By Wole Olaoye
Today is the tomorrow you fretted about yesterday. You had thought that we were at the portals of oblivion in the run-up to the presidential elections. By now, we are all supposed to have vaporised. I made a quick check at dawn this morning; the sun still rose from the East as usual. All the elements are still in their rightful places. Unless Russia and its legion of enemies start throwing nuclear bombs round the world like confetti, I think it is safe to assert that this patch of earth called Nigeria will be here for a long time to come.
But there are many ‘Ifs’. Even as we celebrate the fact that E-Day did not become doomsday, we must caution ourselves that it is early morning yet in the journey to post-election amity. The fact that social volcanoes haven’t started erupting does not mean that we have successfully scaled the hurdle of post-election violence. The prayer of all men and women of goodwill is that peace reigns from the Atlantic to the desert.
One of the imperatives of this season is that the people need to manage their expectations and control their emotions. With the way the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has introduced technology into the game, people must be cautious not to celebrate too early to avoid bitter disappointment at the end of the road.
May the case of Nigeria not be like that of the fictional America in the 1983 TV movie titled ‘The Day After’. In the movie, the US is attacked by a hostile country, possibly Russia in a war of attrition that degenerated to nuclear warfare. It was simply a holocaust. Those who were not killed directly by the fumes and destruction of the first day were dying one after the other from nuclear radiation until, at the end, a scientist who was slowly dying of radiation poisoning made a radio call asking, “Hello? Is anybody there? Anybody at all?” The silence that greeted his question was louder than the bomb.
The point of the movie wasn’t just to demonise Russia; it was to drive home the idea that it would be a very bad idea for any country to ever have a nuclear war. The aftermath of the bombing as depicted in the movie has made some analysts insist that the film ought to be classified a horror flick.
At the end of the film, the screen reads, “The catastrophic events you have just witnessed are, in all likelihood, less severe than the destruction that would actually occur in the event of a full nuclear strike against the United States.”
I remind readers of that movie at this time because democratic transition is our own nuclear warfare in Africa. Someday, a researcher will consider it worthwhile to catalogue the extent of destruction of lives and property that have attended electoral disputes in Africa. Someday!
On Election Day, we saw video clips of thugs and political party apparatchiks threatening hellfire on anyone who had the temerity to vote for a rival political party. Their idea of a boxing contest is when the hands of their opponent are tied while they have the liberty to pummel the manacled foe. The level of desperation in some parts of Lagos and Port-Harcourt is better seen than imagined because it would otherwise have been unbelievable. I hope the other political parties on the receiving end had the sense to file their complaints to INEC. The electoral law is quite clear on what should be done in the instances of flagrant violations as we saw on display last Saturday.
Thankfully, in my neck of the woods in Abuja, it all went well. At least there was no threat of violence. Voters dutifully took their place on the queue and the INEC officials carried out their duties diligently. The long-suffering voters put aside their anger over the current cash crunch and petrol wahala to speak with their voter’s cards. I cannot say that was the case in every part of the federal capital. But, oh, how I wish that was the situation nationwide!
Wishes are not horses. When I monitored happenings in some other parts of the country over the television, I could only mutter a prayer for my country.
My fear is that the choreographed confusion plus violence in many places may lead to a miscarriage of justice. The desperadoes may succeed in denying the true victor of the fruits of his hard-earned victory. We all know what happens when victory is stolen . We were here when June 12, 1993, happened. We saw the aftermath. But if that crime is repeated today with all our social and political contradictions in sharp relief, the consequences will be of nuclear proportions.
In our present circumstances, one must wonder what our many tomorrows are concealing in their palms. My respected compatriot and friend, Prof Moyo Okediji of the University of Texas at Austin, who had been ruminating over the matter, posted his own ‘findings’ on Facebook (https://web.facebook.com/moyo.okediji).
Okediji oracular proclamations at the onset of the Buhari administration has become a reference point for bull’s eye predictions. Not one to call a spade by any other name, Okediji writes:
The Six Elders of Ile Ife…
The world is no longer in balance
The world is in disarray
The world is fractured
With nobody to heal it
The world is ripped,
And nobody to stitch it
They divined for the six elders
Who were returning from Ile Ife
They were asked to consult the divinities
And offer some sacrifices.
This is the Ose Meji verse that Ifa selected concerning the coming election in Nigeria.
Everybody knows who the Six Elders returning from Ile Ife are.
They were asked to offer sacrifice rather than fight-to-finish over the Beauty Queen.
Instead, they elected to fight.
The fight is not conclusive.
Nobody wins this election.
The results are not definite.
There is confusion and pandemonium.
The people lose…
If I was a religious zealot, I would probably say pandemonium is not my portion. But I know that mere pious declarations without good works will lead to misery. We shall reap what we sow.
Another compatriot, octogenarian Osemwegie Ebohon, a veteran journalist, historian, poet, playwright, cultural icon, traditionalist and founder/curator of Ebohon Cultural Centre, Benin City, Edo State, says he has many fears over Nigeria.
Listen to Ebohon: “The fear I am having is that we should pray for the youths. They say that cowards die many times before their death, and the king does not execute a coward. I would say if this thing belongs to me and you take it from me, I won’t bother; I will leave you to God and his conscience because something is going to happen very soon, and unless care is taken, we would lose many of our youths…
“Unless most of our politicians retrace their steps, they would regret what made them go into politics… The people that are damaging this country are going to be paid in hot coins between now and the next one and a half years. But before they get the hotness on their hands, we pray that we do not lose too many youths. So, what I will advise youths is that I know your blood is pumping fast and hot. If anything happens against your conscience, leave it to God and the ancestors of the land to settle. Don’t go into the streets and protest because the end will be bad for our enemies… God will take revenge for you…
“When you are expecting a zebra in the farm to come, it never comes… Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gunpowder, but God and the powers that be will reduce that problem. If He doesn’t, Nigeria will be no more; but Nigeria will still be there because if something is pursuing you to kill you, something that will save you from him will be following you. That is the reason we have hope; if not, there is a problem…In a place where they killed your father and mother, when you are going, you cover your head with a mortar, and hold the pestle as your walking stick.”
I do not know the path of the snail on dry rock. But I know that righteousness exalts a nation. If we tow the narrow but rocky path of ensuring that the true will of the people as expressed on February 25, 2023, is allowed to prevail, no force on earth can stop Nigeria from attaining its manifest destiny as Africa’s beacon and the natural home of black peoples all over the world.
(Wole Olaoye is a Public Relations consultant and veteran journalist. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @wole_olaoye; Instagram: woleola2021)
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