It struck like a thunderbolt from the blues. It was an unexpected goal; against the run of play. One second, Suleiman Abba was Inspector General of Police (IGP), the next, he was gone with the wind in what can be called Hurricane Jonathan. It was the second time in two weeks President Goodluck Jonathan was making unexpected moves, leaving most of us clueless. The other was declining to sign the constitutional amendments into law.
The first reactions in the media were that the sack of Mr. Abba was “suspicious” a “political vendetta” and for “no justifiable reasons.” So how can a president said to be “clueless” make such baffling moves, leaving the political class speechless? Not many expect the quiet Jonathan to continue asserting his mandate; some expect him to have sought the refuge of his village. One of the first reactions to the sack came from Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie, the IGP under the Abacha and Abdulsalam military regimes. The retired cop concluded that the sack was “suspicious” because Mr. Abba is from the North. I had not realised that, and I am sure President Jonathan who picked Abba above his seniors (who were then forced to retire) had not known that Abba is from the North. Until now, I did not know that Abba was the IGP of the North which would make it “suspicious” for a President from the South to sack him.
A second reason Alhaji Coomassie gave is that if the sack is linked to the general elections, President Jonathan should not have removed Abba. I concede it is the prerogative of a retired cop to engage in speculations. A third reason given by the elder Statesman is that the sack did not follow due process. I agree with him; rather than President Jonathan exercising his prerogative to appoint and fire the IGP, he should have subjected it to a national referendum.
There are other commentators who have called on President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari to reject Abba’s sack. I am sure there is a lot of logic in this; the President-elect can over-rule the incumbent President! The only weakness that I see in this brilliant call is that the constitution does not permit two presidents to govern the country simultaneously; Jonathan remains the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Republic until he hands over on May 29. After General Buhari is sworn in, he can recall and reinstate all the IGPs and military chiefs Jonathan had removed. That will be his prerogative.
Just as many of us are clueless on Jonathan, so are we on Buhari. He is no messiah, but many insist he is. Buhari reminds me of the chief priest in the play, Kinjeketile by Tanzanian playwright, Ebrahim. N. Hussein, who gave birth to a word, and the word gets bigger and bigger, until it becomes far bigger than the priest himself. Alarmed by the huge expectations of his supporters, Buhari has had to tell them not to expect miracles. But many of them insist on miracles. I am sorry, but those who voted for Buhari in expectation of miracles are mistaken. The fact that the Vice President-elect is a serving pastor does not mean Nigeria is now in in the ‘Atmosphere of Miracles’
Those who expect miracles should, in the first place, have drafted Sheik Ibrahim El-Zak-zaky and Pastor Enoch Adeboye on the ballot. Surely, a Sheik Ahmad Gumi as Presidential Candidate and Pastor Temitope Joshua, as running mate or vice versa, would have been an ideal ticket. Then we can have miracles on per second billing in a pay-as-you-go system. In any case, why did such people over the years reject the candidature of my brother, Pastor Chris Okotie, even when he repeatedly told Nigerians that God had revealed to him he would win those elections? Why is it now that we are demanding miracles?
To show how clueless some of us can be, I hear it said all over the place that we have comparatively done very well because we have a nascent democracy. How can that be when we have been having general elections since the 1950s? We should not accept such insult. But why do so many people insist that our electoral process is still in its infancy? I can make some guess. First, twenty nine years of military rule has blinded us to the fact that we had over fifteen years of elections before the first coup in January, 1966.
A second guess is that seeing long queues of children voting, such people assume that our electoral process must also be in its infancy. They fail to understand that we are so democratic, open-minded and children-friendly; that we are just catching them young. After all, these are the leaders and voters of tomorrow.
I watched a report/documentary on Silver Bird Television on underage voting, and was full of commendation and admiration for the electoral staff the way they handled the children. First, realising that these special voters, (some looking like nine or ten year olds) can be rowdy, special queues were created for them. Then card readers patiently put them through the identification process before voting. This is good for our electoral process because in the next five-eight years when these children are eligible to vote, their invaluable experience as underage voters will give them a head start over their contemporaries.
On the social media, I read a brilliant justification or argument for underage voting; it is more democratic than a single adult thumb printing scores of ballot papers.
As a Nigerian, I am happy to be swept along by the flood of accolades that have poured in from the international community. The world had not expected us to pull off these elections without much violence and bloodbath. Don’t forget that the prophetic Americans had spied into the future and announced that Nigeria will break up in 2015. But here we are, united and strong.
Mr. Lakemfa was until recently, the Secretary General of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU).