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Published On: Tue, Jan 29th, 2019

2019: What will it bring for Nigeria

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Tuesday Column By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO 08033077519

January, the first month of the odd year 2019 in the Gregorian calendar is almost over, to the amazement of many who now conclude that this January is rather fast unlike former years when January days used to pass by at a rather slow pace, leading many to dub it as the ‘longest’ month of the year. This categorization also arose from the fact that the time frame between when salary earners exhausted their December wages owing to expenses associated with the festive, yuletide season and when they receive their January paycheque is long as everybody is literally financially broke by the first week of January. And the fact that there are many bills awaiting settlement in January – house rent, school fees and sundry utility bills – puts further strain on peoples financial burden. Consequently, January wears a somewhat sombre look with a lull in commercial and social activities as well government business as people go about their daily chores rather lazily and dreamingly counting down to the next cash release by government and other employers of labour that would boost money in circulation with its concomitant multiplier effect as it trickles down.
It is this dull activity associated with the very first month of every year, the fact that there is not much happening that makes it appear to us that January drags on lazily. However, this year seems to be different as many people are surprised that January is already coming to an end. “So fast, but I can still vividly remember January I, like it was just one week ago”, many remark. In truth January is not a day more or less. It is still the same 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 31 days cycle for January. What makes time seem slow or fast in our experiencing of it, is how busy it is. The more a particular timeframe is packed with happenings, the faster it appears to roll by. And that is the case with January 2019. Consider all the eventful things that have happened this month, chief among which is the party campaigns that are now cruising to frenzy and the groundbreaking news that were/are erupting virtually every day. Indeed, hardly had we finished digesting one breaking news than another breaks out. I do not think there has been any January like this one in recent memory with its multiplicity of happenings.
For the rest of the year itself, Nigerians are expectant, having swallowed the talk that something significant happens to our political landscape every 20 years. They point to 1979 when democratic rule was restored after years of military dictatorship; 1999 when the country witnessed another transition from military to civilian rule. And now comes 2019, what should we expect? A military coup? That appears farfetched as military rule is no longer fashionable, it has been banished from the dictionary of both the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union and the United Nations – the international community. Is it that a dark horse, a youth would emerge victorious from the dozens of candidates jostling to become president of Nigeria in 2019? This also seems unlikely because the average Nigerian is more familiar with only two contenders – incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling party, APC and ‘veteran politician’ Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition party, PDP. What precisely is the groundbreaking change that we should expect in this 2019 as is being bandied about? I cannot put my finger on it.
In 2015, the lie was circulated by one US agency that Nigeria would break up that year. This was bought and swallowed by most Nigerians, causing panic among many. It was also generally believed that violence would erupt in our country no matter who won between the two gladiators, namely, then incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan and retired General Buhari. The Niger delta militants reportedly said blood would flow should Jonathan cease to be Aso Villa occupant while we were reminded of the mindless killings in northern Nigeria when candidate Buhari lost in 2011. This further increased the fear and panic amongst Nigerians, leading to mass movement of people to their villages. As many Nigerians sought refuge in their homesteads in the build up to the 2011 general elections, traditional, religious and opinion leaders lent their voice in urging residents in their domains to remain where they were during and after the elections, assuring them of their safety. In fact this was what led to setting up of the National Peace Committee composed of eminent Nigerians and co-chaired by former head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar and Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah.
No exodus of people from northern Nigeria to the hinterlands of eastern Nigeria is being witnessed this year as was the case shortly before the last general elections but there is political tension in the land already. What with the accusations and counter accusations between the two major political parties. The ruling party accuses the opposition, PDP of planning to instigate crisis in the land, alleging that it was sponsoring various clashes nationwide. On its part, PDP alleges that APC is planning to rig the election, literally threatening that heaven would fall should that happen. It further alleges that the current government by its actions and inactions is about to truncate democracy in our land and is therefore putting the international community, especially the US and European Union on notice, indirectly asking them to intervene. The opposition party should realise that there is a limit to which the US and other industrialised nations can overtly come to their aid. They should take cognisance of the fact that despite late Chief MKO Abiola being the presumed winner of the annulled 1993 elections and despite his closeness to the US, they could not get the authorities then to reverse their decision and install Abiola as president. Despite the US and its allies’ misgivings about the conduct of the Kenyan presidential elections and in spite of the opposition party’s cry to them for help, the international community still let Uhuru Kenyatta be as president. Ditto Zimbabwe where loud cries of rigging by the opposition did not change anything. And we have a more recent example in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Nonetheless, everything should be done to ensure that the forthcoming general elections are free, fair and credible so that it would be as clear as daylight who the winner is. It is noteworthy that the US has said that it would refuse visas to those who instigate violence in this year’s elections. The National Peace Committee should step up its efforts and remind the combatants of their commitments when they signed the peace accord last year.

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