igerians have once again allowed themselves to be sidetracked by the National Assembly’s unproductive argument over the mode of transmission of INEC’s election results on election day, despite the fact that the country faces other critical difficulties. Many people considered the bill’s failure as a national tragedy, while others called it a democratic attack. Many Nigerians may be unaware that, with the exception of the press, neither the current military-bred new breed of politicians nor their forefathers who seized power from colonial overlords at independence saw democracy as anything more than a means to power. That was why they wrecked the first republic barely five years after independence over sharing of perks of office, undermined the democratization process in the second republic by awarding themselves what Walter Ofonagoro described as ‘landslide and sea-slide victories in opposition strongholds, while Babagana Kingibe and Tom Ikimi, of SDP and NRC, traded democracy for ambassadorial positions during the still-born third republic.
The political class achieved very little to improve the progress of democracy in the first 15 years of the fourth republic, except from stealing the country blind. Their children even faked documents to take N1.7 trillion in the name of petroleum subsidies, despite never importing a pint of fuel, according to Audu Ogbeh.
Under President Buhari’s government of change, little has changed. In the absence of popular opinion, democracy is doomed to fail. President Buhari, on the other hand, believes he knows what the people want without listening to them, only listens to himself. Instead of giving “the Ghana treatment” to those terrorizing Nigerians, he would rather use government money to establish RUGA settlement for individuals identified by World Terrorist Index as the world’s fourth most lethal terrorist group.
Our democratic institutions — a judiciary that is independent, a legislature that is independent, political parties that are strong, press that is free from external control, and robust civil society organizations – have always been frail. Unfortunately, in the fourth republic, they have come under more serious attacks, with Obasanjo dismissing party leaders, Senate presidents, and state governors without due process. Under Buhari, the homes of senior judicial officers were raided by DSS officials at night, lawmakers were once barred from entering the hallowed chambers by hooded DSS men, and his Minister of Information continues to try to stifle the fourth estate of the realm that, in the battle for democracy, forced out the colonial masters just as it disgraced the ‘Nigerian army of anything is possible.’
Our politicians have always used our diversity to undermine the democratic process. During the 1953 attempt to resolve our national dilemma, the North insisted on controlling 50 percent of the legislature’s membership. Despite coercion and strong hand tactics by northern leaders, the Northern People’s Congress finished third in the 1959 federal election with about 1.9 million votes, trailing the NCNC, which was primarily supported by Igbos and Yoruba, with 2.1 million votes, and Action Group, the Yoruba dominant political party, with 2 million votes.
Since then, the north’s battle cry has always been “democracy is a game of numbers.” This was used to legitimize the inconclusive 1964 elections, which resulted in a constitutional clash between President Nnamdi Azikiwe and Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, culminating in the January and July 1966 coups and counter-coups. It was also used to defend the inconclusive election of 1979, which was eventually confirmed by the courts using Richard Akinjide’s twelve-two-third calculation. It was used in 1999 to defend Obasanjo’s election as President without a political foundation, thus climbing the palm tree from the top. The situation was similar with the massively manipulated elections in 2003 and 2007. With Buhari’s landslide victory in 2015 and 2019, northern Fulani irredentists like Governor Nasir El-Rufai, who downplayed the Yoruba’s contribution and afterwards boasted about the North’s population, served as a reminder of the North’s invincibility during election period.
It is no surprise, then, that following the Asaba Southern Governors’ call for a power shift to the South in 2023, a shadowy group calling itself the “Northern Nigerian Consensus Movement” claiming to represent 75 economic organizations, including the Amalgamated Cattle Association of Nigeria, and the Arewa Traders Association, claim to be ready to be used for the fight.
If the assertion seems absurd, we should remember that everything about the Nigerian population since 1953, as indicated above, has been strange. Our population distribution, which violates demographic theory by associating a higher rate of procreation with the tropical swamp as opposed to the semi-arid Sahel region, is odd in and of itself. This is why, aside from our political elite’s conspiracy, the northern political elites’ blatant rejection of any sort of inquiry of this strange assertion has posed the greatest threat to our democracy since independence.
Nigerians have long thought that the reason for our odd demographic population spread rests in the free movement of stateless Fulani across our porous borders, notably in the North during census headcounts and elections. Baraje, a former PDP chairman and a staunch APC supporter until recently, appeared to back up this assertion when he told Nigerians that the APC had introduced foreign herdsmen into the country for the 2015 election in order to garner more votes and win the Presidency, which they subsequently accomplished. Now, the distant friends (aliens) they used to “cut corners” yesterday have evolved to the foes that are “cutthroat” today.
The northern political elite, notably Kaduna Governor El-Rufai and his Katsina colleague Masari, who admitted negotiating and paying ransom to foreign Fulani herdsmen terrorizing their society, appear to have no objection to the presence of such Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria. Their anguish appears to stem from the Fulani immigrants’ failure to quit killing their people despite being paid ransom. When a reporter on Channels Television’s Morning Ride questioned another political figure from the North, Governor Mohammed of Bauchi State, if he thought it was acceptable to channel Nigerian taxpayers’ money towards creating RUGA villages for migratory herdsmen, he responded emphatically that Fulani from wherever in Africa are Nigerians.
If you ask me, this mindset and northern politicians’ sense of invincibility based on doubtful numerical strength, pose a larger threat to our fledgling democracy than manual or computerized election results transmission. After all, a close examination of our election results, particularly at the local council level, since the beginning of the fourth republic reveals that thieves have honor. After all, our elected officials seldom lose elections in their strongholds.
Intra-elite feuds only emerge when there are anomalies, such as Ofonagoro’s “landslide and sea-slide successes” in opposition strongholds, such as the NPN’s victory in Ondo in 1983, which contributed to the second republic’s downfall. During the 2003 gubernatorial election in the southwest, Obasanjo used military techniques to outwit Yoruba Afenifere leaders and their AD party; and in 2007, the PDP stole mandates from other candidates in Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, and Osun.