Lest we all become guilty of what we accuse others of doing, two things need to be said very clearly about the ongoing crisis in the Northern part of Nigeria: one is that the Northern crisis is a very good example of a predictable and therefore avoidable tragedy; the other is that such tragedy was made possible by those elites in charge of the country’s affairs who at a crucial time in the life of their country proved to be in most cases incompetent, in some cases ingenuous and even mischievous in some other cases.
During the weeks of the electoral campaign, one of the glaring facts that most political observers agreed upon was the popularity of the CPC candidate General Muhamudu Buhari in the Northern parts of the country, those observers that took time to analyse the kind of support the General was enjoying concluded that there was something of a messianic zeal in the way people were following the General in the North. With very little financial resources to rally and incentivise, (or mobilise as they say in the Nigerian parlance) and in most cases, against the establishment the General filled stadiums and brought cities to standstill. The last time any part of Nigeria saw such a charismatic led relationship was in the days of late chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Those that witnessed and analysed those rallies warned us of a possible “Wild Wild North” if the elections were to be seen as rigged in the North. They based their previsions on what they saw and heard in the rallies. Not taking that warning is at best naive; INEC could have done more to make the collation process more transparent and results delivered in real time like in the polling booths.
In a country with a history of universally acclaimed flawed elections and an ongoing chronicle of violence in some of its parts, one will assume that its secret services, if at all efficient, would have sensed the probability of the violence we are witnessing today and if managed by a competent group would have put in place a sensible plan to foil the actions of those behind it. Once the violence started, the security forces whose heads assured us that all is set and under control for the elections could have moved to save us from so much tragedy and destruction but they did not. The president has called for an enquiry; it will be wise to remember to investigate the role of the secret service and other security services in relation to the 2011 post election crisis in the North. They need to prove they have done their job properly and cancel any suspicion that they are incompetent, ingenuous or mischievous.
As early as two years ago, it was clear to many Nigerians and indeed to some international observers that the only way opposition parties in Nigeria could seriously challenge the ruling party and at the same time provide the country with a credible alternative to choose from was by coming together to form an alliance. That was a mega task and it would have required competent leaders with big visions and small egos. As we all now know, that task was not achieved; leaders of the opposition parties failed to provide a credible alternative to the ruling party and they failed to prove themselves as competent and selfless leaders. There were of course several attempts, the earliest and brightest was led by Pat Utomi but it gave birth to a Mega Party whose name was bigger than its structure.
The latest, and for many, most painful attempt for an alliance was to be between the CPC and the ACN. A lot of people rooted for that for that accord for very different kind of reasons. One of the most lucid and fascinating reasons was given to me by an Ekiti born, Lagos based, retired civil servant that explained to me that the PDP will still win the elections because they have more money and money matters more than any other thing in Nigerian politics, but to save lives of the people and the unity of the country it was crucial for the ACN/CPC accord to work so that both opposition and the ruling party will have votes across the country rather than in a part of it. That senior citizen was sharp enough to see what leaders of the opposition could not or did not want to see. If the opposition leaders had listened to voices like his, we would not have a Nigeria so divided today.
Nigerians have been given different reasons why that last minute accord failed. Each party at the table where the talks took place has explained his own position: the ridiculous request and stubborn refusal. Yet with a bit more competence, a lot less ego and no mischief in play those men would have made history and maybe save the country from the division and suspicions scaring it today.