By Nuratu Abdur-Rashid Oyetunji
The debate over the postponement of the elections began after the response of National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki at a lecture in London’s Chatham House on January 22, 2015. He is not known for any penchant for frivolity or undue partisanship in matters of national importance. While buttressing challenges of insecurity, corruption, and preparations towards the forthcoming elections, he was quoted to have said that if in one year, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can only distribute 30 million permanent voters’ cards, he does not see how the same body would distribute another 30million in 2 weeks.
In the heat of the brouhaha, there are obvious fact that the electoral body was not prepared for the elections. Finally it had to reschedule the general elections originally fixed for February 14 and 28 to March 28 and April 11, 2015. The Chairman of the body, Professor Attahiru Jega, cited security concern for the postponement. Any number of reason could be given for postponement but none would ameliorate the disappointment of Nigerians.
This postponement has brought unnecessary criticisms from the international community who have ignored our peculiarities. For instance, the U.S Secretary of State John Kerry said he was deeply disappointed by the decision. He added that, “it was critical that the government do not use security concerns as a pretext for impeding the democratic process.” Similarly the British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond also echoed the same sentiment when he said that “security situation should not be used as a reason to deny the Nigerian people from exercising their democratic right”.
Meanwhile, the Citizen Initiative for Security Awareness (CISA) at a press conference organised by I-Nigeria Initiative in Abuja, expressed its disappointment with the postponement of the election but insisted that the “six weeks is not six months”. The Co-ordinator of CISA, Chidi Omeje, said despite the disappointment they believe without equivocation, that the intervention and position of the National Security Adviser and the relevant security agencies on this issue was guided by altruism and the larger interest of the nation and not in any way for partisan consideration. He also went further to say that we Nigeria know where our shoe pinches us and so we should be wary of insincere advice by those who have predicted the disintegration of the country.
I also share this sentiment in cautioning hostile foreign interferences in domestic affairs. We are living witnesses to the non-chalant attitude of the U.S government to the increasing security challenges the Boko Haram insurgency has imposed on Nigeria. Our foreign allies should provide more concrete support to Nigeria’s war against terrorism beyond the current non-committal posture and grandstanding on electoral processes.
While the Western powers are being critical of Nigeria, our neighbours too are not being fair to us going by the alleged remarks by Defence Minister of Niger who boasted that the Nigerien soldiers were not cowards like the Nigerian soldiers. It was not surprising that Defence Spokesman Gen. Chris Olukolade had to angrily reply by saying that, “It is sad that a few partisan elements join the poor country to insult our troops. We don’t cross our boundaries. It is unacceptable for any foreign government to say our soldiers ran. Some rushed to the press with the Nigerien gaffe hoping to embarrass our military or government. But nobody will disrespect my Mother! Poor Niger!
For those who believe in criticising their government or doing the bidding of foreigners, they may be advised to change their orientation. It is also necessary to draw their attention to the advice of a prominent Sierra Leonean politician Omar Bangora to Nigerians when she said religious and political leaders were trying to divide Nigerians between religious lines and we were helping them do that, rather than standing up and saying we are all Nigerians, never mind our tribe, region or religion. She said the foreign powers pushing the government to take certain decisions would abandon us when we start killing each other and they would reject us from running to their countries. So we need to be careful.
She relieved the 11 years’ war in Sierra Leone, where she was also a victim, saying that the Sierra Leonean civil war was not even based on religious or tribal differences but the country was worst for it in over a decade. She said: “The worst conflicts are those based on tribal and religious differences. See Central Africa, Bosnia. My heart bleeds when I read what you guys are saying because I know what this will lead to. You will be the losers!”
This is not time for playing hide and seek. It is the period for actions, real actions against unnecessary excuses and blame-games by all sides. Nigerian must unite and be patriotic on national issues
Nuratu Abdur-Rashid Oyetunji, Finance Quarters, Wuye, Abuja, firstname.lastname@example.org