By Suyi Ayodele
CRIME and criminality are not gender biased. Nigerians should have no doubt about it. Whatever a man can do, a woman can do better, goes the saying. The veracity of the age-long axiom came to life in Yola, capital of Adamawa State on Sunday, April 16, 2023. That was the day the NTA beamed live to us, the ‘victory’ cum ‘acceptance’ speech of Aisha Dahiru, who is also known as Binani, the candidate of the APC in the March 18 inconclusive governorship election and the supplementary election held on Saturday, April 15, 2023, in some local governments of the state. Binani must have been a strong believer in miracles. We all serve a God of miracles. A miracle is an unexplainable occurrence in the life of an individual. It just happens and onlookers are left flabbergasted.
The collation of the results of the supplementary election was still going on when Binani’s miracle happened. An unusual personality, Yunusa Hudu-Ari, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state decided to give Binani a miracle. Ari, a lawyer by profession, knows that by the spirit and letters of the Electoral Act, only the Returning Officer (RO) for an election has the power to declare a winner. He equally knows that that assignment will only be done by the RO when and only when all the results in the election have been collated and figures calculated for all the participating political parties and their candidates. But being a miracle worker, Ari took over the function of the RO. And he did it in a very novel manner. Without mentioning the number of votes scored by the individual contestants, the Adamawa REC declared that the APC candidate, Binani, “having scored the highest number of votes is hereby declared winner”. He tucked the piece of paper he was holding in his pocket and was escorted out by security agents, among whom was a Commissioner of Police. I watched the video of the ‘declaration’ more than five times. On each occasion, I told myself this is pure bìlísì. Bìlísì (evil), is an elder brother of wahala (affliction). Both are strands of Hausa Language which have crept into Yoruba lexicon. Nigeria’s electoral system has gone through a lot of afflictions from time immemorial. But never has it witnessed the type of bìlísì (evil) Ari imposed on it in Adamawa that Sunday.
Binani, who probably was waiting within earshot, called in the NTA crew and without batting an eyelid, addressed the good people of Adamawa. You must love the lady’s gaits and manner. She did not forget to thank “President Muhammadu Buhari for making the election of a first female governor in Nigeria possible”. Nigerians were shocked. General Buhari himself, for the first time, was scandalized. The umpire, INEC, was thoroughly embarrassed. And, again, for the first time, INEC rose to the occasion and did what it should do. It instantly nullified Ari’s declaration and summoned the usurper to Abuja. Events took sharp turns. Binani headed to court to challenge the “illegality” of INEC nullifying an already ‘declared’ result! As the drama unfolded, I began to ask myself what the sane countries of the world would be thinking about us as a people. I had thoughts running in my mind about the indignity Nigerians in the Diaspora would be subjected to by yet another shameful act. I asked: could Ari have done what he did without the backing of some powerful elements in and outside government? I answered No! I asked again, could Madam Binani have given that ‘victory’ speech without an assurance by the power that be, that ‘nothing go happen’. Again, my answer is a capital NO! Then I came to one conclusion: the locusts of this season have wasted our land and our farmlands are in ruins! I have read how INEC, the presidency and every other person who should have known, denied Ari and his ignoble act. But I tell you this, I would rather believe that Idowu is not the name of the child next to a set of twins than believe that the Adamawa REC was simply personally audacious without any drummer beating the drums for his tadpoles underneath the water. Taaa! Binani on her part also swore by her ancestors that she did not give the alleged N2 billion naira to Ari and his gang to have that ‘declaration’. I have no evidence to show that she gave a dime. However, my mind tells me that the former Adamawa senator probably gave something more precious than money!
I have been reading comments about the incident. Many people, who hitherto had sympathy for the Adamawa female senator before the Sunday ugly incident, have since left her to her fate. Never in the history of our nation have we witnessed such desperation, especially from the womenfolk. When Binani was giving her ‘victory’ speech, what was going on in her mind? As a legislator with almost 12 years at the National Assembly, and one of those who passed the current Electoral Act, where did she put the provisions of the law when the REC declared her as the ‘winner’? Before the supplementary election, Fintiri was leading by 31,249 votes. What was outstanding in the areas where the election was cancelled and declared inconclusive amounted to 37,016 votes. For Binani to win the supplementary election, she would have to get not less than 35,000 voters in the cancelled areas! How possible is that? What would have made that happen? Miracle? So, when the REC declared her the winner, where were her morals, conscience, and feminine decorum? If Fintiri had not played maturity, and had unleashed his supporters on the streets, what would have happened? Why did it happen that when we were about saying Binani would be the face of the female struggle for political emancipation, she surrendered herself to the devil to be used? Has she not by her desperation demonstrated and affirmed that there is no neat piglet among the litters of a sow as they will all end up in the mud?
To complicate the matter, over a week after Ari was asked to report at the INEC headquarters, he disappeared into thin air. Neither the umpire, nor the security agents, have been able to trace his whereabouts. While Retired General Buhari was said to have ratified the REC’s suspension, and the Commission itself has asked the IGP to arrest and prosecute him, Ari has remained invisible like the man soaked in the African metaphysics of Afeeri (See me not)! That is a REC, who while in office, had a retinue of security agents guarding him. For all the years he spent in office, nobody in the security circles around him has an iota of intelligence that can show where he goes, who he meets with frequently, where he eases off. Yet, our elders say a threaded needle does not get lost (Abere olokun nidi kii sonu). If it is taking this long for the IGP, the DG, DSS, the NIA and other state security apparatus to track down the fleeing REC, why are we then bothered as to why the Boko Haram and other insurgent crises in the country have remained interminable? Who is deceiving who here? If indeed Buhari has approved the suspension of Ari from office, should he not be concerned about his investigation and prosecution, if found culpable? Instead of tendering a needless apology for all the pains he has inflicted on us in the last eight years of directionless leadership, would it not have been better for Buhari to deliver Ari to justice for posterity’s sake?
The implications of the ‘disappearance’ of the suspended Adamawa REC are too grave for the sanity of our electoral system, now and in the future. Who knows if he has sympathizers among the people that will take over from May 29? If he does, can’t they just reverse his “suspension” and recall him to office with all his emoluments paid? Why suspension in the first instance? If INEC could be so bold to nullify his declaration, bar him from entering INEC office in Yola and ask the IGP to investigate and prosecute him, what stopped his appointing authority from removing him completely from office instead of the euphemism, “suspension”? It is unfortunate that even at the twilight of his absent leadership, Buhari would choose to play games with our sensibility. This same lackadaisical attitude and abject lack of testicular fortitude to act decisively when the occasion demands are what have put Nigeria on the reverse gear since the commencement of this administration in 2015. The same attitude of picking teeth when actions are required has put us in a very bad shape and endanger the lives of Nigerians at home, and in the Diaspora.
Take for instance, the plight of Nigerians in Sudan and the flimsy excuse by the government that airlifting those stranded souls from the crisis-ridden country had been made impossible by the burning of aircrafts at the Sudanese airports by the warring parties. When the information filtered in vide the Twitter handle of Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the one in charge of Nigerians in the Diaspora, as the Chairman of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), I asked if we would ever get out of the mess! From an inorganic Ministry of External Affairs to comatose foreign missions and embassies scattered all over the world, and a near laissez faire interventionist body like NIDCOM, Nigerians are on the surface of the earth like a herd without shepherds. Whenever we have a global crisis that requires the immediate action of our government, what we get are excuses and excuses like the one offered by Dabiri in her usual lines: “Our thoughts and prayers are with our citizens there, and the whole country”. We heard the same clause when the war in Ukraine broke out last year. Wars don’t start in a day. Signs are given. Other sane countries of the world reacted when they saw the signs in Ukraine. They moved in and evacuated their citizens. America, which egged Ukraine to go into the senseless war with Russia did not wait for the war to start before it moved its citizens out of the about-to-be-doomed-country. But not so with Nigeria. Our elders say a forewarned war does not kill a wise lame (Ogun àwítélè ki pa aro tó bá gbón). Our lame government under the equally absent General Buhari has never applied itself to the wisdom of that saying. It is always caught up in the crossfire of every forewarned war. It happened in China when Coronavirus broke out. It happened in Ukraine. It has happened again in Sudan.
Our Diaspora liaison officer has told us the fate of our fellow citizens. Hear her again: “Humanitarian groups are making efforts to distribute food, water, medicals, while all efforts are being put in place to hopefully get the warring parties to ceasefire”. If you have relations and friends in Sudan, pray that the food gets to them. There is an aspect of Semantics called Deep Structure Implicature. The simple interpretation is “what is said silently”. So, we need to start to apply our minds to the idea that in addition to the cudgels and other weapons of the warring Sudanese, our children, brothers, and sisters in Sudan have hunger and thirst to contend with before Dabiri’s “humanitarian food and water” get to them. If that did not happen, your guess is as good as mine. This is where we are. The man we collectively gave our destinies to twice has turned out to be a President-do-nothing! A fish gets rotten first from the head. Whatever may be the low points of the Dabiris of this government, all began with the man who leads the pack. To understand how bad things are in Nigeria, one needs to first check out the number of Nigerians that are in Sudan. And you may also wish to ask: Why Sudan of all places? And I will answer you by saying: why not Sudan? Where on the surface of the earth have Nigerians not moved to? My people say when the home is in ruins, the bush looks like a city (bí òòdè ò suwón, bí ìgbe ni ìlu nrí). That is our situation. Nigeria is not at war yet; at least, conventionally. But we are refugees all over the world.
Nigerians are in all bad places and countries. The japa syndrome takes them to anywhere one can imagine. Even with the war in Ukraine and Russia, Nigerians are still applying to go to those countries. Our professionals packaged their baggage and moved elsewhere to work as casual hands. We see their videos; bankers tuning cleaners, engineers doing security jobs and what have you. Only citizens of nations at war suffer the way Nigerians in the Diaspora do. Those of us left at home are barely surviving too. Please, I am referring to those of us who don’t have access to common patrimony, or who are not friends of the criminally corrupt politicians. Go to our universities, you will find lecturers who are still paying for the food items they bought on credit while the dragons in power withheld their salaries last year. The North-East is the worst hit. Thousands are living in refugee camps euphemistically christened Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. Half of the money and materials meant for their upkeep are in private pockets. These are people with known homes and identified buildings but who were chased out of their homes now occupied by bandits. From Niger State to Katsina, Borno to Yobe, bandits occupy large portions of the people’s land. In Katsina, where Buhari hails from, bandits use farmers as slaves. Yet we have a government in power. Why will Nigerians not be found in Sudan, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and the hottest parts of the world? This can only happen in a country that is in bad shape. Nigeria is a good example of such a country.
Buhari has some 34 days to go. He has apologized and asked for forgiveness. Methinks, he has a golden opportunity to leave a small mark in the hearts and minds of Nigerians. Whatever it will cost him, the Daura-born General should go after the hiding suspended Adamawa REC, and smoke him out wherever he is hiding. He should not just smoke him out of the rabbit hole, he should hand h myim over to the security agents, get them to investigate him and arraign him if found culpable. His ‘disappearance’ is a huge threat to future elections. It is a shame on us as a people to say that a man like the embattled REC just disappeared like fart. Fishing out Yunasa Hudu-Ari and bringing him to book is far greater than any apology. Buhari should do this for himself!
(Published in the Nigerian Tribune on Tuesday, April 25, 2023)