would collect as low as N10,000, and in some cases, N3,000 and even N500 to sell their votes to the various political parties, did they ask what brought about the hunger? If a government is accused of impoverishing the masses and the same government puts forward a candidate and backs him up with cash and the people go ahead to sell their votes, who is to blame? That should make an average rational mind to be worried. If Ekiti people with their claims to education, integrity and honour could be so cheap on election day, what happens to the Almajiri population of Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Adamawa and other northern states? What does the Ekiti election portend for the 2023 general elections? What lessons are the candidates for next year’s elections taking home from what happened in Ekiti? If a gubernatorial vote sold for N10, 000 in downtown Ekiti in 2022, how much is the presidential vote going to cost in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, Kano, Ilorin, Ibadan, Owerri, Aba and Umuahia in 2023? And you may wish to ask: where is this humongous war chest coming from?

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The above scenario has far reaching implications for our democracy. Men of honour without money will stay away from our ballots! What happened in Ekiti on Saturday and what will surely happen in Osun State in the next few weeks will ensure that at the end of the day, our democracy will be on oxygen till the 2023 general election when it will suffer an irredeemable cardiac arrest which will eventually hand its cadaver to future generations for scientific studies on how not to run a democracy. Democracy dies when talented people and those with natural administrative ingenuity stop contesting elections because they don’t have the financial wherewithal to compete with moneybags who own mountains of ill-gotten wealth to buy votes. The ‘ruining’ elites are sustaining the poverty conundrum against the citizenry so that they will not be self-sufficient enough to resist the pittances offered them on election days in exchange for what could have been a viable future for them and their innocent offspring who would have nothing to inherit other than their progenitors’ poverty. What the current plague of locusts who call themselves our political leaders have told the masses through massive vote buying is that it is not wrong for their cats to eat pregnant rats. Nothing kills democracy more than that!

Suyi Ayodele is the a senior journalist, South-South/South-East Editor, Nigerian Tribune and a columnist with the same newspaper.

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