Shortly after his appointment as National Security Adviser, Gen. Owoye Andrew Azazi, at his own request, met with me in my office in Lagos to discuss the State of the Nation. It was on the eve of the 2011 elections. I told the General that I was not worried about the conduct of the elections or about the outcome which I expected President Goodluck Jonathan to win. What really worried me, I told the General, was the management of the violence that would ensue after the elections. I was sure that there would be violence on a massive scale and I made some suggestions to him about how I thought the violence could be contained. My suggestions were not acted upon. The elections occurred, President Jonathan won and all hell broke loose. Missing were the conflict-controlled measures which I had discussed with Gen. Azazi.
Now, we are back at the same crossroads again, except this time is more precarious and dangerous than the last time. Firstly, we have this very notorious prediction from the United States of America’s semi-official sources that the world is expecting a cataclysmic meltdown of the Nigerian nation come 2015. Of course, most Nigerians have taken umbrage at this prediction for their country. But there are Nigerians who are indifferent to the outcome of this prediction. One of my low moments during the just concluded 2014 National Conference was when in an attempt to break an impasse, I painted a grim picture of devastation which would follow a breakdown of the Nigerian state, to which a delegate between 45 and 55 years old replied, “So what?” I thought to myself, here is a man who would probably run away to a neighbouring country at the boom of the first gun but was callously indifferent to the fate of the youth, women and children who would be caught in the middle.
Secondly, the certainty of violence after the 2015 elections is higher than it was in 2011. If President Jonathan wins, the North would erupt into violence as it did in 2011. If Buhari wins, the Niger Delta will erupt into violence. I don’t believe that we need rocket science to make this prediction.
The violence of 2015 is going to be horrendous and worse than the one of 2011 for the simple reason that the illegal massive importation of weapons into the country has reached such alarming proportions that I really wonder which is better armed, the militias on the one hand or the official armed forces on the other hand. For the avoidance of doubt, I am not imputing the illegal importation of arms to any particular zone. Some years ago, some Iranians were arrested for bringing in a shipload of weapons into Lagos harbour. They were tried and jailed and then smuggled out of the country. Some months ago, sophisticated weapons were discovered buried in the basement of a Kano house. All these have now fallen below the radar. These are the ones we know about. How many do we not know about?
There are states and movements out there, African and non-African, which do not mean well for the Nigerian state, which wish Nigeria to dissolve into a theatre of bloodshed, gore and instability. They will succeed if we continue the politics of making enemies of ourselves and friends of our enemies.
WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD:
The first step forward is for the two presidential candidates to meet and sign a Memorandum of Undertaking that will commit both to:
A civil and peaceful campaign, devoid of threats.
A commitment to preach peaceful elections to their supporters.
A commitment to control their supporters after the elections. Supporters of whoever loses should be entitled to peaceful protests but not to violent protests.
I also appeal to the following:
The Sultan, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III; the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi II; the Lamido of Adamawa, Alhaji Muhammadu Barkindo Mustapha; the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade; the Oba of Benin, Omo N’oba Erediauwa; Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, His Excellency General Yakubu Gowon and His Excellency, Gen. Abubakar Abdulsalami to facilitate the pre-election meeting between the candidates, the preparation off the Memorandum of Undertaking and as a Council of Wisemen to assist in managing the post-election conflicts.
Prof. Akinyemi is a former Minister of External (Foreigna) Affairs and Deputy Chairman at the 2014 National Conference.