The recent charade, called Osun State Governorship Election, has further dampened the hope and enthusiasm of those who were already despaired over the fate of the political entity called Nigeria. Most of them have now given up, believing that Nigeria has gone beyond redemption.
When on the mid night of September 30, 1960, the Union Jack (as the British flag is called), was lowered, and in its place, was hoisted the Green White Green Nigerian flag, signifying Nigeria’s independence, many people were happy, and looked forward to the future with high hopes and optimism.
But for some keen watchers of Nigerian politics, there was not much to celebrate because they knew that the country was sitting on the keg of gunpowder, waiting to explode.
Ever since Nigeria was created and brought together as one political entity from the conglomeration of over 250 autonomous cultural units by the erstwhile British colonialists, she has been experiencing one crisis after the other.
The election that ushered in the country’s independence in 1960, was a patch work of expedients, being a marriage of convenience between the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) and the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), leaving the Action Group (AG) in opposition.
Just one year after independence, fighting broke out in the Western Nigeria House of Assembly in which the mace was broken. This led to the declaration of a state of emergency throughout the region by the Federal Government and the appointment of a sole administrator to administer the region for one year.
As crisis in the Western Region was still being managed, there was the alleged forceful attempt to change the leadership of the Federal Government of Nigeria, call it coup d’etat, in which the Action Group Leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and some of his followers were fingered. They were later tried and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment ranging from between two years and ten years.
Then, there was the failure or inability of Nigerians to count themselves during a national head count in 1962. While the South accused the North of counting even cows to beef up their population, the North said the South had discovered new villages and created imaginary people to populate the area. In the end, when the crisis assumed a frightening dimension and could not be managed, it was decided to cancel the entire exercise and a fresh one ordered for 1963.
Nigeria had not come out from the 1962/63 census debacle, when another crisis erupted following the 1964 general elections. The election was a straight fight between two amalgamated political parties, the Nigeria National Alliance (NNA), which comprised of the NPC as a major partner, with a faction of the Action Group loyal to Chief Ladoke Akintola, Premier of Western Region, on the one hand; and the United Progressives Grand Alliance (UPGA), with the NCNC as its major partner, and a faction of the Action Group loyal to Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who then was serving a ten-year prison term over alleged treasonable felony, on the other.
The election crisis had nearly led to the dismemberment of the country, since for three days, there was no government in Nigeria as the President had refused to appoint a new Prime Minister to run the administration, citing irregularities in the election exercise, which was boycotted by UPGA, and where three out of five electoral commissioners resigned had their appointments.
The straw that broke Camel’s back was the 1965 Western Nigeria election. The election which was not only massively rigged, was characterized by all sorts of malpractises, including stuffing the ballot boxes with ballot papers. There was daily killings of innocent people, arson and burning down of houses and property.
It was the failure or inability of the political leadership to manage the crisis that led to the military coup d’etat of January 1966, the killing of Eastners in different parts of the country, the counter coup of July 1966, the secession of Biafra, and the subsequent civil war.
The war ended in 1970, with Nigerians “learning nothing and forgetting nothing”, as they had continued to exhibit virtually all forms of characteristics that were prevalent before the military came to power in 1966, and even added more. That was why the Second Republic fell after barely four years of civilian rule.
Since the advent of the present political dispensation, Nigeria does not still get it right. There is corruption of high degree, the massive looting of the national patrimony, and the mismanagement of the economic system. While only some very few privileged individuals are perched on top of the economic ladder, the rest of the citizenry are amassed at the base, practically scratching the surface of the earth.
The unemployment situation has assumed a frightening dimension, with over ten million youths daily roaming the streets in search of non-existent jobs. Yet we have a government that is practicality doing nothing, but only engage in blame games.
In the same vein, there is general insecurity of lives and property, the daily killing of scores of innocent Nigerians by some armed bandits like the Boko Haram insurgents, the Fulani Herdsmem, the cultists, etc., as well as the kidnappings going on almost on a daily basis.
The political situation appears to be even worse. Many people have lost faith in the system. The country has been polarized. The centre is no longer holding. Some people are entirely even tired of the political entity called Nigeria. They now agitate for restructuring, sort of a little bit of separation.
The electoral system appears to be less encouraging. When we thought we are getting it right, we begin to witness all sorts of sordid things. How can you ask people to get ready for elections and to obtain their permanent voter’s card (PVC), for the exercise, yet, when the time comes they will not be allowed to vote, because the entire place will be heavily policed, occupied by armed policemen and soldiers and other paramilitary organizations?
When we begin to look back at our 58 years of nationhood, we fail to see what to celebrate, because we do not think we have gotten it right. Rather, we seem to have betrayed the aspiration of those who fought for our independence.